india travel shot: shimla’s toy train

Imagine—a cross between a train and a car, a rail motor car as it is called, hurtling over towering Roman arched bridges and through tunnels dug deep into dense rocky hills, past pristine forests and verdant valleys. 103 tunnels and 969 bridges to be exact, of which the world’s highest multi-arch gallery bridge is one. Every now and then it stops at quaint railway stations in little villages. Care for a bite?

The fantastical contraption in the image above, straight out of the pages of British Raj in India, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Mountain Railways of India’ since 2008. No trip to Shimla could be deemed to be complete without the inclusion of a journey in it in the itinerary. Not 120 years ago. And not now.

Fully-functional to-date, the 2 feet 6 inches narrow-gauge railway, covering a distance of 96.6 kilometres past 18 stops from Shimla to Kalka, was built by Herbert S. Harington between 1898 and 1903. It had a crucial responsibility. To connect Shimla, British Raj’s summer capital in India with the rest of the Indian railway system, ferrying the bureaucracy to and from the town high up in the hills. It was, and still is, an engineering masterpiece!

Be prepared for endless gasps of wonder as the wind tears through your hair over 5 hours and some 900 curves. By the time you disembark, both the legs and head are a bit shaky. And the heart, aah, that’s guaranteed to be very happy. Ask mine. ❤

29 thoughts on “india travel shot: shimla’s toy train

  1. Yes, Rama, it’s a lovely train! But the one I really lost my heart to was the Kangra Valley train – a slow, truly rural train with wonderful views of the Dhauladhar, and local people with their sheep and goats as your co-passengers. A memorable experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Shimla-Kalka rail motor car is pure cuteness overload and an adrenaline rush mixed together! I have not been on the Darjeeling train but have read that it is pretty fantastic. Hopefully, some day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds really interesting and so much fun! Now I understand the term “toy train”. It does look like one! I suspect the weather and visibility can be quite unpredictable at such a high altitude? Nevertheless, it looks worth going whether it’s sunny or raining.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have been lucky enough to travel on this train journey many years ago. I won’t say it was an awesome experience but it was definitely unique. I have never been on other meter gauge hill trains elsewhere in India so I cannot compare it with others. It is certainly to do for the old world charm.

    Liked by 1 person


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