Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - The Toy Train "A Journey of Discovery"

My story of the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - The toy Train "A Journey of Discovery", I'll take you back, to the lanes of my childhood memories on the adventure of exploring the highest Arch Gallery Bridge No.541, situated near Kanoh Railway station 1647 metres. It is the most spectacular arch gallery bridges on UNESCO inscribed World Heritage Site since 2008, listed under "Mountain Railways of India". The bridge is an elegant piece of architecture but difficult to catch a sight of from the train carriages, while the train is passing over it.

Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways – The toy Train "A Journey Of Discovery" starts with my first Solo Toy train journey in 1990 at the age of 13 years. That day sitting on the wooden bench at the Railway station I didn’t have any idea, that this journey of my discovery on the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways – the toy train will lead me to a very successful professional carrier in future. After a decade, I started working as a tourist guide and gradually became successful as a Travel Agent, operating my travel company Summit Safari "The Travel Experts", based in Shimla, India. Now as a travel expert, I suggest plans and organize hand crafted tailor made tours to India, covering all different parts including the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways of India- the toy train. If you are planning a tour to India, contact us at the Summit Safari India "The travel Experts" and we’ll be happy to make suggestions, plan and organize a tour for you, as per your interest and available time.

During my Summer break I was visiting my relatives "Mr Sood's Family", who have a lovely farm house just behind the Shoghi railway station which is around 1.15 hrs by toy train from Shimla towards Kalka. As a child, the whistle of the toy train engine approaching the railway station at Shoghi attracted me and in my excitement of watching the toy train I used to run to the railway station, which was just a few meters away from the house where I lived. Now and then I used to go to the railway station and sit on the wooden bench outside the office of the station master where around 3- 4 trains with 2 rail motor cars, a day, were stopping taking the passengers from Kalka to Shimla and the same number of trains going back to Kalka every day. A few tourists used to get down here to take pictures of the pretty, one storey railway heritage station building, which looked like an Old British Bungalow with views of the beautiful valleys below. As soon as the train whistled all those tourists would board the train again to carry on the journey of their discovery. I stood and waved at those people and many times I was happy to be a part of their memories when they clicked the picture of a young boy waving at them standing under the beautiful heritage railway station building.

Coming every day to the railway station, soon I developed affinity with the Station Master and the staff. Now as they became my friends I was invited to see the office from inside, which earlier I used to try and peek into from the office door or the windows with faded glasses on. The station master told me about the important aspect of this Kalka Shimla mountain railways- the toy train, its track and about its age-old communication system, which is still in vogue. The telephones being used by the stations are block phones and the control phone system, the former establishes links between two stations while the latter keeps in touch with other important stations. The Kalka Shimla railway track inspection hand pushed trolleys (know as Trolleymen), the Neale’s token system, the lanterns, which were used to give various safety and warning signals to the trains during the British regime, are till date in operation.

Back to being a child, in those 5 minutes, when the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways- the toy train is halting at the railway station I used to climb up the steps of the train sometimes standing on the door steps or sometimes used to sit on the empty window seat pretending to be a passenger. I used to get more excited to stand near the engine and watch the driver and the railway station staff maintaining the record book or exchanging the metal token ball which is still being used as a safety measure and means, indicating the line is clear for the journey between the two stations. My love for the toy train, the enthusiasm and my curiosity takes me every day to the train station. One day the Station master told me about Kanoh railway station and the famous bridge number 541, which is just a few meters far from Kanoh Railway station, towards Kandahghat railway station. He told me the bridge near Kanoh railway station is an engineering marvel of its time and is completely unapproachable by road since it is situated in a valley. The station master also told me about the longest tunnel on the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways- the toy train, which is tunnel No. 33 and is 1143 metres (3,750 feet) long, famous and named after the Chief Engineer Barog. He did told me about the misfortune that The Chief Engineer Mr. Barog had and committed suicide while working on the Kalka Shimla mountain railways near the Barog Railway Station. His stories about a local Shephred Balku Baaba, who helped the British engineers to make the longest tunnel and contributed in the success of Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - the toy train. These fascinating stories about the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways- The toy train encouraged me to go and visit the famous 4 storeyed Arch Gallery Bridge at the Kanoh Railway Station on the Kalka Shimla Mountains Railways.

With excitement, I went home that evening and told this all to my relatives and family in hope to get the permission to go for a solo toy train journey to see that famous bridge no 541,on the Kalka Shimla mountain railways. Next day morning before going on work my uncle Mr. Sood took me to the station master, paid for my train journey and asked the station master to send me to Kanoh Railway station with the train going downhill from Shimla to Kalka. Everyone including my Uncle, relatives and the station master was worried about my safety on train and was thinking that in excitement of my journey I might open the door of the train or might try to sit on the doorstep of the train, which could be dangerous. My custody was given to the train guard and he was advised to drop me at Kanoh Railway Station and to inform the station master there to send me back home, with the last evening. This is how my solo Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - The toy train "A Journey of discovery" started in the compartment of the railway guard.

The railway guard in his impressive uniform was a new man for me, as I climbed his compartment he smiled and asked me to sit near the window. The toy train whistled, the guard flagged his green flag, and I was set on a journey of discovery. In the compartment it was only two of us, with his two flags red and green, a record book on his seat and a black trunk on the floor with his name written on it, which I think might have his personal official belongings. In the corner there was an old lantern hanging which he used for safety signals at night. That’s what all I noticed and soon I was busy looking outside my window enjoying the stunning views of the mountains and the valleys below.

The Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways- the toy train with its restricted speed of 15-20 kms per hrs gave me plenty of time to travel 13 kms from Shoghi to Kanoh railway station with fascinating sightseeing along the way. Enjoying the views through the window of Kalka Shimla Toy train, over the spectacular landscape of the foothills of Himalayas with the cool wind of the mountains, passing through tunnels, over bridges we stopped for a short halt at the Kaithalighat Railway Station. Looking at the villages where local farmers are working to get the best crops and the seasonable vegetables soon with a journey of 45 minutes I arrived at the Kanoh Railway Station in a lush green valley embellished with pine and oak trees. The picturesque scenery along the railway line was simply astounding.

The guard introduced me to the station master of Kanoh and requested him, to send me back with the evening train. Soon leaving me behind, the train continued its further journey to Kalka and I stood waving at the people and off course saying goodbye to the railway guard. Station master at Kanoh recounted me with the Famous Arch Gallery Bridge no 541,which is just a few meters away from the railway station. N his views I was among the few lucky people, who stopped here and got to explore the bridge by foot as trains don’t halt here for long. He warned me to be careful while walking on the railway bridge as it had no railings to hold. He also warned me to not try to go downhill to the foundations of this bridge as there is was a water stream and thick bushes, where many times common leopards were seen drinking water.

I was so excited on hearing all that and I walked quickly towards the bridge which is hardly 100 meters away from the Kanoh Railway Station. I could not see any bridge until I reached the curve and the railway station building disappeared from my sight. Wow, I was amazed and falling short of words, full of excitement looking at this marvelous, picturesque and most impressive bridge, the wonder of the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways- the toy train line which was now in front of me.

One of the highest and Spectacular Arch Gallery Bridge No 541 on the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - the toy train at Kanoh Railway station (1647 metres) was built in 1898. It is 52.90 meters long and 23 meters high and consists of 34 arches constructed with stones in 4 stages. Multi-arched galleries are built like ancient Roman aqueducts have been used to take the tracks over the deep long trenches, which would otherwise have been difficult to cover. The bridge and the area is in tranquility, not approachable by any road. The Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - the toy train has a very small halt here, to give the pass to the trains coming from the other directions. There are no villages around, so rarely any passengers are get down or board the train from here. The area is full of natural beauty where the hills, wild flower, trees, birds and wildlife provide a striking contrast. Walking to other side provides a better view, where I had my packed lunch overlooking the magnificent bridge.

I had a lovely time at the bridge number 541 which stands in tranquility far away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities, not at all approachable by road. I remembered the warning of the station master about the Common Leopard spotted in the area and decided to return back to the train station. I was offered a cup of Chai (tea) by the station master at the Kanoh railway station, who was getting his food supplies with the coming trains. Soon the Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways - the toy train, arrives and I boarded it, back to Shoghi Railway station in the excitement of sharing my Solo travel experience and lovely memories with my family, relatives, friends and the station master.

History of The Kalka Shimla Mountain Railways the Toy Train, on the narrow gauge line (2 feet 6 inches), measuring 59.44 miles from Kalka to Shimla was opened on November 9, 1903 during the Viceroyalty of Lord Curzon. It is one of the longest narrow gauge railway routes still operating in India. On leaving Kalka, 656 meters (2,152 ft) above sea level, the railway enters the foothills and slowly commences its climb to Shimla railway station 2,076 meters (6,811 ft). It takes 5 hrs of journey to reach Shimla, as the speed of the train remains between 15- 20 kms per hrs.

From Kalka to Shimla there are 18 railway stations, with crossing facilities and train stops at some of the stations to give way to the trains from the other side. There are 103 tunnels on the way (one is not in use; so only 102 in service). The longest tunnel is tunnel No. 33, which is 1143 metres (3,750 feet) long, famous after the Chief Engineer Barog, and is associated with local tales and legends related to its realization.

According to the tale Mr. Barog the chief engineer for the railways, was working for this tunnel from both ends and the tunnel have to meet in the middle. But by misfortune he did not succeed and got fail in his job. The company makes a fine of Rs. 1 (one) to him. He feels humiliated to that and committed suicide in the hills near the Barog tunnel. He was buried at the same place. Later on another tunnel was built by newly appointed chief engineer of railways Mr. H.S. Harrington with help of a local Shephred Balku Baaba. The same tunnel and a railway station near it were named Barog. This tunnel is the longest and the straightest tunnel on the track. It situated 900 feet below the main road.

Another famous tunnel is tunnel No. 10, 750 metres long and is known as "Koti Tunnel", after the Koti railway station.

The line has 864 small and big bridges. Bridge No. 541, historically known as the "Arch Gallery", situated between Kandaghat and Kanoh stations, is an arch bridge in four stages, constructed with stone masonry. Bridge No. 226, between Sonwara and Dharampur is an arch gallery bridge having 5 tier galleries of multiple spans, constructed with stone masonry and bridging a deep valley. It has 919 curves, the sharpest being 48 degrees (a radius of 37.47 m or 122.93 feet).

On 07 July 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. A couple of deluxe and ordinary trains (4- 5 trains) a day, takes passengers from Kalka to Shimla and the same number of train bring them back to Kalka everyday.

Another interesting feature is the vintage Kalka Shimla Rail Motor Car made between 1927 and 1930 by the British - which was specially used for the travelling of Viceroys (Governor General) from Kalka to Shimla and it had the unique distinction of bringing Mahatma Gandhi in 1945 to Shimla to attend the Shimla Conference for talks with Viceroy Wavell about British plans for leaving India.

The route offers a panoramic feast of the picturesque country sides and the low hills and foothills of Himalayas (Shivalik ranges). The scenery along the whole route is one of most magnificent character of your journey. Throughout its length of approximately 60 miles (96 kms- 5.20 hrs), the line runs in a continuous succession of the valleys and spurs, flanking mountains rising high with its extraordinary feat of engineering skills and popularity of the Shimla hill railways generate a lot of interest in travellers a lot of more than any other cause, contributed to the speedy development of Shimla. So do not miss the train ride, itineraries can be planned where you can have a 2-3 hrs of a train ride to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience, which we would be glad to arrange for you..!

Railway stations with the distance:

Kalka 0 kms > Taksal 6 kms > Gumman 11 kms > Koti 17 km > Sonwara 27 kms > Dharampur 33 kms > Kumarhatti 39 kms > Barog 43 kms > Solan 47 kms > Salogra 53 kms > Kandaghat 59 kms > Kanoh 65 kms > Kaithlighat 73 kms > Shoghi 78 kms > Taradevi 85 kms > Jatogh 90 kms > Summer Hill 93 kms > Shimla 96 kms

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