Chasing the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train
Chasing Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train
Kurseong – Mahanadi
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train is a narrow gauge railway running between New Jalpaiguri (100 mts) and Darjeeling (2200 mts). The train attends the highest altitude at Ghum Railway Station (2258 mts).
Ghum, once had the distinction of being the highest railway station in the world.Although the records have long tumbled, Ghum still remains the highest narrow gauge station in the world.
Completed in 1881, the DHR toy train covers the 72 km distance between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling on a 2 feet wide gague.
The DHR was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1999 and was only the second railway to receive the prestigious status. The first one being the Semmering Railway in Austria, which got the UNESCO status in 1998.
UNESCO Heritage committee declares the DHR as an outstanding example of the influence of an innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multi-cultural region, which serves as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world.
It also says that the development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. This process is illustrated in an exceptional and seminal fashion by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
Over the period of 130 years, the DHR has undergone only minor changes. Two of the five loops of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, have been removed and the line has been extended from Siliguri to New Jalpaiguri, for better connectivity for rail passengers coming from the south.
Sadly, the age old steam engine has been largely replaced by the diesel engine. But the steam engine still runs on special occasions and the tourist train running between Darjeeling and Ghum (via Batasia Loop) still runs on steam.
The fuming smoke and the shrill whistles of the steam engine, not only makes the ride memorable, but also nostalgic.
In most of the occasions, the DHR toy train consists of a tiny diesel engine which pulls two coaches (one first class and one second class) along the two feet narrow railway track.
A ride in the Darjeelig Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train is a memorable experience, even if its pulled by a diesel engine, but chasing and photographing the running train is no less an experience.
This is exactly what I did during my Familiarization (FAM) Tour of Cochrane Place, Kurseong.
I preffered to chase the south bound train from Kurseong. During my stay in Kurseong (June 2014), the train was only operating till Mahanadi, due to a huge landslide in Tindharia.
I preferred the south bound train over the north bound train, as the roads are more empty on the south section. Also the Kurseong – Darjeeling section is more famous and has been extensively photographed and documented.
My photo documentation started with the toy train moving out of the Kurseong Station, and soon I was in my Toyota Innova, following the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) Toy Train.
I initially instructed my driver, Sabin Gurung, to drive along the Toy Train and the passengers soon realized that they were being photographed and started waiving at me.
Sometimes I instructed Sabin to drive ahead, providing me ample time to climb up vantage points, to shoot top views of the Toy Train.
The chase continued, but it was soon over, as the distance between Kurseong and Mahanadi was only 7 km.
I returned exhausted to Cochrane Place only to be refreshed by a cup of cold blended tea.
This trip was part of a FAM (Familiarization) Tour of Cochrane Place, Kurseong
Contact details of Cochrane Place, Kurseong: