Kalka–Shimla Railway

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mountain Railways of India
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Shivalik Deluxe Express in Taradevi Station
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv
Reference 944
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1999 (23rd Session)
Extensions 2005; 2008

The Kalka–Shimla Railway is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway in North-West India travelling along a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for dramatic views of the hills and surrounding villages.


Shimla (then spelt Simla) was settled by the British shortly after the first Anglo-Gurkha war, and is located at 7,116 feet (2,169 m) in the foothills of the Himalayas. By the 1830s, Shimla had already developed as a major base for the British.[citation needed] It became the summer capital of British India in 1864, and was also the headquarters of the British army in India. Prior to construction of the railway, communication with the outside world was via village cart.[1]

The 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge Delhi-Kalka line was opened in 1891.[2] The Kalka–Shimla Railway was constructed on 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge tracks by the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway Company commencing in 1898.[1] The estimated cost was Rs 86,78,500, however, the cost doubled during execution of the project.[citation needed] The 96.54 km (59.99 mi) line was opened for traffic November 9, 1903.[1] It was inaugurated by Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of India.[3] Because of the high capital and maintenance costs, coupled with peculiar working conditions, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was allowed to charge fares that were higher than the prevailing tariffs on other lines. However, even this was not good enough to sustain the company, so the Government had to purchase it on January 1, 1906 for Rs 1,71,07,748. In 1905 the line was regauged to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge under guidelines from the Indian War Department seeking to ensure uniformity in all imperial narrow gauge systems.

Ordinary local train halts at the Solan Station

In mid-August 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property in preparation for its review in September.[4]

This route passes through a city named Solan, which is also known as mini Shimla. A festival celebrating the goddess Shoolini Devi, after which the city is named, is held each summer in June.

For about a week starting on September 11, 2007, an expert team from UNESCO visited the railway to review and inspect it for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On July 8, 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.[5] The Mountain Railways of India (including Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai had already been declared as world heritage properties.[6]


Kalka–Shimla Railway
0 km Kalka
6 km Taksal
11 km Gumman
17 km Koti
27 km Sonwara
33 km Dharampur
39 km Kumarhatti
43 km Barog
47 km Solan
53 km Salogra
59 km Kandaghat
65 km Kanoh
73 km Kathleeghat
78 km Shoghi
85 km Taradevi
90 km Totu (Jutogh)
93 km Summer Hill
96 km Shimla

The Kalka–Shimla Railway was built to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the Indian rail system. Now, Shimla is the capital city of Himachal Pradesh and Kalka is a town in the Panchkula district of Haryana. Spectacular scenery along the whole route, and the marvels of its construction, keeps the traveler on this line spell bound. On leaving Kalka, 656 meters (2,152 ft) above sea level, the railway enters the foothills and immediately commences its climb.


The route offers a panoramic feast of the picturesque Himalayas from the Sivalik foot hills at Kalka to several important points such as Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Taradevi, Barog, Salogra, Totu (Jutogh), Summerhill and Shimla at an altitude of 2,076 meters (6,811 ft). Interestingly, all the 20 intermediate stations are located right next to bridges, built for the labour constructing the bridges to take rest there. Some of these have now been abandoned being unviable.[7]

A typical passenger train on one of the line's large bridges


Originally 107 tunnels were built on Kalka Shimla Railway Track. In 1930 they were renumbered and four of them were discarded so only 103 were left. In 2006 tunnel number 46 was dismantled so presently only 102 are in use. But tunnel number 103, the last tunnel in Shimla, is still famous as tunnel number 103 as this place has become a famous landmark of the town.

The longest tunnel is at Barog, and is associated with local tales and legends. As per a famous story of Colonel Barog, the engineer of this tunnel, had committed suicide here. He started digging the tunnel from both ends and could not align them. So he was fined 1 rupee. He could not stomach up that stigma so shot himself in the incomplete tunnel, which still exists.[8] Chief Engineer H.S. Herlington completed it after the way for constructing this was earmarked by Bhalku, a local sadhu (monk), during 1900- 1903[7][9]


The line has 864 bridges, one of which is an 18.29 metre (60 ft) plate girder span and steel truss. The others are viaducts with multi-arched galleries like the ancient Roman aqueducts. Bridge No. 493, historically known as the "Arch Gallery", situated between Kandaghat and Kanoh stations, is an arch bridge in three stages, constructed with stone masonry. Bridge No. 226; between Sonwara and Dharampur is an arch gallery bridge having 5 tier galleries of multiple spans, constructed with stone masonry and bridging a deep valley surrounded by high peaks.

The railway has a ruling gradient of 1 in 33 or 3%. It has 919 curves, the sharpest being 48 degrees (a radius of 37.47 m or 122.93 feet). Climbing from 656 meters (2,152 ft), the line terminates at an elevation of 2,076 meters (6,811 ft) at Shimla. The line originally used 42 lb/yd (21 kg/m) rail but this was later relaid to 60 lb/yd (30 kg/m) rail.[1]

Himalayan Queen Train


The first locomotives to arrive were two class "B" 0-4-0ST from the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. These were built as 2 ft (610 mm) gauge engines, but were converted to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge in 1901. They were not large enough for the job, and were sold in 1908. They were followed by 10 engines with a 0-4-2T wheel arrangement of a slightly larger design, introduced in 1902. These locomotives weighed 21.5 tons (21.85 tonnes) each, and had 30" (762 mm) driving wheels, and 12"x16" (304.8 mm x 406.4 mm) cylinders. They were later classified into the "B" class by the North Western State Railways. All these locomotives were constructed by the British firm of Sharp, Stewart and Company.[10]

Larger locomotives were introduced in the form of a 2-6-2T, of which 30 were built with slight variations between 1904 and 1910. Built by the Hunslet and the North British Locomotive Company, these locomotives were about 35 tons (35.56 tonnes), with 30" (762 mm) drivers and 14"x16" (355.6 mm x 406.4 mm) cylinders. These locomotives, later classed K and K2 by the North Western State Railways, subsequently handled the bulk of the railways traffic during the steam era. A pair of Kitson-Meyer 2-6-2+2-6-2 articulated locomotives, classed TD, were supplied in 1928. They quickly fell into disfavour, as it often took all day for enough freight to be assembled to justify operating a goods train hauled by one of these locomotives. Shippers looking for a faster service started to turn to road transport. These 68 ton (69.09 tonnes) locomotives were soon transferred to the Kangra Valley Railway, and subsequently ended up converted to 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge in Pakistan.[10]

Steam operation of regular trains ended 1971.

The first diesel locomotives on the Kalka–Shimla Railway, class ZDM-1 by Arnold Jung Lokomotivfabrik (articulated with two prime movers), started operation in 1955. In the 1970s they were regauged and reclassified as NDM-1, then used on the Matheran Hill Railway.

In the 1960s, class ZDM-2 built by Maschinenbau Kiel (MaK) was introduced. These locomotives were later transferred to other lines.

Today this line is operated with class ZDM-3 diesel-hydraulic locomotives (522 kW, 50 km/h), built 1970 to 1982 by Chittaranjan Locomotive Works with a single cab road switcher body.[11] Six locomotives of the same class were built in 2008/2009 by Central Railway Loco Workshop Parel with updated components and a dual cab body providing better visibility of the track.[12]

Rolling stock[edit]

The railway opened using conventional four-wheel and bogie coaches. The tare weight of these coaches meant that only four of the bogie coaches could be hauled upgrade by the 2-6-2T locomotives. In an effort to increase loadings in 1908 the entire coaching stock was rebuilt as bogie coaches 33' long by 7' wide, using steel frames and bodies. To further save weight the roofs were constructed using aluminium. Savings in weight meant the locomotives could now haul six of the larger coaches, significantly expanding capacity. This was an early example of the use of steel in construction of coaches to reduce the coaches' tare.[1]

Goods rolling stock was constructed on a common pressed steel underframe, 30' long and 7' wide. Both open and covered wagons were provided, the open wagons having a capacity of 19 tons and the covered wagons 17.5 tons.[1]


  • 52451/52452 Shivalik Deluxe Express (KLK 5:30 – 10:15 SML 17:40 – 22:25 KLK) with more comfortable chair cars and meal service
  • 52453/52454 Kalka Shimla Express (KLK 6:00 – 11:05 SML 18:15 – 23:20 KLK) with first, second class and unreserved seating
  • 52455/52456 Himalayan Queen (KLK 12:10 – 17:20 SML 10:30 – 16:10 KLK) with chair cars, connecting in Kalka to the Mail/Express train of the same name and the Kalka Shatabdi from/to Delhi
  • 52457/52458 Kalka Shimla Passenger (KLK 4:00 – 9:20 SML 14:25 – 20:10 KLK) with first, second class and unreserved seating
  • 72451/72452 Rail Motor (KLK 5:10 – 9:50 SML 16:25 – 21:35 KLK), a railbus originally used to transport upper class travellers, first class seating only, glass roof and possibility to look out to the front
  • Shivalik Queen: This luxury coach can be booked by couples or groups up to eight people through IRCTC Chandigarh office and attached to regular trains. It has four elegantly furnished coupés with two toilets, wall to wall carpets and big windows. The journey costs 4200 INR for four couples including lunch.
The toy train at Barog Station.

Television film[edit]

In the UK, the BBC have made a series of three documentaries dealing with Indian Hill Railways http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qzk9r of which the first deals with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The Kalka–Shimla Railway was the subject of the third programme shown on BBC FOUR TV in February 2010, on BBC TWO in April 2010 and again on BBC FOUR in January 2012 and September 2012. Director: Nick Mattingly; series producer: Gerry Troyna.[13] (This programme is available on DVD from the bookstall at Shimla Station).

The Kalka-Shimla railway was also featured on CNN in Season 3 Episode 1 "Punjab, India" of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which aired Sunday April 13, 2014.

Film songs shot on this line[edit]

Dharmendra alights at Taradevi humming "signal hua ke niklee"(chugs off at the signal)[14] while the tall Joy Mukherjee banging his head on the train roof notices the train "chale nagin ki tarah" (winds its way like a snake)[15] The 'original snow yeti' Shammi Kapoor however, stretches the phrase 'to get right on top' a bit too literally on his train ride.[16]

Other tourist trains in India[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Engineer" journal article, circa 1915, reprinted in Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modelling Review, no. 75, July 2008
  2. ^ "IR History: Early Days II (1870-1899)". IRFCA. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  3. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/109-year-old-steam-engine-once-again-rolls-out-on-Shimla-track/articleshow/32915005.cms
  4. ^ "HP declares Kalka–Shimla Railway as 'heritage' property". The Hindu. 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  5. ^ "Kalka–Shimla Railway makes it to Unesco’s World Heritage list". The Hindu Business Line. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  6. ^ http://www.outlookindia.com/pti_print.asp?id=494079
  7. ^ a b Khanna, Ruchika M. (June 5, 2003). "Whistling through woods, the romance continues". The Tribune, Chandigarh. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  8. ^ Singh, Jagmeet. "Man behind Barog tunnel lies forgotten". The Tribune, Chandigarh. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  9. ^ Chauhan, Pratibha (Oct 9, 2011). "A leaf from history: ...Shimla’s Baba Bhalku Rail Museum". The Sunday Tribune, Chandigarh. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  10. ^ a b Hughes, Hugh 1994 Indian Locomotives Pt. 3, Narrow Gauge 1863-1940. Continental Railway Circle.
  11. ^ Description of narrow gauge diesel locomotives by IRFCA
  12. ^ Central Railway: NG Loco for Kalka Simla, NR
  13. ^ "Indian Hill Railways". BBC. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  14. ^ "Kishore Kumar – Gaadi Bula Rahi Hai – Dost (1974)". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  15. ^ "Love In Simla (1960) – Dil Tham Chale Hum Aaj Kidhar – Mohammed Rafi". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  16. ^ "Boyfriend (1961) – Mujhe Apna Yaar Bana Lo – Mohammed Rafi". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°06′17″N 77°10′24″E / 31.1046°N 77.1734°E / 31.1046; 77.1734