The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway from Siliguri toDarjeeling connecting two districts, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, in the Indian state of West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways.
The DHR is the very first hill railway in India, and one of the first ones in the world (the Semmering Railway, constructed between 1848 and 1854, was the first). Established since 1881, the “toy train” is operating and retaining most of its original features and values until today.In the mid-19th century, the British rulers built a recovery home away from home in the Himalayan city Darjeeling where the stress of colonial rule and the hot Indian climate could be put away for the summer. A sanatorium and a military depot were set up. The soft climate was not only good for recreation but also supporting extensive tea growing and plantation. Subsequently, Darjeeling became a well-known new British settlement and trading point for tea. Increasing traffic by people and commodities overstressed the existing cart-road and a new transportation system was required. 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 Companyapproached 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 (ca. 1905)
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. After the independence of India, the DHR was absorbed into Indian Railways and became a part of theNortheast Frontier Railway zone in 1958. In 1962, the line was realigned at Siliguri and extended by nearly 4 miles (6 km) to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to meet the new broad gauge line there. DHR remained closed for 18 months during the hostile period of Gorkhaland Movement in 1988–1989.
Darjeeling Railway 1895
Siliguri, located at the base of the Himalayas, was connected with Calcutta (now Kolkata) by broad gauge railway in 1878. Between Siliguri and Darjeeling Tonga services ran on a cart road (the present day Hill Cart Road). Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company approached the government with a proposal of laying a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling. Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, formed a committee to assess the feasibility of the project. The proposal was accepted in 1879 following the positive report of the committee. Construction started the same year.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, in 1921
Gillanders Arbuthnot & Company was given the responsibility of construction. By March 1880, the line was extended up to Tindharia. Lord Lytton, the first Viceroy to visit Darjeeling was conveyed in the train up to Tindharia. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on 23 August 1880. The Siliguri to Darjeeling track was inaugurated on 4 July 1881. The name of the rail company was promptly changed to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Company. Initially the alignment of the railroad followed Hill Cart Road. However, it became apparent that in some areas the steepness of the road was more than the locomotives could easily maneuver. In 1882 four loops and four reverses (zig-zags) were constructed between Suknaand Gayabari to ease the gradient. The line was extended by a quarter of mile to Darjeeling Bazar in 1886. The Darjeeling station was renovated in 1891 while Kurseong got a new station building and storage shed in 1896. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) suffered from an earthquake in 1897 and a major cyclone in 1899.
Darjeeling "toy train" in shed. 1979
By 1909–1910, DHR was carrying 174,000 passengers and 47,000 tons of goods annually. The first bogie carriages entered service, replacing very basic 4 wheel carriages. DHR extension lines were constructed up to Kishanganj in 1914, and Gielkhola in 1915. At Tindharia the railway works were relocated from behind the loco shed to a new and extensive site.
The Batasia Loop was constructed in 1919, eliminating problems by creating easier gradients on the ascent from Darjeeling. However, DHR started to face competition from bus services that started operating in the Hill Cart Road, and took less time than the railway to reach Darjeeling. In 1934, a major earthquake in Bihar shook all of Northeast India. Many buildings in Darjeeling were heavily damaged and the railway was also badly affected, although it soon recovered and played a vital role in transporting repair materials. During World War 2, DHR played a vital role transporting military personnel and supplies to the numerous camps around Ghum and Darjeeling.
After the Independence of India, DHR was purchased by the Indian Government and was absorbed into the Indian Government Railways organisation. DHR came under the management of the Assam Railways organisation. In 1952, Assam Railway, including DHR, became part of the North Eastern Railway Zone and later in 1958, a part of the Northeast Frontier Railway Zone of Indian Railway. In 1962, the line was realigned at Siliguri and extended by nearly 4 miles (6 km) to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to meet the new broad gauge line there. It opened for freight that year and for passengers in 1964. The loco shed and carriage depot at Siliguri Junction were relocated to NJP.
DHR remained closed for 18 months during the hostile period of Gorkhaland Movement in 1988–1989. DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, becoming only the second railway in the world to have this honour bestowed upon it, the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998
Darjeeling to Ghoom Heritage Narrow Gauge Train: Photograph by: Vikramjit Kakati
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has long been viewed with affection and enthusiasm by travellers to the region, and the Earl of Ronaldshay gave the following description of a journey in the early 1920s:
"Siliguri is palpably a place of meeting.[.....] The discovery that here the metre gauge system ends and the two foot gauge of the Darjeeling-Himalayan railway begins, confirms what all these things hint at.[....]One steps into a railway carriage which might easily be mistaken for a toy, and the whimsical idea seizes hold of one that one has accidentally stumbled into Lilliput. With a noisy fuss out of all proportion to its size the engine gives a jerk - and starts.[....] No special mechanical device such as a rack is employed - unless, indeed, one can so describe the squat and stolid hill-man who sits perched over the forward buffers of the engine and scatters sand on the rails when the wheels of the engine lose their grip of the metals and race, with the noise of a giant spring running down when the control has been removed. Sometimes we cross our own track after completing the circuit of a cone, at others we zigzag backwards and forwards; but always we climb at a steady gradient - so steady that if one embarks in a trolley at Ghum, the highest point on the line, the initial push supplies all the energy necessary to carry one to the bottom."
New Jalpaiguri Junction (NJP)
New Jalpaiguri is the railway station which was extended to the south in 1964 to meet the new broad gaugeto Assam. Where the two met, New Jalpaiguri was created.
DHR Terminal at New Jalpaiguri Junction Railway Station
Siliguri Town Station
Siliguri Town was original southern terminus of the line.
Siliguri Junction became a major station only when a new metre-gauge line was built to Assam in the early 1950s
This station marks the change in the landscape from the flat plains to the wooded lower slopes of the mountains. The gradient of the railway changes dramatically.
A short distance above Rangtong there is a water tank. This was a better position for the tank than in the station, both in terms of water supply and distance between other water tanks
This is a major station on the line as below the station is the workshops. There is also an office for the engineers and a large locomotive shed, all on a separate site.
Immediately above the station are three sidings; these were used to inspect the carriage while the locomotive was changed, before the train continued towards Darjeeling.
There is a shed here and a few sidings adjacent to the main line, but the station proper is a dead end. Up trains must reverse out of the station (across a busy road junction) before they can continue on their climb. It is said that the station was built this way so that the train could enter a secure yard and stay there while the passengers left the train for refreshments.
Above Kurseong station, the railway runs through the bazaar. Trains skirt the front of shops and market stalls on this busy stretch of road.
Sonada is a small station which serves town of sonada on Darjeeling Himalayan railway. It is on Siliguri - Darjeeling national highway
This is a small location near Darjeeling and a railway station on Darjeeling Himalayan railway. Jorebungalow was store point for tea to Calcutta. This is a strategical place to connect Darjeeling to rest of the country.
Ghum, summit of the line and highest station in India. Now includes a museum on the first floor of the station building with larger exhibits in the old goods yard. Once this was the railway station at highest altitude overall and is the highest altitude station for narrow gauge railway.
The loop is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Darjeeling, below Ghum. There is also a memorial to the Gorkha soldiers of the Indian Army who sacrificed their lives after the Indian Independence in 1947. From the Batasia Loop one can get a panoramic view of Darjeeling town with the Kanchenjunga and other snowy mountains in the back-drop.
The farthest reach of the line was to Darjeeling Bazaar, a goods-only line and now lost under the road surface and small buildings.www.kanchanjungaexpress.com