The majestic toy train journey from Kalka to Shimla is a real treat to people who are passionate about rail journeys. The railway track was first introduced at the age of British government in the year 1903 and was named as little meter-gauge railway. The total distance covered between Kalka to Shimla is 96 km and the train passes through 102 tunnels and 87 bridges. The route offers beauty at its best; the five hour journey is one of the most beautiful rail route journeys to enjoy. The toy train passes through hills, valleys and lush forest of oak, rhododendron, Deodar and Pine trees. Throughout the journey, the most exciting thing to observe is that the train moves in upward direction till it stops at Shimla. Moreover, this 96 km Kalka Shimla toy train route was declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO in the year 2008. Four premium services for travellers on the Kalka-Shimla section are available - The deluxe Rail Motor Car, The Shivalik Deluxe Express, The Shivalik Palace (Tourist Coach) and The Shivalik Queen Tourist Coach.
Distance: Around 96 km
Frequency: Daily many
The toy train on the Darjeeling Himalayan section is not merely a source of delight for the young and old, it also represents the engineering skills of the highest order. The railway, along with the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, is listed as a Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site. The railway line is laid more or less on the same alignment as the Hill Cart road, which criss-crosses the line at several locations. The headquarters of the railway is in the town of Kurseong. The Operation of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways between Siliguri and Kurseong has been temporarily suspended following a Landslide at Tindharia. Currently on this section there is a Kurseong – Darjeeling service which is a daily three-carriage diesel-hauled service (52540/52544) operates, leaving Darjeeling at 10.15, arriving Kurseong at 1310. The return service (52541/52545) leaves Kurseong at 15.00, arriving Darjeeling at 17.50. Occasionally the service is steam-hauled if the (only) diesel is undergoing maintenance. Then there are Joy Trains- these steam-hauled tourist services run daily on a return trip from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s second highest station at 2257m). Trains leave Darjeeling at: 10.40.Train 52548 (14D), 13.20.Train 52549 (16D) and 16.00.Train 52547 (18D) Each train has two first class carriages. The train stops at the impressive viewpoint of Batasia Loop for 10 minutes and for 30 minutes at Ghum where there is a railway museum. There is also a ‘Jungle Safari’- this daily diesel-hauled service is the only regular service on the lower section of the line. The train leaves Siliguri Junction at 10.00 arriving Rangtong at 11.15. The return service leaves Rangtong at 14.30, arriving Siliguri Junction at 15.45.
Distance: Around 88 kms
Route: New Jalpaiguri-Siliguri-Kurseong-Ghum-Darjeeling
Frequency: Daily many trains
Train to beautiful Kangra Valley
The Kangra Valley Railway belongs to the sub-Himalayan region in Himachal Pradesh. Starting from Pathankot in Punjab, it covers 164 kms to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh, meandering through numerous passes, rivers and valleys. Even though it’s a laid back option of traveling across the Kangra valley, yet the views it offers compensates the speed. The sight of the snow capped Dhauladhar hills at a distance after Palampur rewards the tired soul exuberantly. The journey from Pathankot to Jogindernagar takes almost a whopping 10 hours. Earlier the unreserved Kangra Valley Passenger was the only train on this route. Keeping the travelling comfort of its passengers in mind, a new luxury narrow gauge train 'Kangra Queen' has been introduced on this section. This train covers the distance in approximately 4 hours 25 minutes with two stoppages enroute at Jwalamukhi Road and kangra. It consists of 4 coaches; one first class, two chair cars and one second class coach, with a total seating capacity of 92 passengers. The first class/chair cars are furnished with comfortable sofa sets/chairs and have wide glass windows. Facilities such as newspapers, mineral water, tea, snacks, food etc. are being provided on board, on the pattern of Shatabdi trains. Public address system has also been provided in all the coaches for playing music and giving information about historical places in the valley. The fares are all-inclusive and most competitive.
Distance: Around 164 kms
Route: Pathankot-Jwalamukhi road-Kangra-Jogindernagar
Frequency: Twice daily
When the blue and cream colored coaches chug up the blue mountains, even the crudest of all hearts will skip a beat. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, running for over a 110 years is another train journey, you simply cannot miss. It was in 1854, that the first plans were made to build a mountain Railway from Mettupalaiyam to the Nilgiri Hills. But it took the decision-makers 45 years to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and complete the construction and installation of the line. The steam engine covers the 46 km to Ooty in four and a half hours, twisting and turning through the rocky terrain, before slowly meandering into the sprawling tea estates. The familiar chuffing sound of the steam locomotive casts an old world charm and reminds of the legacies of the British Raj. If taking the Ooty toy train, take care to book as early as possible, it tends to get booked up months in advance, especially the prized First Class seats (users say that seat #8 is the best)
Distance: 46 kms
Route: Mettupalaiyam-Coonoor- Udagamandalam (Ooty)
Frequency: Four trains daily
Matheran, nestled in the Western Ghats, is one of the favorite weekend destinations for busy Mumbaikars. It still holds its charm, thanks to no vehicles being allowed in the town. One has to take a pony ride or walk on the dusty and muddy roads to go around Matheran. The Matheran Hill Railway is the only heritage railway in Maharashtra. This narrow gauge rail link between Neral and Matheran was built by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy between 1901 and 1907 at the cost of Rs.1600000. The route, through large swathes of forest territory, covers a distance of 20 kilometers in about one and half hours, is full of panoramic views. The track zig zags up the side of the hill, bringing into view the full beauty of the Matheran Hill. Any lone visitor will surely enjoy the tranquility this ride offers. There are four pairs of train running between Neral and Matheran. However, during monsoon i.e. June to September, only one pair of train is run to open timings.
Distance: Around 21 kms