The Mountain Railways of India
Once I reached Chandigarh, my next stop was Kalka. This I had covered by bus. But from Kalka to Shimla I had to travel with the Mountain Railways of India. I had already heard about the UNESCO World Heritage toy train from Kalka to Shimla and was determined to be a part of it.
Getting tickets was not easy. I had to choose between three trains. The Shivalik Deluxe Express, the Himalayan Queen and the Rail Motor Car. As I had not booked my tickets earlier, I could get space only in the Rail Motor Car. This was possible as the train leaves pretty early, at 5.10 a.m! Not many people would be willing to wake up at that time in the chilly Kalka weather.
Once inside this coach of the Mountain Railways of India, I was pleasantly surprised with the transparent roof. So now I could enjoy the scene from the windows and even enjoy watching the early morning sky of the hills. My camera simply did not stop clicking. There were only 14 passengers in this single coach train. Also, there was just one stoppage at the Barog station. Food was provided along the way. This meant that I could enjoy the scenic beauty without any interruption!
The complete route is only 60 miles. But I counted 102 tunnels on the way, with one of them being a kilometre long! I was amazed at the endurance of the British who had built this route when they had to go to their summer capital! The route also includes 800 bridges, and I simply lost count of the steep curves. It is said that there are nearly 900 curves on the way. In addition to the beauty of the hills, the engineering marvel simply cannot be ignored!
These trains run really slow. But you understand this when you actually experience the steep gradient that it has to climb. But this was actually good for me as I could readily enjoy the spectacular scenery on the way. Even though these trains were built by the British, they have been refurbished in order to make them comfortable. As the train reached Shimla at 9.35 a.m. I could easily reach my hotel, freshen up and have my breakfast there. This way my day was not wasted at all. I had the full day to enjoy sightseeing in Shimla in addition to the awesome train journey that I had captured in my camera and was carrying along with me!