Wednesday, February 11

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The hills of Darjeeling were once part of kingdom of Sikkim. It was after 1850 the British Indian Empire took Darjeeling under its constituency , declaring Sikkim as a protected state/kingdom.

With civilization, the British government built an excellent cart road for travelers and traders in 1861 connecting Siliguri with the hill portions. Reducing their journey time from a fortnight to 20 hours. This had also helped the government in trading and establishment of  tea industry. At present , Hill Cart road connects Siliguri to Darjeeling via Rohini and covers a distance of approx. 67 kms.

During 1878 ,the British Indian empire proposed to lay steam tramways from Siliguri to Darjeeling . Which completed and developed into Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in the year 1881 and was opened for public.

After 130 years from its commencement, here I get a chance to ride on the train which was propelled by the same steam engine back then .

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Batasia.

At present, the railway track from Siliguri to Tindharia is inaccessible. It was suspended after a major landslide in 2010. The train now runs from Kurseong to Darjeeling twice in a day . Mostly availed by the locals and has a diesel engine for faster communication.

A bogie of "Joy ride ".

However for tourists , DHR organizes "joy ride " four times in a day; to and from Darjeeling station. The first halt is at Batasia loop, followed by half an hour stoppage at Ghoom station from where it takes an U- turn.

Carriage leaving for Ghoom .

Batasia loop which is also loop no. 5 is the only curve that the train takes till Kurseong. The train for joy ride has two first class compartments with attached toilet.  During lean season one can book the tickets from the station itself. However, advance booking is advisable for peak tourist season. ( April to July | October to December ) [ Online booking: ]

War Memorial at Batasia Loop was constructed in 1995 , dedicated to brave soldiers. 

On a sunny day, Kunchenjunga range is clearly visible from Batasia.  This loop no. 5 is five kilometers away from Darjeeling station. From here another two kilometers uphill will take you to Ghoom heritage station , which the highest railway station in India at an altitude of  7407 ft. 

Ghum or Ghoom Station .

Ghoom is a junction point . Nepal bound cars from Siliguri take left from the spot and the other road meets at Darjeeling. While the cars coming from Darjeeling have to take an "U - turn" (ghum in Nepali)  for Nepal from here. This is how the name 'Ghum' has derived .
At Ghoom, the engine of ' joy ride' changes its direction for the return. While passenger trains to Kurseong move ahead. The total time taken in joy ride is two hours, which includes halts at Batasia and Ghoom and a few unprecedented halts too when the (steam)engine becomes too hot .

A halt before Dali Monastery. 

There is also a carriage with diesel engine that plies on this two metre track for joy ride. Most of the time it is scheduled for the first ride at 8 'o' clock in the morning. It might not have vintage engine but it is smoke free and takes half an hour less to complete the ride than the steam one.

Smoke coming out from one of  twelve remaining steam engine - DHR 778 .

The railway track throughout the journey runs parallel with roadways with a speed of 10 km/hr approximately (steam engine). It takes you through local shops, houses, buildings and monasteries.
Preferably, the train that leaves Darjeeling at 10:40 should be taken for joy ride, as it bets better chances to view clear Kanchenjunga range. The clouds scatter mostly after noon. 

   Refueling the engine  .

Following is the train timetable for the routes of DHR as on February 2015. 

1. Kurseong (KGN) to Darjeeling (DJ) - 31 km
    Passenger train - twice daily (Diesel engine)
    Dep : 07:00 am | 3:00 pm
    Arv  : 09:45 am | 5:50 pm

2. Darjeeling (DJ)  to Kurseong (KGN) - 31 km
    Passenger train - twice daily (Diesel engine)
    Dep  : 10:15 am | 4:00 pm
    Arv   : 01:10 am | 6:40 pm 

Fare : FC  INR 210 | 2S  INR 30

Tourists at Batasia Loop.

3. Darjeeling (DJ) to Darjeeling (DJRZ) via Ghoom - 14 km
    Joy ride  - four times a day ( both steam and diesel engine plies )
    Dep : 08:00 am | 10:40 am | 01:20 pm | 04:05 pm
    Arv  : 10:00 am | 12:40 pm | 03:20 pm | 06 : 05 pm
    (Diesel engine would take 30 minutes less than the steam one )

  Fare : FC  INR 400

4. Darjeeling to  Ghoom - 7 km
    Joy ride  - four times a day | Passenger train - twice daily
    Dep : 08:00 am | 10:40 am | 01:20 pm | 04:05 pm | 10:15 am | 4:00 pm
    Arv  :08:45 am | 11:30 am | 02:10 pm | 04 : 55 pm| 10:45 am | 4:30 pm
 Fare : FC  INR 400 (joy ride) | FC INR 140 (passenger train) | 2S INR 20

A diesel carriage in Darjeeling station.

Tip : If it is a steam engine try to book second bogie from the engine as smoke is less but beware of tiny coal particles that might hit your face if the window is kept open. 

DHR778  by Sharp Stewart & Co. of Glasgow  , designed in between 1889 - 1927. 

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO IN 1999 after 118 years of existence and help . 

Guard honks to clear traffic . 


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