Kalka Shimla Railway - KSR or Toy train
As you must be aware, Shimla was the summer capital of the Britishers during the time when Calcutta (now Kolkata) was the capital of India. KSR was built by Britishers to connect Shimla to the rest of India in 1903.
The Kalka Shimla Express Route is a World Heritage site declared by UNESCO in 2008.
It was raining all day in Delhi on the day of our departure and weather was predicted to remain the same in next two days in Delhi, Kalka and Shimla...this added to our excitement...
We started our journey on Friday from Old Delhi Railway Station and boarded Kalka Mail (now called Netaji Express, one of the oldest running trains of India) which originates from Howrah and reaches Delhi at 8:50 PM. There are other trains also by which one can reach Kalka including two Shatabdi Express daily. For detailed routes and trains, please visit http://www.irctc.co.in
We reached Kalka at around 5:00 in the morning. Kalka Railway station is a small and beautiful railway station where on one side of the platform is broad gauge connecting Delhi and other side is the KSR narrow gauge where all the other toy trains are parked. So you can spend time here observing their beauty and clicking photographs.
There are six trains on the route from Kalka to Shimla and back daily. The tickets can be booked online as well as over the counter at Kalka Station subject to availability. Please refer to irctc.co.in for updated timings and routes as the same may change due to weather conditions in the area. However, it is advised to book tickets in advance especially in peak season as the trains become full soon after the ticket window opens. The trains have general class, first class and second class. The facilities also differ in different trains.
We had booked Kalka Shimla Express which departs at 7 AM and reaches Shimla at 12:55 PM. The train has vistadome coaches which gives the complete view of the beautiful journey we were about to undertake.
So, we boarded our train from Kalka and the train chugged off at its scheduled time. The Kalka Shimla Railway covers 96 km halting at several big and small stations (not all trains halt at all stations). These toy trains pass through beautiful 103 tunnels, 912 curves and 969 bridges. The train starts from a height of 656 metres (2,152 ft) from sea level at Kalka and reaches Shimla at an altitude of 2,075 metres (6,808 ft) from sea level.
As the train was gaining height on the hills the scenic beauty of the hills amidst the mist was enchanting. The slight drizzle now and then was adding to the mesmerizing experience. The speed of 25-20 km/hr was allowing us to look out from the sliding windows and stand at the doors to soak in the greenery of the hills. The thrills at the curves on the journey, and silence of the hills except the chugging of train was giving peace to every urban dweller sitting in the comfort of the vistadome coaches. The entering and pulling out of the tunnels and in the mist was a different level of experience I had never had. If only can I explain the beauty of the dark clouds above, green hills and line of deodar trees on both sides and road accompanying us on few instances with beautiful small huts in the valley and stream flowing under the bridges, the whole valley bathing in the monsoon rains with smells of the fresh flowers of the morning, it was as if we were in a fairly land, where we had forgotten the noise and pollution of big cities.
The beautiful small stations coming our way built in the British era including the signal system. Here, I would like to add that this is a single line route and if any crossing of train is there, our train had to halt at a station to allow the other train to pass. Even though there were two such instances during our journey, this was not at all boring and only added to our mesmerizing experience of the KSR route.
Our the train's only scheduled stoppage was at Barog Station about 23 Km from Kalka and just after the longest tunnel (approx 1 KM) on the route, Barog Station.
Every train halts at the Barog station for about 10 minutes, where one can explore this beautiful white and blue station. The station built during the early 19th century shows a British architecture. There's no gush at the station unlike the typical stations we see. Also unlike other stations you are allowed to walk on tracks here and take as many pics as you want with one of the most beautiful station of India in the backdrop. There is story associated with the construction of Barog tunnel and station.
There are a few shops at the station selling packaged food. We bought yummy packets of hot Maggie and tea and resumed our journey to Shimla.
Our train made an unscheduled stoppage at Solan to allow train from other side to cross. Solan houses the Mohan Meakin brewery, the place where Old Monk Rum is made.
You can visit this brewery after taking required permissions.
This enchanting 6 hour journey culminated when the train entered the last station and destination Shimla at its scheduled time. The station is built on a hill top and you can see the valley on the other side of the station. If you wish to take your return journey by train and do not have tickets booked in advance, proceed to ticket counter and book your tickets.
We deboarded from the train and booked a cab for our hotel.
It started to rain as soon as we arrived in Shimla. We had already booked our hotel on the famous Mall Road. This is the city center of Shimla and no vehicular traffic is allowed on this road at any time and most of the major attractions are near the mall road. Therefore, we had checked the location of our hotel before zeroing on to Hotel Honeymoon Inn. It is located right on the mall road. This saved a lot of time and money especially when we were on a weekend trip. Also this three star property has got great hill views and can be booked at a reasonable price.
However, if your hotel is on the road below the Mall road, you can use the tourism lift (Govt of HP) and reach up to the Mall road.
Places we visited