India’s ‘toy train’ is a blast from the past

Posted on 14 February 2020

If you’re looking for a train that will get you from point A to point B as quickly as possible, the Shanghai Maglev and its maximum operating speed of 430km/h will definitely get the job done.

If however, you’re looking for a more laid-back, scenic journey through remote Indian villages with the Himalayan mountains painting the perfect background, India’s Kalka-Shimla line or the ‘Toy Train’ as its more commonly know is the perfect the option for you.

With a total of 20 stations, 988 bridges, 103 tunnels and 917 curves, the Kalka-Shimla line proves to be a spectacular feat of engineering. The five-hour, 96.6-kilometre journey starts at an altitude of 658 meters in Kalka and climbs to a height of 2,075 meters in Shimla.

The Kalka-Shimla toy train is more than just a scenic train-ride though, as it provides an interesting backstory of the history interconnected with British colonial rule in India from 1858 and 1947. The English rulers at the time were looking for a break from the relentless Delhi and Kolkata summers. They found much-needed relief in Shimla, which at the time, was nothing more than a remote forest with a few temples dotted across the landscape.

British rulers and travels alike enjoyed the area and its climate so much that in 1863 the Viceroy of India, John Lawrence, move the summer capital to Shimla and soon became a bustling tourist hotspot. Rudyard Kipling, the author of ‘Jungle Book’ described the city as the ‘centre of power as well as pleasure.’

In 1903, the new Kalka-Shimla railway line was officially opened and not only provided a much-needed connection with the summer capital but also changed the lives for commuters living in this remote terrain for the better.

As for the journey itself, commuters are surrounded by awe-inspiring views of the iconic Himachal Pradesh region, all while enjoying perfectly cooked Indian cuisine. For those looking to take the perfect Instagram picture, keep an eye out for arch bridge number 541, it bears a remarkable resemblance to a certain Scottish bridge from the Harry-Potter films.

If you’re interested in taking this once in a lifetime journey, the Kalka-Shimla line is managed by the state-run Indian Railways and tickets can be purchased through the official IRCTC website.

Image: Twitter/ @sugarspicenice8

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