Shimla's heritage train waits for big comeback

Heritage lovers hope the railways will keep its promise of bringing Shimla’s last heritage train - a deluxe rail motor car that has been stabled as its wheels have worn out - back on tracks.

“The Kalka-Shimla rail line (on which the rail motor car ran) has a unique identity and it should be brought back,” Intach (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Himachal chapter co-convener Raja Bhasin said.

P C Katoch, who has been settled in Shimla since 1955, said, “The train is one the last remnants the Raj heritage. It should be preserved at any cost.”

“Moreover, a number of romantic Bollywood films showcased the train,” he added.

Four of the 18-seater deluxe rail motor cars were built in England between 1927 and 1930 and chugged along a 96-km narrow guage track between Kalka and Shimla that has now been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. Now, only one remains.

The rail motor car has been parked at Kalka for maintenance for over a month, senior divisional commercial manager (Northern Railway) G M Singh said.

“Its wheels have passed their useful age and it’s very difficult to procure a new set because there is no manufacturer who specialises in making these wheels,” said Singh.

He added, “But still, we will manage to get it before the next tourist season begins.”
The wheels are made of specially cast steel and the authorities will be changing them for the first time since its inception.

Railway officials said the deluxe rail motor car, with a transparent fibre-glass roof for a clear view of the sky, was quite popular among foreigners, particularly from Britain, and among Indian corporate honchos.

The journey on the narrow-gauge rail line, built by the British in 1903, is an exhilarating experience.

The ascent begins from 2,100 ft (640 metres) above sea level at Kalka and crosses Dharampur, Barog, Solan and Kandaghat before it reaches Shimla at 7,000 ft.

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