Darjeeling is a popular hill station in West Bengal, perched in the foothills of the Himalayas. One of its chief attractions is the Toy Train. The train isn’t a ‘toy’, like the ones in Malls. It is called a ‘Toy Train’ because it runs on a very narrow track, and so the engine and coaches are much smaller than those of regular trains.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which runs the Toy Train, has been named a World Heritage Site. That means that it is important for the whole world.
Toy Trains started running in 1881, and they are still operated.
It was a man named Frances Prestage who first got the idea of a train service to Darjeeling. When the British were ruling India, they could not stand the summer heat in the plains. So they went to cool Darjeeling. But it took them almost two weeks to get there from Calcutta, as Kolkata was then called. They had to take steamers, bullock carts and tongas or horse-drawn carriages. That’s why Prestage thought of starting a train service. But it wasn’t easy. The main problem was that much of the route lay along steep mountain slopes. The Railway engineers came up with clever ideas to overcome all the difficulties. One brainwave was to build zig-zag or ‘Z’ tracks in the steepest places. The route has several of them.
The train was originally drawn by steam engines. Later, diesel engines were also used. But even now, steam engines are used on some of the joy rides. The Toy Train runs very slowly, giving you plenty of time to admire the breathtaking beauty of the mountains.
The Toy Train is a favorite of tourists. So, if you plan to visit Darjeeling, be sure to book seats on it in advance.