Now, enjoy meals on toy trains

With the scorching heat taking a toll on people in the plains, a visit to Darjeeling might be a good idea. And when in the Hills, one cannot miss out a ride on the toy train. To make the ride even more convenient for travellers, soon food will be served during the journey. Besides, restaurants will also come up at four prominent stations — Kurseong, Sonada, Ghoom and Darjeeling.

The state tourism department is tying up with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) to set up four “glass house restaurants” at these four stations.

According to the state tourism secretary Raghvendra Singh, “We are tying up with IRCTC for these restaurants to be set up at the stations so that people who wait at the stations can have lovely meals as well as get a view of the hills.”

Stations will, however, not be the only ones to benefit from this tie-up. Despite the various drawbacks of the hills which include political tension, problems of drinking water and ill-maintained railway stations, the toy trains are a major attraction of the Hills. Such is its demand among tourists, that during summers one has to book a seat well in advance. To give the joy rides a further boost, meals will be served on the toy trains. The tie-up will prove to be extremely beneficial for toy trains as well, felt officials.

There are three trains that ply in the Hills. While one plies between Darjeeling and Ghoom and one between Kurseong and Darjeeling, another plies between Siliguri and Rangtong. Though there are 17 stations in the toytrain route, Kurseong, Sonada, Ghoom and Darjeeling are the most prominent ones and hence setting up restaurants here will attract a large number of visitors.

The plan is being discussed currently between the two departments, so it will take some time to be set up and cannot be expected this summer, said an official. “It is well on track,” he added.
Such initiatives will woo tourism but what the stations primarily need are regular cleaning and maintenance, felt people of the Hills.

According to a senior official of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, work has already started inside the trains which will make them look prettier.

The toy train on the Darjeeling Himalayan section connects Darjeeling with Siliguri. However, the entire section is not active at the moment, and the most commonly taken route is from Darjeeling to Ghoom, the others being Darjeeling to Kurseong and Siliguri to Rangtong. The Batasia loop that gives a panoramic view of Darjeeling is a pleasant halt and has a memorial of Gorkha soldiers of the Indian Army who had sacrificed their lives after Independence.