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 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
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.
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
"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."
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
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
There are two or three departures of the toy trains daily in either
directions. The journey takes 81/2 to l0 hours.
» New Jalpaiguri Dep :
||Toy Train Timing
0730 & 0900 hrs.
Darjeeling Arr: 1550 & 1715 hrs.
» Darjeeling Dep :
0825 & 0910 hrs. New
Jalpaiguri Arr: 1620 & 1730 hrs.