Known for dramatic views of the hills and surrounding villages, the Kalka–Shimla Railway traverses a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is a 2ft 6in (762 mm) narrow-gauge railway in the northern part of India. The railway was built between 1898 and 1903 to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during British Rule under the direction of Herbert Septimus Harington.
The custodian of “WORLD HERITAGE SITE-KALKA SHIMLA RAILWAY” is Ambala Division. The heritage status was awarded on 7th July 2008 by UNESCO.
Shimla was settled by the British shortly after the first Anglo- Gurkha war. By the 1830s, Shimla had developed as a major base for the British. It became the summer capital of British India and the Headquarters of the British army in India in 1864. Then the British built The Kalka- Shimla Railway with the Indian rail system to connect Shimla.
“The Guinness Book of Rail facts & feats” records Kalka Shimla Railways as the greatest narrow gauge engineering in India. Constructing 102 tunnels and over 800 bridges in 3 years, in such a rough and hostile terrain was definitely not an easy task. The 95.68 km line from Kalka to Shimla was opened for traffic on Nov.9, 1903. It was further extended from Shimla to Shimla Goods on June 27, 1909, making it 96.57 KM. An interesting feature of this line was the complete absence of Girder Bridges initially.
A few of the bridges are unique, especially Bridge No 226 & 541 remain the most spectacular bridges. Tunnels are also unique. Out of these 102 tunnels, the Barog Tunnel (No 33) 3752 feet long requires special mention as it is the longest tunnel as a part of Heritage Sites of Himachal Pradesh. The most refreshing part of the journey is the experience of sitting by the window, breathing in the cool breeze of the mountains and soaking in the greenery, the smell of fresh dew on the vegetation, the chirping of birds, and the sight of cattle grazing around the track, especially if you are traveling in an early morning toy train. Stay at Rakkh, our Resort in Palampur, and travel all around the state.
It is believed that Baba Bhalkhu who was a local saint, possessed some supernatural skills, helped the British engineers in laying down this track. Railway has named a Museum as BABA Bhalkhu Rail Museum at SML dedicated to him. This Museum depicts the way in which the Kalka Shimla Railway section was built through a collection of extremely rare artifacts. The collection has been displayed in the most authentic manner over the years is a must-visit heritage site in Himachal Pradesh
The first lot of carriage built for Kalka Shimla Railway in 1903 was a small four-wheeler measuring 17 feet from Buffer to Buffer. You can however see a few vintage old coaches and wagons still plying on the Kalka Shimla line. The oldest wagon on this section is 1910 was working in accident relief trains followed by. BFR No 1764 is still being used for inspections of tunnels and stations for over-dimensional consignments. The oldest coach still in use is first-class chair car No 78 built-in 1973.
This exotic railway section is stunningly beautiful. But it also faces the unpredictable wrath of nature. The peak winter season and rainy season are the most tiring period for a railway employee working in this region. The snowfall of moderate-intensity is very common in this area, in December and January. However, Snow cutters are attached to the engine to clear the snow in winter. Slips and landslides are also quite common on the Kalka –Shimla section of the Railway.
All the stations are very neat and clean, but Barog station is stunningly beautiful. The restaurant of Barog Railway Station is one of the oldest and is still maintained. Time has changed and with the passage of time, the train journey between Kalka Shimla has become more convenient. Luxurious coaches and trains have been introduced to the KLk-SML rail journey making it more memorable. Putting the rails on stiff slopes, that too in hostile conditions, more than 110 years ago is commendable. It is a salute to both men and mountains for making such a great thing happen. A must-visit Heritage Site of Himachal Pradesh, toy train from Kalka to Shimla should be experienced at least once.