Darjeeling Toy Train sometime refereed as Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a chronology of British Empire which after the call of Independence became a pride of India. The Toy Train is 610 mm narrow gauge railway which was introduced 1881 to connect the lines of transportation from new Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. The construction of the engine started as early during 1879 and it completed in 1881. The distance that it looks to cover was of about 78 kilometers which was however due to some reason was cut down to Kurseong in later halves of Indian independence. Although when we talk about Darjeeling Himalayan railway we talk about diesel engine and steam engine but in historical term we specifically refer to steam engine which was an evolution in railway engineering.
The chronological aspect of its introduction in Indian soil and its inauguration repeatedly created history after its inception. It all started like a dream and the first person to conceptualize an idea of steam engine was Franlin Prestage who approached to government and out vocal his proposal to start steam engine to connect the line of Siliguri and Darjeeling. Soon as he pitched his plan the proposal was accepted in a first instance and a report was formed after surveying the relief of a surrounding by Sir Ashely Eden in 1879 and on the same year the construction plan was off to the pits.
Gillanders Arbuthnot and Company was given an opportunity to construct the railway and after the successful implementation of plan, the stretch was open in 1880 from Siliguri to Kurseong but an official inauguration was called in 1881. During a later half of plan many adjustments were made to suit the narrow gradients and natural calamities of and with every extension of improvement it became responsive and more functional.
After the call of independence DHR was transferred to Indian railways and soon after its amalgamation it became a part of North East frontier railway in 1958.
World heritage site
Owing to its historical importance and its contribution to engineering context it was declared a Heritage site of UNESCO in 1999 and traveler must remember that it is second to all to have such privilege.
Authenticity and integrity
Since its introduction the route is more or less same except of few renovations and the engine on the other hand is excellent and has not been so rustic till it was completely stopped in 2005 most of the steam engines were off the gauge due to some mechanical problem. It was again in 2015 the steam engine came to be a part of heritage again.
Current status of steam engine
All the steam engines are of B class and it was designed and rebuilt by Sharp Stewart and company and on later halves by North British locomotive company. During the time of 1889 to 1925 they had built around 34 of that type but at present we have 12 of which half are still under maintenance.
Routes and map
Although the present route contemplates the gauge that runs between Darjeeling station till Kurseong but it has it station based in Sukna junction, Tindharia and Rangtong station. From Darjeeling station it runs and passes through Ghoom station, Sonada, station, Tung and finally to Kurseong and together it is renowned as joy ride of Darjeeling Toy Train.
For considerable amount of time we had to compromise with a steam engine because of some technical difficulties but with an interception of UNESCO and with active participation of local government it has been put into active mode. Now from 2015 we again have a privilege to see its chronicles running from the gauge of Darjeeling by whistling and blowing heritage of British and Darjeeling.