The Kalka-Shimla Toy Train is a narrow gauge train that Runs for a stretch of 90kms (around 60miles) from Kalka to Shimla, climbing more than 4800 feets!. On it’s route, it crosses ~103 tunnels, 800 bridges and 900 curves! There are 20 old worldly stations dotted along the complete route from Kalka to Shimla. They are mostly simple blue-white-red colored small stations, with wooden benches and small platforms, giving them the “right out of picture” look. Some of them have multi storeys now.
The Kalka Shimla Toy Train ride is one of the most scenic train journeys in India. The train slowly winds it’s way through the upward track from Kalka to Shimla, through rugged mountains, waterfalls, tunnels and pine forests, crossing on its way jungles of wild flowers and beautiful bridges. The scenery is simply breathtaking.
Since the train ascends through steep mountains, it goes at a very slow pace. This gives plenty of time for the on-boarded passengers to sync in the glorious beauty of nature that they are passing by. At curves and nearing stations the train speed gets quiet slow. It gives a nice opportunity for the passengers to hop out, take a walk along the track besides the train, snap some beautiful pictures and then hop-in back!! (Yes, we did that, be careful when you try it).
Timings of the Kalka Shimla Toy Train
There are regular trains from Kalka to Shimla. First one leaves at 4am(Kalka Shimla Narrow Gauge Passenger) in the morning, followed by the next ones at 5:10am(Kalka Shimla Rail Motor), 5:30am(Shivalik Deluxe Express), 6am(Kalka Shimla NG Express) and 12:10pm(Himalayan Queen). Almost all of these run daily. One can book tickets online at irctc.co.in for Shivalik Deluxe Express, Kalka Shimla NG Express and Himalayan Queen. One can as well buy a ticket at the ticket counter at Kalka Railway Station. The Kalka Shimla toy train booking opens one month in advance. Bookings have to be done in advance especially in summer and winter, as large numbers of tourists are pouring in and tickets get sold out soon.The same trains run back from Shimla to Kalka follow similar timetable patterns. You can check the timing on the official Indian Railways Website for them.
How best to reach Kalka to catch the Kalka Shimla Toy Train
Kalka can be easily reached from both Delhi and Chandigarh. One can fly into Delhi or Chandigarh International Airport. From Delhi, there are several trains to Kalka, the journey duration is between 4-7 hrs. Most of the trains comply daily. A train that either reaches Kalka early in the morning or late at night would be preferable, as, then one can catch one of the many toy trains scheduled to leave Kalka station between 5:00am – 12:10pm. One can as well take a cab or a bus. Comfortable AC and Volvo buses run from Delhi and they can be booked almost one month in advance, online. From Chandigarh also one can take a cab or a bus and reach Kalka in around 2 hrs. When we took our toy train journey, we reached Kalka from Delhi by a volvo bus, stayed overnight at Kalka and then took the morning train to Shimla. We comfortably reached Shimla by afternoon.
So next time you travel to Shimla, do plan a ride on the Kalka Shimla route..it will turn out to be one of the most memorable train journeys of your lifetime.
Note: when traveling from Delhi to Kalka by train, you might need to book your tickets somewhere in 60-120days in advance. You can check for the ticket booking window and timetable at the Indian Railway Website and book your ticket from irctc.co.in
History of Kalka Shimla Toy Train
When India was under British rule, Shimla was the summer capital of the British empire. There were no good routes to reach Shimla at this point of time. Whatever mountain route was available, it was very rickety and dangerous. It also used to take a lot of time to travel because of the bad condition of the route. In November 1903, the Kalka Shimla narrow gauge train was started to provide easy access from the plains to Shimla. Driven by a steam engine, the train passed through 109 tunnels and took 7 hrs to reach Shimla. The then viceroy Lord Curzon boarded the train on the first ride from Kalka to Shimla. Since then, the train has been complying daily, except for few maintenance breaks in between. The stations still use the old clocks to sync timings between them. Most of these stations are located besides picturesque bridges that provide an easy access from the mountain tracks to the stations. Sunlight is still used to illuminate the dark tunnels where the light is reflected through the mirrors.