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Darjeeling's Little Train - steaming since 1881

by Mukesh Khosla



Train enthusiasts the world over know about this masterpiece which came into existence in 1881. Over a  century later, American writer Warren Bentley aptly described a recent ride on this toy train as the " journey of a lifetime". The trip from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling on the 'Queen of the Hills', one of the world's narrowest gauge trains, just two feet wide, is a marvel of railway engineering. Built in 1881 on a plan drawn by Englishman Franklin Prestige, the train chugs past lush tea gardens and rippling streams as it ascends the Eastern Himalayas looping through tunnels and mountain passes on its uphill climb. Described by many as the ultimate rail wonder of the world that still exists to be enjoyed, the toy train climbs up to Ghum at a height of 2,258 metres (7,408 feet) the highest narrow-gauge railway station in the world.

 

The journey from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling is both breathtaking and spectacular as the toy train chugs along past hills and valleys, at times brushing the gurgling Teesta river, at times  overlooking Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak. Train enthusiasts the world over know about this masterpiece which came into existence in 1881. It is little wonder that the Himalayan train has been enlisted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Built in 1881 on a plan drawn by an Englishman Franklin Prestige, the train is described by many as the ultimate rail wonder of the world that still exists to be enjoyed, the toy train climbs upto Ghum at a height of 2,258 metres (7,408 feet) the highest narrow-gauge railway station in the world. From here it takes a spectacular loop and comes face to face with Kanchenjunga which, at 8,602 metres (28,215 feet), is the third highest peak in the world. Passengers hop off and on the train or simply lean out to buy the odd ornaments or a cup of tea from Bhutia and Lepcha women who line up their wares on the fanciful little stations enroute.

 

Read the complete article in the South Asian Life & Times (SALT) April - June 2008 issue

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