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I just read an article about the Indonesian railways, where they put low hanging concrete balls above railroad tracks to deter train rooftop riders.

Roof riders in Burma, photo by Peter Hahndorf

Roof riding is common on certain trains in Indonesia, but it is illegal.

In Burma people also did it, but they wouldn't let us go up on the roof. What about India?

It was also popular on the tourist trains in Ecuador, but after two people cut their heads off a while ago, they are now very strict about this.

So are there any trains where you are actually allowed to ride on the roof? And how dangerous is it assuming there are no concrete balls in the way?

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I really doubt it... But be sure that I will try to ride on the roof when I visit India. Maybe not on the first train but I will try until I succeed! :D – rlesko Jan 28 '12 at 23:40
There is ONE track in Ecuador where this was common and I went particularly to the track (while I was living in Ecuador) for that reason and was told it was no longer possible after I had bought the ticket. So, I rode inside with a tiny blurry window and could see nothing of the supposedly spectacular scenery. When I came out at the end, I saw the next train come with the roof completely filled with passengers enjoying the view :( Pretty much the most disappointing travel experience I had. – Itai May 5 '13 at 21:43
Surely, if it was allowed to ride on top of a train somewhere, it would not be called “roof-riding” but open deck or something ;-) – Relaxed Sep 17 '13 at 7:51
@JohnDoe Never try it in India .. for reasons Ankur very clearly mentions :D – Sawarnik Feb 17 '15 at 9:20
They beamed it about 5 years ago on the Ecuador one. Decapitation incident. – If you do not know- just GIS Jan 9 at 17:53
up vote 13 down vote accepted

It's common practice on the iron ore train in Mauritania.

The train carries iron ore in huge hoppers. There are no roofs -- passengers either ride with the ore or pay a small amount for a ticket in the passenger car. The scenery is barren desert, the ride is brutally uncomfortable, and temperatures are extremely hot. I rode last summer solo from Choum to Nouadhibou, here's a picture to give you a better idea of the conditions. It's safe for seasoned travelers, just keep your wits about you and throw away any romantic notions you have about riding atop trains. If you have any specific questions about the ride itself, let me know!

Iron Ore train 2011

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aw, totally forgot about that one! – Mark Mayo Aug 14 '12 at 19:34

If you're asking specifically about India, I wouldn't advise it! Indian trains that run on electricity get their power feed from overhead lines rather than a 'third-rail' running parallel and inbetween tracks. Most 'mainstream' trains in India now run on electrified tracks with only minority running on diesel locomotives.

You might have gotten your idea of rooftop train travel from Bollywood songs such as this one called Chaiyya Chaiyya (from the film Dil Se). This was shot on a section Nilgiri Mountain Railway near Ooty which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still runs on steam-powered locomotives. If you're expecting to travel among locals on the roof that way, perish the thought! (I saw more tourists at Niligiri Mountain Railway than locals; the journey is definitely worth it though!) The music video was filmed under controlled conditions (obviously) and then there are parts of the track where the clearance between tunnels and and train roof is pretty narrow.

Just to be clear, the article in Karlson's answer suggesting roof riding is banned is not a new thing. This has always been illegal. It still does happen in places where local trains are crowded, by people who are travelling without tickets. And there's a very good reason why it's banned too, for safety reasons.

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Just found this article which states all the way at the bottom that the government in India banned riding on roofs of the train. I guess that happened after Uttar Pradesh disaster.

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