The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways
“I travel because it makes me
Realize how much
I haven’t seen,
How much I’m not
Going to see,
And how much I
Still need to see”
Darjeeling (700 kilometres north of Kolkata) is sometimes called the “Queen of the Hill Station.” Located in one of India’s most beautiful regions, it was established in the mid-19th century and was originally a sanitarium built by the East India Company. Darjeeling has prospered as the centre of a tea-growing area. Today it is home to around 135,000 people. The town has more of a Nepalese feel than an Indian one. There is even a separatist movement that wants to establish a separate Nepalese state called Gurkaland. There is also a sizable Tibetan community. The name Darjeeling is derived from the Tibetan phrase “Dorje-Ling (“the place of the thunderbolt”).
Situated at an elevation of 2042 meters (6,700 feet), Darjeeling is surrounded by lush tea plantations, flower-covered meadows and beautiful Himalayan peaks. Nearby is 8,595-meter (28,208-foot) Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, and Buddhist monasteries and convents. Sprawled over a steep mountain ridge, Darjeeling is a quaint hill station with colonial-era buildings and gardens. One of the best ways to reach the city is by riding the 140-year-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that meanders through some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in and around the hill station.
Riding the Toy Train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) has always remained a coveted experience for tourists. Only a few would let go of such an opportunity. And there is a clear reason why so. After all this Toy Train has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in December 1999 and the site became known as one of the mountain railways of India.
Operating on narrow gauge tracks since the 1880s and providing an important transport link to various parts of Darjeeling hills and lower plains, the toy train is an icon of our heritage since the colonial days and an engineering marvel that was achieved during that period. It also offers a wonderful way of absorbing the picturesque Himalayan scenery as you traverse through the mountains.
It is a journey through the mist. An incredible experience by Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, in short, “Toy Train”.
A beautiful railway track of 2ft (610mm) gauge railway was built between 1879 and 1881. It runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal covering a distance of 88 km (55 miles).
This train runs using six zig zags and five loops to gain altitude and climbs from about 100m (328 ft) above sea level at New Jalpaiguri to about 2200 m (7128 ft) at Darjeeling.
After visiting numerous time in Darjeeling, especially a great attraction of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, I found the craziness on Toy Train (as it is called) as where else can you find a small steam engine pulling mini coaches up the steep mountains through breathtaking landscapes and overcoming almost impossible curves and gradients using sheer engineering ingenuity and creative skills. The snail pace at which the train moves through the hilly terrain is at times so slow that you can often see the local children hopping on and off the train on the move.
Especially after the pandemic due to Covid, this service was disrupted. But now this service is from Darjeeling to Ghoom and people from another side of the world still visit and enjoy this Journey and I hope it does not fail any time as this is our heritage property.