The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal, India. It is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger Railway. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. When the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999, started running in the 1880’s, it was the beginning of a new economic and social life for the surrounding communities.
Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services: however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s highest railway station) are handled by the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotive, DHR 778. The railway, along with the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, is listed as a Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of hill railways.
The headquarters of the railway is in the town of Kurseong. It is still fully operational and retains most of its original features intact. While Darjeeling was growing, Rowland Macdonald Stephenson was crusading his battle for railway extension in India. Operating on narrow gauge tracks since 1880s and providing an important transport link to various parts of Darjeeling hills and lower plains, the Toy Train is still unmatched when it comes to absorbing magnificent beauty of the mountains. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway System is the spectacular example of the technical and cultural traits of the colonial era. These trains illustrate different phases of technical developments in the hill areas of the country.
The trains became known as toy trains as the loco engines and the coaches were far smaller than normal broad gauge trains. But there was no such thing as toy railway construction. It was like any other proper railway project, but much more complex because of the terrain. The narrow gauge line did restrict the weight and size of the engines.
DHR was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honor bestowed upon it,the first one being Semmering Railway of Austria in 1998. The site must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.
How To Reach:
By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport (96 m), which is well connected to all major city of India.
By Rail: The nearest railway station is Jalpaiguri (62 m), which is well connected to all major city of India.
By Road: The road network in Darjeeling is quite good, There are regular buses including Rocket and Volvo services between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Siliguri Main Bus Terminal (known as Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus located on Hill Cart Road).