Indian Railway is offering toy train services in different regions of the country. The toy trains in India are at Kalka-Shimla Railway – Himachal Pradesh, Nilgiri Mountain Railway – Tamil Nadu, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – West Bengal, Kangra Valley Railway – Himachal Pradesh and Matheran Hill Railway – Maharashtra, Jammu Baramulla line – Jammu and Kashmir. Following are the details of toy trains in Indian Railway.
India’s toy trains are small trains that run on historic mountain railway lines, built by the British in the late 19th century and early 20th century to provide access to their hill settlements. Although these trains are slow and can take up to 8 hours to reach their destinations, the scenery is beautiful, making the journeys really worth while.
Three of the mountain railways – the Kalka-Shimla Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Darjeeling Himalayan Railway have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites as they are outstanding living examples of enterprising engineering solutions. Following are the details of toy trains in Indian Railway.
The Shimla Toy Trains in Indian Railway
The toy train journey from Kalka to Shimla, Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, is entrancing with 107 tunnels and lofty arched bridges. The dazzling view and the stops at the picturesque stations along the way – Dharampore, Taksal, Gamma and Solan, all add up to an exhilarating experience. Shimla is well-connected by a broad gauge line up to Kalka. From Kalka to Shimla, ‘the toy train’ covers 96-km of track in six hours.
The 96-km long Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge railway track combines antiquity and modernity with a cocktail of pilgrimage and glamour. The rail motor car of 1927 vintage which had the unique distinction of bringing Mahatma Gandhi in 1945 to Shimla for talks with Viceroy Wavell about British plans for leaving India, is still rail worthy and remains a tourist’s delight. The Gothic-style Barog railway station has become a favorite jaunt of Bollywood stars.
Beside the sleek rail services, the train stops at or run past Jabli, Dharampur, Barog, Solan, Salogra, Kandaghat and Taradevi, to name a few of the spick-and-span railway stations en route. If the six pairs of seven-coach trains and a pair of rail motor cars serve the passengers of modest means, the Shivalik Deluxe Express, popularly known as the narrow-gauge Shatabdi, caters to top-of-the-line clientele. Introduced in June 1996, the Shivalik Deluxe Express runs packed to nine months capacity during the year.
Darjeeling Toy Trains in Indian Railway
The most famous of the little trains, is the one linking the town of New Jalpaiguri in the plains to the lovely hill station of Darjeeling. With a 2 ft gauge, the Darjeeling Hill Railway is indeed a ‘toy train’, being the narrowest of the regular narrow gauges. The tiny century-old engine is a connoisseur’s delight. The 86-km long Darjeeling line has no tunnels, thus allowing the traveller an uninterrupted view of the breathtaking scenery of the Himalayas. The seven-and-a-half hour ride up, is a journey especially for rail buffs.
According to Mark Twain, a trip on the DHR “is the most enjoyable day I have spent on the earth”. Few will disagree with him. Darjeeling becomes the toy train and the toy train, Darjeeling. In fact, the verdant slopes appear more as a backdrop to the ubiquitous toy train. Without it, the Darjeeling landscape would appear bereft. The steamy hiss of the engine, the strident whistle and the clatter of the carriages as the toy train winds its way up the hill blend seamlessly with the cacophony of hill traffic especially because the railway and the hill road chase each other all the way from Siliguri to Darjeeling. At times the narrow gauge railway track and the road seem to move in tandem, a picture of perfect harmony. Many times – in fact 150 times in the entire stretch – they cross each other. Every now and then they play hide and seek like two feuding lovers. But they are never too faraway from each other at any point.
Luxury Trains by Indian Railway
The Nilgiri Toy Trains in Indian Railway
The Nilgiri Mountain railway starts from the town of Mettupalayam and thus begins a journey full of twists and turns, as this narrow gauge train ascends 46-km., on its way to the hill resort of Ooty. At a maximum speed of 33-km per hour, this ‘toy train’ treks across plains, plantations and forest clad hills. The 16 tunnels and tall girder bridges on the way, along with the breathtaking view, make this toy train journey to Ooty, something not to be missed.
Railway is running special trains between Mettupalayam – Coonor section.
The Matheran Toy Train
Neral Matheran Toy Train
The 77-year-old line, connecting Neral to Matheran, is the main way to reach the tiny hill resort, close to Mumbai. As a little train wheezes up into the clear mountain air, on can view the scenic vista of hills and plains below. The lack of vehicular traffic at Matheran makes it an unusual and peaceful retreat. The journey up to Matheran from Neral takes about one-and-a-half hours. The toy train runs between sunrise and sunset.
The Kangra Valley Railway, completed in 1929, was the last mountain railway to be built. Its lengthy track extends for 164 kilometers (102 miles) from Pathankot in Punjab to Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh, via Kangra (near Dharamsala) and Palampur. Unlike many other of India’s mountain railways, it only has two tunnels as engineers avoided boring through the hillside. The entire journey takes about 10 hours. However, most of the scenic beauty comes after Kangra and extends beyond Palampur, as the train passes by villages and lush farmlands, with uninterrupted views of the impressive Dhauladhar mountain range.
It’s a memorable local experience! The stretch between Baijnath (where there’s an ancient Shiva temple) and Joginder Nagar is the steepest, with Ahuj being the highest point at 1,290 meters (4,230 feet) above sea level. The popular paragliding destination Bir-Billing is nearby. Do note that the trains currently operating on this route are unreserved passenger.
Jammu Baramulla line – Jammu and Kashmir
A passenger train at Srinagar station on the line The Jammu–Baramulla line is a 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) railway line being built in India to connect the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. The railway starts from Jammu and will travel for 345 kilometres (214 mi) 345 kilometers (214 mi) to the city of Baramulla on the northwestern edge of the Kashmir Valley.
The route crosses major earthquake zones and is subjected to extreme temperatures of cold and heat, as well as inhospitable terrain, making it a challenging engineering project. The railway line has been under construction since 2002, when it was declared a national project. It will link the state’s winter capital, Jammu, with the summer capital, Srinagar, and beyond. The railway line has been built from Jammu to Katra, and the line from Katra to Banihal may be completed by 2020.