Kalka–Shimla Railway

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mountain Railways of India
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
KSR Steam special at Taradevi 05-02-13 56.jpeg
Shivalik Deluxe Express in Taradevi Station

Location Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India
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 India travelling along a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for dramatic views of the hills and surrounding villages. The Kalka–Shimla Railway was built in 1898. to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the rest of the Indian rail system. At the time of construction 107 tunnels and 864 bridges, were built throughout the course of the track. The Chief Engineer of the project was H.S. Herlington.

The locomotives used during the earlier period were manufactured by Sharp, Stewart and Company, and larger locomotives were introduced which were manufactured by Hunslet Engine Company. The diesel and diesel-hydraulic locomotives were started operation in 1955 and 1970 respectively. The railway was declared a heritage by the Himachal Pradesh government in 2007, and in 2008 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongwith the other Mountain Railways of India.


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]

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

The 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge Delhi-Kalka line opened in 1891.[2] The Kalka–Shimla Railway was built on 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge tracks by the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway Company beginning in 1898.[1] The estimated cost was Rs 86,78,500 but the cost doubled during construction.[citation needed] The 96.54 km (59.99 mi) line opened for traffic on 9 November 1903.[1] It was inaugurated by Viceroy of India Lord Curzon.[3]

Because of the high capital and maintenance costs and peculiar working conditions, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was allowed to charge higher fares than on other lines. However, the company was still not profitable and was purchased by the government on 1 January 1906 for Rs 1,71,07,748. In 1905 the line was regauged to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) to conform to standards set by the Indian War Department.

In 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property.[4] For about a week starting on 11 September 2007, an expert team from UNESCO visited the railway to review and inspect it for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On 8 July 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway became part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.[5] alongside Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.[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 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.


The route winds from the Himalayan Shivalik Hills foothills 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).[7]


Originally 107 tunnels were built; 102 remain in use. The longest tunnel is at Barog. Engineer Colonel Barog dug the tunnel from both ends and could not align them and was symbolically fined one rupee. Shamed, he committed suicide inside the incomplete tunnel.[8] Chief Engineer H.S. Herlington later completed the tunnel with help from Bhalku, a local sadhu.[7][9]


The line has 864 bridges. The railway has a ruling gradient of 1 in 33 or 3%. It has 919 curves, the sharpest being 48 degrees (a radius of 122.93 feet or 37.47 m). Climbing from 656 meters (2,152 ft), the line terminates at an elevation of 2,076 meters (6,811 ft) at Shimla, a difference in height of 1,420 meters (4,660 ft). The line originally used 42 lb/yd (20.8 kg/m) rail but this was later relaid to 60 lb/yd (29.8 kg/m) rail.[1]


Railcar 4 (left) and Steam locomotive 520 at Shimla.

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 long tons (21.8 t; 24.1 short tons) each, and had 30 in (762 mm) driving wheels, and 12 in × 16 in (304.8 mm × 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 long tons (36 t; 39 short tons), with 30 in (762 mm) drivers and 14 in × 16 in (355.6 mm × 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-long-ton (69.09 t; 76.16-short-ton) 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]

Regular steam locomotive operation ended in 1971.

The first diesel locomotives on the Kalka–Shimla Railway, class ZDM-1 by Arnold Jung Lokomotivfabrik (articulated with two prime movers), began operating in 1955. In the 1970s they were regauged, reclassified as NDM-1, and 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 the line is operated with class ZDM-3 diesel-hydraulic locomotives (522 kW or 700 hp, 50 km/h or 31 mph), 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 by the 2-6-2T locomotives. In an effort to increase loadings in 1908, the entire coaching stock was rebuilt as bogie coaches 33 ft (10.06 m) long by 7 ft (2.13 m) 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 aluminium in construction of coaches to reduce the coaches' tare.[1]

Goods rolling stock was constructed on a common pressed steel underframe, 30 ft (9.14 m) long and 7 ft (2.13 m) wide. Both open and covered wagons were provided, the open wagons having a capacity of 19 long tons (19.30 t; 21.28 short tons) and the covered wagons 17.5 long tons (17.8 t; 19.6 short tons).[1]


Himalayan Queen Train.
  • 52451/52452 railway (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.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 12 September 2015, a train derailed near Kalka. Two British passengers were killed and nine were injured.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The BBC made a series of three documentaries about Indian Hill Railways. The Kalka–Shimla Railway was the subject of the third program.[14]

The Kalka-Shimla railway was also featured in the Punjab episode of CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

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. (5 June 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 (9 October 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. ^ "British tourists killed as India train derails". BBC News Online. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Indian Hill Railways". BBC. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 

External links[edit]

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