The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal, India. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 78 kilometres (48 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services; however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s highest railway station) are handled by the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotives. The railway, along with the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, is listed as the Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site. The headquarters of the railway is in the town of Kurseong. Operations between Siliguri and Kurseong have been temporarily suspended since 2010 following a Landslide at Tindharia.
A broad gauge railway connected Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Siliguri in 1878. Siliguri, at the base of the Himalayas, was connected to Darjeeling by a cart road (the present day Hill Cart Road) on which “Tonga services” (carriage services) were available. Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company approached the government with a proposal of laying a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling.The proposal was accepted in 1879 following the positive report of a committee formed by Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.Construction started the same year.
A broad gauge railway connected Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Siliguri in 1878. Siliguri, at the base of the Himalayas, was connected to Darjeeling by a cart road (the present day Hill Cart Road) on which “Tonga services” (carriage services) were available.Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company approached the government with a proposal of laying a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling.The proposal was accepted in 1879 following the positive report of a committee formed by Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.Construction started the same year.
A Darjeeling reversing station:
Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. constructed the railway. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on 23 August 1880, while the official opening of the line up to Darjeeling was on 4 July 1881. Several engineering adjustments were made later in order to ease the gradient of the rails. Despite natural calamities, such as an earthquake in 1897 and a major cyclone in 1899, the DHR continued to improve with new extension lines being built in response to growing passenger and freight traffic. However, the DHR started to face competition from bus services that started operating over the Hill Cart Road, offering a shorter journey time. During World War II, the DHR played a vital role transporting military personnel and supplies to the numerous camps around Ghum and Darjeeling.
In 1878 Kolkata was connected with Siliguri through a standard gauge railway. A cart road which is now called as Hill Cart Road was connecting Siliguri to Darjeeling at the base of Himalayas. Tonga or carriage services were available on the cart road.
Construction of a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling was started in 1879 with the effort of Franklin Prestage who was an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company and Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.
Though many natural calamities such as earthquake in 1897 and a cyclone in 1899 occurred in Silliguri and Darjeeling but Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) continued to improve by extending its lines which was being done because no. of passenger and freight traffic were growing.
Buses running over the Hill Cart Road gave tough competition to the DHR because bus used to take less time than DHR. During World War 2millitary personnel and supplies were taken to different camps of Ghum and Darjeeling via DHR.
After independence, DHR was merged into Indian Railways and it is a part of the Northeast Frontier Railway Zone. Later on DHR was realigned and extended for about 6 km to New Jalpaiguri so that it can be connected to the new broad gauge line available there.
DHR rail line has been mostly built alongside Hill Cart Road and partly it is like National Highway 55. When some natural incident such as landslides took place then both road and track gets affected. In most of the areas buildings are built on both side of the road. Rail track appears like urban tramway tracks.
Train engines are equipped with very loud horns so that residents and car drivers can be warned about the approaching train.
Mostly trains continuously produce horn noise so the foreigner visitors who are not used to listens such a loud noise should protect their ear once they are riding the train.
Many stations such as New Jalpaiguri, Siliguri Town, Siliguri Junction, Sukna, Rangtong, Chunbatti, Tindharia, Gayabari, Mahanadi, Kurseong, Tung, Dilaram, Sonada, Rangbul, Jor Bungalow, Ghum, Darjeeling etc are connected on Darjeeling Himalayan railway route.
‘B’ Class steam locomotives are used for DHR, it was built between 1889 and 1925 later on their total reached upto 34 by 2005 but now only 12 are remained which are being used.
From time to time locomotives were given different looks. One of the DHR steam locomotive has also been sent out of India.
Those who travels via Darjeeling Himalayan Railway enjoys the journey which is full of affection and enthusiasm.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society support and preserve the DHR, they put their efforts in making the journey enjoyable for the travellers.
Many Bollywood films have been shot in Darjeeling railway. One can see popular song of film ‘Aradhana’ which was shot in Darjeeling, other films such as Parineeta, Jhumroo etc. have also been shot in Darjeeling. ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ film is also based on the DHR. BBC has also made documentary on the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway.
National Rail Museum (India), the focus of India’s Rail heritage, submitted a proposal to UNESCO on 29th June 1998 for inscribing the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) as a World HERITAGE Site. Accordingly, UNESCO’S World Heritage Committee inscribed DHR as a World Heritage Site on 2nd December 1999. The DHR has popularly known by the name as ‘Toy Train’ which is in fact was never an official term it is just a popular expression found in literature.