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Indian Puffing Billy: Kalka-Shimla Train

Updated on July 8, 2021
Jaspals profile image

Lawyer, Consultant & Politician: Expert in Overseas Education & Immigration Matters, Traveller & Blog writer

Running through 103 tunnels and 969 bridges, and 919 stunning curves, Kalka- Shimla railway track is one of the world's most unique and most scenic railway tracks. Having a 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 the Australian oldest railway of puffing Billy, I named for this article, Kalka- Shimla railway as Indian Puffing Billy.

Both railway tracks were built almost simultaneously in the early years of the twentieth century. Though the Kalka-Shimla route was completed on November 2, 1903, 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 tourists operated by the Indian railway.

Natural beauty and pleasant weather greet you whole the way. A cool breeze sweeps across faces as the train crosses one station after another, like Taksal, Gumman, Dharampur, before reaching Barog, which is the almost mid-point of Journey. This journey encompasses a vast display of awe-inspiring landscapes. Barog is a colonial showpiece with bougainvillaea 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 the biggest tunnel.

A tragic story is associated with the construction of this railway track. The longest tunnel at Barog is named after engineer Barog, who sacrificed his life when he attempted to construct the tunnel but failed to result in 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 a 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 shot himself in sheer desperation during a walk along with his pet dog. He killed himself near what now is the state government-run Barog Pine Wood Hotel. After his death, tunnel work done by Barog has left aside, and a new tunnel was constructed a little far from the old one.

After Barog comes other beautiful destinations like Solan, Shogai, and Koti, all these have wonderful scenery with towering mountains with green and deep forest. You feel being amid nature throughout the whole journey.

It is a heritage train, a journey with breathtaking views and stunning scenery the entire journey. Track passing through beautiful surrounding takes you near to Nature and a wonderful experience. As the train ascends through steep mountains and curves, its speed slows down. This journey runs on a narrow gauge, treating passengers with breathtaking views of rugged mountains, lush pine forests, waterfalls, valleys, and picture-perfect hill stations along the way that will definitely tempt you to disembark and bask in their beauty. The whole journey takes about five and a half hours.

Earlier the train was run by the steam engine, but now it has been replaced with the diesel engine. It runs at the speed of 40 to 45 km per hour as against the earlier speed of 22 km per hour. To preserve the heritage roots of the railway, it is suggested that steam engines be preferred, like the Puffing Billy train of Australia.

In July 2008, UNESCO’s world heritage committee decided to add Kalka–Shimla Railway to the world heritage list. On 9th Nov 2008, this railway line was officially declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Also, the Guinness Book on Rail facts included this track as the greatest narrow gauge engineering achievement in India.

This train service is equipped with standard car seats and has nine halts. Passengers can get off at the stations along the way and nourish their eyes and soul with beautiful scenery.

There are also two heritage carriages operating on this route: Shivalik Queen and Shivalik Palace Tourist Coach. Both are luxury services, with ultra-modern facilities, including an onboard kitchen, refrigerator, dining table, and folding cushion beds. These trains usually operate once a week, from March until September. During the high season (May-July, September-October, and December-January), several special holiday trains also run on this route due to a heavy tourist influx.

Kalka Shimla Rail
Kalka Shimla Rail
Train Passing Over Bridge
Train Passing Over Bridge

Booking Reservation

When you plan to ride on this beautiful train, you can book a ticket for the Kalka-Shimla Toy Train at a railway station counter or online.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Jaspal Singh


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      7 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      I loved and would love to make a trip on the train. Thank you for sharing some great info. here.

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 

      7 years ago from New Delhi India

      Jaspals, I have traveled by this train 6 times from Kalka to Shimla but last time was too long back. I really love to travel by this train because of beautiful scenery. Would travel from Delhi in Hill queen to kalka and then take this train. Voting it up and awesome.

    • Kawaljit kaur profile image

      Kawaljit kaur 

      9 years ago from JALANDHAR, Punjab (India)

      interesting, informative

      we have been to Simla number of times by our own conveyance but your hub has created lots of interest in travelling by train on this route. we will definitely try next time.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      There is a wonderment about train rides. A carefreeness in sitting and watching the sites along the way. Where I live there is a train in the mountain region that I enjoyed a few years ago. I enjoyed your Hub very much!

    • Aamna Aamad profile image

      Aamna Aamad 

      10 years ago from Pakistan

      This train fasinates me always...if i am not mistaken its the same one in the movie pareenita and jab we met? its truely beautiful.

    • Jaspals profile imageAUTHOR

      Jaspal Singh 

      10 years ago from India / Australia

      @Bhawana. Thanks for adding your VALUABLE Comments.

    • Jaspals profile imageAUTHOR

      Jaspal Singh 

      10 years ago from India / Australia

      @Lotuslove. Thanks for stopping by my hub.I am really thankful to you for ur support for reading my hub. I too love HILLS. Always crazy for them. Jaspal

    • Bhanu.Jas profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      I Love this Train, running from Kalka to Shimla, passing through hills and forest full of natural beauty.

    • lotuslove19 profile image

      Sarika Mehra 

      10 years ago

      I love spending my holidays in hill station and have nearly visited most of them in north India ,they are my favorite destination and I love going on mini trains on the hill .

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      10 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      I have been on Amtrak, recently and love this mode of transportation. Thank you for a well-written piece.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I Was on this track last year in July with my wife, traveled by Shivalik Express, in fact this is a Shatabdi like train stops at Badode/Solan only and every facility is provided by railways.We stayed at Grand at The Mall. nice place. Your descriptions are really great JPP(last P stands for pra).Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Raj M. Atwal 

      10 years ago

      A nice and informative blog. Keep it up, sir!


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