- Location: The train runs between New Jalpaiguri, a railway junction in West Bengal, India and the famous hill station — Darjeeling.
- Attraction Type: Train Journey.
- Significance: A thrilling rail journey that provides some of the breathtaking views of the Himalayas. It also has got a rich heritage.
- Best time to Visit: Just avoid the rainy season. However, September through June would be the best.
- How to Reach: If you are coming down by air, you need to land at Bagdogra Airport, located about 16 km from Siliguri. Flights are available from Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai and Guwahati. Take a car from Bagdogra to reach Siliguri city center or New Jalpaiguri railway station. If you are coming down by train, you need to reach New Jalpaiguri Railway station (NJP). Trains are available from all parts of the country.
- Nearest Airport: Bagdogra Airport (IXB).
It is a dream journey that many Indians have dreamt of from their childhood days, it is a dream journey that many non-Indians have dreamt about going for at least once in their lifetime — Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) is simply a dream that many travelers, no matter where they are from, love to nurture in their heart and try to make it true someday. It is simply amazing when the small train from Indian Railway, as they perfectly nicknamed it the “Toy Train”, runs through the narrow track on the Himalaya to take you from Siliguri, a town in the state of West Bengal in India to the famous hill station of Darjeeling. And the most amazing part of it is that, it still is powered by a steam engine, though a modern diesel engine is used in some of the trains as well. It is a continuous process of getting spellbound as the train passes through the hilly villages and a number of loops to take you from about 100 m at Siliguri to an altitude of 2,200 m at Darjeeling, covering a distance of 88 km. Due to its rich heritage, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
The Brief History
The history of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway dates back to 1880, when Gillander Arbuthnot & Co. constructed the railway. Prior to that, there was a standard gauge railway connecting the city of Calcutta with Siliguri. Siliguri, being at the base of the Himalayas, attracted quite a few traffic. It was also connected with Darjeeling by a cart road, where “Tonga services” were available. Later, Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company gave a proposal to lay a steam tramway connecting Siliguri and Darjeeling. The proposal was accepted in 1879 when a committee formed by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Sir Ashley Eden gave a positive report on that. The construction started immediately and history was made. On 23rd August 1880, the stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened. However, the full stretch got completed in the next year, on 4th July 1881.
The journey of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway starts from New Jalpaiguri, a major railway junction near Siliguri and continues till Darjeeling, covering a distance of 88 km. The journey on this narrow-gauge (610 mm) railway is simply mesmerizing. The first few miles has got decent gradient. The real ascent begins at Sukna (533 ft.). You would find the first sharp curve as the train passes through the ninth mile post. The panorama of the surroundings suddenly starts changing as the nature reveals all its beauty in front of you. The train passes through the places like Rangtong, Tindharia, Gayabari, and Mahanadi to reach Kurseong, a major station enroute to Darjeeling. The train passes through the market of Kurseong and provides you the enthralling opportunity to see the shops and market stalls of this hill station. It then runs past Tung, Dilaram, Sonada, Rangbul, and Jor Bungalow to reach Ghoom, the highest point of this line as well as the highest station in India with an altitude of 2260 m. Then comes the famous Batasia Loop with its memorial to the Gorkha soldiers. You can also have the magnificent view of the Darjeeling town from here. From now on, you will keep watching various peaks of the Himalayas and suddenly find that you are in Darjeeling.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has got 3 pair of regular trains that run daily. Among those 2 pairs run between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling and the other pair runs between Kurseong and Darjeeling. In the first two pairs, one train consists of 1 First Class, 2 Second Class and 1 Second Class cum Luggage Van and the other has got 3 First Class and 1 First Class cum Guard Van, both are powered by NSM6 Type Diesel Locomotive engines. The third pair consists of 1 First Class, 2 Second Class and 1 Second Class cum Luggage Van, powered by ‘B’ Class Steam Locomotive engines.
Besides these, there are also Joy Ride Trains that run between Darjeeling and Ghoom with a 10 minutes halt at Batasia Loop and 30 minutes’ break at Ghoom Museum. It has got 3 First Class coaches run by ‘B’ Class Steam Locomotives. There is another special train called, Sukna Steam Special, which runs between Siliguri and Sukna, with a 30 minutes halt at Sukna for a visit to Sukna Photo Gallery. Special train services are also arranged on demand. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway also arranges Charter train services for the tourists and travel agents.
You can book the ticket from any of the computerized reservation center of Indian Railway. If it is not possible, you can also book a ticket from any of the station in the DHR. You can also book your ticket online through the railway website www.irctc.co.in.
For booking of Steam Charter Trains, just log on to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway at www.dhr.in. You can mail to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Darjeeling Railway Station: Tel: 91-354-2252555 (For Joy Rides)
Siliguri Junction Station: Tel: +91-353-2510017 (For Sukna Joy Rides)