Go cloud chasing with a bit of locomotive smoke this year, courtesy some of the country’s most popular toy trains
THIS monsoon, ride a mountain toy train and enjoy the downpour while sipping on some Darjeeling tea. Or be a geek
and check out the world’s oldest engine or relive a scenic train journey from your favourite Bollywood flick. Add historical significance to your trip by picking one of the UNESCO world heritage toy trains, like the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), where Ranbir Kapoor was recently spotted in nerd glasses, shooting with Anurag Basu for Jagga Jasoos. Some updates for your trip: the Matheran Railway, which was closed for a year, is set to resume, with extra safety facilities, and DHR is resuming its suspended glory, too, with daily service between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.
The oldest functioning toy train in the world, it has been immortalised in movies like Barfi, Main Hoon Na, Parineeta and many more. The two-hour journey smacks of the colonial era and still has three heritage coaches—that have been preserved since the 1920s, and are available on request (with luxurious dining facilities) at Rs 19,500. The 14-km trip will take you through Batasia Loop, the famous spiral railway track that hosts a war memorial against the backdrop of the magnificent Kanchenjunga. True to the spirit of the town, only first-class tickets are available to those who visit this renowned UNESCO heritage site, at Rs 625 for diesel engine and Rs 1,090 for steam engine rides.
Selfie spot: The ancient Baby Sivok, the oldest engine in the world, at Ghoom Station Museum and the bronze Gorkha statue at Batasia Loop.
Quick bites: Stop by the many tea shops and restaurants on Batasia Loop and the Ghoom Railway Station serves local cuisine like momos, thukpa and thalis, besides the world-famous Darjeeling tea.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The small-yet-wonderful town of Ooty—tucked amidst the cloud-kissed Nilgiri Hills—is one of the country’s favourite getaway destinations.
Experience its beauty by hopping on to a 50-year-old locomotive. The route stretches over 46 km and passes through ravines and tea plantations, while providing panoramic views of the surrounding rocky terrain. You can gaze at sleepy cottages nestled by pine trees as the ride cuts through 108 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. This toy train was featured in blockbusters like Dil Se, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Jodi. Don’t forget, the famous Chaiyya Chaiyya song was shot on its roof.
Selfie spot: Thunder World, which hosts a dinosaur park, is fairly close to the station.
Quick bites: Snack on Ooty’s famous varki, salt biscuits, bajji, vadai and bonda at roadside restaurants when the train halts.
Matheran Toy Train
With its two-hour zig-zag route, meandering through 281 winding curves of the Matheran hill, this 100-year-old ride is poised to get its world heritage status from UNESCO. Situated at an elevation of 2,500 metres, Matheran is just 110 km away from Mumbai. This is the site of Ragini MMS’ forest shoot and can be best enjoyed when coupled with a luxe stay at The Parsi Manor, the century-old boutique property (`4,500 per night) that also serves some delicious Parsi fare (think patrani nimachi and lagan nu custard). As for the adventurous, try out the local rock climbing and trekking spots around Shivaji’s Ladder, One Tree Hill and Garbett Point.
Selfie spot: The panoramic vistas of Echo Point and Louisa Point, famed for its cascading
waterfalls. Quick bites: Gujarati thali and vada pav are available throughout the rail route.
Kakla-Shimla Toy Train
This 100-year-old narrow gauge, in this UNESCO world heritage site, passes through some splendid landscapes. Stretching over
96 km, which includes 102 tunnels and 87 humped bridges, this two-day ride through the pine-covered hill tops of the Himalayas is best enjoyed in the luxe Shivalik Tourist Coach for six (Rs 5,000 onward).
Selfie spot: Pose with outstretched hands like how ‘Geet and Aditya’ did in Jab We Met or visit the Woodwille Palace from 3 Idiots.
Quick bites: Breakfast and dinner are complimentary on the train. Also check out Wake and Bake in Shimla, famed for its
chicken schnitzel laffa with mango dip (Rs 125 onwards).
Kangra Valley Railway
This railway is also awaiting its UNESCO world heritage status. Often termed as an extension of the famous Kakla-Shimla
Railway, it is quite unique. The toy train, in its 164 km corridor stretch—which appeared in movies like Rockstar and Jab We Met—takes you through gorges of the Dhauladhar Range and provides a splendid view of the mountains. The intricate corridor passes through two tunnels and reaches an elevation of up to 1,290 metres.
Selfie spot: The ruins of the Kangra fort, as the train passes through the Daulatpur tunnel. Timing is everything.
Quick bites: Local cuisine like kangri dham, special masala momos and the Kangri chai at the rail-side stalls.
with inputs from Arya P Dinesh,Payal Gangishetty & Sonali Ravi