Indian Puffing Billy: Kalka-Shimla Toy Train
- Puffing Billy... A Bond between Past and Present
Puffing Billys steam rail is one of those things of past that are worth being preserved forever.
Running through 103 tunnels and 969 bridges and 919 curves, Kalka- Shimla railway track is one of the most unique railway tracks of the world. Having total distance of 96 Km from Kalka to Shimla this track has 18 railway stations and 5 level crossings. The rail track rises from Kalka at 640 m to the cool climes of Shimla at 2.060 m. Comparing with Australian oldest railway of puffing Billy, I named Kalka- Shimla railway as Indian Puffing Billy.
Both railway tracks were built almost simultaneously in the early years of twentieth century. Though the work on the Kalka-Shimla route was completed on November 2, 1903 yet it was opened for the general public only on January 1, 1906. It is said that this railway line was first drawn in November 1847, almost 50 years before it was actually constructed. Lord Curzon, the then British Viceroy to India inaugurated this magnificent train in November 1903. The Kalka-Shimla Railway was built to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British rule, with the Indian rail system. The five hour journey is one of the best train journeys for tourist operated by Indian railway.
Natural beauty and pleasant whether greet you whole the way. Cool breeze sweeps across faces as the train crosses one station after another, like Taksal, Gumman, Dharampur before reaching Barog which is almost mid point of Journey. Barog is a colonial showpiece with bougain-villea clusters tumbling down the walls. This station is one of the most beautiful and well maintained on this track. From here you can see the towering mountains. At Barog we pass through biggest tunnel.
A tragic story is associated with construction of this railway track. Longest tunnel at Barog is named after the name of engineer Barog, who sacrificed his life when he attempted to construct tunnel but failed resulting wastage of government funds. Barog committed the mistake of digging the tunnel from both ends of the hill. The ends of the tunnels could not meet due to mistake in alignment. It is said that a fine of Rs 1 was laid on him by the British authorities, for wasting government money in the tunnel. The British engineer could not digest this humiliation and during a walk along with his pet dog, shot himself in sheer desperation. He killed himself near what now is the state government-run Barog Pine Wood Hotel. After his death, tunnel work done by Barog was left aside and new tunnel was constructed a little far from old one.
After Barog comes other beautiful destination like Solan, Shogai and Koti. All these have wonderful scenery with towering mountains with green and deep forest. You feel being amid nature through out the whole journey.
It is a heritage train, a journey with breathtaking views and stunning scenery in the entire journey. Track passing through beautiful surrounding takes you near to Nature and wonderful experience.
Earlier the train was run by steam engine but now it has been replaced with diesel engine. Now it runs at the speed of 40 to 45 km per hour as against earlier speed of 22 km per hour. To preserve heritage roots of railway it is suggested that steam engine should be preferred like Puffing Billy train of Australia.
In July 2008 UNESCO’s world heritage committee has decided to add Kalka–Shimla Railway to world heritage list and on 9th Nov 2008 this railway line was officially declared by UNESCO as world heritage site. Also the Guinness Book on Rail facts included this track as the greatest narrow gauge engineering achievement in India.