Kalka Shimla Toy Train: A Rail Journey amidst the Woods

Kalka Shimla Toy train is more than just a means of transportation, it is a mystifying journey filled with astonishing stories of historical events, tragedies, perseverance. The track for toy train from Kalka to Shimla is renowned for the grand views of the greenery, hills and the local villages. Built by a private construction firm, supervised by H. S. Harington, Agent and Chief Engineer of Kalka Shimla Railway , it was November 9, 1903 that the line was commenced and served as a means to link Delhi, Ambala, and Kalka stations.

There is nothing ordinary in the structure, views and the history of this site as Kalka Shimla Railway promises a collection of fascinating stories; some are myths while others are real.

Shimla Toy Train During Snowfall
Photo Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sanjeev3kumar/

Why do we call it a toy train?

The Shimla toy train is called a toy train because of the narrow gauge track.  A rail track through such a tough terrain is nothing less than a miracle. Shimla was a major base for the Britishers. Later Shimla was also declared the summer capital of India. So it was required to connect Shimla to some good means of transport. The answer was Kalka Shimla rail track.

Huge sums were spent on construction of the tough track, so the fares were also high. But the company who did the construction found it hard to maintain the track, so the Government had to buy it.

This is how Shimla got the toy train but due to the hilly terrain, it was a narrow gauge track.

Toy Train running over the bridge
Photo Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulsimpson1976/

A Tragedy in the making of the Toy Train

The famous but tragic story of Engineer Barog depicts the gravity of honour during those days. This relates to a tunnel called the Barog tunnel which lies on the Kalka Shimla track. Engineer Barog was assigned to undertake the tunnel construction. He instructed for excavation on opposite sides of the hills. But there was a miscalculation therefore resulting in failure of alignment and failure to create a  well-constructed tunnel.

Consequently he was asked to pay a fine of one Rupee for wasting the government funds – this was, for him an unacceptable defeat so one day, he shot himself while he was taking a walk with his pet dog.  Soon after, a new tunnel was constructed outlying from Barog’s choice of route. Today, there is Barog Pine Wood Hotel owned by the government that signifies Engineer Barog’s memorial.

Some Interesting Facts about Shimla Toy Train

A number of interesting facts make Kalka Shimla Toy Train so special. Here are a few:

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage committee has deliberated and decided in July of 2008 that Kalka Shimla Railway should be listed as a world heritage site. And on November 8, 2008, the famous toy train in India has been officially declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to that, Guinness World Book of Records has recognized the railway track as “The Greatest Narrow Gauge Engineering Achievement in India”.

The Story of Bhalku

Perhaps the most intriguing mythical stories about the Kalka Shimla Toy Train is the one about Bhalku who is said to claim that he had been communicating with a Hindu deity ,he had long dishevelled hair that was infested with lice and he stated that the goddess was sending messages through the lice. It was believed that he was respected by the engineers and is said that even the Chief Engineer H.S. Harington was astonished of Bhalku’s mystic powers that he would consult and discuss with him the progress of the railway.

But that’s not the end of the story, it is also said that after “revealing the pathway” of the Kalka Shimla Toy train construction, he became famous and was summoned to guide the building of other sites but eventually got tired and unhappy that he decided to go on a pilgrimage and was never seen again after visiting the Temple of Jagannath. The other version of the story says that it was the Temple of Badrinath that Bhalku dwelled on.

It has 102 Tunnels

Another fun fact about Kalka to Shimla toy train is that it used to have 107 tunnels and it was decreased to 103 in 1930 as the others were declared to be non-operational. Currently, there are 102 tunnels but still being claimed to have 103 because of tradition and because that’s the number of tunnels that people are used to.

800 Bridges Make it Possible

This 96 km long track has 800 bridges. Isn’t it  amazing?

900 Curves

Who could have imagined a rail track with 900 curves for a 96 km long journey? Thanks to the British who made it possible back in 1903.

What should you expect from this rail journey?

This journey through the route of the toy train from Kalka to Shimla provides a far reaching grotesque view of the Himalayas from the foot hills of Shivalik at Kalka then to a number of vital points that include Solan, Taradevi, Dharampur, Salogra, Kandaghat , Totu, Summerhill and Shimla at the height of 6811 ft. What’s even more interesting is that these train stations are situated close to the bridges, erected for the construction workers where they could take a rest.

The Bollywood Connection

Do you remember this scene from Jab We Met? This was shot at the Summerhill Railway Station in Shimla.

The Shimla Toy Train in Jab We Met

Some Tips and Things You Should Know

  • Don’t take the Kalka Shimla toy train if you are in a hurry. While Kalka to Shimla takes a maximum of 3 hours by road, the toy train would take you 5-6 hours. So if you just want to enjoy the ride with the nature go for it.
  • Book your tickets much in advance, especially during the peak tourist seasons due to a high rush of tourists.