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The Shivalik Express, affectionately referred to as the 'Toy Train' travels between the Indian town of Kalka and Shimla, capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
The Toy Train's ninety-six kilometre narrow-gauge track through the Shivalik foothills of the Himalayas is one of three Indian mountain railways which together constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built by British colonists, the Kalka-Shimla Railway is an extraordinary feat of railway engineering. The line negotiates 102 tunnels, more than 864 bridges and around 919 curves. Passengers have plenty of time in which to admire and marvel these features as well as the spectacular mountain panorama that line the route as the train makes its ascent to Shimla demands a leisurely pace.
Still owned and run by the Indian Government, the Shivalik Express has been wonderfully preserved and maintained. Stepping aboard the Toy Train is akin to being transported back to India's British Colonial era. By their nature narrow-gauge trains are compact, but the Toy Train nevertheless offers Great Rail Journeys' customers a enthralling ride. The route itself is rarely less than spectacular. In the course of a journey lasting between five and six hours, our guests are treated to ever-changing vistas of sublime natural beauty, ranging from dense pine and acacia forests, mountain valleys and snow-capped peaks to terraced farmland and apple orchards.
These picture-postcard views are punctuated by the Kalka-Shimla Railway's many turns, switchbacks, bridges and tunnels. The longest tunnel, just before the railway station at the village of Barog, spans more than a kilometre and at the time of its completion in the late nineteenth century was the longest rail tunnel in the world. Most passengers agree that beyond Barog the route's scenery becomes even more spectacular as the Toy Train steadily climbs its way through forests of Himalayan cedar and rhododendron to the historic and culturally-rich hillside city of Shimla, former summer capital of British India.
Several trains travel the Kalka-Shimla Railway, offering every standard of travel from the most basic scheduled services to the thoroughly luxurious heritage coaches. At this latter end of the scale, two special carriages - The Shivalik Palace and The Shivalik Queen - allow passengers to make this remarkable journey in true colonial style and comfort.
Originally built in 1966 and 1974 respectively, both of these carriages were fully refurbished at the end of the twentieth century. Decorated and furnished in lavish style, both The Shivalik Palace and The Shivalik Queen offer comfortable seating, modern facilities and panoramic windows which offer perfect views of the railway's ever-changing and wonderful landscapes.
Please note the heritage coaches are not always in operation. See our individual tours for information around standard of travel on the Toy Train.
Most passengers agree that beyond Barog the route's scenery becomes even more spectacular as the Toy Train steadily climbs its way through forests of Himalayan cedar and rhododendron to the historic and culturally-rich hillside city of Shimla, former summer capital of British India.
The Kalka-Shimla Railway's location in north-west India can be prone to extreme weather conditions with summer temperatures reaching as high as 45°C, (113°F) and up to twenty-four inches of snow in the winter. The last tunnel on the line before Shimla, Tunnel 103, is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a British colonial gentleman who enjoys chatting to passengers as they travel through the tunnel.
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