‘Bring Shimla’s last heritage train back on track’

A toy train on its way in colorful misty sunset in Shimla after heavy rain on Saturday evening.Photo by: Amit Kanwar
A toy train on its way to Shimla

Shimla: Heritage lovers hope the railways will keep its promise of bringing Shimla’s last heritage train – a deluxe rail motor car that has been stabled as its wheels have worn out – back on track.

“The Kalka-Shimla rail line (on which the rail motor car ran) has a unique identity and it should be brought back,” Intach (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Himachal chapter co-convener Raja Bhasin said.

P.C. Katoch, an octogenarian who has been settled in Shimla since 1955, told IANS: “The train is one the last remnants the Raj heritage. It should be preserved at any cost.”

“Moreover, a number of romantic Bollywood films showcased the train,” he added.

Four of the 18-seater deluxe rail motor cars were built in England between 1927 and 1930 and chugged along a 96-km narrow guage track between Kalka and Shimla that has now been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. Now, only one remains.

The rail motor car has been parked at Kalka for maintenance for over a month, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager (Northern Railways) G.M. Singh told IANS.

“Its wheels have passed their useful age and it’s very difficult to procure a new set because there is no manufacturer who specializes in making these wheels,” said, adding: “But still, we will manage to get it before the next tourist season begins.”

The wheels are made of specially cast steel and the authorities will be changing them for the first time since its inception.

Railway officials said the deluxe rail motor car, with a transparent fibre-glass roof for a clear view of the sky, was quite popular among foreigners, particularly from Britain, and among Indian corporate honchos.

With a fare of Rs.247 per passenger, the rail motor car, which can also be chartered, takes four hours and 25 minutes to reach Shimla from Kalka.

The journey on the narrow-gauge rail line, built by the British in 1903, is an exhilarating experience.

The ascent begins from 2,100 ft (640 metres) above sea level at Kalka and crosses Dharampur, Barog, Solan and Kandaghat before it reaches Shimla at 7,000 ft.

There are 102 tunnels on the rail line. Initially, there were 103, but tunnel number 46 does not exist any more.

A train takes about three minutes to cross the longest tunnel at Barog (5,000 ft). The other big tunnels en route are at Koti (2,276 ft), Taradevi (1,615 ft) and tunnel number 103 (1,135 ft), which is near Shimla.

–  By Vishal Gulati (IANS)

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