Planning a break this summer with your clients or staff for company? A picturesque journey in a chartered train on the century-old Kalka-Shimla rail line could be just the answer, especially for corporate honchos.
Northern Railway is running a chartered train service on the Kalka-Shimla section. Under the plan, any company or individual can hire a train comprising six coaches with a capacity to accommodate up to 180 people.
“A one-way trip between Kalka and Shimla for a chartered train would cost from Rs.20,000 to Rs.60,000, depending on the class you are travelling in. However, for a film or serial shooting, you have to shell out more – Rs.1.8 lakh,\” commercial inspector (railways) Amar Singh Thakur told IANS.
According to him, the added attraction while travelling on the chartered train is that the tourists can decide the number of stoppages on the 96-km-long rail track, which has been chosen by Unesco as a world heritage site.
“During the five-hour journey, tourists can select the stoppages. But the journey has to be completed within the stipulated time,\” Thakur said.
Shimla railway station superintendent G.S. Rajput while speaking to IANS said: \”The response of the tourists is good. In a year, three to four parties generally hire the chartered train.\”
He said foreign tourists, particularly from Britain, are keen to enjoy a joyride on this track because of a coal-fired steam engine. But right now a diesel- powered engine is in use.
The steam engine-operated train runs between Shimla and Kathlighat. The fare is Rs.59,000 for a round-trip and the one-way journey between the two stations is 22 km.
\”We have a 1903-made heritage steam engine but for over a year it has not been in operation. It has been sent to Amritsar (in Punjab) for repair. We are getting a good number of enquiries regarding its re-introduction,\” Rajput added.
David Brown, a British tourist who travelled on the Kalka-Shimla rail track, said: \”I was keen to listen to the chuff-chuff-choo-choo rhythm but sadly the engine is not in use these days.\”
The chartered trains are being handled by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a wing of Indian Railways.
The journey on the narrow-gauge rail line is an exhilarating experience.
The Kalka-Shimla rail track was built by the British in 1903 to ferry Europeans to and fro this hill town, the erstwhile summer capital of British India.
The ascent begins from 640 metres (2,100 ft) above sea level at Kalka in Haryana and crosses Dharampur, Barog, Solan and Kandaghat before it reaches Shimla at 7,000 ft.
There are 102 tunnels on the rail line. Initially, there were 103, but tunnel number 46 does not exist any more.
A train takes about three minutes to cross the longest tunnel at Barog (5,000 ft). The other big tunnels en route are at Koti (2,276 ft), Taradevi (1,615 ft) and tunnel number 103 (1,135 ft), which is near Shimla.