The best way to reach Shimla is to travel by Toy train from Kalka. The railway track is small in width between Kalka and Shimla and is known as meter gauge.The track was opened by British Government in the year 1903. The distance of 96 KM between Shimla and Kalka passes through 102 tunnels and 87 bridges. There are more than 20 stations in this route which still uses the old Neals Token Instrument system for track interlocking. It connects Kalka at an height of 656 meter to Shimla at 2076 meter from mean sea level. There are around 900 curves and sharpest curve is of 48 degree. The five hour journey is one of the best train journeys for tourist operated by Indian railway.
Shimla (then spelt Simla) was settled by the British shortly after the first Anglo-Gurkha war, and is located at 7,116 feet (2,169 m) in the foothills of the Himalayas. By the 1830s, Shimla had already developed as a major base for the British. It became the summer capital of British India in 1864, and was also the headquarters of the British army in India. Prior to construction of the railway communication with the outside world was via village cart.
The railway was constructed by the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway Company commencing in 1898. The estimated cost of Rs 86,78,500, however, the cost doubled during execution of the project. The 96.54 km (59.99 mi) line was opened for traffic November 9, 1903. Because of the high capital and maintenance cost, coupled with peculiar working conditions, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was allowed to charge fares that were higher than the prevailing tariffs on other lines. However, even this was not good enough to sustain the company and the Government had to purchase it on January 1, 1906 for Rs 1,71,07,748.In mid-August 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property in preparation for its review in September.
On this route a city named Solan is passed through, which is also known as mini Shimla. During summer season a festical celebrating a goddess (Shoolini Devi), after which the city is named, is held in June.
For about a week starting on September 11, 2007, an expert team from UNESCO was on a visit to the railway to review and inspect the railway for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On July 7, 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.The Mountain Railways of India (including Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai have already been declared as world heritage properties.
Toy Trains and Their Times
- Shivalik Deluxe Express (5:40)
- Shivalik Queen: It is a luxury coach generally attached to Rail Cars. This is specially designed for couples. This coach has four (4) nos. of elegantly furnished coupe with two toilets for the luxury of travel, i.e. ideally designed for four couples. It also provides exclusive privacy to couples. It has Wall to wall carpet, big windows for scenic view of the hills.This coach named Shivalik Queen (RA-67) can be booked only as charter booking through IRCTC LTD-Chandigarh office. The journey costs Rs 4200/- for four couples including lunch. The train usually departs from Kalka at 08:30 h and reaches Shimla by 14:00 h.
- Himalayan Queen (12:15)
- Rail Motor
Rail Motor is a single compartment train, it has transparent roof top. This is like a bus running on a rail track. Limited number of sitting arrangements is there in this and this runs in tourist seasons only. This does not have a toilet facility. Booking for this is available one month before only.
- Other local trains
Television film on Toy Trains
In the UK, the BBC have made a series of three documentaries dealing with Indian Hill Railways http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qzk9r of which the first deals with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The Kalka–Shimla Railway was the subject of the third programme shown on BBC television in February 2010, on BBC in April 2010 and on BBC in January 2012. Director: Hugo Smith; producer: Gerry Troyna.(This programme is available on DVD from the bookstall at Shimla Station).
We have recently gone to chandigarh for a conference at Punjab university . There we visited took this joyous journey and clicked some picture. All the pictures in this post are those.Enjoy.
You can read about Nilgiri Hill Railways, another heritage railway here.
A Word of Caution
On the way enjoying the journey we saw unattended waste . These scenes are ugly spots to the beauty of the picturesque root. Authorities should address the issue immediately.
Links and Sources:
- At last, a first-class train – Shimla, India (travelpod.com)
- Shimla (wildplanettours.wordpress.com)
- Indian railway budget today. (computerknowledge1.blogspot.com)
- Top 25 Destinations in India (emkaytsg.wordpress.com)
- Himalayan Expedition – A stairway to heaven (Part 1) (adventurouszen.wordpress.com)
- Raising a toast to steam railways (thehindu.com)
Each train can take 210 passengers and in a day around 1000 passengers mostly tourist use this train to visit Shimla. The ticket in the trains varies from Rs 19 to Rs 280-/ . There are deluxe , honeymoon , chair car , rail car compartments in the trains.