The Heritage Toy Train Journey - Childhood Memoir

I wonder if it is natural to be nostalgic! Or is it due to the mental and emotional exhaustion invoked in us due to Covid -19 and its consequences?

Do you also feel nostalgic at times! If yes, kindly share your moments of nostalgia in the comment box.

One such nostalgic moment evoked by Ruskin Bond's book 'The Great Train journey' inspired me to write this blog. You must be wondering how!

To explain this, let me take you to my childhood memories. I was born and brought up in the same small town Kalka which Ruskin Bond has beautifully mentioned in his book. Not only this, he also talked about the Toy Train, which happened to be the first train that I also ever saw. 

Still confused!

Let me explain further. 

It was nostalgic because I also saw the train for the first time on the narrow gauge of the Kalka Shimla track that happens to pass just behind my house. I got excited every time the train blew its whistle. Waving to the passengers sitting at the window seat was a routine and the best part was that they waved me back. This excitement multiplied when guests visited our place as we enjoyed watching trains, rail car and the handcar (a vehicle used to inspect the railway line) from the terrace and occasionally got the opportunity to travel in Toy Train. 

Rail Car

Hand Car

About Kalka

 Kalka is a small city in the district Panchkula in Haryana. As soon as you enter the city, the landscape changes dramatically- you can see lush green hills, and the air becomes comparatively cool. The town takes its name from Kali Maa, the Hindu deity. It is also known for a railway workshop and a market for ginger and turmeric. The place became famous internationally when UNESCO declared Kalka Shimla Toy Train as a World Heritage Site on 8th July 2008. 


Kali Mata Mandir, Kalka

History of Toy Train

In 1864, immediately after the Anglo Gurkha War, the British made Shimla(then called Simla) their Summer Capital and Army headquarter. However, the only mode of transport to Shimla was the bullock cart which made the journey in mountainous terrain quite cumbersome. So the British built Kalka Shimla narrow gauge in 1903 and referred to it as 'British Jewel of the Orient'. Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy, made the maiden journey on the train. The steam engine that initially pulled the trains was replaced with diesel and diesel-hydraulic engines in 1955 and 1970, respectively. 

The Route

The Route of the Toy Train starts from Kalka from 0 m above sea level. Gradually the train starts climbing uphill, passing through 18 stations, 103 tunnels(1 not in service), 864 bridges and 919 stunning curves. The train covers a journey of 97 Km in five and a half hours and reaches Shimla, located at the height of 2076m above sea level. The speed of the train slows down as it ascends through steep mountains and sharp curves. I remember people hopping off the train occasionally and hopping up again after some distance due to its slow speed. I wonder if people do the same now also!

The stations En-route

The 18 stations after Kalka are:

Kalka Station

Taksal 6 KM

Gumman 11 KM

Koti 17 KM

Sonawara 26 KM

Dharampur 33 KM

Kumarhatti 39 KM

Barog 43 KM

Barog Station

Solan 46 KM

Salogra 53 KM

Kandaghat 58 KM

Kanoh 69 KM

Kathleeghat 72 KM

Shoghi 79 KM

Taradevi 85 KM

Jutogh 89 KM

Summer Hill 93 KM

Shimla 97 KMB 

Shimla Station

All stations have red roofs, wooden porches and comfortable wooden benches on the platform. You can enjoy tea and snacks in the tea stalls while basking in the Sun.

Journey

The 60 miles long journey of the Kalka Shimla Toy Train is one of India's most spectacular railway journeys as it offers a glimpse into the spectacular terrain across the journey. You cross valleys, flowing streams, dense forests interspersed with roads that snake along the railway line. 

Road snaking along Railway Track

The journey's highlight is Barog station, which has the longest tunnel (tunnel 33) on the route, stretching 1143.61m. Bridge no 226, an architectural marvel that passes through a deep valley surrounded by steep hills on both sides is the longest arch gallery bridge with a length of 97.4m, height 19.3m, having four tiers with 32 arches. Bridge, no 541 at Kanoh, is the world's highest muli-arch gallery bridge.

Tunnel on Kalka Shimla Track

Curve on Kalka Shimla Track

Bridge with arches on kalka Shimla Track

Trains

Rail Motor Car

The Rail Motor Car looks like a bus with a glass roof that can accommodate up to 18 passengers. It is an express service that offers food on wheels and has only one stop at Barog.

Rail motor Car

Shivalik Delux Express

Shivalik Delux Express is a super-fast train fitted with reversible cushioned chairs, carpet, food and soothing music played throughout the journey. This train also stops only at Barog to serve meals. The train's large windows offer a cool breeze, with breathtaking glimpses of landscape-almost as if artists have painted the scene. 

Carpeted Coach with Reversible Chairs

Himalayan Queen

Himalayan Queen Train is equipped with standard car seats and has nine halts. People can get off at these stations and enjoy the scenic beauty while enjoying the warmth of the sunlight.

Heritage Carriages

Two heritage carriages operating on this route are- Shivalik Queen And Shivalik Palace Tourist Coach. They are run with a steam engine that was withdrawn in 1970 and refurbished in 2001. Both luxury trains are fitted with ultra-modern facilities, including a kitchen, refrigerator, dining table and folding cushion beds. These trains usually operate once a week.

The Heritage Steam Engine

The Coach with Glass Roof

Baba Bhalku Ram's contribution

Baba Bhalku Ram was a poor, illiterate resident of the backward village of Shimla. He is remembered for his contribution to the construction of the Barog tunnel. Captain Barog was assigned the task of completing the construction work of the railway. When he was getting the digging job of the tunnel done, Baba Bhalku stopped him, but thinking that Baba was mad, Captain Barog did not listen to him. Eventually, after some days of digging, water started seeping from the tunnel. British government fined Captain Barog with the then Rupee One. Captain Barog took it as an insult and committed suicide. Then Baba Bhalku Ram helped other engineers in completing the task. On 7th July 2011, the Indian Railways opened Baba Bhalku Rail Museum to document the history of the railway line and displayed the related artefacts. The Museum is located at the old bus stand in Shimla.


Barog Tunnel

Baba Bhalku Rail Museum, Shimla

Some advantages of travelling to Shimla by train:

Journey by Toy train through dense forest, mountains and valleys is quite enriching and enthralling.

Children enjoy travelling through tunnels.

You can avoid motion sickness.

You avoid traffic jams which are very common on Kalka Shimla Road.

Shimla does not allow private vehicles beyond the lift, and parking is a big problem.  


Comments

  1. Memories refreshed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting information. There is a lot of valuable information to squeeze out. I’m looking forward to using your tips.

    ReplyDelete

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