The toy train in Darjeeling is set to time its return to perfection and ring in Christmas and New Year in the Hills. After bearing the brunt of the 105-day agitation for a separate state when two heritage stations — Sonada and Ghayabari — were torched, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that enjoys the Unesco World Heritage status will chug back to full-fledged operations from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. The return of the toy train on the tracks along the entire route symbolises a return to normalcy in the Hills and sends out a green signal to tourists. After the strike was withdrawn, trial runs were conducted in the foothills of Sukna. Last month, the steam joyride between Darjeeling and Ghoom had commenced.... more...
Now, the mini diesel locomotives will operate up and down the entire stretch from NJP to Darjeeling. "We have started services in two sections: Siliguri to Rongtong and Darjeeling to Ghoom. Technical and maintenance work on the route is still in progress. Once that is done, full-fledged operations from NJP to Darjeeling will resume," said M K Narzary, the DHR director. He, though, did not wish to comment on the challenges in DHR retaining the World Heritage status after significant damage was caused to the two stations during the recent agitation. Nor did he wish to discuss the lack of viability in operating the services when commute has entirely shifted to the roads. Tour operators welcomed the complete resumption of the DHR services saying it would instil confidence among tourists who have chosen to away out of fear. "Tourists need to be confident that things are okay when they visit a place. The DHR is an important part of the Hills and it resuming services will bring in visitors," said Subash Pradhan, who operates a travel company in Darjeeling town. Though its been nearly two and a half months since the strike was lifted, tourists are yet to make a comeback. Hotels that usually attract more than descent bookings during Christmas and New Year are still struggling with poor occupancy. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and the state have jointly announced a five-day tourism festival from December 27 to revive interest and kick off 2018 on a high note.
GIVING A fillip to heritage conservation in railways, the national transporter is going to bring back steam engines of yore to haul trains in its mountain railway sections such as Kalka-Shimla, Darjeeling-Siliguri and Matheran. Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani announced Saturday that the mountain lines where trains are currently pulled by diesel engines will instead host steam engines. “We will also try to keep the ticket prices of these special trains economic,” Lohani told the National Congress of Indian Steam Railway Society, an independent body of enthusiasts of steam locomotives and railway heritage patronized by, among others, retired and serving railway officers. Lohani is a founding member of the society. The... more...
96-km Kalka-Shimla Railway line in Himachal Pradesh line is a UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed in 2008. Built in 1889, it sees steady patronage by tourists during the busy season mostly on its flagship Shivalik Deluxe Express for tourists and a couple of passenger trains for commuters. These trains are currently hauled by diesel locomotives. The 130-year-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the first UNESCO World Heritage line of the transporter inscribed in 1999, is also undergoing a restoration following the Gorkhaland agitation earlier this year. The 88-km line, known popularly as “toy train”, connects Siliguri with Darjeeling and Ghum, India’s highest station. A British B-class steam locomotive runs a special train even though rest of the service is hauled by a diesel locomotive. The 21-km Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra, opened in 1907, is undergoing restoration following two derailments last year. Full service between Matheran and Neral will resume by early next year and officials said the steam service could be launched then.
Also, What about the other Sections - Ooty (Nilgiri Mountain Railways) and Pathankot - Joginder Nagar. They run on Narrow Gauge Diesel Engines or Steam Engines. As far I recall and remember, both these Narrow Gauge Sections run on Diesel Engines.
Two stations of DHR — a world heritage site — were burnt and ransacked during the 104-day long agitation in the Hills. Other stations were also partially damaged. The report will contain information about all stations, tracks and personnel. UNESCO has already expressed concern over incidents of arson having affecting the DHR and had even written to the Centre. Built between 1879 and 1881, the DHR is a 2-feet narrow-gauge railway which runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling (87 km). India’s highest railway station in Ghum, is part of this network. The rail... more...
line has a total of six zig zags and five loops and its highest point is at 2,200 m (7,218 ft), in Darjeeling. A major tourist attraction, the DHR got its heritage tag from UNESCO in 1999. A UNESCO team, which was forced to return from Darjeeling as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) led agitation started, will be revisiting Darjeeling shortly. “We have asked for a detailed report from DHR regarding the damages and present condition. The report will be sent to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre through the union cultural ministry,” said Subrata Nath, executive director heritage (Railway Board), speaking to The Indian Express from New Delhi. “I do not think the world heritage tag is in danger. But we will seek the help of UNESCO during the repair and restoration process. Funds will be allotted for that purpose,” he added. In January this year, then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had signed an agreement to enable UNESCO to develop a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for the DHR and a framework for an effective management system. The strike in the Darjeeling Hills, called by the GJM for a separate state of Gorkhaland, had started on June 15. “The UNESCO team, who were there making the conservation plan, had to abandon it and return during the agitation. They are on their way back,” said Nath. On July 8, supporters of Gorkhaland had set fire to Sonada station. On July 13, Gayabari station was torched allegedly by GJM supporters. However, GJM has maintained that it was the work of “miscreants to defame the party”. Both stations were badly damaged. On June 12, train services were stopped after agitations in the Hills and incidents of arson. They partially resumed on October 15.
LEH: At Upshi, 50 km south of Leh, a tiny hillock poses a big challenge to a team of railway survey men. A 16-member squad, comprising experienced railway engineers, geologists, bridge specialists and avalanche experts, tosses various options to negotiate the roadblock —from engineering a deep vertical cut to pushing the track towards the existing motor road. A senior geologist in the team is blunt: there’s no way we can have a tunnel below this heap of withered granite. There’s one more problem, points out another expert. The hillock is too short for a tunnel. So, what’s the way out? After some discord, a consensus is arrived at: let the project consultant RITES, whose survey experts did six recces of the terrain in the past, come up with two alternative solutions and freeze the matter, for good. If... more...
the Government of India has its way, a railway line up to Leh — a district in Ladakh sandwiched between Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the north and east — will be a reality in the next few years. The survey for a 498-km-long strategic railway line from Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh) to Manali (HP) to Leh ( J&K) began in September last year. The Ministry of Defence has earmarked Rs 158 crore to the Indian Railways for the survey, with Rs 40 crore released in 2016-17. Depending on the gradients and the alignment, the route length could go up to 650 km, almost the same as the distance by road. But the big picture is this: strategically important Leh — just 250 km from the China border — will finally be connected to Delhi by an all-weather, 1,100-km-long rail route. Though defence requirements are the basic rationale for conceiving a railway line passing through a difficult terrain and high passes — 17,480-ft-high Taglang La is one of the four passes on the way .. The cost? The survey men are tight-lipped; a tentative cost will be known by the end of next year when the second phase of the three-phase survey is completed. “Don’t be surprised if the project cost is Rs 1 lakh crore,” exclaims one of the survey men, with a disclaimer that he does not have all the requisite statistics — route length, total size of the tunnels and bridges and the like to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Last week ET Magazine joined this team of survey men for a stretch of 70 km from Leh to Lato, both in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. Strategic Line The entire survey is expected to take at least two more years. When it’s time for the government to take a call on its implementation, the recent tensions with China and the eventuality of future skirmishes may well determine whether it’s executed or not. After all, the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line will go Last week ET Magazine joined this team of up to 250 km from the India-China border. It will also be the most challenging project the Railways has ever embarked upon since it involves constructions in huge mountains and avalanche-prone sections. And it’s not the only line that’s planned near this critical India-China boundary. Final location surveys are also being conducted on the eastern front for three other stretches — a 378-km Missamari (Assam)-Tenga (Arunachal Pradesh)-Tawang (Arunachal) track, a 227-km-long track from Pasighat (Arunachal) to Tezu (Arunachal) to Rupai (Assam) and a 249-km route from North Lakhimpur (Assam) to Bame (in Along, Arunachal) to Silapathar (Assam). This information was in a written reply by MoS for Railways Rajen Gohain to Parliament in November last year. He added that Rs 345 crore was earmarked for surveys for the four lines, with the ministry of defence releasing Rs 87.18 crore for 2016-17. These blueprints are on the drawing board at a time when China is aggressively pushing its railway network deep into Tibet; the Indian government was jolted in 2006 when the 1,142-km-long Qinghai-Tibet Railway (QTR) became operational, bringing the railway track up to Lhasa, some 1,500 km from India. The Lhasa-Shigatse railway line was subsequently constructed, and will soon be extended to Dromo near Sikkim and Nyingtri (Nyingchi in Chinese) in north Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian state often claimed by China as its own. In fact, Dromo is close to Doklam, where India and China have just managed to end a 73-day-long standoff triggered by the intrusion of Chinese soldiers into Bhutanese territory for constructing a road project (Bhutan is a protected state of India). Despite mounting pressure from China, India did manage to hold its ground till both the countries agreed that its troops would step back by 150 m on each side. On Thursday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a press conference in Beijing said that while the Doklam standoff with India had “not derailed” ties, they were “damaged and affected” during those 73 days. While addressing a gathering at a seminar organised by Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi on Wednesday, the general cited how China “flexes its muscles” to take over “territory in a very gradual manner”. On the same day, two of India’s former foreign secretaries — Shivshankar Menon and Shyam Saran — had an hour-long conversation at a book launch. Both diplomats spent some quality time to address one question: Why is China in a tearing hurry to exert its military influence in the region? They suspect it to be the fallout of China’s perception that the US under Donald Trump is on the decline, thereby giving a window of opportunity for China to gain more power. Clearly, there’s little room for India to slack off and if China is making tracks into Tibet, and towards the border, India too should be getting its act together to create similar infrastructure in the region. It won’t be easy, though. Toughest Track Railway officers point out that if the track to Leh gets the green signal, it will be more ambitious and grandiose than the engineering marvel that is the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link, with 11.2-km-long Pir Panjal railway tunnel. Only a part of that project is operational now. “The Bilaspur-Leh line will pass through four high passes, the most challenging being Taglang La (17,480 ft). The temperature variation from minus 30 degree Celsius to plus 30 degree Celsius is a big challenge. Then, there are avalanche-prone areas on the way. The proposed line falls in Seismic Zones 4 and 5. In fact, 11% of our proposed track falls in Zone 5 (the most vulnerable to earthquakes)” says Desh Ratan Gupta, the chief engineer in-charge of construction and survey for Northern Railways. “Also, the sub-zero conditions of this magnitude do not exist in the Udhampur-Baramulla project.” Sunil Bharadwaj from the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) pinpoints the challenges. “Between Kothi and Sissu (both in Himachal Pradesh), the line will pass through some of the most avalanche-prone pockets. That 70-km stretch will be a big challenge,” he says. SASE is a laboratory under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that forecasts avalanches, apart from undertaking their mitigation measures —both temporary (like artificial triggering) and permanent (like constructing snow galleries). For New Delhi, junking the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh project because of the rough terrain may not be an option. From 1947, the Railways has been shying away from constructing new hill rail tracks — the toy trains of Darjeeling, Shimla and Ooty were built in the British era. The only headway made in the recent past has been the construction of rail tracks to connect seven capital cities of the northeastern states (barring Sikkim) and then the Udhampur-Baramulla rail line in Kashmir; both are incomplete. In Leh, people are not perturbed by the recent military standoff between India and China in Doklam near Sikkim and in Pangong in Ladakh. Sonam Angchuk, 61, a personal assistant to Shey monastery’s chief monk, is hopeful that the rail line to Ladakh will become a reality. “Can you imagine that a dozen bananas cost Rs 100 in Leh? It’s all because of transportation costs. Many commodities are bought either from Srinagar or Himachal Pradesh. The rail line will be a game-changer,” he says. Skal Zang Dolma, a former school teacher, spells out the downside. If the railways come here, prices of goods will come down, but we don’t want Leh to turn into a dirty, low-budget tourist spot,” says Dolma, a resident of Stok, a village where Leh’s royal family resides.
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सिलुगुडी टाउन अब टॉय ट्रेन का दूसरा स्टेशन है। एनजेपी तक विस्तार से पहले तक ये पहला रेलवे स्टेशन हुआ करता था। सिलिगुडी़ जंक्शन तीसरा रेलवे स्टेशन है। सुकना 161 मीटर की ऊंचाई पर दार्जिंलिंग जिले की सीमा आरंभ होने के साथ ही यहां से पहाड़ी सफर की शुरूआत हो जाती है। हरे भरे चाय के बगानों के साथ मौसम बदलने लगता है।
440 मीटर की ऊंचाई पर सुकना के बाद स्टेशन जहां आपको ट्रेन पहाड़ों के साथ अटखेलियां करती नजर आती है। इसके बाद आता है तीनधारा स्टेशन। 1880 में तीन धारा तक डीएचआर का नेटवर्क पहुंच चुका था। मार्च 1880 में गवर्नर जनरल लार्ड लिटन ने तीनधारा तक रेलवे संचालन का उदघाटन किया था।
लोको शेड यहां पर डीएचआर का वर्कशाप है। यहां डीएचआर के इंजनों की मरम्मत की जाती है। यहां एक बड़ा लोको शेड बनाया गया है। साथ ही इंजन बदले की भी सुविधा है। डीएचआर के खराब हुए इंजनों की तीनधारा वर्कशाप में मरम्मत भी की जाती है। साथ ही रेलवे इंजीनियरिंग विभाग का दफ्तर है। गया बाड़ी यह स्टेशन 1040 मीटर की ऊंचाई पर है। गयाबाड़ी दार्जिलिंग जिले के अंतर्गत आता है। यहां कई चाय के बगान हैं। इसके बाद आता है महानदी स्टेशन। जो 1252 मीटर की ऊंचाई पर है। यहां महानदी वाइल्ड लाइफ सेंक्चुरी स्थित है। काफी सैलानी यहां जंगल सफारी के लिए आते हैं। 1989 में इस रेलवे स्टेशन के भवन को दुबारा बनाया गया। पहले भू स्खल में ये स्टेशन भवन तबाह हो गया था। कर्सिंयांग कर्सियांग स्टेशन में ट्रेन मार्ग सड़क मार्ग को क्रास करती है। यह डीएचआर का मध्यवर्ती स्टेशन है। साथ ही यह एनजेपी से दार्जिलिंग के बीच का सबसे बड़ा रेलवे स्टेशन भी है। कर्सियांग व्यस्त बाजार है। इस छोटे से ऐतिहासिक शहर में कभी नेताजी सुभाष चंद्र बोस का आगमन हुआ था। आजकल कर्सियांग के आसपास कई नामी-गिरामी पब्लिक स्कूल और चाय के बगान हैं।
तुंग यह स्टेशन 1728 मीटर की ऊंचाई पर स्थित है। यहां धीरे धीरे ठंड बढ़ने लगती है। यहां डीएचआर का म्यूजियम भी है। इसके बाद आता है सोनादा स्टेशन। सोनादा एक छोटा सा बाजार है जहां एक बार फिर एनएच- 55 के साथ रेलगाड़ीकी पटरियां मिलती हैं। फिर आता है जोरबंग्ला स्टेशन। किसी जमाने में जोरबांग्ला चाय के लिए स्टोर करने वाला स्थल हुआ करता था। यहां दार्जिलिंग शहर की सीमा की शुरूआत भी मानी जाती है। घूम टॉय ट्रेन 2258 मीटर की ऊंचाई पर स्थित घूम स्टेशन पर पहुंचती है। यह डीएचआर रेल मार्ग का सबसे ऊंचाई पर स्थित रेलवे स्टेशन है। यह दुनिया का दूसरा सबसे ऊंचा रेलवे स्टेशन है। यहां पर टॉय ट्रेन का संग्रहालय भी है। यहां प्रसिद्ध बौद्ध मठ भी है। कंचनजंगा पर्वत चोटी दार्जिलिंग से 5 किलोमीटर पहले आता है बतासिया लूप। ट्रेन यहां घुमाव लेती है जिसका नजारा देखने लायक होता है। देश की आजादी के लिए जान गंवाने वाले गोरखा फौजियों का मेमोरियल है। ट्रेन से आप इसका मजा ले सकते हैं। यहां से दार्जिलिंग शहर के साथ कंचनजंगा पर्वत की चोटी भी देखी जा सकती है। दार्जिलिंग टॉय ट्रेन पहुंच जाती है अपनी मंजिल पर यानी आखिरी रेलवे स्टेशन। दार्जिलिंग रेलवे स्टेशन का छोटा सा सुंदर सा भवन 1891 का बना हुआ है। फिर ट्रेन पहुंचती है दार्जिलिंग बाजार स्टेशन पर। यहां दार्जिलिंग बाजार तक पटरियां बिछाई गईं। ये पटरियां खास तौर पर सामान पहुंचाने के लिए बिछाई गई थीं। पर अब आप सिर्फ पटरियां देख सकते हैं। इन पर अब ट्रेन नहीं चलती।
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