Kalka Shimla Toy Train, one of the wonders of mechanical engineering, was inaugurated by Lord Curzon in 1903. The concept behind the construction was formulated decades before the actual construction started. Covering a route of about five hours, this train covers stations like Barog, Taksaki, Solan, and Gamma. Set amidst the picturesque beauty of landscapes and lush green valleys of Himachal Pradesh, the train covers a fascinating route flanked by ice-covered peaks and gleaming streams. The enchanting beauty that this route offers is a treat for the passengers who travel by it.
Running at a speed of about 25 kilometer/hr, Kalka Shimla Toy Train begins its journey at Kalka Station which lies at a lofty height of 640 meter. After crossing more than 860 bridges and 100 tunnels, the majestic journey of this train ends at Shimla station. This journey comprises of twenty stations; there are 919 curves that this train makes its path through. The maximum carrying capacity is 200 passengers that are made to sit in seven coaches.
The extraordinariness of the train lies in the fact that it covers a rugged terrain and has to sustain itself in adverse climatic conditions. The unpredictability of snowfall, extreme temperatures, and heavy rainfall make it difficult for Kalka Shimla Toy Train to cover huge distances in time and carry the passengers safely to their desired destinations. As terrain is quite uneven, the average speed that it acquires ranges from 25-30 kilometer/hr. Starting its journey at a height of 640 meter, the train travels up to a height of 2076 m at Shimla, its last station.
Passing from the first to last station, the most important station that lies approximately midway between the two is Barog. From there, the train passes through Solan, a major tourist-site. The upward journey of Kalka Shimla Toy Train begins from Kandaghat from where its journey covers stations like Taradevi and Summer Hill. As it approaches Shimla, one can enjoy the breathtaking beauty of lofty hills and alpine meadows. One is blessed to travel through diverse vegetations like pine, oak, deodar, maple woods, and ficus. The chilly breeze, cool atmosphere, and immense natural beauty are enough to captivate the passengers and make their journey a cherishable experience.
The train was included in the world heritage list by UNESCO in 2008. Running on 700 horsepower provided by B-B diesel engines, the longest tunnel that one encounters during this journey is Barog; it takes about three minutes to traverse the tunnel. Barog is named after an engineer of the same name who tried hard to construct this tunnel but could not complete it successively. Due to failure on his part and the wastage of a large sum of money involved in the project, Barog laid down his life. A set of three other tunnels that are in function include Taradevi, Koti and tunnel 103.
The toy train provides comfortable and cushioned sears to its passengers. Each compartment is fitted with toilets; the seats are equipped with folding food tables; windows are fitted with large panes of glass. One can book among deluxe, chair car, honeymoon or rail car compartments depending upon their budget and requirement. The fair as low as Rs. 19 and the maximum payable cost is Rs. 280, depending upon the type of compartment.
Myth Associated with the Train :
It is said that the construction of Kalka Shimla Toy Train was done with the help of Bhalkhu Baba who lived at Jhajaha hamlet in Solan. According to local residents, the engineers were unable to complete the task of construction as they were pervaded by an evil spirit. As Baba had spiritualistic powers, he was able to ward off the spirits. Pleased by these, he was made Jamindar by British rulers. Baba was also awarded a medal along with a turban both of which are still possessed by his descendants.
The construction of the route was a formidable task and had to suffer several failures initially. The outline of the route was chalked out in 1847. The project was restarted in 1885 but failed miserably. After a few more failures, the final project was signed on 29th June, 1898.
A distinctive feature of this fantastic train is the old system of communication that it uses. The usage of Neils Token instruments to communicate between stations is still in practice. Block phones and control systems are used to search links between stations. Such outdated machinery is not used anywhere in India.