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5 best toy trains in India you can't miss!

5 best toy trains in India you can't miss!

By Soumya Pawaskar

18 Jun, 2024

Do you remember the Nepali-Hindi song “Kasto Mazza He Relaima” from the movie Parineeta? Charming Saif Ali Khan singing this beautiful song on a toy train was a melting point for every girl back then. The song was shot on the Darjeeling toy train, one of the oldest and best toy trains in India, capturing its essence perfectly!

Indian toy trains are much more than just a mode of transport. It’s an experience and almost a journey back to the old, simpler times. With their vintage look, minimal speed and coal usage instead of diesel surely makes you feel like you’ve transported to the early 19th century.

During the journey, you’ll be greeted with many scenic views and colonial architecture, making it an unforgettable experience indeed!

There are 5 toy trains in India, out of which 3 are in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. So hop on board and get ready to learn more about these architectural marvels in detail.

Here’s a list of 5 best toy trains in India that you shouldn’t miss:

1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal

The Darjeeling Himalayan railway (DHR) is the first toy train of India, which started in the year 1881. It was built to connect the Darjeeling hills to Siliguri, a town at the foothills of the Himalayas. This construction made the transport of essential commodities to the Darjeeling hills more convenient and cost-effective.

The train route is pretty narrow, only 600 mm wide and is about 88 kms long. Darjeeling toy train runs at the altitude from 100m - 2200m above sea level, offering panoramic views of the steep hills and dense forests.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway gained immense popularity in the 70s after the famous song “Mere Sapno Ki Rani” from the classic movie Aradhana(1969) was shot here. Some other popular films that feature DHR are Barfi! and Parineeta.

This construction is considered as an engineering marvel that goes through the challenging mountain terrain. In 1999, Darjeeling toy train became one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the title “World’s most tourist friendly hill railway.”

Best time to visit: Oct-Dec

Route: Darjeeling - Ghum - Tung - Mahanadi - Rang Tong - Siliguri - New Jalpaiguri

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway with the backdrop of beautiful snowy mountain

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway with the backdrop of beautiful snowy mountain

2. Nilgiri mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu

Nilgiri mountain railway is one of the steepest railways not just in India but in Asia as well. It is a major tourist attraction in the queen of hill station - Ooty and is often referred to as toy train Ooty.

The idea to build this remarkable railway was proposed in 1854, but due to the challenging terrain of this mountainous region the construction was delayed and finally completed in the year 1908.

Toy train Ooty takes approximately 5 hours to cover a distance of about 46 kms on a single track. During its journey, the train passes through approximately 16 tunnels and over 200 bridges, offering spectacular views of misty hills, beautiful lakes and old colonial houses.

Toy train Ooty is regarded as the slowest train of all running at a speed of 10.4 km/hour. In 2005, Nilgiri Mountain Railway made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in India.

Best time to visit: All months except rainy season i.e June-sep

Route: Mettupalayam - Kallar - Adderley - Coonoor - Wellington - Ketti - Udhagamandalam

View of Nilgiri mountain railway passing through a tunnel

Nilgiri Mountain Railway traversing a scenic route

3. Kalka-Shimla Railway, Himachal Pradesh

Built in 1903, the Kalka-Shimla railway runs between Kalka (Haryana) and Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) covering a distance of 96 km and 18 stations with a speed of 22 km/hour.

During the British Raj era, Shimla toy train was considered as the crown jewel of the Indian railways. In 2008, the Kalka-Shimla railway was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Shimla toy train runs on a narrow route and at different altitudes of 655 m in Kalka and 2076 m in Shimla. The highlight of the Shimla toy train journey is definitely the longest Barog tunnel, which is almost 1143 meters long.

Pro tip: If you are planning to visit during summer, please book your tickets in advance. Also, for the best views, sit on the right side of the train while traveling from Kalka to Shimla.

Best time to visit: Mar-June

Route: Kalka - Dharampur - Solan - Kanoh - Taradevi - Jutogh - Shimla

View of Kalka Shimla toy train on a narrow route

Charming Kalka Shimla toy train winding through a deep valley

4. Matheran Hill Railway, Maharashtra

Situated at an altitude of 800 m above sea level in the beautiful Sahyadri mountain range, the Matheran hill station toy train ride is simply unmissable! Just 2.5 hours away from both Mumbai and Pune, Matheran Hill railway is the only way to reach the plateau top of Matheran.

 The Britishers discovered Matheran in 1850 and planned to develop it as a getaway to escape the region’s summer heat. Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur, built Matheran hill station toy train to give British officials and fellow Indians easy access to the scenic hill station during hot summers.

Constructed in 1907, Matheran toy train covers a total distance of 21km, offering fantastic views of surrounding valleys and hills. This toy train meanders through forest land in a zigzag manner, providing a joyful experience to its fellow passengers.

Though lesser-known across India, Matheran Hill station toy train is immensely popular in Maharashtra and gracefully holds the title of “Phulrani”, which literally means “pretty Daisy”.

Best time to visit : Oct-Mar

Route: Neral - Jumapatti - Water pipe - Aman Lodge - Matheran

Matheran Hill Railway amidst the lush green surroundings

Matheran Hill Railway amidst the lush green surroundings

5. Kangra Valley Railway, Himachal Pradesh

With its 164 km long route, Kangara valley railway is the longest and the last mountain railway in India. It offers gorgeous views of the Dhauladhar mountain range and runs numerous tea plantations.

Constructed in 1929, Kangra valley railway runs between Pathankot (Punjab) and Jogindernagar (Himachal Pradesh). Kangra Valley Railway goes over approximately 950 bridges and covers 18 stations through the journey.

Here’s one interesting fact about KVR, a lot of people believe that the railway is haunted. There are numerous local legends that say the railway was built on an ancient burial ground. Many people have reported that they have had strange experiences on the route and even on the train. Spooky right?

Nevertheless, Kangra Valley Railway remains iconic in the history of Indian railways. Currently, KVR is not fully functional due to some construction work on the train route.

Best time to visit: Sep-June

Route: Pathankot - Jwalamukhi Road - Kangra - Nagrota - Palampur - Baijnath Paprola - Joginder Nagar

View of charming Kangra Valley Toy train

Kangra Valley Toy train meandering alongside a stream (Credits - Tribune India)

Now that you have all the necessary information about the best toy trains in India, start planning your next trip to these destinations. Book your tickets online at http://www.irctc.co.in except for the Matheran toy train, as this facility is not available for the same. You can get the tickets offline directly at the Neral Railway Station.

Check out The Hosteller if you’re looking for comfortable accommodation options in Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh.

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