Added facility for tourists on Kalka-Shimla heritage track

Unesco World Heritage Kalka-Shimla rail line is going to have two new added attractions for tourists as catering to the need of high-end tourists, Indian Railways has decided to introduce chartered lounge card and tourist coach facility. Attached with compact pantry, these two coaches have been fitted with sofas, that would make the 97-km journey from Kalka to uphill Shimla more comfortable.

Popularity of rail journey on the 97-km heritage track having 917 sharp curves, besides 102 tunnels and 988 bridges, could be gauged from the fact that during holidays Northern Railways is forced to run special holiday trains to cater to the high demand. According to senior officials at Ambala, trial for the luxury coach has already been done while the trial of lounge car would be done after June 12. Sources said that facilities created inside these new chartered coaches match the quality of “palace on wheels”.

While the lounge car would be 8-seater, the coach would be 9-seater. “Since long there was demand from high-end tourists to have such a facility and finally we are going to provided them the best experience,” added the official.

Assistant mechanical engineer, Ambala division, Jatinder Singh said that these two coaches were being introduced as added attraction for tourists on the heritage track. “Compact pantry car would be fitted with refrigerator and heating system,” he said.

Officials said that special attention has been paid to the interiors of these two new coaches. They said modern lights, good quality PVC wall paneling and aesthetic flooring has been done to enhance the experience of passengers. Officials said that the lounge car and the luxury coach would be stationed at Kalka railway station from where they may be hired by families are groups. “We have yet to work out the charges,” officials added.

Slow and steady

While the bus journey takes three hours to reach Shimla from Kalka, the toy train takes over five hours for the same journey. To reduce journey time, the railways had mooted a proposal to increase the speed of toy train but a study suggested that it was not feasible. Kalka-Shimla rail line was laid in 1903 and since then the toy train on this track is chugging off at a speed of 25-30 km.

Unesco museum to showcase Kalka-Shimla rail line

Kalka-Shimla rail link will feature prominently in the Unesco museum in Switzerland with the Indian Railways joining hands with Swiss mountain railway for promoting and preserving the 19th century heritage line.

“A section at Bahnmuseum Albula museum in Switzerland is being devoted to Kalka-Shimla Railway (KSR) and many aspects of the 19th century engineering marvel, including photographs and video recording of the running train through tunnels on the hilly track, will be exhibited,” a Railway Ministry official said.

The Bahnmuseum exhibition is expected to attract many foreign visitors to the heritage site, which would be a boost to tourism as well as mountain railway, he said.

Indian Railways has signed an MoU with Rhaetische Bahn, Swiss mountain railway, in June last year for cooperation in the field of protection, conservation and management of heritage rail assets.

“A Swiss team had visited the KSR site and were quite impressed about it. We are also sending some artefacts related to KSR, like a lantern used earlier for signalling system,” the official said.

The Switzerland museum is expected to be operational next year.

Kalka-Shimla Railway was inscribed as World Heritage Site (WHS) in 2008 by the Unesco, which has also declared Rhaetische Bahn and Austria’s Semmering Railway as WHS.

India and Switzerland are signatories to the Unesco World Heritage Convention which outlines the protection of industrial heritage and invites international exchange of technical expertise and bilateral cooperation to increase institutional capacities for the protection, safeguarding and management of heritage.

The 97-km-long Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge with 102 tunnels and over 800 bridges was opened for traffic on November 9, 1903.

Known for breathtaking views of the hills and surrounding villages, the route offers a panoramic view of the picturesque Himalayas from the Sivalik foot hills at Kalka to several important points such as Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Taradevi, Barog, Salogra, Summerhill and Shimla at an altitude of 6,811 feet.

Besides Kalka-Shimla Railway, Darjeeling Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway are also being inscribed as World Heritage Site by the Unesco.

Railways had also proposed Matheran Hill Railway to be declared as World Heritage Site by the Unesco in the mountain railway section.

“But it did not find favour with the Unesco team who had visited Matheran in 2009 and the proposal was rejected for various reasons,” the official said.

Railways is considering to propose Oak Groove school in Dehradun and Church Gate station in Mumbai to be considered as World Heritage Site by Unesco next year.