With one of largest train network in the world, Indian railways connect the cities, villages, small towns and even a few hill stations.
The country can proudly boast of some of the most picturesque train journeys in the world include mountain railways often affectionately called as ‘Toy Trains’. These petite trains run on narrow gauge engine and railway line, to climb the steep mountainous terrain. These routes were initially built by British to connect hill towns with cities in the country’s plains to escape the heat of summer.
Traveling by train into the Himalayan foothills and the tea estates of Tamil Nadu, the toy train journeys have made it possible to connect hilly towns which were once only accessible by pony carts or to determined trekkers.
LUXURY RAILWAYS IN INDIA
Darjeeling Hill Railway (DHR)
The Darjeeling Hill Railway is the most famous journey and oldest mountain train in India. Finished by the British in 1881, the scenic journey passes through forested hills, unhurried towns, quaint villages, local markets and many bridges. From the hot and hazy plains of West Bengal to the green hills and tea estates of Darjeeling, this train ride is the perfect way to enjoy the unrivalled beauty of mighty Himalayas. The journey starts from New Jalpaiguri which is well connected with Kolkata and from here it is a 8 hour ride traveling through 51 miles of spectacular mountain scenery. For shorter rides, Darjeeling to Ghoom, the highest train station in India is an excellent way to experience the toy train. There are many options to ride the steam train and your guide can discuss these with you.
Shimla – Kalka Railway
The journey to Shimla from Kalka is the most iconic and an attraction in itself. Once the summer capital of the British rulers and now a popular hill resort, Shimla has tremendous character and period charm. With the opening of toy train in Shimla, the summer capital witnessed a boom and many schools, churches and building were built. The reminiscence of the British Raj is evident even today and hence Shimla is one of the most popular cities with British tourists. The overnight Kalka Mail or the fast Shatabdi from Delhi connects well with the toy train. The diesel engine from Kalka winds its way up in the mountains, through more than 100 tunnels and 800 bridges. This indeed is an engineering marvel! The views into the green valleys are spectacular and the four hour journey stops at small stations along the way where refreshments and be bought. The longest tunnel is about half a mile and it takes a few minutes before the train comes back to light. The best views can be enjoyed at bridge number 226 when the train crosses a five-tier arch bridge.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
This engineering masterpiece of the British rulers was the first to be proposed in 1854. However, the thickly forested hills and a rugged terrain full of rocks made the track construction difficult. After delays, the track was finally operational in 1908, making it the steepest track in Asia. The toy train climbs up to 7200 feet above sea level, winding through forested hills, tea estates, cascading waterfalls, through tunnels and over bridges to reach the famous tea estates of Coonoor and Ooty. The steam engine is not pulled but pushed with each carriage having its own break man. The diesel engine is replaced by a steam locomotive in Coonoor, carefully restored and maintained by a enthusiastic team of workers.
SOME IDEAS FOR YOUR HOLIDAY, FEATURING TOY TRAINS IN INDIA:
KOLKATA, TEA ESTATES OF DARJEELING & EASTERN HIMALAYA
Kolkata / Kalimpong / Gangtok / Peling City / Darjeeling / West Bengal
Often less visited and unexplored, East India is an incredible place to visit. This exciting journey uncovers the different shades of Kolkata before exploring the state of Sikkim, its spellbinding scenery, flower nurseries and stunning monasteries. The region is incredible with an old Buddhist culture, quaint hill towns, breath-taking views and friendly people. Then its down to the colonial hill station Darjeeling to experience sunrise over the third highest mountain in the world and an exciting journey on the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
SOUTH INDIA - TOY TRAIN, BACKWATERS & BEACHES
Mysore / Kabini Forest Reserve / Ooty / Coonoor / Kochi / Alappuzha / Mararikulam
Travelling through one of the most historic & beautiful regions of India, this is a memorable journey from princely Mysore to the beautiful spice town of Kochi. Start in Mysore exploring the palaces before spending time chasing wildlife in the Nagarhole National Park - arguably the finest in south India. From here drive up in the hills to the charming colonial settlement of Ooty. Wander through the tea estates that surround the hill station before travelling on the famous ‘Toy Train’ down the western ghats. From Cochin head towards the tranquil backwaters to cruise on your private houseboat and finally relax beside the Arabian Sea on the beautiful Keralan coast.
GOLDEN TEMPLE & HIMALAYAN FOOTHILLS
Amritsar / Dharamshala / Pragpur / Shimla / New Delhi
This wonderful itinerary travels through the foothills of Himalaya. Start in the frontier city of Amritsar which is the epicentre of Sikh religion with the stunning Golden Temple, the tour ends in the Summer Capital of Shimla. On the way stop in the Tibetan settlement of Mcleod Ganj and picturesque Dharashala, home to the exiled Dalai Lama. Travel further into Kangra valley to explore the heritage of Pragpur before spending last few days in Shimla to experience the 'Toy Train'.
Build Your Tailor-Made Holiday to India
As well as luxury holidays, we've also built many different India itineraries for families and honeymoon couples who want to see the best parts the country has to offer.
The holiday itineraries above are examples of ones we have created previously in India, and give you a good idea on the time needed to see many of the idyllic places mentioned above. If you would like more information on a specific area, or a certain hotel, please get in touch with us.
Culture, Wildlife, Family, Honeymoon, Cruises, Trains, Beach, Relaxation, Adventure, Food, Photography
GMT+ 4.5 hours
When to go:
October to April
Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Tiruvanathpuram, Goa, Amritsar
8-9 hours approx
Some are recommended or required by the Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Tailored Journeys is about helping you explore one of the most fascinating and beautiful regions on earth, in style. Even if – especially if – you don’t know where to start, call us now to talk about creating your own Tailored Journey – and let the dream begin.