Kalka-Shimla rail route, which has completed 100 years offers
the charm of old-world travel amidst lofty pines and lush
green, misty mountains. This is one of the four narrow gauge
rail routes on hill terrain in the country, the other three
being the Darjeeling , Ooty and Pathankot - Jogindernagar
routes. In fact, the Darjeeling route was used as a model for
the Kalka-Shimla route, which was proposed in 1891.
Started during the reign of Lord Curzon in
November 1903, this rail route features in the Guinness Book
of World Records for offering the steepest rise in altitude in
the space of 96 kilometers. More than two-thirds of the track
is curved, sometimes at angles as sharp as 48 degrees.
Laid out on a 96 km long narrow gauge track
that passes through 103 tunnels and across more than 800
bridges and viaducts, it is one of the most beautiful hill
railways in India. It was considered the "crown
jewel" of the Indian National Railways during British
by hills on both sides, the rail line, like twin threads
silver, clings to the steep cliffs and ventures boldly over
bridges, built over tiny streams that show off their radiance
in the sunlight. The cool breeze sweeps across your face as
the train makes an arduous climb of almost 4800 feet from
Kalka to Shimla in almost five hours.
rail line begins its climb almost immediately after its
departure from the Kalka railway station.
The toy train chugs along the line, whistling
through the deodar, pine, ficus, oak and maple woods at a
speed of 22 km an hour. As the journey begins, one is taken in
with the change in vegetation, and the majestic glory of the
railway stations and Gothic-style bridges en route.
The most refreshing part of the journey is the
experience of sitting by the window, breathing in the cool
breeze and taking in the greenery, smell of fresh dew on the
vegetation, the chirping of birds and the sight of cattle
grazing around the track, especially if you are travelling in
either of the two early morning toy trains.
Train Gauge - Narrow (762mm)
Track Length - Over 96 Km
Project Launched in - 1901
Project Completed in - 1903
Train Service Commenced - November 9, 1903
Bridges - Over 800
Longest Bridge - Near Dharampur (70 m)
Tunnels - 103 (1 not in service)
Longest Tunnel - Barog (1.1 Km)
Maximum Height - above 2000 m above sea level
Curves - 900 (70% track is in curves)
Train - After 1965, hauled by Diesel Engine
Maximum Number of Coaches - Seven
Services - seven coach train and rail car
Heritage Sites - Four on last count
Now in UNESCO world Heritage List
Total change of altitude : From
Kalka, 655 meters (2,150 ft) to Shimla of
2,076 meters (6,811 ft).
The first main station is at Dharampur, at a
height of 4,900 feet and at a distance of 20 miles from Kalka.
The gradient here is very steep, and in order to achieve the
flatter gradients required by the Railways, the line develops
into three loops at Taksal, Gumman and Dharampur. After
leaving Dharampur, the rail line gains on the road route by
taking short cuts and tunnels so that up to Tara Devi, the
distance by rail from Kalka is almost one-fourth mile less
than the distance by road.
Twenty four miles from Kalka, the railway line
is 5,200 feet above sea, where it falls to 4,900 feet at
Solan, and further to 4,667 feet at Kandaghat (36-and-a half
miles from Kalka), where the final ascent to Shimla starts.
The rail line goes through Shoghi and from Tara Devi, the rail
line goes round the Prospect Hill to Jatogh, winding in a
series of curves round Summer Hill and burrows under the
Inverarm Hill to emerge below the road on the south side of
Inverarm, and thus reaches Shimla.
One of the most interesting features of the Kalka-Shimla route
is the absence of girder bridges. There is only one 60-foot
plate girder span in a pinewood near Dharampur and a steel
trestle viaduct, which replaced a stone gallery in 1935. The
remaining 866 bridges, representing three per cent of the
line, carry the rail track over the ravines and between the
galleries like ancient Roman aqueducts have been used to take
the tracks over the difficult terrain, which would otherwise
have been difficult to cover. These stone masonry arched
bridges, which use lime stone, have as many as four storey's,
each story having an arch and each arch having a different
Most of the 102 tunnels (the 1930’s renumbering, with
numbers going up to 103, has not been changed till date though
tunnel number 46 does not exist any more) too have a history
of their own. An interesting feature about these tunnels is
that till today, whenever these tunnels have to be illuminated
for maintenance, plain mirrors are used to catch the sunlight
and reflect this light inside the tunnel.
Gone are the days of traveling in the rickety
coaches with wooden berths. In their place stand freshly
painted coaches which provide the comfort of chair cars.
Another coach, Shivalik Queen, provides privacy in the form of
coupes. For those looking for royal luxury, the Railways
provides Shivalik Palace, a separate luxurious compartment
with beautiful interiors, provision of sleepers and
comfortable sofas for relaxing. This also has a well-equipped
kitchen and an attendant to serve foods and drinks, along with
an attached bathroom. The other option for tourists is to take
the rail car which takes lesser time than regular trains to
Hoping to save the fixture from extinction,
Indian Railways and preservationist groups had appealing to
UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural
Organization, to give the toy train world heritage status and
the same was accorded to it.
It joined other mountain railways of India –
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in West Bengal and the Nilgiri
Mountain Railway near Ooty in Tamil Nadu – which already
enjoy the status. Another Indian Railways site in the UNESCO’s
World Heritage site list is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal
(earlier known as Bombay Victoria Terminal) in Mumbai,
to Shimla distance | Kalka
to Shimla by bus | Kalks
to Shimla by Taxi
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