Let’s understand what is “Toy Train”?
This train is small in size as the name suggests. It runs over a narrow gauge rail track of 2 feet 6 Inches, which is much smaller than the regular train track of 4 feet 8.5 inches. The width and length of bogies are very small and the name toy arises from the size of these. The average speed of these trains is 20 km per hour.
How old is Toy Train system and what is the history?
Shimla was the summer capital of pre independence India. Britishers decided to make the train track for better connectivity with Shimla because in those days roads travel was slow and conditions of roads were not good. Thus Kalka Shimla toy train was built in 1898 and it became fully functional in 1903. Chief engineer H.S. Harington was the man behind and completed this project. In earlier days coal steam engines were used but nowadays diesel locomotives are used for the journey.
What is so special about Kalka Shimla Toy Train?
It is part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site of Mountain Railways of India.
The train track passes through 864 small or big bridges and 102 tunnels during its 96 km journey from Kalka to Shimla. The longest tunnel of Barog takes around 3 minutes to reach the other end. The highest bridge is located between Sonwara and Dharampur. It is an arch gallery bridge and has 5 tier galleries.
The train climbs from 656 meters to 2,076 meters during the entire journey. There are 18 stations on the way but Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Taradevi, Barog, Summerhill, and Shimla are important stations.
What about booking and ticket cost for Toy Trains?
There are 5 trains every day from Kalka to Shimla and vice versa.
The first train from Kalka is at 03.30 AM and last at 12.10 PM
The first train from Shimla is at 10.30 AM and last at 16.30 PM
There are 3 different class i.e. IInd class, Ist class, and AC chair. These classes vary from train to train and all classes are not available on all trains. The ticket cost for the IInd class is lowest at 40 Rs, Ist class is for 260 Rs, and AC Chair is for 510 Rs.
The advance booking of toy train opens only one month in advance, not like other Indian Railway trains which open 4 months in advance.
Tickets can be booked online at Indian Railway’s website or from Cleartrip’s Website or from online counters at railway stations.
My friend and I decided to travel to Shimla from Delhi. We booked an overnight train and reached Kalka at 04.45 AM. We booked tickets in 06.00 AM Toy Train keeping some buffer in case our train from Delhi got delayed. We walked few meters and noticed the small engine running at distance. The Toy Train platform was connected with regular train platform. There were 2 toy trains standing on each side of the platform.
We found our coach and boarded the train. Most of the people on the toy train were from our overnight train coming from other parts of India. Seats were large and spacious but coaches seem old. There was a small toilet in our coach but it was too small. In Ist class coach of our train, there was enough space to keep the luggage. In comparison, IInd class coaches were congested because of space constraint. There were some hawkers selling packed breakfast and tea on the Kalka station platform.
Our toy train started 30 minutes late. After 10 minutes of journey, we noticed that train started to ascend. There were buildings on both sides initially but as we crossed Kalka town and moved further, the scenery changed to beautiful lush green.
There were trees, bushes and it was green as well as misty due to the rainy season. As our train moved further we passed through beautiful lush green mountains on our both sides, there were pine trees and weather was cooler as well as Misty as it was still monsoon. The clouds were creating a dramatic effect with mountains.
Our train stopped at different stations and there were plenty of snacks & soft drinks available. Incase if you are not carrying anything to eat then you can buy food on the way. It was kind of picnic 🙂
The travel by Toy Train was slow, we passed tunnels, bridges and there were mountains or valleys on our sides. There were too many bends on the way and we saw the entire train from our seats. It was an experience to cherish and we enjoyed the nature while traveling towards our destination.
My advice is that one should take Kalka Shimla Toy Train Journey at least one way when going to Shimla because this is once in a life time experience.