Let's Go Back in Time with Toy Trains That Take You to the Hills

Tripoto

Toy trains have always fascinated me. Although these trains are a little slow, the scenic journey and amazing views make it worthwhile. The journey might take hours to reach the final destination but it is a once in a lifetime experience. Three of these railways—the Kalka-Shimla, Nilgiri Mountain and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway have been recognised as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

These toy trains are great living examples of engineering marvels. Demand for these trains generally goes up during tourist seasons or during holidays. We have seen these trains being featured in many Indian movies. Some of them are still hauled by a steam locomotive which is the main attraction for several tourists.

(C) Pixabay

Photo of Darjeeling Himalaya Railway, West Point, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Ginny Bansal

One of the oldest train routes in India and probably one of the most famous toy train route, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, is a World Heritage site that was constructed somewhere in the 1880s. The train route runs for 80 kilometres from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling via Siliguri, Kurseong, and Ghoom. It passes over five major, and nearly 500 minor bridges. The entire route is a thrilling ride with zigzags, loops and turns paired with amazing views thus making it a memorable ride. There is a short steam loco Joy Ride that takes passengers from Darjeeling to Ghum and back to Darjeeling, taking you through the famous hairpin turn, the batasia loop and the rail museum at Ghoom. If you can't take out a complete day, two-hour joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghoom is good enough to take the feel. The road and the houses are built very close to the tracks and it is a treat to see people waving from their windows.

Destinations Covered

Starts from New Jalpaiguri and passes through Ghoom and Kurseong finally reaching Darjeeling

Best time to visit

March to May

Booking Information

You can take the tickets either from the station directly or make the booking through the Indian Railways official website- irctc.co.in or irctctourism.com. The station code for Darjeeling is DJ and for Ghoom is Ghum.

(C) Wikimedia

Photo of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Mysore Rd, Kathadimattam, Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India by Ginny Bansal

The 46 km route which starts from Mettupalayam in Coimbatore to Ooty via Coonoor was proposed in 1854, however, due to the rocky terrain and thickly forested hills, it was completed only in 1908. The train passes over 250 bridges and through 16 tunnels. The journey full of twists and turns hardly goes beyond the maximum speed of 33 km per hour, as a passenger you get enough time to soak in the beauty across plains, plantations and forest-clad hills. Another World Heritage toy train in India which got the status in 2005 has been featured in many Bollywood films. The most interesting thing about this journey is that the engine is at the back pushing the carriages up the hills.

Destinations Covered

Mettupalayam in Coimbatore to Ooty via Coonoor

Best time to visit

April to June

Booking Information

You can take the tickets either from the station directly or make the booking through the Indian Railways official website—irctc.co.in. At the ticket counter, they only allow a maximum of four tickets per person. So better book your tickets well in advance. The station code for Mettupalayam is MTP and for Udagamandalam is UAM.

(C) Flickr

Photo of Kalka Shimla Toy Train, Kalka - Shimla Road, Dharampur, Himachal Pradesh, India by Ginny Bansal

This one brings joy to the Delhiites. One of the hill stations near Delhi, this toy train provides ultimate scenic beauty to travellers covering almost 96 kilometres. Tourists rush to Shimla both in summer and winter seasons, either to beat the heat or to catch the snowfall. The train moves very slowly, giving people a good opportunity to experience the majestic Himalayas. It runs through 20 stations with numerous tunnels in between. The last tunnel is considered to be the longest and one of the most haunted tunnels in India. The entire trip all the way from Kalka, takes approximately about five hours. However, a lot of people prefer to travel only from Barog, where the longest tunnel and most spectacular scenery. It's a steep climb with plenty of fascinating sightseeing along the route.

Destinations Covered

Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Barog and Shimla.

Best time to visit

December to February

Booking Information

Kalka Shimla toy train bookings open only one month in advance. Book well in advance on irctc.co.in. The source station to select is Kalka (KLK) and destination station is Simla (SML).

(C) Wikipedia

Photo of Kangra Valley, Bhagpur, Himachal Pradesh by Ginny Bansal

This one is not very well known but this scenic train route connects passengers from Pathankot in Punjab to the small town of Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the longest mountain railway routes in India covering 163 km crossing the dramatic dhauladhar mountain ranges via Kangra. This track was completed in 1929 becoming the last mountain railways to be built during the British Raj. The route has approximately 971 bridges but only two tunnels, thus giving you enough exposure to nature's creations. The entire journey takes about 10 hours. The popular paragliding destination Bir-Billing is also nearby.

Destinations Covered

Pathankot in Punjab, Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh via Kangra and Palampur

Best time to visit

March to June

Booking Information

Kangra valley toy train booking can be done at the station itself or book well in advance at irctc.co.in.

(C) Wikimedia

Photo of Matheran Toy Train Station, Matheran, Maharashtra, India by Ginny Bansal

This is the best weekend trip from Mumbai and Pune. The journey starts at Neral, about halfway between Mumbai and Pune. Although the track is only 20 kilometres long, the train takes two and a half hours to reach the top of the hill as it moves slowly through the scenic route. Some people munch the peanut chikki on the ride, while others look out the window. The frequency of trains is more during weekends. Hills carpeted with green forests, refreshing cool breeze and possible sights of wild animals make this journey scenic. Train service might not be available during monsoons. The toy train comprises of one first-class coach, three-second class coaches and two brake vans.

Destinations Covered

Neral, Matheran, Jummapatti

Best time to visit

March to May

Booking Information

Tickets will be issued from station counter within 45 minutes before departure of the train. A maximum of four tickets are issued to one person from the station counter. Book Tickets online on irctc.co.in. While booking, for Neral use code NRL and for Matheran use code MAE.

Summer holidays are approaching so plan your escape to these beautiful hill stations with your family and kids and feel the excitement of taking a ride in toy trains of India.

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