From the local trains of Mumbai to the express trains that take you through various states, journeys in India are incomplete without trains. Long-distance trains treat us to some gorgeous views, as cities melt into the countryside and mountains. But the most breathtaking are the toy trains in India. Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, the British built mountain railways to allow access to scenic hilly regions. They were built for convenience and designed to last, the fruits of which are borne by the tourism industry today.
There are 5 toy trains in India, each of them treating you to fascinating landscapes outside the window. Three out of these 5 toy trains are today recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. No one can get over these trains, not even Bollywood! The tons of songs shot on toy trains are proof of that. They take you through winding tracks and steep terrains that make you hold your breath. Now take a deep breath and read on about the 5 toy train rides in India! All aboard!
We cannot begin without the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway because it’s the oldest of all toy train routes in India. It also has the narrowest gauge out of all toy trains that measures just 2 ft wide. This train route connects New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling and takes 7 hours to complete a ride. The train runs through Siliguri, Kurseong, and Ghum. What better way to experience Darjeeling than this?
Ghum Railway Station particularly will hold your interest because it’s the highest railway station in India at a crazy height of 7,407 ft. Go over to the Batasia Loop and you’ll be welcomed with the view of the Darjeeling town sprawling quietly over a hill. To add to the wonder (and if you’re lucky), you can see Mount Kanchenjunga in the background on clear days. This panoramic scenery can be captured only through your eyes, no camera can do it full justice!
The seven-hour ride spanning over 80 km takes you through scary loops, over 500 minor bridges, and steep climbs. Have a look in any direction and you’ll see Darjeeling’s tea gardens lying exotically on the green sunkissed slopes. If you’re in a hurry and have no time to embark on a long ride, just take the 2-hour joy ride from Darjeeling up to Ghum and back via Batasia Loop. It’s a 14 km long journey that leaves you with a splendid aftertaste of the mountain railway.
The train stops at Batasia Loop for 10 minutes and at Ghum for 30 minutes, so you can see even the railway authorities know you want to stop and admire the view. But the halt at Ghum has one more highlight, the DHR Railway Museum. You can see early photographs, artifacts donated by former railway employees, and sections of early rail at this museum. Now we know why this engineering marvel is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, for all the right reasons!
The Kalka to Shimla Railway is a longer route of 96 km but is covered in a shorter span of around 5 hours. There are 6 trains that run across these winding tracks that run through 103 tunnels, the last of which requires a special mention. The Barog Tunnel is believed to be a haunted tunnel and is the longest tunnel on this route. The 2.5 minutes you’ll be inside this tunnel will be some of the most thrilling moments of your journey.
Coming back to the historic toy train route, it connects tourists from Kalka in Chandigarh to the popular vacation destination of Shimla. Along its course, the train greets 20 railway stations and passes over 850 bridges. If you’re good at math and have some patience, you can count the curves along the route, because there are 900 of them! Careful while taking pictures though, you might just drop your phone along a sharp curve!
Once you cross Barog, the view gets even better, from here it’s a steep climb upto Shimla. On a sunny morning, you can see the sun rays filter through the pine and oak trees to illuminate the toy train’s route. If you thought that your eyes would never see something so pristine again, wait for winter to arrive. The entire landscape looks like it pulled up a white fleece blanket of snow.
Don’t have your fill just with the scenery, there’s more! You can have local food when your train stops at the stations along the way. If it’s a luxury vacation you’re on, then you can even have food served on board. Just hop on the Rail Motor Car, an express service train. Oh before we forget, the Kalka to Shimla Railway too is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When are you booking your ride?
Also read: 7 Luxury Trains In India That You Must Travel In
Kangra Valley Railway connects Pathankot in Punjab to Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh and is a long journey of 164 km, the longest narrow gauge line in India. Why such a long course, you ask. There are only 2 tunnels, which means the train hugs mountain edges and takes a longer route.
But you won’t be bored a single minute out of the 10-hour long train ride. The view gets better with every passing station on the way, with the scenic beauty escalating after Palampur. The toy train passes through the tea gardens of Palampur and treats you to the view of the Dhauladhar mountain range. The last stretch after you cross Baijnath will test your endurance for thrills, as the tracks go up a steep gradient until it reaches Ahju Railway Station at an elevation of 4,230 ft.
Since there are only 2 tunnels, you get to experience the undiluted (and uncut) charm of the valley. You’ll see streams run parallel to the tracks, old forts, historic temples, and local settlements along the way. Towards the end of your journey, you can see snow-capped mountains in the distance. What better way to see Himachal than this?
The toy trains on this route are frequented by locals as there are 33 stations along the way. You can get down at these stations to stretch your limbs and snack on some pakoras, groundnuts, and chai. The best part of your journey will be when the toy train skirts through the Pong Dam. When you see the water and mountains come together in unison, you’ll be thankful you didn’t take the road and opted for the toy train instead. What will you do with a few saved hours anyway?
Also Read: 8 Best Places For Camping In Himachal Pradesh
If you remember Shahrukh Khan dancing on the roof of a train in the Bollywood number Chaiyya Chaiyya, then let us tell you that the sequence was filmed atop a toy train on the Nilgiri Mountain Railways. No visit to Ooty is complete without experiencing a toy train ride. The railway route passes through dense forests and glides past rocky terrains. Settle in for a ride through lush greenery, misty mountains, and mysterious tall trees.
The construction of the railway was completed in 1908 and it is an engineering marvel. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway totally deserves its place in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway brings to you a grand mix of beauty and thrill. That’s because the railway line has the steepest track in all of Asia, beat that! The train flies past 250 bridges and 16 tunnels. You’ll be left counting the curves along the course because there are 208 of them! Carving out a train track through dense forests that lie on steep rocky gradients is not a child’s play.
It begins its voyage in Mettupalayam in Coimbatore, meets Coonoor on the way, and then joyfully continues its journey to Ooty. The 46 km toy train ride to Ooty takes 5 hours but feels like it’s over in a snap. There’s so much to see on the way that you won’t even blink! Let’s begin with the tea gardens of Coonoor, there’s something utterly romantic about tea gardens and toy trains. Maybe that’s why Ooty is such a popular honeymoon destination. Speaking of interesting sights, keep an eye out for Nilgiri langur and bonnet macaques on the passing trees.
The stretch between Mettupalayam to Coonoor will have you bewitched; the train passes through banana plantations, areca nut farms, and fields until they dissolve into the tea plantations. Get down at Coonoor station if you like and explore local snacks like the Paruppu Vadai (lentil vada).
Also read: 12 Things You Must Do In Ooty For A Trip Worth Remembering
This train route once connected Neral to Matheran. The 20 km toy train ride from Neral to Matheran took 2 hours, but service from Neral stopped ever since the derailment in 2018. But the toy train continues to run between Aman Lodge station and Matheran station, much to the delight of the tourists.
The distance between the two railway stations is just 2 km and it takes only half-hour to complete one trip. There are 8 trains running on this mountain railway line because the demand swells up during the tourist season. Every weekend you’ll see tourists flocking into the hill station. Since Matheran is an eco-sensitive zone, there are no vehicles or bicycles allowed. The only option to reach Matheran is through the toy train or by riding on horses.
The scenery en route will capture your attention; the train climbs up through steep slopes on zig-zag tracks. You’ll be treated with a new view every time the train takes a winding turn. You can spot bonnet macaques and Hanuman langurs everywhere. Careful with food and belongings, the monkeys are notorious for stealing! There are no stations between Aman Lodge to Matheran, so you can just settle in for a peaceful ride.
The time after monsoon is best to hop on the Matheran toy train, you’ll see the trees fresh after a generous monsoon and the view of the mountains is much clearer. People visit Matheran just to experience the toy train, all thanks to Adamjee Peerbhoy, who built it between 1901 and 1907. He often visited Matheran and wanted something to make the trip easier, thus the railway! Now that’s how convenience and leisure come together.
Also read: 6 Things To Do In Matheran For A Tranquil Holiday
These toy trains cross bridges, run through tunnels, and hug cliffs. If there’s one way to experience the abundance of the natural beauty of hill stations, then it’s the toy trains. To finish a ride, a toy train can take hours but the scenery outside makes the time stop. If you’re someone who dozes off on every train, the opposite will happen on a toy train ride. Embark on these toy train rides in India and you’ll forget to look into your phones throughout the journey!
How Many Toy Trains Are There In India?
There are 5 toy trains in India. They are the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Kangra Valley Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and the Matheran Hill Railway.
Which Is The Longest Toy Train Journey?
The toy train journey between Pathankot in Punjab to Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh is the longest. It takes 10 hours to reach through a toy train on the Kangra Valley Railway.
Are There Toilets In Toy Trains?
Yes, there are onboard toilet facilities on the Kalka to Shimla toy train and Kangra Valley toy train. But there are no toilets on the toy trains running along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and the Matheran Hill Railway. But worry not, you’ve enough halt time on stations to relieve yourself!
Is Food Allowed On Toy Trains?
Yes! You can eat whatever pleases you inside toy trains. A unique experience while traveling in toy trains in India is trying local food when the train halts at stations. You can carry homemade food or pack yourself some pakoras, no one will stop you!
Are Toy Trains Expensive?
Not at all. Toy trains are meant for every tourist, some are even frequented by locals for commuting. That’s why the prices of toy trains are affordable. It only gets expensive if you opt for a private coach or an AC coach on the toy train.
What Is The Ticket Price Of Darjeeling Toy Train?
Tickets start at INR 145 per head if you want to ride the Darjeeling Toy Train.
What Is The Difference Between Cabin And Coupe?
A compartment is said to be a cabin when it contains 4 berths, meaning 2 lower and 2 upper. On the other hand, a coupe is when a compartment has 2 berths, as in 1 lower and 1 upper.
Is A Toilet Available In A Toy Train?
Yes, toilets are available in toy trains with at least one attached to each compartment.