My Toy Train Ride on Kalka Shimla Railway: An Unforgettable Journey

I missed my very first Toy Train ride from Kathleeghat station by a whisker. The chugging toy train slowly curved its way, leaving me awestruck. I became impatient as it was my only chance to board the toy train to experience the ride. Without wasting time, the car was speeding high on that twisting road to catch the train at the next station. I felt as if I was running against time. The moment I reached the Shoghi Mandi (market), I was guided to take a shorter route that required me to run on those steep stairs. It was the fastest I could run breathlessly. And I made it just on time. A few seconds later, the chugs of the train dominated the surrounding and halted for barely five minutes at Shoghi station.


I literally tried not to jump in joy seeing the train but in vain. The childlike excitement had just outdone my whole poised persona and I could not stop smiling from there on. As the train left the station, I surrendered myself to the old world charm.

The whistle of the train, each sharp turn, the winding route through many tunnels, bridges, stations and the eye-arresting panoramic views of the Shivalik range, made it one of the great Indian railway journeys.

How it all started?

It was 1903, in the month of November; the very first Kalka Shimla Toy Train chugged its way up the hills with the viceroy, Lord Curzon, on board from Kalka station, negotiating the curviest single track to reach the summer capital of the British Raj named Shimla. The locomotive steam engine called the ‘Hill Puffer’ was used then to run this exceptional mountain railway that made it easy to connect the plains to the high ridge destinations for the British. With 109 tunnels, 969 bridges, 919 curves and crossing 20 railway stations, the Kalka Shimla Toy Train pulled into Shimla Station after seven hours. The train covered 96 kilometers and had climbed more than 4,800 feet. The first station it passed through was Dharampur.

While traveling in the most scenic mountain railway, I was wondering about the tedious work schedule of the workers and the masterpiece of engineering to develop the railway track in the most difficult terrain. Even after 114 years, the railway staff is using something called Neal’s Token Instrument System, which is used to establish communication between stations. I was amazed to see the dedication of the railway workers to maintain the tracks and keep the stations clean.

The blue and white painted gothic architecture, the tiny yet outstanding beautiful stations take you back to the old British Days in India. The well-maintained stations with the red roof, wooden porches, and the old clock, those painted blue colors, and comfortable wooden benches made me offer my gratitude towards The British Raj for bringing railways to India.

About Barog Station

 

One of my favorite railway stations on this route is the famous Barog Station in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. This is by far the prettiest station I have ever visited. The Barog station is exceptional, unlike the regular Indian railway station. It is quiet, non-chaotic, non-crowded and clean. The blue and white colored postcard station with the green backdrop paints a picture perfect postcard for you.

Apart from the owner of the tea stall and a few workers, I could not find anyone in the station as just five minutes back the train had left the station and another was scheduled after one and half hours. I was spellbound.

Located at a height of 5,120 ft. the Barog has the longest tunnel on the Kalka Shimla route. With the speed of 25 km per hour, the Toy Train takes 2.5 minutes to cross this tunnel to reach the Barog Station. It is said to be the straightest tunnel in the world. There are many folklores and stories associated with this station.

The Story of Barog Station

The number 33 tunnel has a great significance in the history of Kalka Shimla railway. The tragic end of the tunnel engineer Colonel Barog, after whom the place and the station were named, was assigned the work of the tunnel. Based on his calculation, he ordered the workers to drill the mountain from both sides to meet at the center to construct the tunnel.

The workers kept drilling from both the sides in a hope to meet at the center to complete the tunnel, but unfortunately, his calculation had gone wrong and both sides of the tunnel never met. Realising the failure of his calculation, he went into depression. On top of it, The British Government fined him INR 1 for causing a loss to the Royal treasure and wasting government resources. He could not take the humiliation and the failure of the project. One day during his morning walk near the unfinished tunnel he shot himself. The tragic end of Colonel Barog still echoes his self-respect. It is claimed to be one of the haunted tunnels on the route by the locals. Later the project was reassigned to Chief Engineer H.S. Harrington, who completed the tunnel in 1903. The folklore says that he took the help of Baba Bhalku, a local saint from Chail, who apparently possessed natural engineering skills. It took three years to align the two ends of the tunnel and it finally got completed in 1903.

However, the six-hour journey on the curviest route, encircled by the pine and oak trees is one of most scenic train rides in India. Crossing the tiny hill stations, the toy train runs on the tiniest gauge track, carrying passengers from the plains to the hills, giving a taste of the lifestyle of British Raj in India.

Popping my head out of that small window, I was enjoying those endless spins in the hills. The hide and seek of the sunrays, flickering through the branches of the trees and playful winds, I was romancing with nature unapologetically. It was one of my most defining experiences to date.

 

Fun Facts:

  • Kalka Shimla Toy Train made its maiden journey in 1903 in the month of November with the viceroy, Lord Curzon on board.
  • The distance the train covers is 96 km.
  • It takes more than six hours to reach Shimla from Kalka Station.
  • The train runs on the thinnest gauge track (762mm), which is considered to be an engineering masterpiece.
  • The journey covers 109 tunnels, 969 bridges, 919 curves and crossing 20 railway stations.
  • The Barog tunnel is the longest tunnel on this route and is said to be the straightest tunnel in the world.
  • The Kalka Shimla Toy Railway was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India on 8th July 2008.
  • The locomotive steam engine was used to carry seven coaches till 1971 when the Diesel Engine was introduced.
  • The age-old “Neals Token Instrument System” is still in use to establish communication between stations.

Kalka Shimla Train Services

There are three main tourist train services that run from Kalka to Shimla on the same route.

Shivalik Deluxe Express

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

This is a premium express train, mainly designed for the tourists. It has a wide glass window, cushioned comfortable seats. This train can accommodate only 120 passengers. Interestingly, this train does not have any stop on this route.

Himalayan Queen

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

This is a standard train, used mainly by the locals for their daily transportation. It stops at various stations. If you are someone who loves to get down to stations and explore the area, this train is a good option on this route.

Rail Motor Car

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

This is one train which uniquely resembles a bus from the Second World War time. It stops only at one station and that is Barog. It has a transparent roof and only carries 14 passengers. This is another express railway.


Getting there 

Train: The most convenient way to reach Kalka is to take a morning Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Kalka. The journey will take four hours in total. There are several trains available from Delhi to Kalka.

Air: The fastest way to reach Kalka is to take a flight from Delhi to Chandigarh and from there, one can hire a private cab to reach Kalka.

Car: You can also opt for a private cab to enjoy the road drive from Delhi to Kalka. The drive will cover 257.7 km via NH 44.


Disclaimer :

The Watermarked photographs are owned by the writer and are copyright protected. Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

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20 Replies to “My Toy Train Ride on Kalka Shimla Railway: An Unforgettable Journey”

  1. Yay! Was waiting for this one. Though I saw the tracks during a trip to Himanchal this year, did not have the good fortune to see the train itself. Must have been a great experience going by your post. Very well written 🙂

  2. wow nice and amazing article. Thanks for write this beautiful post

  3. This is such a lovely train ride! I really enjoy train travel, and would definitely do this if I ever get to India! The history behind it is so interesting too, thank you!

  4. Reminds me of my trip in Araku Valley mountain railway. I’m yet to take the Kalka Simla route which I’m sure would be much more gorgeous than Araku. Barog tunnel sounds fun. All passengers made that ‘oooooo’ sound inside the tunnel, didn’t they??!!!

  5. This one is really nostalgic. Really well detailed and the photos are beautiful. I haven’t been on the Toy Train for decades now, but it remains of those memories that still lingers on. Mountains railways always have different charm to it, but the Shimla Toy Train with it’s slow speed and winding tracks is extraordinary.

  6. There are 5 Toys trains in India. Journey through these toys trains gives an unforgettable memory.

  7. I always love such kind of toy trains on hilly slopes. It looks like a magical wonderland with little stations surrounded by hills. I remembered my train journey of Ooty to Coonor and Toy train of Puffy Billy. I must say you must heard those lovely whistles of train and also those chuk chuk sounds. This is the best way to get indulged into mountainous beauty.

  8. Pinned this for our trip to India next year! What a wonderful and picturesque train journey – I hope I can experience it myself! The landscape is so green and lush.

  9. I would love to do this type of train adventure, with the quaint little stations, I actually love the little blue train look. Great Post,

  10. Oh thats magical! Shimla is still on my list – I loved the Darjeeling Toy Train – even through the full route wasn’t running when I was there, I can still remember the smell of the soot in my hair when I got back to my room and my frozen face because I had my head out of the window for most of the trip! It’s my mission to get to all the other hill stations and ride all the toy trains, this just whets my appetite more!

  11. Beautiful pics! It revived my memories of the Kalka – Shimla ride which I did in the rail motor car with a transparent roof about 20 years ago!

  12. woow its fabulous place amazing picture sharing

  13. Your photos of this place are so colourful and makes me want to recreate the journey! I do like a train ride, so would definitely like to jump on board. A really lovely post, with some interesting facts too about the history behind the train and the tunnel.

  14. We did the toy train from Ooty to Coonor in 2014. It was fun! I am happy you made it to take the train and it was quick thinking to drive for the next station! Does a quiet-non chaotic and clean train station in India exist?? I dont belive you!😂

  15. I have never seen anything like this! My favorite part was learning about the tunnel, even though it was sad… Thank you for sharing!

  16. What an awesome way to get around, and colorful too. Too bad you had to miss the train in the beginning “by a whisker” ha. Made me laugh. Sucks when that happens though, but looks like you made up for it!

  17. Very interesting history behind the train and I like how it runs through such lush green meadows and mountains. I would definitely look into taking this train ride the next time I visit India. I hadn’t known it existed until now, so thanks for that!

  18. The toy train ride is interesting. Was a bit hilarious when you said you missed your ride and had to catch up. Your pictures are so fab!

  19. What a beautiful experience! Your feeling of nostalgia is definitely relatable and all the views look breathtaking! It’s such a beautiful way of experiencing the mountains. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  20. Abhinav Singh says: Reply

    Wow, I have longed to do this. As you know, I love train rides. It would be so amazing to take this ride. I loved the pictures you shared here. I will use this guide to plan a trip here. I have heard Shogi is gorgeous!

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