Darjeeling – Heritage Train
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
History – The settlement at Darjeeling really began in 1828 with British interest. By 1835, it was separated from Sikkim for establishing a Sanatorium for the invalide servants of the East India Company. It then consisted of the Monastery on Observatory Hill clustered with about 20 huts and a population of about 100 people.
In the year 1878, Franklin Prestage, agent of the Eastern Bengal Railway, foresaw the utility of a rail link between the hills of Darjeeling and the plains. He was also convinced that the cost of construction of the 2 feet gauge rail – line would not be prohibitive, and locomotives, small but powerful enough to climb steep gradients could be designed. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was opened from Siliguri to Kurseong on 3rd August 1880 and through to Darjeeling by Lt. Governor, Sir Ashley Eden and upto Teesta Valley opened by 1915.
The DHR remained effective until it was taken over by the Government of free India on October 20, 1948. Throughout that period Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co., one of the oldest managing house of Calcutta, handled its financial, legal and purchasing interests.
World Heritage Status – UNESCO World Heritage Committee Inscribed DHR as a World Heritage Site on 5th December 1999 starting the following reasons:
# An outstanding example of the influence of the of an innovative transportation system on social & economic development of a multi- cultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in the many parts of the world.
# The development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. The process is illustrated in an exceptional and seminal fashion by the DHR.
A Unique Engineering feat:
Playing hide-and-seek as it chuffs and toots its way in and out of lush forest, sunny hillsides and deep ravines of the Singalila Range in the mighty Himalayas, the toy train has been, literally, living up to its name for well over a century now. Running along the Hill Cart Road and criss-crossing it at countless places – as if fighting for space going around in dizzying loops, spirals and up ingeniously created “Z – reverses”, it is almost as if the entire stretch from Siliguri to Darjeeling has been laid out by a child who wanted to play with a train!
It was told that when the Engineer confronted a seemingly in surmountable steep incline at Tindharia, he was about to give up but his wife saved the situation by suggesting that, as in a crowded ball room, if he couldn’t move forward, why didn’t he reverse! The Z – reserve concept is brilliant in its simplicity. The train climbs up a slope in to a shunting neck and stops, then backs up another steep incline reaching the other shunting neck higher up and from there it resumes its onward journey but at a higher level.
The DHR enjoys worldwide fame for many reasons:
# a gateway to spectacular Himalayas full of mystery and imagination.
# the tiny 4 wheeled steam loco of the 19th century are living legend for sounds, fragrance and romance of a bygone era.
# the curves, loops, “Zs” and steep grades crisscrossing the road are a work of genius and travellers delight.
Experience the ingenuity of DHR
# crisscrossing along the Hill Cart Road entailing over 150 crossings.
# Running around loops where the train inscribes a full circle to climb some 20 feet higher
# reversing on a “Z” layout forward, reverse and forward again at a higher altitude.