The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has a Christmas present for tourists this holiday season. After running truncated services for four years, the Darjeeling toy train will chug through its full route again from December 25.
The DHR, which enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status, was truncated in June 2010 following massive landslides along its 87-km route from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The train began services in 1881, when Sir Ashley Eden was the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.
A.K. Sharma, a divisional railway manager (DRM) of Kathihar Division of North East Frontier Railway, told The Hindu that, beginning December 25, there will be a service from Siliguri to Darjeeling and vice versa every morning.
Mr. Sharma said trial runs were made to ensure safety along the route after it had been restored. The Hindu reported on September 15, 2014 that the toy train services will resume by the end of the year.
Landslides and sinking of soil posed some challenges during the restoration. Railway officials said that at Pagalajhora, the Railway and the State’s Public Works Department worked together to mend about 500m of track that was destroyed during a landslide.
Darjeeling MP Surinder Singh Ahluwalia welcomed the development. “Since it is a heritage mountain railway, the authorities had to ensure the entire feel of the Railway is preserved when it becomes operational,” said the MP.
Kurseong MLA Rohit Sharma, who represents Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), said that the toy train services would boost tourism in Darjeeling hills.
A ride on the toy train along the entire 87-km stretch takes seven to eight hours. Mr Sharma also pointed out that though the railway lines had been repaired, the National Highway 55 on which the tracks are located was yet to be repaired and locals were not able to use it.