History of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, nicknamed the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways.It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 km (53 mi) long. The elevation level is from about 100 m (328 ft) at Siliguri to about 2,200 m (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. It is still powered by a steam engine. A modern diesel engine is used for Darjeeling’s mail.
Since 1999 the train has been a World Heritage Site as listed by UNESCO. In 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the original inscription.
|Inside View of the Train|
A standard gauge railway connected Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Siliguri in 1878.Siliguri, at the base of the Himalayas, was connected to Darjeeling by a cart road (the present day Hill Cart Road) on which “Tonga services” (carriage services) were available.Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company approached the government with a proposal of laying a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The proposal was accepted in 1879 following the positive report of a committee formed by Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Construction started the same year.
|Himalayan Railways Station|
Gillanders Arbuthnot and Co. constructed the railway. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on 23 August 1880, while the official opening of the line up to Darjeeling was on 4 July 1881.Several engineering adjustments were made later in order to ease the gradient of the rails. Despite natural calamities such as an earthquake in 1897 and a major cyclone in 1899 the DHR continued to improve with new extension lines, and the passenger as well as goods carrying were increasing. DHR started to face competition from bus services that started operating in the Hill Cart Road, and took less time than the railway to reach Darjeeling. During World War 2, DHR played a vital role transporting military personnel and supplies to the numerous camps around Ghum and Darjeeling.After the independence of India, DHR was absorbed in the Indian Railway, and became a part of the Northeast Frontier Railway zone in 1958. In 1962, the line was realigned at Siliguri and extended by nearly 4 miles (6 km) to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to meet the new broad gauge line there. DHR remained closed for 18 months during the hostile period of Gorkhaland Movement in 1988–1989.DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honour bestowed upon it, the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998.