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Home  »  Darjeeling Himalayan Railways

darjeeling himalayan railways

Ritco ToursThe word Darjeeling is derived from the word 'Dorje' which refers to the mystic thunderbolt of the Lama religion. Settled by the British in 1835 -on a clear day, the town of Darjeeling seems perched on the stage of a vast amphitheater with mighty Himalayan peaks ranged all around in a 150 degree arc, gravely looking down on the antics of puny humans. Gimpochi is on the extreme right and Sandakphu is on the extreme left. The sides of the amphitheatre are formed by the Singalila chain 20 miles to the west, and by the loftier Chola range 40 miles away on the east. The twin peaks of Kanchenjunga, only 45 miles away, dominate the horizon in front. On the west, Kanchenjunga is flanked by Kabru and Jano and on the east by Pandim, Narsingh and D2. Justly the city is renowned for the grand panoramic view of the Himalayas.

The Toy Train Journey : Spirals and Zig Zags
A not to be missed experience is to arrive in Darjeeling on what is surely the most famous and the most spectacular steam railway in the world.

New Jalpaiguri, 86 km from Darjeeling the starting point, and the zig zag journey over steep gradients and around sharp curves takes 8 to10 hours.

The actual ascent into the mountain begins from Sukna. En route the line crosses the river Mahanadi by an iron bridge 700 feet in length.

Tindharia, the first "reversing" station is associated with interesting railway lore It is said that it was here that the genius engaged in building the line met his most serious challenge. A deep erosion in the hillside made it impossible to employ a gradient and it seemed that he was about to accept defeat hen his wife suggested, "Darling you can't go ahead, why don't you come back." This led to the brilliant scheme of climbing mountains, known as “Z" reversing stations. The train runs forward and when it reaches the edge turns back at an oblique angle and then goes forward again, this time at a higher altitude. The whole line is a remarkable engineering achievement and includes four complete loops and five switchbacks.

Ritco ToursAs the train makes its way round the bends, breathtaking views unfold. At 31 miles, after passing through rock cuttings, the train reaches Kurseong, named after the white orchids that grow in profusion at this altitude. Beyond Kurseong is the Tung Station. From this point the line runs, generally along the old cart road and climbs steeply to Ghoom station at 7407 feet said to be the highest railway station in Asia. After Ghoom, the train cautiously moves downhill and pulls up at the Darjeeling terminus.

The journey lodges itself in the mind forever as the eye ranges over peaks, valleys, gorges, terraced fields, villages and temples perched precariously in the folds of the mountains.

An Early Traveller's Wonder
Reginald Hill, one of the first to use this new mode of transport, has left a record of his fascination on seeing the toy train for the first time:

"On rails only two feet apart, your train awaits you. It will win your smile before your admiration, no doubt for a tinier, quainter specimen of rolling stock you never saw unless it was on a children's miniature railway at the seaside. The engine, a chubby little affair in green, is coupled to a line of carriages with doorways, minus doors and windows without glass ... can it be possible? Can this toy train really take you up there beyond the clouds? It can and it will - chuff, chuff, you are off."

Franklin Prestage
Much of the credit for taking the railway to Darjeeling goes to the individual entrepreneur, Franklin Prestage. As the agent of Eastern Bengal Railway, Prestage was fascinated by the ethereal views of Kanchenjunga. In 1878, Prestage submitted a detailed scheme to the Government of Bengal for a 2 feet rail gauge. Construction began in " 1879 and was completed in 1881. Prestage's confidence in the financial viability of the line was based on the belief that a line could substantially reduce the cost of bullock-cart transport between the plains and Darjeeling. Rice was Rs.98 a ton at Siliguri and Rs.238 at Darjeeling. A railway, he reasoned rightly, could cut down the cartage rate by as much as half and still earn good profits.

Railway Station
Ritco ToursThe nearest Railway Stations are New Jalpaiguri (86 km.) & Siliguri (80 km.), where New Jalpaiguri is directly connected by rail to all the major places in India. New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling by toy train takes 7 hours on a narrow gauge line

Arrivals and Departures
There are two or three departures of the toy trains daily in either directions. The journey takes 81/2 to l0 hours.

Toy Train Timing
» New Jalpaiguri Dep : 0730 & 0900 hrs. Darjeeling Arr: 1550 & 1715 hrs.
» Darjeeling Dep : 0825 & 0910 hrs. New Jalpaiguri Arr: 1620 & 1730 hrs.

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