They call it the ‘toy train’ because of the small-sized engines running on extremely narrow tracks, giving off the impression of it being a play toy. The train first got the moniker by the residents of Darjeeling because that’s where it was first operated. Whether you’re traversing the foothills of the Himalayas or the tea-plantations of Tamil Nadu, experiencing it once in your lifetime is highly recommended!
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal
Operational since 1881, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is one of the oldest toy trains of India. The 96 kilometres long route runs from New Jalpaiguri Station right into Darjeeling, stopping at various stations such as Siliguri, Kurseong and Ghoom. The best part about the route is that it is still intact and runs like clockwork and affords some of the most gorgeous views of the rolling hills and sweeping valleys. It’s highly recommended that you disembark at Ghoom, where there’s a small and vibrant painted monastery with a 15 feet high Buddha.
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The Kalka – Shimla Railway, Himachal Pradesh
Starting in Kalka, the Kalka – Shimla Railway winds for 96 kilometres up the Himalayan hills before it reaches its final destination: Shimla. The five hour journey includes traversing 103 tunnels, 864 bridges and 900 curves. The red and cream carriages carry an air of importance from the colonial era and offer the most stunning views of the verdant valleys through the pine and oak trees lining the route.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu
First began in 1908, this train with blue and cream carriages travels from Ooty to Metupalaiyam, stopping midway at Coonoor. The views from the train are breath-taking; you will pass thick forests of eucalyptus, tea plantations and farmlands. You will also pass a number of platforms, many not operational, stopping regularly to stock up on food and water. The journey takes a total of about four hours to cover 46 kilometres and is a must try if you’re a slow traveller.