The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the Darjeeling Toy Train, has got a UNESCO heritage label, it passes through mythical, mist-shrouded forests, and stops at some of the highest railway stations in the world. And Mark Twain has been on the ride. So what are you waiting for?
7 Reasons Why You Must Take The Toy Train Ride To Darjeeling
One Of The Few Narrow Gauge
The DHR is one of the last remaining narrow-gauge charmers in the world climbing more than 2,000m between Siliguri in West Bengal and the tea plantations of Darjeeling. It used to run on a steam engine which was phased out some years back. The tracks are currently being restored and the service should begin in a couple of months.
The British-built 84-km long rail link once carried precious tea cargo from the foothills of the mountains to the plains and from there, to the teapots of the world. Since it was launched in 1880, the toy train has ferried millions including, viceroys, heads of states, kings and queens.
Looping You In
You will pass through dense, mystical forests with conifers shrouded in mists from Sukna station. Sometimes, at a few places, a clear path is not available and the climb is done through reverse and loops. The railway spirals up whole loops of 360 degrees to climb high slopes. In total, the train goes through 5 such reverses and 3 loops.
Experience Hill Towns
The train passes through many small hill towns, which are, unfortunately, becoming concretised rapidly. The zig-zag route has many steep gradients and sometimes the engine goes into reverse gear!
Follow In The Footsteps Of Mark Twain
You will be retracing the journey of Mark Twain who travelled on the train in 1895, and this is what he had to say: “The most enjoyable day I have spent on earth mixed ecstasy of deadly fright and unimaginable joy.” The DHR has a website now, where you can get information on routes, tickets, history etc.
The Most Amazing View Of The Himalayas
When the train reaches Kurseong, at 4,800 ft, you get breathtaking views of the snow-capped peaks of the world’s third-highest mountain, Kanchenjunga. It makes a stop at the world’s second-highest railway station to be reached by a steam locomotive — Ghoom, at 7,000 ft. It typically takes around 45 minutes to cover the 7km route from Ghoom to Darjeeling with a 10-minute stopover at the famous Batasia Loop, a 5-kilometre-long loop around which the train completes a steep full circle. It offers beautiful views of the mountains and has a War Memorial built in honour of the Gorkha soldiers who lost their lives during the fight for Indian Independence.
At journey’s end, you also get to stay in some amazing hotels in Darjeeling. Close to the station lies the quaint Swiss Hotel on Gandhi Road (near Circuit House). It has an old-world charm with wood-panelled interiors, and rooms, suites and cottages. Stay in the Tenzing Norgay suite which has jaw-dropping views of Kanchenjunga. The hallways are adorned with sketches by famous local artist Goray Douglas. If you get tired of hotel meals, you have the option of rustling up a dish in their kitchen.