Shimla-Kalka Toy Train

The first time I experienced travel on the Unesco World Heritage train to Shimla was roughly two decades ago when I surprised a college friend on her birthday. It was a journey I undertook from New Delhi.  A five-hour ride on the broad gauge Himalayan Queen brought me to Kalka, a quick switchover was made to the toy train, and another six-hour chug to my destination. Arriving after dark, coupled with tedium at a never-ending journey, I recall being hugely disappointed at having missed the fabulous vistas that this mountainous route is famed for.

A more recent one was no different, leaving me guessing at what I might  have missed out the previous time. My cousin and I decided to hop on for a return trip to Chandigarh. Given the morning departure, we hoped excitedly to capture as many of them wonderful views that had long been promised to us. Also, given the time of year (early December) we presumed mistakenly that we would be two of very few passengers aboard. Hoped, more like it, and so you can imagine the rude shock we received when we boarded. We found ourselves squashed amidst a large group of loud, inconsiderate and hygiene-challenged tourists. That really is the point where we should have got off, but…

Saving Grace: A few, very few, breathtaking moments before visibly apathetic development blocks them out.

Verdict: Too slow (you could grow roses before stopping to smell them!), too long (seven hours versus four by road), too little green (post monsoons may be a good time to go, if at all), too much construction (read concrete monstrosities), too many people (self explanatory).

Note To Self: Never again.

Toy Train Click picture on left to view more visuals. Most of which have been taken by My Cousin Ginny 🙂

18 comments

  • Haha! I did the Kalka-Shimla round trip when I was there last. I quite enjoyed it one way but would not be doing it again.

  • I am sorry at your experience of a journey by the Kakla-Shimla rail. I cannot forget my first journey in 1947. Slow no doubt, but exciting. Yes, one could get off and walk along it at places. Smoke from the coal fired engine entered our eyes, noses and hair but we found it fun. Its whistle and screeching wheels around curves were music to us. It was fun when it stopped at Barogh, it emptied out for alloo-puri breakfast for everyone. It went through some gorgious U turns with pines all around. And finally the view of Shimla as it stopped at Tara Devi was breath taking. Time taken – 5 hours, we seem to have progressed to 4 hours now.
    Puneet, try it again after throwing out the tourists!

    • The Shimla of the 40s, I can only imagine, would have been postcard pretty. It was so even in the late 70s when I lived there. It has changed tremendously, as have most of the views along the train route, since. Sadly, for the worse. Truth be had, crowds and people don’t bother me at all; inconsiderate fellow travellers do!

  • Personal experiences surely have a much greater impact than heresay but I surely agree with Tirlochan Singh above. In CATS we have undertaken this journey twice and have nothing but sweetest of memories PuneetInder. First time when we took this train to scale Shali Peak (10,000ft) in Dec’07 and second time in Mar’09 when we undertook a Shimla Heritage trip.

    We chartered the toy train both times and traveled in regular train also once. I agree that one gets packed in like sardines in regular trains but not the case in a/c chair coach. Travel time usually is 4.5hrs as per our experience but thoroughly enjoyable. The food at Barog is also pretty good and the price you pay for it is peanuts! Check out our blog from our last trip in Mar’09 if you don’t believe me 😉

    Join us next time perhaps 🙂

    • You’re right, one fashions opinions based on the sum total of one’s experiences. The thought behind undertaking this journey was for the picturesque trail, which is a huge let down barring the first hour or so. Then, a bunch of inconsiderate tourists ruined it entirely 🙁

      Hiring out an entire coach for a like-minded group sure is a fun idea! But since I usually travel light (read with one, maybe two co-travellers),I’m afraid it may not work for me.

  • I feel if you have company & time you would definately enjoy the changing scenic beauty and passing 103 tunnels but alone you may get bored.

  • Dear Puneet,
    Greetings from the Kullu Valleys,
    Well i have always had some amazing expereinces with the Toy Train. In my schooling days at Bishop Cotton School Shimla i remember our outings as kids. The train was also a reglular sight in my MTA days at the summerhill HP University. I was so delighted to see the train that i made a documentary on the same for a German Chanel with my travel outfit http://www.sunshineadventure.com . You may call the train slow or with less views but for a train lover the Himalayan Queen will always be a delight. Check out my documetary here
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcwbkUA0_xg

    Keep Writing !

    • Hi Ankit,
      Nice documentary…

      As an inveterate traveller, I would like to indulge in time-consuming activities only if I am receiving in return an unforgettable experience. My two attempts have proved otherwise, alas! Better luck, next life 😉

  • I have travelled twice by this train and loved it. The second time around, in 95 or 96, I was saddened by the denuded hills. All those newspaper adverts announcing flats in Solan or Baddi are just going to make it worse.

  • never been by train, was planning to, may be sometime, but well! thanks will not waste my time.

  • Ohhhh i have been in it once nd i promised d same 🙂 🙂

  • Hi all!
    I have lovely memories of my trip returning from Shimla on the toy-train…. sometime in 1990-1991 i think.
    It was a clandestine trip from Delhi with er.. a friend… 😉 It was the euphoria of being young and carefree that i remember the most…. life was moving at the trains pace and like foolish 20 year olds we were wishing for it to move quicker…much quicker. A rushed trip uphill and back to Delhi lent us that pace. Luckily i was impervious to fellow travellers and there was not as much senseless construction. I shall not be taking this train anytime soon… i will hold on to my nostalgic memories.

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