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Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

In 1999 the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  In its statement it described it as ' an outstanding example of the influence of an innovative transportation system on the social, cultural and economic development of a multi-cultural region'.  Without this recognition it is quite possible that the railway would already have closed or faced a very grim future as it costs more to run than the income it generates, particularly as road traffic has now become quicker and cheaper than the train.  It was at peak capacity in 1947 running 45 locomotives.  However there is no doubt that a lot of history would have been lost if that had been allowed to happen.

A road had been constructed for bullock-carts to haul goods and materials as the town was developed in the 1850s, in 1879 a company was formed to build a railway to reduce the time of the journey to the town.  The line was complete in 1891, it uses a 2 foot gauge, the narrowest used for working purposes and it remains the longest hill line of this gauge in India.  One of the unusual features of the line are the Z style reversing stations that allow the train to tackle the gradient changes on the route.  This was in part to avoid tunnels and bridges that would have been more costly and vulnerable to movement in the terrain during monsoons.  Parts of the line still suffer from regular landslips necessitating temporary closures.

There are also a number of loops to help the train gain height.  These are where the train travels in a circle and go under or over an earlier section of line.  The train climbs 2112 metres during the journey.  The highest station is Ghum one stop before Darjeeling, which is at 2258m, it is the second highest station in the world.   The railway has often been described as 'one of the world's most spectacular rail journeys' and would be on the top ten list of must do trips for most railway aficionados.


You can see the full collection of Alex's railway pictures, and a few without trains at alexmorley.fotopic.net


Because of the small size of the locomotives it is often described  as a toy train.

Today there is one up train and one down train travelling the full trip each day.  There is also one service each way between Darjeeling and Kuresong, commonly known as the school train.

Kuresong is the one of the larger towns en-route about half way between Darjeeling and Siliguri.


There is also the tourist train, sometimes called the joy ride.






This table shows the fares from Ghum, which is between Darjeeling and Sonada.  The local rate 2nd class to Darjeeling is 5 rupees (6pence) compared to 240 rupees (3) for the return trip on the tourist train.


















A regular service train with a diesel locomotive.














An inspection trolley to enable rail workers to check the line.

















One of the steam locomotives


















and from the rear.


















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