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Riding the Heritage on Wheels – A Comprehensive Guide to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Updated on March 28, 2016

Toy Trains In India

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in the state of West Bengal has run for more than 135 years braving the harsh tests of time and natural calamities and still shows no willingness to go down. Popular by the names like Darjeeling Mountain Railway and Darjeeling Toy Train, it interweaves nature, history, culture and adventure in one ride and is among the best experiences to have in India. Before you get onboard the spectacle running on narrow gauge, let’s reveal the journey to build the excitement.

History

The British established Darjeeling as their summer home and soon recognized the tea-growing and trade opportunities in the region. However, the existing cart road inadequately supported the increasing traffic and transport of commodities. Franklin Prestage of Eastern Bengal Railway Company conceived the idea of a steam-powered railroad to connect Darjeeling with Siliguri (which was already rail-connected to Calcutta, the then capital of British Empire) and received permission in 1879. And then:
• The first leg was completed from Siliguri to Kurseong in 1880
• The route was extended to Darjeeling in 1881
• DHR in the independent India became a part of the Indian Railways in 1958
• In 1962, the line was extended from Siliguri to New Jalaiguri
• It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999

Quick Facts
• It became the world’s second Worth Heritage Railway after Semmering Railway in Australia
• Along with the Kalka-Shimla Railway in Himachal Pradesh and Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Tamil Nadu, it forms the World Heritage Site of the Mountain Railways of India.
• When the task of taking engine over the steep slopes of Himalayas became almost impossible, the wife of one of the team members suggested the idea of creating z-reverses during a dance ball.
• Originally 5 loops (out of which 2 have been removed) and 6 reverses (zig-zags) were introduced, making it an engineering feast way ahead of time.
• More than 550 bridges reveal the enchanting panoramas of the gorgeous Himalayan region.
• Darjeeling Himalayan Railway route consists of a 2 ft. narrow gauge with dramatically changing gradients from 1 to 20.
• The maximum speed of the toy train is 13 km. per hour which makes it a dream ride.
• Over the total track length of about 88 km., the train covers 13 stations starting from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. The total journey time is about 8 hours.
• At present, 12 B Class steam locomotives and 4 diesel locomotives aid the train ride.
• The track crosses the road 126 times.
• Ghum, the highest railway station in India at the height of about 7,407 ft., is located on this line.
• Many Bollywood movies, popular songs and international documentaries feature the toy train as a celebrity.

Top Attractions
If you study the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway map, you would be thrilled to find many outstanding hotspots and attractions that form a part of this journey. Here are some of them:

• Batasia Loop: It offers the breathtaking views of mountain sceneries, Darjeeling town and the snow-capped Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak. The train stops here for about 10 min. during which you can admire the views and also visit the Gurkha Memorial.
• Ghum Station: The train stops here for good 30 min. during which you can visit the railway museum (entry fee included in the fare).
• Changing Sceneries: From the lush plains of Siliguri to the Himalayan slopes revealing zillions of shades of greenery, you would come across orchids, teak forests, bamboo plantations, verdant tea gardens, wildlife sanctuaries, forested hills, stunning valleys, snow-laden mountains and what not.
• Cultural Expedition: The ride offers the opportunity to peep into the invigorating culture of the region. Watch the cheerful school children boarding the train or buy delicious foods and refreshing Darjeeling tea from the vendors. Houses, shops, colonial buildings and people indulged in their daily chores present heart-warming sights.

Planning the Trip

Trains and Schedules: Apart from the main train from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, there are Joy Trains, Jungle Safari and other trains that run mainly for tourism purposes. Here’s a complete chart providing information about Darjeeling train timings, schedules, fares and more:

Train No. -Train Name - Locomotive From - To - Start Time - Arrival Time - Fare (in INR)
52541 New Jalpaiguri-Darjeeling Passenger Diesel New Jalpaiguri-Darjeeling 0830 1600 360
52540 Darjeeling-New Jalpaiguri Passenger Diesel Darjeeling New Jalpaiguri 1015 1745 360
52546 Joy Train Diesel Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling 0800 630
52548 Joy Train Steam Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling 1040 1100
52574 Joy Train Diesel Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling 1100 630
52549 Joy Train Steam Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling 1320 1100
52575 Joy Train Diesel Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling 1335 630
52547 Joy Train Steam Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling 1605 1100
52570 Red Panda Steam Darjeeling Kurseong 0910 1245 890
52571 Red Panda Steam Kurseong Darjeeling 1400 1750 890
52573 Himalayan on Wheels Steam Kurseong Mahanadi 1015 1125 Not Available
52572 Himalayan on Wheels Steam Kurseong Mahanadi 1400 1510 Not Available
52587 Kurseong-Darjeeling NG Passenger Diesel Kurseong Darjeeling 0700 0945 210
52588 Darjeeling-Kurseong NG Passenger Diesel Darjeeling Kurseong 1600 1840 210
52551 Jungle Safari Steam Siliguri Junction Rangtong 595

Useful Tips:
• Red Panda runs only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
• Himalayan on Wheels run only on Saturday and Sunday
• For many of these journeys, only return tickets are sold
• Train services temporarily stop due to landslides and other factors. Make sure that you check the availability in advance
• Prefer Darjeeling toy train booking online in advance or ask your tour operator to help.
• Winter months (November-February) are the best time for ride. Avoid monsoons (July-September).
• Don’t forget to carry cameras and binoculars.
• Tibetan and Nepalese cuisines are available at various stations and worth trying. Prefer drinking packaged water only.
• Don’t pay heed to anybody offering lucrative deals, cheap tickets etc.
• Plan an extended holiday to explore the wonderful nature, monasteries ad adventures at Darjeeling.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in the state of West Bengal has run for more than 135 years braving the harsh tests of time and natural calamities and still shows no willingness to go down. Popular by the names like Darjeeling Mountain Railway and Darjeeling Toy Train, it interweaves nature, history, culture and adventure in one ride and is among the best experiences to have in India. Before you get onboard the spectacle running on narrow gauge, let’s reveal the journey to build the excitement.

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