Take a ride on the Darjeeling Toy Train
Aside from being one of the highest elevated train tracks in the world, riding the Toy Train in Darjeeling is incredibly fun. It feels like it’s weaving along tracks suspended in the air, but actually, they are on the edges of steep cliffs. Due to the narrow streets it rides along, it zooms past houses and shop fronts so close you can easily touch them if you wanted. The train goes so slowly as it navigates the tight turns and crossings that you’ll often see people jumping on and off the train, as it is moving.
This unique heritage and extremely cute train drive also boast absolutely picturesque Himalayan mountain views and scenery as it clatters along the tiny tracks between Darjeeling and Ghum.
The awesome history of the Toy Train
The DHR Toy Train gets its name due to the narrow size of the tracks (2 foot) and the small and lighter bodies that the trains must be in order to make the treacherous climb up the mountain.
Building the New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling train system was an engineering feat. Starting at 100 metres above sea level and rising to 2, 200 meters over the course of 88 kilometres. It was extremely difficult to lay train lines on such steep gradients. During its design phase, there were no other examples to draw upon which means many problems had to be solved before construction. This paved the way for innovative engineering ideas that have been implemented in other railways since.
One of those ideas was the use of a z reverses. At several z reverse points along the track, the train must stop, reverse back along another track and get a run up to climb up the steep inclines.
In 1999 UNESCO identified the Toy Train as a world heritage site due to its engineering feats and incredible scenery.
How to travel on the Darjeeling Toy Train
Toy Train reservations (both daily services and joyrides) can be made at Indian Railways reservation counters, or on the Indian Railways website. It’s advisable to book in advance during the busy seasons, as the trains fill up quickly. Booking in advance will mean you may have to navigate the Indian Railway’s website which can sometimes be complicated. To help, I have put the station codes in the titles below.
New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to Darjeeling (DJ) or reverse
If heading from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling you can take the whole trip on a diesel Toy Train. However, this trip takes over 7 hours to complete and there are much faster and cheaper options. The fastest way to get from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling or Kurseong is by Jeep, leaving from the station whenever they have been filled.
Trains leave from New Jalpaiguri at 8:30 am and arrives at Darjeeling at 3:35 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. They depart from Darjeeling at 8 am arriving at New Jalpaiguri at 3:10 pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week.
Rs.₹ 1,285 ($19.80 USD) Darjeeling to NJP First Class one-way (or reverse)
Darjeeling (DJ) to Kurseong (KGN)
Kurseong is best known for its beautiful tea plantations. You could take the Toy Train here in the morning and once you’ve checked out the sights and teas you could grab a Jeep back to Darjeeling. They are easy to get, just stand on the side of the road and hail them like a taxi.
The train departs Darjeeling at 10:15 am and arrives at Kurseong at 13:10 pm daily. If returning, the train leaves Kurseong at 3 pm reaching Darjeeling at 5:50 pm. It is usually hauled by a diesel engine having 2 or 3 coaches (first and second class coaches).
Rs. ₹ 680 ($10.50 USD) for First Class
Rs.₹ 60 (.90c USD) for Second Class one-way (or reverse).
Toy Train Joyride from Darjeeling (DJ) to Ghum and return (DJRZ)
This short 2 hours 16km round trip takes you past some of the most impressive scenery of the whole train system. The train stops for 30 minutes at Ghum Station to see the museum or other local sites and then stops again for 10 minutes on its return at Batasia Loop for the scenery.
When entering the station codes into the Indian Railway website use first Darjeeling’s code: DJ. It also returns to Darjeeling, so use this code: DJRZ.
There are four Darjeeling to Ghum joyride services per day. The first service is pulled by a diesel engine it departs Darjeeling at 8 am and returns at 10 am. Steam engines are used for the other three joyrides. These depart from Darjeeling daily at 10:40 am, 1:20 pm and 4:05 pm.
Diesel Engine Rides: Rs.₹ 800 ($12.30 USD) for First Class
Steam Engine Rides: Rs.₹ 1,300 ($20 USD) for First Class
These are just a few of the rides you can take on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Toy Train. For a list of more rides, you can take, visit the Darjeeling Tourism website.
Place: Kurseong, Darjeeling
Language: The main language is Hindi. English and Marwari are spoken as well, plus hundreds of others.
Currency: Indian rupee (INR, ₹)
$1 USD = ₹64.09
I was here: March 2014
Have you ever taken a ride on a heritage steam train?
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