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- The Route
- In popular culture
- Chartering Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
- External Links
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge narrow-gauge railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways.
It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 km long. The elevation level is from about 100 m at Siliguri to about 2,200 m at Darjeeling. It is still powered by a steam engine. A modern diesel engine is used for Darjeeling’s mail.
Since 1999 the train has been a World Heritage Site as listed by UNESCO. In 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the original inscription.
A standard gauge railway connected Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Siliguri in 1878. Siliguri, at the base of the Himalayas, was connected to Darjeeling by a cart road (the present day Hill Cart Road) on which "Tonga services" (carriage services) were available. Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company approached the government with a proposal of laying a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The proposal was accepted in 1879 following the positive report of a committee formed by Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Construction started the same year.
Gillander Arbuthnot & Co. constructed the railway. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on 23 August 1880, while the official opening of the line up to Darjeeling was on 4 July 1881. Several engineering adjustments were made later in order to ease the gradient of the rails. Despite natural calamities such as an earthquake in 1897 and a major cyclone in 1899 the DHR continued to improve with new extension lines, and the passenger as well as goods carrying were increasing.DHR started to face competition from bus services that started operating in the Hill Cart Road, and took less time than the railway to reach Darjeeling. During World War 2, DHR played a vital role transporting military personnel and supplies to the numerous camps around Ghum and Darjeeling.
After the independence of India, DHR was absorbed in the Indian Railway, and became a part of the Northeast Frontier Railway zone in 1958.In 1962, the line was realigned at Siliguri and extended by nearly 4 miles (6 km) to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to meet the new broad gauge line there. DHR remained closed for 18 months during the hostile period of Gorkhaland Movement in 1988–1989. DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honour bestowed upon it,the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998.
- New Jalpaiguri - the railway was extended to the south in 1964 to meet the new Broad gauge to Assam. Where the two met, New Jalpaiguri was created.
- Siliguri Town - original southern terminus of the line.
- Siliguri Junction - became a major station only when a new metre-gauge line was built to Assam in the early 1950s
- Sukna - this station marks the change in the landscape from the flat plains to the wooded lower slopes of the mountains. The gradient of the railway changes dramatically.
Loop No.1 was in the woods above Sukna. It was removed after flood damage in 1991. The site is now lost in the forest.
A short distance above Rangtong there is a water tank. This was a better position for the tank than in the station, both in terms of water supply and distance between other water tanks.
When Loop 2 was removed in 1942, again following flood damage, a new reverse, No.1, was added, creating the longest reverse run.
Loop No.3 is at Chunbatti. This is now the lowest loop.
Reverses No.2 & 3 are between Chunbatti and Tindharia.
- Tindharia - this is a major station on the line as below the station is the workshops. There is also an office for the engineers and a large locomotive shed, all on a separate site.
Immediately above the station are three sidings; these were used to inspect the carriage while the locomotive was changed, before the train continued towards Darjeeling.
Agony Point is the name given to loop No.4. It comes from the shape of the loop which comes to an apex which is the tightest curve on the line.
Reverse No.6 is the last reverse on the climb.
- Kurseong - There is a shed here and a few sidings adjacent to the main line, but the station proper is a dead end. Up trains must reverse out of the station (across a busy road junction) before they can continue on their climb. It is said that the station was built this way so that the train could enter a secure yard and stay there while the passengers left the train for refreshments.
Above Kurseong station, the railway runs through the bazaar. Trains skirt the front of shops and market stalls on this busy stretch of road.
- Ghoom (Ghum) - Summit of the line and highest station in India. Now includes a museum on the first
floor of the station building with larger exhibits in the old goods yard.
The furthest reach of the line was to Darjeeling Bazaar, a goods-only line and now lost under the road surface and small buildings.
All the steam locomotives currently in use on the railway are of the 'B' Class, a design built between 1889 and 1925. A total of 34 were built but by 2005 only 12 remained on the railway and in use (or under repair).
No.787 has been rebuilt with oil firing. This was originally installed to work on the same principle as that used on Nilgiri Mountain Railway No.37395. To operate the oil burner and an electrically driven feed pump, a diesel-powered generator was fitted and to power the braking system, a diesel-powered compressor was fitted. Additionally the locomotive was fitted with a feedwater heater. The overall result was a dramatic change in the appearance of the locomotive.
In March 2001, No.794 was transferred to the Matheran Hill Railway to allow a 'Joy Train' (Steam-hauled tourist train) to be operated on that railway. It did not, however, enter service there until May 2002.
Only one DHR steam locomotive has been taken out of India, No.778 (originally No.19). After many years out of use in an American museum, it was sold to an enthusiast in the UK and restored to working order. It is now based on a private railway in Oxfordshire but has run on the Ffestiniog Railway.
Two diesel locomotives are in use, Nos.604 & 605. They are both members of the NDM6 class. Both were originally intended for use on the Matheran Hill Railway and are identical to the four locomotives actually delivered there.
In 1910 the railway purchased the third Garratt locomotive built, a D class 0-4-0+0-4-0.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has long been viewed with affection and enthusiasm by travellers to the region, and the Earl of Ronaldshay gave the following description of a journey in the early 1920s:
Inside of the toy train
"Siliguri is palpably a place of meeting.[…..] The discovery that here the metre gauge system ends and the two foot gauge of the Darjeeling-Himalayan railway begins, confirms what all these things hint at.[….]One steps into a railway carriage which might easily be mistaken for a toy, and the whimsical idea seizes hold of one that one has accidentally stumbled into Lilliput. With a noisy fuss out of all proportion to its size the engine gives a jerk - and starts.[….] No special mechanical device such as a rack is employed - unless, indeed, one can so describe the squat and stolid hill-man who sits perched over the forward buffers of the engine and scatters sand on the rails when the wheels of the engine lose their grip of the metals and race, with the noise of a giant spring running down when the control has been removed. Sometimes we cross our own track after completing the circuit of a cone, at others we zigzag backwards and forwards; but always we climb at a steady gradient - so steady that if one embarks in a trolley at Ghum, the highest point on the line, the initial push supplies all the energy necessary to carry one to the bottom."
The trip up to Darjeeling on railway has changed little since that time, and continues to delight travellers and rail enthusiasts, so much so that it has its own preservation and support group, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society.
Several Bollywood movies have portrayed the railway. Especially popular was the song Mere sapno ki rani from the film Aradhana where the protagonist Rajesh Khanna tries to woo heroine Sharmila Tagore who was riding in the train. Other notable films include Jhumroo, Parineeta and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. The Darjeeling Limited, a film directed by Wes Anderson, features a trip by three brothers on a fictional long-distance train based loosely on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
CHARTERING DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAY
Tenzing Norgay, the first ever narrow gauge dining car to be introduced on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, enables the travellers to chug along the beautiful Terai forest, through the tea gardens and to the hills of the Himalayan Range, while the stewards provide excellent food and beverages on the way.
In 2001, for a more romantic and exotic leisure journey a dining care was thought of. a survey of the types of dining cars available all over the world was undertaken and then the design for Tenzing Norgay was conceived. Prior to this, no dining car existed on narrow gauge in the Indian Railways.
Tenzing Norgay was built at the narrow gauge Motibagh Workshop of South Eastern Railway at Nagpur while meticulous attention was given to details during manufacturing of the dining car, planning and monitoring was done at the highest level. Expert old railway hands at the workshop gave shape to this dram. As a tribute to Tenzing Norgay - the legendary mountaineer who scaled Mount Everest - the dining car is christened Tenzing Norgay.
The dining car along with a special train can be chartered between the flowwling sections against charges mentioned below1:
|From New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling||Rs. 1,75,000||US $ 3576|
|From Tindharia to Darjeeling||Rs. 1,25,000||US $ 2556|
|From Kurseong||Rs. 1,00,000||US $ 2040|
The charge includes catering and is for a group of at least 12 persons. If the group consists of more than 12 persons Rs. 3,527 (US $ 72) will be charged extra for each additional member towards catering and other expenses.
AT NEW DELHI
Directory, National Rail Museum
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021 (India)
Phone: 91-11-6881816, 6880939
Protocol and Marketing Officer
North East Frontier Railway Tourism
State Entry Road,
New Delhi - 110 001
AT NEW JALPAIGURI
Additional Divisional Railway Manager
Northeast Frontier Railway
New Jalpaiguri (West Bengal)
Telefax: 91-353 - 561371
Deputy Chief Commercial Manager
Northeast Frontier Railway,
Maligaon, Guwahati - 781 001 (Assam)
Phone: 91 - 361 - 570305