The prized showpiece of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) before it became part of North-east Frontier Railway (NFR) was the narrow-gauge joy-ride between Siliguri and Darjeeling. The journey still continues though the old-world charm is clearly lost forever. Many stories, many films have been woven centering on the marvel of this wonderful journey, that are etched in the memories of old-timers who are lucky to have enjoyed its charm in the past.
Toy train – unforgettable joy ride. (Picture source)
125 years back have passed since the first ride from Siliguri to Tindharia was inaugurated by Lord Lytton in March 1880. To the innumerable tourists who throng the place every year, a joy ride in the toy train is still a must. As it climbs the hill, criss-crossing Hill Cart Road (it’s in fact a highway) every then and now, surprise awaits at every turn. Looking out, the green is too enchanting to keep your eyes off from it. At places where the climb is steep, it’ll not be uncommon to find people walking faster than the train. So, hopping in and out of it is a game you’ll find hard to give a miss.
Darjeeling is no longer the picturesque town it once used to be. There was a time when you could view the magnificent Kanchenjunga from any nook and corner of the town. Not anymore. Unplanned buildings and roadside shanties block your view and you’ll not be blamed if you think that all these together harm the potential of tourism, which is an irony because nearly everyone and everything here depend on tourism to survive and thrive.
Despite all that cry out for care and attention, there is no respite from commemorating events. On Aug 23, Siliguri station was the scene to celebrate 125 years of toy train. It is the only station in India where there co-exist narrow-gauge, meter-gauge and broad-gauge tracks. What better way to mark the occasion than to flag off trains on the 3 tracks together, as the picture below shows!