A journey by the Darjeeling toy train is truly an exhilarating experience. Though the 83 km stretch is covered in about eight hrs but the experience is beyond description. Captivated by the ethereal beauty of the Kanchenjunga, Franklin Prestage, the agent of the Eastern Bengal Railway formulated the plan for Darjeeling Railway in 1878. Construction of the railway line up to Darjeeling was completed by July 1881 and the earliest locomotive came from Atlas Works in Manchester. The Darjeeling Steam Tramway Company, which was formed later, became the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Company in September 1881.
The earliest passenger vehicles had canvas roofs and wooden benches.
There was a first class carriage for six passengers, a second-class
carriage for eight and third class open trolleys with side and end
curtains for a load of 16 passengers each. The zigzag railway linking
Siliguri in north Bengal with Darjeeling is a marvel of miniature rail
engineering and girdles streams and tea gardens on the way to Sukana
where the ascent begins. By the time it reaches Chunbhati and crosses
the loop, it has climbed up to 672.9 m. The method applied in
constructing this line had been first adopted by an Austrian, Chega, who
helped the engineers in obviating the necessity to bore tunnels, by
artificially lengthening the line by means of looping it.
The train strikes the first spiral or loop followed by the second in
proximity of the 20-kilometer post. It is an amazing engineering feat,
practically a double loop, for the rise from Rungtong to Tindharia. The
third loop is around 22 kilometers away and lends an enchanting peep
into the valley below with the Bhutan range in the east, the Teesta
River and its Tiger Island in the southeast. The sensational point of
the fourth spiral, the Agony Point, is reached outside the Tindharia
The tiny engine puts in its best effort while hauling one up more than
1,463 m to Kurseong. Smiling Bhutia and Lepcha women with babies
strapped across the back, heavy silver trinkets oxidized by the air,
costumes bright as a peacock's tail, all add to the charm of the
Past the wayside haunts of Tung Chutlinkpur, and Jorebunglow, one
arrives at Ghoom, 2,257.65 m above sea level, which is Asia's highest
railway station. Darjeeling, the destination comes after six kilometers
ride downhill from here.