Kalka Shimla Toy Train- UNESCO World Heritage Site
Imagine a fascinating train journey, steadily snaking up on a narrow railway line on a steep gradient, from an altitude of 2000-odd feet up to over 6800 feet on a line full of curves (917 to be precise), whizzing past dense deodar forests, cutting across misty mountains and valleys, chugging through 103 tunnels and crossing 988 bridges and aqueducts! It covers a distance of 96 km in a span of about 7 hours, this is one of the most memorable experiences of ‘Incredible India.’ There are other ways to travel up to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, but this is by far the most exciting one.
This railway line was established in 1903 when Shimla was the summer capital of India during the British Raj. An amazing engineering marvel, it winds its curvy way through 20 picturesque stations on the way like Ghumman, Koti, Dharampur, Kumarhatti, Barog, Solan, Kandaghat, Shoghi and Taradevi, to name a few, before crossing Summer hill, and finally arriving at Shimla station. Barog deserves special mention as this part of the journey is rife with particularly scenic vistas. Also, this is where the train traverses through the longest tunnel (no. 33) on this route, which is over a kilometre long.
Although the toy train is usually packed during the tourist season from May to July and during September- October, during which time the journey is nothing short of breathtaking, it is simply a stunning and surreal experience during the winter season when the landscape is covered in pristine snow all around. The train has a snow cutting machine at the front to clear the tracks as it chugs its way up.
The Kalka-Shimla toy train journey is on India’s tourism map as one of the best travel destinations of India, when it was declared as a Mountain Railways of India UNESCO Heritage Site in 2008, along with the Darjeeling and Ooty toy trains. The Kalka- Shimla NG Express now has a vistadrome to make the journey even more spectacular than it already is.