Years come years go, new generations take to modernization and with this comes a new wave of change, but Toy Train in Darjeeling stills remains as appealing as before and more so. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a dream project of Franklin Prestage and most popularly known by the name ‘Toy Train’, has today become a travellers’ destination, poets’ inspiration, lovers’ paradise, movie makers’ favourite shooting spot and a pride of Himalaya. Listed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, Toy Train has never ceased to etch itself on the consciousness of travellers- capturing their imagination and fuelling their curiosity about Himalaya.
On a 86 km long 2ft narrow gauge railway journey one cannot help marvel at the invention of this steam engine powered Toy Train. Constructed between 1879 and 1881 by Gillander Arbuthnot & Co. in conformity to Franklin’s vision, Toy Train zigzags from Siliguri to Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal for 8 blissful hours and is run by the Indian Railways. Its elevation level ranges from about 100 m at Siliguri to about 2,200 m at Darjeeling and makes an amazing journey up to Ghum, highest point at 7,407 feet.
The aura of Himalaya that surrounds the train ride is simply mind blowing. Gazing through a window from the train one can drink in the spectacular Himalaya panorama silhouetted against the scintillating blue sky. A magnificent view of Himalaya foothills, Kanchenjunga, Mahanandi valley, tea garden landscapes, monastery and verdant forests of pine and oak trees dominates throughout the ride. The train also skirts past markets and towns of smiling people and running children. The train journey not just links one place with another but connects people of different nationalities with one another, be it people from Nepal, Sikkim, West Bengal, Tibet and any other parts of the world.
In the beginning, Toy Train used to be a luxury devised for Darjeeling’s elite from the British ruling class, affluent Indians, Maharajas and Zamindars. Locals had no choice but to use ponies to travel through hill cart road. Gradually, Toy Train became a thing of a commoner. Every individual living in Darjeeling somehow connect to toy train; some may have had best of their childhood running after the train, some may have waited for hours just to catch a glimpse of the train or to captures its beauty in canvas or have spent memorable journey on it. This amazing wonder of Himalaya has profoundly touched every aspects of life one way or another. Darjeeling has folklore based on this Toy Train.
With the popularity of Toy Train, Darjeeling tea became a popular name and a favourite amongst the tea lovers. There were more increasing numbers of tourists flow in Darjeeling exclusively for Toy Train journey. Even the train welcomed the trend of shooting songs of Hindi movies. Several notable Hindi movies have featured Toy Train mostly in song sequence. Even Discovery Channel could not stay immune to the charm of Toy Train and thus made a documentary based on it. This boosted Darjeeling’s economy to a greater extent.
Conclusively, Toy Train is the answer for those who wish to explore and experience Himalaya in unhurried pace. The gaiety of this train ride amidst the Himalaya beauty is so infectious that it leaves one wanting for more. As the term itself indicates, Toy Train is a gateway to a complete joy ride and the best way to experience it is to bask in this sheer pleasure.
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.