||Shimla Toy Train
Lord Curzon did not confine
himself to Shimla alone, but on many an occasion, made it a point to visit
the lovely places offered by the mountain sojourn. On one occasion, after
a visit to beautiful Naldehra, 23 km away he was so enchanted by its beauty
that he named his youngest daught!;)r,' Lady Alexandra, Naldehra after
the sylvan spot.Taking a personal interest, he got the narrow-gauge railway
built linking Shimla with the hot plains of Delhi, through Kalka. After
almost two years of strenuous effort, the mountains yielded, to the borers
and tunnels were built to lay the railway line, for the 'toy train' the
longest mountain train in India. The year was 1904. Using a deisel engine
the hill railway started on its maiden journey, inaugurated by the Viceroy
himself. The incredible feat had been accomplished, many a tunnels had
been bored, the longest one, at Barog, more than a kilometre long, and
crossing the Panchmunda ridge. Starting from Kalka the 96 km took six hours
as the enchanting 'toy train' wound its picturesque way through valleys,
hills and the tunnels, thrilling people at every stop.
They stood and gaped and
cheered. At Barog, 37 km from Kalka, and the entrance to the long tunnel,
the train halted for one hour where a lavish lunch awaited the riders.
In the years to follow it became the thing to do and the firm of Spencers
built a beautiful restaurant for the occasion. The custom is still observed
and the train still stops at Barog, the people embark, and the holiday
begins, as it were, right there in its refreshingly cool surroundings.
The train was a shot in
the arm for the elegant summer resort. British- style shops came up on
the Mall among them Army and Navy outfitters, tailoring firm of Ranken
& Co. Ltd. conforming to the patterns and styles of Saville Row in
London, one had to be introduced to this special tailoring shop where the
clients gave their custom from one generation to the other; Mr. Ranken,
meticulous and proper, had branches in Lahore, Delhi and Calcutta. No suit
was ever delivered until it satisfied not only the customer, but Mr. Ranken
or his representative himself. Garments that did not conform to the high
standards set by the firm were later sold under the label "Misfits". The
Swiss chain of hotels owned by Faletti opened the doors of the Cecil Hotel
to ever increasing numbers of elite that followed the advent of the train.
The Viceroy's suite was fitted with the most elaborate trappings of plush
grandeur. Later a rail- motor was built for the convenience of the immediate
Viceregal entourage, a single carriage which did the journey in three hours.
The nearest broad gauge
head is at Kalka - a four-hour journey from Delhi. After that, take the
mountain train from Kalka to Shimla. This railway track has recently been
granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The view is stunning,
with the line passing through an amazing 103 tunnels. The fastest way to
get to Kalka is to catch the Shatabdi Express, which departs early morning
from the New Delhi Railway Station, arriving at Kalka four hours later.
A detailed list of trains between Delhi, Kalka and Shimla is available
at and. You can also choose to get off at Chandigarh (en-route to
Kalka), and catch a taxi from there