Darjeeling, a beautiful hill station, an epitome of natural beauty, and the land of tea bagans is located in West Bengal. Every year, thousands of tourists plan a trip to this stunning land of thunderbolt and admire glorious views of the Kanchenjunga range. Nestled in the slopes of the Lesser Himalayas, this hill destination is also known for its sprawling tea gardens. Apart from the tea gardens, one of the highlighting features of the place is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the Toy Train.
Traveling on this train is like going back through time. It is a popular mountain train and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It transports passengers from Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling's lush green and vibrant tea plantations through Ghoom, located at the height of 2258 m. Traveling through Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is an absolute must for anyone who loves to explore unique places in India.
Best Time to Travel in Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The spring or early summer season is an ideal time to travel in Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and explore Darjeeling. During this time, the overall temperature is very pleasant and is convenient for sightseeing activities. If you want, you can book the train from the official site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
History Of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Gillanders, Arbuthnot, and Company were hired for constructing this railway line, and by 1880 March, the company had done their job covering the regions till Tindharia village. It is said that the first Viceroy, Lord Lytton, had visited Darjeeling on this train. Although the train originally followed the route to Hill Cart Road, the steepness of the place was more than what could be handled by these locomotives. Thus, in 1882, four loops were laid between Sukna and Gayabari. This line was further extended to the Bazaar of Darjeeling by 1886.
Major Attractions Of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Imagine traveling in Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, enjoying magnificent views of majestic Himalayas, with sun rays falling on its snow-laden peaks. It is a view straight out of a travel magazine but possible to enjoy when traveling on a toy train. It will undoubtedly be one of the most coveted travel experiences that you are going to cherish forever. Here is what you can look forward to when travelling on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
An Engineering Marvel
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is nothing but a magnificent example of the engineering prowess of the erstwhile colonial days. As you gently traverse along the rolling slopes of verdant hills on this 'chuk-chuk' train, you are forced to accept the engineering acumen of our forefathers.
The train's steam engine pulling four coaches along impossible gradients and curves while giving a sneak-peek into breathtaking landscapes passing you by is an incredible experience. When it moves along a hilly train at a snail pace, people can get down from the train and enjoy the mesmerising views around. Only steam engines were used in earlier times, but today diesel engines are also used to ferry passengers. The latter is faster than the steam engines.
A Heritage Feel
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has also bagged the coveted status of World UNESCO Heritage Site. It is a unique ride that was one of the major transportation links in older times. As such, it is still very close to our hearts. Besides regular train rides, well-curated joy ride options are also available for discerning travellers.
In 2021, DHR also got a much-deserved update. New Vistadome coaches were added to this toy train with roof glasses and large windows to provide a 360-degree view of the panoramic scenes. New seats that can turn 180-degree were installed. At the end of every coach, there is an observation lounge with extra-large windows to capture magnificent views.
The train also leaped into the modern world by getting modern facilities and amenities like Wi-fi, a mini pantry, charging points, speakers, display screens, and more.
Passengers can go on an incredible joy ride that will take them from Darjeeling to Ghum via Batasia Loop. The travel time is around 2 hours and the train covers 14km distance. The train makes a 25 minutes stopover at Ghum, one of the highest altitude stations at the DHR track. Visit the DHR Museum and check out the oldest steam engine- the Baby Sivok. The train makes another stop at Batasia Loop for ten minutes. Here, you can enjoy a beautifully manicured and landscaped garden and stunning views of snow-laden Kanchenjunga peaks.
Another interesting fact about DHR is its close connection with Bollywood. The famous song from 'Aradhana' picturised on Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore, 'mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu', was shot on this train. The train track and road travel parallelly for a great distance.
Places to Visit in Darjeeling
1. Tiger Hill
Know how the very first rays of the sun hitting the twin peaks of Kanchenjunga feel like by visiting the Tiger Hill. The charm of this place is simply terrific. You won't be able to forget the sight of the sun rising from behind the mountains amid the cotton clouds.
2. Batasia Loop
Located at a distance of 5km from Darjeeling, the Batasia Loop is specifically a spiral railway track where the toy train can take a complete 360-degree turn descending around 140 ft as it completes the loop through a large circular area.
3. Nightingale Park
The Nightingale Park, also known as The Shrubbery is an ideal spot for spending quality time with your loved ones. It is open till 8 pm and the visitors have to pay a minor entry fee of INR 10.
4. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
This institute is known as HMI Darjeeling. The very purpose of this institute is to encourage mountaineering as an organized sport within India. Here, the students can find courses ranging from basic to advanced levels.
5. Peace Pagoda
This is the kind of place to explore if you are a spiritual enthusiast. As per history, the foundation of Peace Pagoda was laid on November 3 by Nichidatsu Fujii. And according to the Lotus Sutra, the appearance of the pagoda in itself is no less than an embodiment of Lord Buddha.
How To Reach Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
One can enjoy a thrilling ride on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway using different modes of transport. Since it is one of the major tourist attractions, it can be accessed through air, train, and road transport.
Nearest Major City. Darjeeling
Nearest Aerodrome. Bagdogra Airport
Nearest Railway Station. Siliguri Railway Station
Distance From Darjeeling. 110.1 Km
If planning to go by air, then flights to Bagdogra Airport can assist you the best as it is merely 110.1 km away from Darjeeling. After reaching there, you can get a taxi or cab to cover the rest of the distance in nearly 3 hours (depending upon the traffic and weather conditions).
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways administers the Darjeeling railway station. The nearest railway station to Darjeeling lies in New Jalpaiguri that is 62 km away from there. Considering the DHR toy train service, you must know that it begins from New Jalpaiguri and takes you to Darjeeling at a pace of 30 miles per hour. This journey of 7 hours can endow you with countless moments to capture Mt. Kanchenjunga memories in the lens of your camera.
Though you can get a wide range of travel conveyances to reach Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the bus services from its nearby cities like Siliguri, Kurseong, and Kalimpong are quite slow there. A shared cab can become your best partner to reach Darjeeling from nearby cities after reaching Gangtok in the first place.