Creative Travel in India reports that the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has outfitted each of its famous toy trains with a 15-seater, air-conditioned compartment featuring large glass windows for the added comfort and viewing pleasure of tourists.
And to make booking easier, the legendary railway line has also introduced an online ticketing system.
The 137-year-old train — awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 — regularly inches its way on narrow-gauge tracks from New Jalpaiguri, in the state of West Bengal, to Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas.
While most of the trains are operated by modern diesel engines, the daily tourist train is hauled by a vintage B-Class steam locomotive made in Britain — the same type of engine that’s been working the line since the 1880s when it first opened.
The 55-mile (88-km) route follows a zigzag course into the highlands via Siliguri, Kurseong and Ghum — the highest point on the route at an altitude of 7,400 feet above sea level.
On a journey that normally takes more than seven hours, the train rumbles through panoramic mountain scenery, passes through numerous villages, and across nearly 500 bridges.
Besides the newly introduced AC coaches, the toy trains also boast two 18-seater first-class coaches.
Fare for the AC coach is Rs 1,555 (US$23), while first-class tickets are Rs 1,295 (US$19).
Such is the train’s renown that it even has its own fan-club — the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society (DHRS) — which publishes regular features and news about the line on its website.
Much has been written about the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway over the years. UNESCO calls it “the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway . . . its design applies bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty.”
But it was British diplomat Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland, who probably gave the train its most lasting fame, words he penned after a journey along the line in the 1920s: “One steps into a railway carriage which might easily be mistaken for a toy, and the whimsical idea seizes hold of one that one has accidentally stumbled into Lilliput.”
Those words still ring true today for anyone who ventures into the Himalayas on India’s most famous train. Creative Travel can book your passage and make arrangements for anything else you might want to do in Darjeeling during your journey.Tags: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, India, india tourism, tourist train, train, UNESCO World Heritage