It’s around 6 am and freezing weather, we were rushing down to reach our car after witnessing the beautiful sunrise in Tiger hills.
when those first golden rays fall on the snow-covered Kanchenjunga, its treat to eyes.
Our train journey from Darjeeling to Siliguri was at 8.30am. The tiger hill was so crowded, we had to park our car 1 km away from the sunrise point. Due to this huge traffic, It takes around 2 hours to reach back so our driver told us to rush back as soon as we witness the sunrise, don’t even wait for a minute else you will miss the train.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
We reached Darjeeling station around 8 am, and started to relax. Its a very small station with a station master office, toilet, one tea shop, and beautiful view. The tea shop was not yet open.
Its around 8.30 and people slowly started to come in, the cleaning ladies were sweeping the station, the tea shop owner just arrived, she opened her small shop, did some cleaning, kept out few beautiful flower pots, which added some color to the shop and started to keep out all the chocolate and Biscuit bottles.
After checking with train master we got to know the train was delayed for about 30 mins. Few other passengers slowly started to show up, a family with two kids, a foreigner with a sling bag and few other locales.
By all this time the tea shop was ready, we ordered 4 cups of tea(one for each one of us) and 2 packets of Parle-G biscuit, we enjoyed our tea and biscuits trying to satisfy our empty stomach which had started to make some noises.
There are two types of rides provided by Darjeeling Himalayan Railway/Toy train,
- A full train ride from plains of Darjeeling to Siliguri/ NJP, which takes travelers through all the stations and is estimated to be 8 hours ride. (By taxi or bus, it takes only 1 and 1/2 hour on the same route).
- Joy Ride – There are 2 joy ride routes on offer, each of which is approximately 1 hour long. On route is Darjeeling-Ghum and another one is Siliguri-Sukna.
We had booked a first class ticket from Darjeeling to NJP which was around 1300 INR(you can book it here).
Unforgettable 10 hrs ride in DHR
when the steam engine along with its carriages came blowing stream and whistling loudly, It was like a red carpet entry and all the tourists took out there camera/phone and went click click.
Our journey in this historical toy train which has been accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status was about to begin.
The famous toy train ride began slowly through Darjeeling town blowing its whistle loud, as the train approaches you can see the locals clearing up the tracks from their stalls.
In whole first class coach, it was just we four people and a family and two attendants(they were helping with the train), each one of us settled up in a window seat and started to enjoy our ride.
We had to wake up way too early in order to visit Tiger hills, so I fell asleep in first few hours of the ride.
The train stopped in Kurseong station, we checked with attendants about what time we may reach Siliguri, the response shocked us, they had no idea about the time they may reach, the estimated time was 4 PM, but they told no guarantee it will reach on time.
The train halted for more than an hour in Kurseong station, we had our lunch, gave a visit to a museum about the history of a toy train, we tried to recreate a famous train scene from DDLJ.
The ride from here is so serene with breathtaking landscapes, picturesque mountain views, tea garden, etc. As we pass by villages and local shops on the way with children on the street waving at us and few tourists clicking pictures.
The pace at which the train moves through the hilly terrain is at times so slow you can hop on and off the train on the move.
Its stops for every vehicle to pass by, It goes in reverse and then forward if there a high steep.
DHR sometimes tends to skid in steep gradients. You can often see an attendant standing in front of the engine and sprinkling sand on the track to overcome such difficulties, particularly during monsoon time.
And above all, it sometimes goes out of track.
When your train goes out of track
It’s was around 3 pm we are still halfway to Siliguri, as we pass by a small village on the roadside, the famous toy train has gone out of track and has not even realized it until someone traveling on bike noticed and stopped it.
It took us a while to sink in what had just happened, we thanked God for not being on the edge of mountains, after a while, we found it soo funny and started laughing.
There was a cable wire or something on the track which locals had left unnoticed apparently which made the train go out of track.
Now the actual problem how to get it back on track?
All the passengers (very few indeed) came out of the train and started to analyze the situations, by now we have given up on reaching Siliguri.
By the help of villagers and few groups of guys who were passing by, the train was back on track after a struggle of about 1 hr.
We finally reached Siliguri, and we took an auto to NJP railway station. Luckily our train to Kolkata was delayed by 6hrs.
This is how the unforgettable toy train journey of 10 hrs ended.
Can you imagine this heritage transport once provided the first and the most important mountain transportation link in the country?
I wouldn’t suggest taking a 10 hrs ride from Darjeeling to Siliguri but the joy ride which is around 1 hr is a must try, well you wouldn’t want to miss the ride in a train that’s accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status, and that’s for something special.
The toy train may have many flaws but the 10 hrs journey indeed was most memorable and fun.
Good to Know:
- Book your ride in advance, Don’t plan to buy the joyride tickets after you reach Darjeeling because you may not get them.
- Between NJP and Darjeeling, the train stops at Siliguri Junction, Sukna, Rangtong, Tindharia, Gayabari, Mahanadi, Kurseong, Tung, Sonada, Ghum.
- No food is served on the train and you won’t find any food vendors along the way. So carry water and food.
- Most coaches apart from the first class coach do not have toilet facilities. The intermediate stations along the way too do not have toilet facilities.