Kalka-Shimla toy train deserves UNESCO heritage status

SOLAN: The Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge rail line is deserved to be included in UNESCO list of heritage. Not only the importance and history and its uniqueness are the factors making the case stronger but also it was the spirit and brave grit that saw 96-km long Kalka-Shimla toy train through.

In fact it should be included in UNESCO elite list many years back. Though journey on this train is now no more remain as fascinated as in past thanks to the outdated ZDM3 engines but the track was laid on a such hilly route that was once seen as hard to construct even the road.

The need of comfortable transportation to Shimla was arisen after it became summer headquarter seat for British government. Before 1856 the only mean of transport to this newly developed hill headquarter was through jumpans or ponies.

It was really hard nut to crack to reach Shimla at that time. There was a cart road to Shimla that was used between Shimla and Kasauli to facilitate the transaction flow. At that time Kasauli had emerged as wholesale trading center for region. The nine-mile road the old famous name of Kalka-Kasauli road during that time was extended from Kalka and passed through Kasauli, Kakkarhatti, Subathu, and Sairi up to the Shimla.

Kalka a major North India base station for British was connected with broad gauge rail line in January, 1891. But it took almost 56-year for British to link Shimla with rail network after connecting Kalka with rail. In fact a Correspondent in Delhi Gazette who sketched the route of rail line to Shimla with estimated cost and traffic return in this regard gave the idea.

To justify his idea the Correspondent wrote, “We may then see these cooler regions become the permanent seat of a Government, daily invigorated by temperature adapted to refresh an European constitution and keep the mental power in a state of health, alike beneficial both to rules and the ruled.”

During laying of track the great difficulties were faced. At some times it appeared that it won’t be possible to complete the work. However overcoming all obstacles the track was opened for public on November 9, 1903. It was triumph of British engineers’ skills that set example for others. Equally notable was the contribution of a local saint Bhalkoo Baba under whose guidance British engineers managed to carry the track up to Shimla with minimum losses to flora and fauna of area. And above all were the sacrifice of locals’ people who lost their lives during track construction after British forced them for work.

The railway stations, tunnels, bridges and railway buildings en route the track is still give look of old era. The heritage status will not only help to maintain their old beauty but can also give new life to this unviable track.

The Indian government has already declared the track as heritage in July 2000 during the time of Ms. Mamta Banerjee as central Railway Minister. Moreover the state government decision to declare the track as heritage could only make the case strong for getting UNESCO tag.

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