View from the Darjeeling Toy Train View from the Darjeeling Toy Train

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway also known as the Darjeeling Toy Train is one of the most popular Indian railways and one of the most famous narrow (2 feet) gauge trains. Is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway. The railway extends from New Jalpaiguri in the state of West Bengal to the beautiful hill section of Darjeeling. The Toy Train ride is a romantic approach to the Himalayas; the landscapes are spectacular and the views of the Himalayan peaks - breathtaking. One of the most beautiful places is Batasia Loop, between Ghum and Darjeeling, which provides a panoramic view of Darjeeling perched on the hill and Mount Kanchenjunga in the background. For its looks and elegance, UNESCO has listed it as a world heritage site in the year 1999.

History
The Darjeeling Toy Train is an engineering ingenuity and a historic development of the 19th century British convalescent center in the remote north eastern Himalayas.  It covers a total distance of 87.48 kilometres during its entire journey in the Himalayan hilly terrain, at an altitude of 100 meters at Siliguri and 2,200 meters at Darjeeling. The train also passes over 5 major and nearly 500 minor bridges . The Toy Train is 117 years old and has made its first trip in September, 1881.
The Toy Train idea belongs to Franklyn Prestage who was an agent working for the Eastern Bengal Railway. He started his eight year project in 1870. The construction begun in 1879 and the first 32.19 kilometres (20 mi) from Siliguri to Tindharia station was opened in March 1880 for the Viceroy's special train only. In the same year it was opened to teh public but only after a further 17.7 kilometres (11 mi) to Kurseong were completed. Sonada was reached on February 1st 1881, the summit of Ghoom - on April 4th 1881. On July 4th 1881 the baby locomotive and three coaches puffed right through to Darjeeling – a total of 81.67 kilometres (50.75 mi).
In 1914, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was extended down south towards Kishanganj and close to the Nepalese frontier. Meantime the railway was extended from Siliguri toward Sevoke by 16 kilometres (10 mi) and further to the north 25.75 kilometres (16 mi) on Kalimpong road. Until 1878, the journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling took from 5 to 6 days; in 1878 the journey was cut to two days and another six to seven hours to Darjeeling.
Originally estimated at a cost of Rupees 14 lakhs, it escalated to 17 lakhs in 1881 and to 28 lakhs by 1887. During 1891 the costs had climbed to 32 lakhs, or Rs. 60,000 per mile. In 1920, when the Batasia Loop on the final descent to Darjeeling had been built, the investment had reached Rupees 43 lakhs. In 1909 was introduced a system of bogie stock weighing 28 tons and running on a 2 foot broad track, it is used till this day. The traffic is about  1,500,000 passengers and 90,000 tons of freight per year.
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The journey
The rides with the Darjeeling Toy Train are appreciated by many tourists; the time spent in the train turns into amazing journey. The entire journey is covered in around 71/2 hours with a maximum of 15 kmph. The sceneries range from tea plantations to the dense jungles.
This joy ride begins at New Jalpaiguri, a busy railway station in the plains. The plains are much more warmer than the hills and as the train climbs up the mountains the climate gets colder. Leaving New Jalpaiguri station the train passes through the outskirts of Siliguri town, reaches the Siliguri station and crosses the Mahanadi bridge over the Mahanadi river. After six miles train reaches Sukna station. It has teak and trees of sal along with purple bougainvillea, moderate purple orchids and red poinsettia creating a riot of colours. The actual climb begins from Sukna. Curves and steep gradients mark the route all through.
While passing the Rangtang station and crossing Chunabhati, Tung Chutlinkpur and Jorebunglow, you can admire spectacular views of wooded mountains, tea gardens, tea factories and forests. At a height of 2257.65m, train reaches the Ghoom station - the second highest railway station in the world that is accessed by a steam locomotive. A 6 km downhill journey from here brings you to your final destination, Darjeeling. On the way the train passes through Batasia Loop with its memorial to the Gorkha soldiers. Batasia Loop is the place that offers panoramic views of Darjeeling town with the Kanchenjunga and other snowy mountains in the back-drop.
A unique feature about this route is that wherever there is a lack of clearcut path due to steep gradient, the climb is proceeded through reverses and loops. Infact, there are as many as six reverses and 3 loops in the entire journey.
The Darjeeling Toy Train runs almost on the same alignment as the Hill Cart road. They cross each other more than 150 times. This gives tourists an opportunity to enjoy the movement on the road while sitting in the train.

Darjeeling Toy Train Services
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway operates a number of tourist train services. These are:
  • Daily Train Services - historic diesel and B Class steam locomotives with various combinations of first and second class carriages;
  • Joy Rides - B Class steam locomotives which take passengers on short trips from Darjeeling to Ghum return and Siliguri Junction to Sukna return;
  • Jungle Safari Holiday Trains - locomotives which run from Siliguri to Tindharia return, with the highlights being views of the picturesque Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and Z reverses (where the train zigzags forwards and backwards up the slope).
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