Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

February 17 2014

Heritage' fears on hold, as toy train resumes run

TNN | Feb 17, 2014, 01.03 AM IST

 KOLKATA: Junior railways minister Adhir Chowdhury on Saturday flagged off the resumption of the toy train service between Rung Tong to Gaya Bari via Tindharia.

The move will go a long way to neutralize the possibility of the country oldest mountain railway system losing the world heritage tag.
Chowdhury also promised to run the 87km full service from Siliguri to Darjeeling by restoring the rest of "damaged or non-existent tracks".
Earlier, Unesco had expressed concerns regarding the status of the DHR, affected by several landslides. Chowdhury said that if the railway tracks were not repaired, the DHR could be declared "endangered" by the Unesco, which would be quite humiliating.
DHR was almost declared "endangered" and ran the risk of being delisted from the list of World Heritage Sites recently because the railways had failed to send any official to a crucial meeting held at theUnesco World Heritage Centre in Paris, where it was supposed to argue its case against such a move.

The Kurseong-Siliguri section of the DHR has been non-operational since June 2010 after a landslide damaged a 500m stretch of the NH 55 at 14th Mile near Paglajhora. The DHR tracks running parallel to the highway were also swept away in the slide. Another landslide at Tindharia, 5km from Paglajhora along the highway, damaged the tracks in September 2011 and has put at risk the 100-year-old Tindharia Locomotive Works - the hill railway's workshop.
Ever since, DHR has been running a truncated service between Darjeeling and Kurseong in the hills and between Siliguri and Rang Tong in the foothills. Concerned over the worsening condition of 132-year-old railway system, Unesco decided to provide $665,154 (Rs 42.5 crore) to the Indian Railways, which is facing an acute funds crunch, to do the job.
Since the tracks were on a National Highway, the ministry of railways approached the ministry of road transport and highways regarding this, and Rs 87 crore was sanctioned about a year ago. The fund could finally be used to restore the national highway. The railways also re-laid the tracks.
After this restoration, only 13 more kilometres are needed to be bridged to run the full length.
Meanwhile, the DHR has taken up an initiative to revamp the 14 heritage railway stations under it. Sukna railway station was first completed as a pilot project. The revamping of stations involved improving the overall infrastructure to attract more tourists, said railway official.

Interesting facts

The 132-year-old DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) is the second narrow-gauge railway in the world after Semmering Railway in Austria.
It is the first in the country to be bestowed a Unesco World Heritage Status in November 1999.
The DHR line between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling is 87 km-long.
As the Kurseong-Siliguri stretch is shut, DHR services are available only on the Kurseong-Darjeeling and Siliguri Rang Tong stretches.
It is mandatory for all Unesco heritage sites to be maintained by a comprehensive conservation and management plan (CCMP), a master-document outlining the conservation, management and sustainable development of heritage sites.
The Indian Railways sanctioned funds for preparing a CCMP for the DHR in 2009, 10 years after it got a heritage status.

The railway line from Siliguri to the beautiful hill section of Darjeeling is considered an engineering feat and passes through very picturesque country.

Out of a total of 87.48 km, 64 kms. are on the same road bench. The actual climb starts from Sukna encountering steep gradients and curves all the way long. There are some peculiar features to be marked during the journey. The train passes through dense forest from Sukna and it chugs along the hill slopes and at places where a clear path is not available.

The DHR has 5 major, 498 minor bridges and 177 unmanned level crossings. There are 14 stations including New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling with an average inter distance of 6 to 7 km. Except between Siliguri and Sukna where the distance is over 10 km.

Ghum station is the second highest railway station in the world to be reached by steam locomotive.