Almost every lover of the Himalayan heights will go to Darjeeling at least once. The place not only has snowy peaks, cloudy valleys, and lush greenery. It holds one of the most glorious legacies of colonial India — the Darjeeling toy train. This blog will tell you all about the toy trains – routes, tickets, and even journey experience. Read on to find out all!
The origins of the Darjeeling toy train go as far back as 1878. Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway, proposed the building of the tracks of narrow gauge for the toy train. This track would follow the Hill Cart Road from Siliguri to Darjeeling. In those days, the main purpose was easy transportation of commodities through the hilly terrain. The Darjeeling Steam Tramway Co. started the construction of the track in 1879. The line was completed in 1881.
‘Looping’ around the Green Hills: My Experience of the Darjeeling Toy Train
‘The most enjoyable day’
Mark Twain said that his day riding the toy train was ‘the most enjoyable day’ he had ‘spent on Earth.’ Our experience was very close to his. My two friends and I reached NJP station at 7 o’clock for our 7.40 am toy train to Darjeeling. Many people were gathered just like us with beaming faces for the joy to come. We had opted for the ‘diesel engine’. Accordingly, our hearts filled with nostalgia as we saw the British legacy, the steam train come whistling through the narrow tracks.
‘Atmosphere like that of travel movies’
The heavy rhythm of the slow wheels and the whistle of the steam automatically created an atmosphere like that of travel movies. After the first station(Siliguri Junction), gradually the landscapes started changing. At Sukna, the next station, the real ascent could be felt as the train went slowly ascending and faint traces of valleys around could be seen. The gradient soon started increasing rapidly into pine and bamboo forests. We felt the first sharp curve and loop after Sukna station. Then the track moved northwards. We could see what we later learned was the Bhutan range in the East. Below was a 180-degree view of the Teesta valley. The next station was Tindharia. From this place to the next station, Gayabari, the route was the steepest. Shortly after crossing Tindharia, the train crossed the final loop or Agony Point.
‘We encountered the last ‘zigzag’ track’
The round-and-round circulation above the deep gorges felt like a thrilling amusement ride. From the next station, Gayabari to Mahanadi we encountered the last ‘zigzag’ track. It is a breathtaking experience as the slow zigzagging train helps us enjoy the beautiful sights closely. After that, our train stopped near Pagla Jhora, a mountain stream to refill water stores.
As the name means ‘mad torrent’ in English, the gurgling, rambling rhythm of water justified its meaning. Before entering Kurseong, we passed a steep, rocky mountain called Giddapahar. From the top of it, we could see the tea gardens and valleys stretching far beneath the valley. Maple, cardamom and chestnut trees adorned our way to a sleepy village, Sipahidhora.
‘Children coming out of schools in large numbers waved at us
This was right before the train entered the first of the famous trio-Tung-Sonada-Ghum. The wood and tin roofs of the village cottages in the sleepy fog of Sipahidhora painted a serene picture outside the train window. As the train entered Sonada, the fascinating view of the Kurseong hills and the famous Margaret Hope Tea Gardens arrested our attention. As we passed the common streets, children coming out of schools in large numbers waved at us in the steaming ride. Through Jorebungalow, we entered Ghum, the highest railway station in the whole of Asia and the second highest in the world.
Passing through the Senchal forest and sanctuary, we saw colourful rhododendron, chestnut, oak and magnolia vegetation on both sides. Then came the famous Batasia Loop. The circling tracks gave us a full view of the beautiful garden underneath, the Kanchenjungha range as well as the entire Darjeeling town (Check 7 Best Restaurants in Darjeeling). Our ride finally ended at the destination, Darjeeling railway station.
It is indeed a beautiful experience for a tourist to be riding away in a traditional steam engine exploring the beautiful surroundings from every possible angle. The curves, loops and zigzags contribute to the adventure and thrill of the journey. The beautiful vegetation, snow peaks and marketplaces with smiling locals increase the aesthetic quotient of the experience. All in all, it is an experience you should never miss while in North Bengal.
Darjeeling Toy Train route
There are two principal journeys taken up by the toy trains of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway(DHR) — We choose Long Journey but if anyone has short time they can go Short Journey also.
- Short Journey Or The Joyride: Darjeeling railway station, Ghum (halt for 30 minutes), Batasia Loop (halt for 10 minutes) then back to Darjeeling Railway Station.
- Long Journey : New Jalpaiguri Raliway station, Siliguri Junction, Sukna, Rongtong, Tindharia, Gayabari, Mahanadi, Kurseong, Tung, Sonada, Ghum, Darjeeling. (Reverse journey goes in just the reverse order of destinations)
- In addition to this, there is the Kurseong to Darjeeling ride. An additional First Class coach, called the Slip Coach is here attached at Kurseong. This is attached to the main train itself from NJP to Darjeeling or vice-versa. Tourists have to book tickets for that coach. In the reverse journey, the coach is detached at Kurseong Station. Now let us look at the booking processes for each journey.
Darjeeling Toy Train Booking Processes
- Book NJP to Darjeeling (or Darjeeling to NJP) Train Ride
You can book this ride Online (via IRCTC portal/Paytm app) or at any computerised reservation counter of IRCTC, or at Darjeeling Railway Station.
For online booking, follow these quick and easy steps.
- Go to https://www.irctc.co.in/nget/train-search on any web browser or the IRCTC app on your phone.
- Login with your registered ID or register if you do not have an ID.
- Enter NJP (code for New Jalpaiguri) as the source station and DJ(Darjeeling) as the destination station or vice-versa if you opt for the down journey.
- Select from among the available train rides. Look at the train names closely. Whether it is the diesel train or the traditional steam engine will be specified there. Book according to your choice.
- Proceed from ‘book now’ after selecting between First Class and AC Chair Car(FC/CC) to payment.
- Enter your details(name, age, gender etc.), make payment and get your digital ticket.
A few more things to remember
You can also book through the Paytm app. Open the app then go to Ticket Booking, Train Ticket, Put source and destination stations, date of travel. Then choose from the listed journeys and book similarly.
You can also book offline at any computerised reservation counter of IRCTC where you will be charged the same amount as the online portal.
You can also book your tickets from Darjeeling Railway Station. In case you want more clarity beforehand, call +91 354 2252555 for checking the availability of tickets.
- Book Joyride (DJ to DJRZ)
You can follow the same process as the previous section for the online booking of this ride too. However, in source station put DJ (Darjeeling) and the destination station put DJRZ (also Darjeeling). Here there is no choice between classes as only the First Class option is there. However, opt between steam joyride or diesel train according to your choice. You can book through the IRCTC portal, or Paytm online. For offline, book from any computerized IRCTC counter or Darjeeling Railway Station.
- Book Toy Train from Kurseong to Darjeeling (KGN DJ or vice-versa)
You can follow the same process as online booking of this ride too. However, in the source station you need to put KGN (Kurseong) and in the destination station DJ (Darjeeling) or vice versa. There is only one option for up journey — KGN DJ SLIP TRN (02541) and one for down journey — DJ KGN SLIP TRN (02540). You can book through IRCTC portal, Paytm online. For offline, book from any computerised IRCTC counter or Darjeeling Railway Station.
Some points that need to be noted before booking your ride:
- No food/snacks will be served during the journey.
- Children above 5 years of age need a valid ticket to ride.
- The coaches contain recliner seats placed in 2+2 fashion. Trains with the Vistadome coach
will contain bigger glass windows.
- The NJP-DJ ride normally leaves at 10 am and reaches destination at 5.20 pm. The down ride leaves normally at 9 am and arrives destination at 4.15 pm.
- The first joyride(DJ-DJRZ) leaves at 7.40 am and the last one at 4.20 pm. In high seasons, upto 18 rides circulate to meet the tourist demand.
Other popular toy trains in India
Although the most popular toy train service, DHR is not the only one in India. The Kalka-Shimla railway that goes over valley-bridges and mountain-tunnels is another of popular toy trains. Again, the Kangra Valley Railway that offers views of the Dhauladhar range on its journey is another famous toy train. The Nilgiri mountain railway is Asia’s steepest rail.The Himalayan Queen travelling through the Shivalik hills is another. Keep an eye on our blog for more such offbeat travel information and updates.