Shimla: On the 105th anniversary of launch of the Kalka-Shimla rail services, by unveiling a plaque commemorating the occasion, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and R Velu, minister of state for railways, on Sunday morning formally declared the track a UNESCO world heritage site.
Velu on the occasion said that attaining the World Heritage status after competing with other old rail lines in the world did speak about the way Indian Railways have been able to safeguard and operate such tracks.
Even though for operating the Kalka-Shimla rail services regularly does incur a Rs 6 crore annual loss but it was small price to pay for the heritage value the line has, he said.
Railways would continue to preserve and operate the heritage track and by it being declared a World Heritage site, tourist traffic was expected to increase, he said.
A special postage cover was released and a foundation stone to construct a railway museum was laid to mark the occasion.
Later speaking to the media the minister said, “We will be now making a case of Pathankot – Jogindernagar Rail Line a World Heritage Site.”
Proposal to construct a rail line to Shimla finds mention in the 1847 Delhi Gazette but to meet strategic imperial forces needs, the track laid out to military specifications was started in 1901 and the 96 Km track completed within three years.
Constructed at an exorbitant cost, the two and a half feet track ascends mountain country from 2800 feet altitude at Kalka to 7000 feet at Shimla.
Engineering feats include 103 tunnels and multi-arch gallery like bridges made of stone masonry and lime mortar that have stood steady without maintenance for over a century.
These bridges overcame problems of deeply tapering ravines with the longest one being the five tiered bridge no 226 between Sonwara-Dharmpur stations which is 69.5 meters long.
Barog tunnel, which is 3752 feet long is the longest one on the track.
A two member UNESCO team of Robert Lee and filmmaker Ian Walker with Northern Railway officials surveyed and documented the track before presenting the case for World Heritage status.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee after a meeting at Quebec in Canada on July 7 declared the track the World Heritage status.