In 1999, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway gained the status of being a world heritage site. The first hill passenger railway track is an outstanding feat of engineering. Inaugurated in 1881, this rail link that crosses dangerous mountain terrains dexterously, it is still fully operational. It has applied ingenious solutions to come over the problems and to this date, retains most of its original features. It has been a model for many other similar railway developments in many parts of the world and played an important part in the social and economic development of the region. The 2 ft gauge line was laid in the mid 1930s despite the steep gradients at an altitude of 7,407 ft at the summit at Ghoom station. This achievement becomes even more astounding when we take the technological advancements of the time.
51 miles long, some of the dangerous loops take your breath away. The
change of weather from oppressive heat in the plains to the coolness of
hills in summers, as you travel in the train, is quite remarkable too.
The journey of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway starts at Siliguri. The
scheme for its construction was submitted in March 1878 to the
Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal and work began in May 1879. It was
inaugurated in March 1880, when the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton,
traveled on the train to the eighteenth mile. Later it was opened for
passenger and good trains as far as Kurseong, thirty-two miles from
Siliguri. It was in July 1881 that it was finally opened up all the way
to the Darjeeling station. The train passes through streams and tea
gardens on the way to Sookna, where the real ascent begins. The spiral
climbing of the train, the loops and occasionally a double loop, make
the journey through this train all the more enjoyable.