Train Journeys – Darjeeling

Most of the train journeys I have written about so far have been longish journeys, overnighters, epic stories of survival (ok that’s an exaggeration) but not all worthwhile train journeys in the world are like that, in fact some are quite short.

'Queen of the Hill' - the name of the amazing little steam engine that took the train up and down the hill!

‘Queen of the Hill’ – the name of the amazing little steam engine that took the train up and down the hill!

Take the seven-kilometre toy train journey from Darjeeling as a prime example. It’s run just for the tourists up and down a small section of mountain from Darjeeling Station in north-eastern India, a town I visited for four days many years ago now and never saw the beautiful Himalayas that surrounded it thanks to excessive cloud cover. However, that didn’t diminish the enjoyment of taking the toy train down and back up the seven kilometres of track pulled and pushed by a little blue steam engine with two carriages, kids and tourists.

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Sadly, the full journey down the mountain (or up) can’t be done at present, as parts of the tracks were washed away and haven’t been repaired/replaced as yet, but the toy train still operates  – here’s a useful website with information on the different train trips.

Darjeeling Toy Train

Batasia Loop

Batasia Loop

The train took me down the mountain, around a little look called the Batasia Loop, past the War Memorial and to Ghoom, and then back to Darjeeling. It moves very slowly, and stops a fair bit and can take around 2 hours from memory.

Film crew in the carriage!

Film crew in the carriage!

The day that I took the train, there was a French Film Crew on the train making some sort of documentary. I was able to see them shovelling coal into the fire as well, and even see some impressive buildings (monasteries) precariously built on the steep mountainside. It’s a very special part of the world.

It left at around 9am in the morning, so we were back before lunch (departure times have changed) and there were two charming wooden carriages for the passengers. Although there’s only so much I can write about this trip, it was highly memorable and is done better just in photos.

To take a small steam train in the Himalayas is a pretty unique experience and if you’re heading to Darjeeling I do believe you really can’t afford to miss it. Remember that it takes incredible skill and hard work to set up a railway, and that goes triple for a location such as this. The railway was completed in the 1880s and is UNESCO World Heritage listed – it’s also historically important!

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Stoking the fire!

Stoking the fire!

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It’s not long, it’s not fast, but it is seriously impressive. And for me, one of the best things I’ve done in India. You should do it too!

Tomorrow, the podcast is back so please pop along or check your itunes for a fantastic interview with Rob Lloyd, discussing Edinburgh and the Fringe Festival there, due to start at the beginning of August! May the journey never end!

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