Although the mesmerising tea gardens placed Darjeeling prominently at the top of the world economy map, the romantic saga of the toy train deeply touched the hearts of all people throughout the world. The story of the Toy Train dates back to the 1800s as it was by 1870 that Darjeeling became a revered hill station and a health resort. Then, India was under the British colonial rule and many families and Englishmen, mostly from West Bengal’s capital, Kolkata flocked towards Darjeeling during summer vacations. This resulted in an increased traffic and soon it started gaining momentum.
Initially, the journey to Darjeeling was a long and tedious journey from Kolkata which took more than 2 weeks to reach. One needed to go through 219 miles steam engine hauled journey by train till Sahibgunj and this train was operated privately by the Eastern Bengal Railways. Due to this long and intimidating journey by the travelers, the government had to take some steps.
The step taken by Northern Bengal Railways (NBR)
The Northern Bengal Railways which was owned by the government laid down railway lines to complete the stretch in 1878. Since then, the journey till Siliguri could easily be completed within 24 hours. However, this problem was solved but the ascend to Darjeeling remained a big issue. Neither NBR nor EBR wished to take the steep hills of Darjeeling.
Soon started the saga of the Toy Train in Darjeeling, which came into existence in 1878, after Franklin Prestage felt a pressing need to have a railway system which connected Darjeeling with Siliguri. After he submitted his proposal to the government by mentioning the advantages of this route, his proposal was supported by Sir Ashley Eden, the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.
Soon after, by 1881 April, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway reached Ghoom station which was 10 kms away and which was perched at an altitude of 7407 feet. This still remains the highest altitude railway station in entire Asia. The Toy Train rolling in Darjeeling was a major milestone achieved by the government.
The engineering genius behind the DHR Toy Train
As the engineering ingenious is concerned in laying the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway tracks through steep mountains, there were innovative engineering designs which were used. One of the greatest feat was to create a dual loop at Chunbhatti and a single loop at Agony Point to gain height easily. Another great idea was while managing those unmanageable gradients where loops weren’t possible. They soon invented the idea of Z Reversals or Zigzags.
Romancing the railways – The Bollywood connection
This locomotive was included in many Bollywood films and there are several memorable songs which were shot in the Toy Train in Darjeeling. Here are some songs that will make you revisit Darjeeling.
- Kasto Maza from Parineeta
- Dhadak Dhadak from Bunty Aur Babli
- Chaiya Chaiya from Dil Se
- Pal do Pal ka from The Burning Train and the famous
- Mere Sapnon ki Raani from Aradhana
So, now that you know the connection of the Darjeeling Toy Train from the pages of history to that of Bollywood, what are you waiting for? Plan your next trip to this beautiful and serene hill station and make it a memorable one.