Shimla is one of the most frequented hill station of the north India. About 1.8 million tourists visit Shimla every year. The popular mode of travel to Shimla from Delhi, Chandigarh and Kalka is by road. However, the best way to reach Shimla is to travel by Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla. The charming journey by narrow gauge train from Kalka provides a lingering memory that cannot be achieved by the fast road travel, especially for people with time. The distance by road is just 10km less than by the train.
The scenery along the whole route is of most magnificent character. Flanked by towering hills, the line, like twin threads of silver, clings perilously to the sides of steep cliffs, passing stations enroute, through tunnels or ventures boldly over graceful bridges. The road from Kalka to Shimla goes some of the time adjacent to the railway line and worth a view of towns along the road with neat houses. The best train in this line is Shivalik Deluxe Express which starts in the early morning from Kalka at 5:30h. The coaches are equipped with reversible cushioned chairs, wall-to-wall carpeting and wide glass windows. Meals are included in the train fare. There is only one stoppage at Barog, basically for loading of fresh hot meals, tea, coffee.
The train starts climbing the hills within five minutes of starting the journey from Kalka. With a speed of not more than 25Km/hour the train will take you to Shimla in 4 hours 45 minutes. The return journey is at 5:40pm and arrives at Kalka in time to take the train to Delhi. During our return trip on a full moon day in November, the sky was lit up by the moon gently rising above the Shimla town as the train reached Taradevi and for the next half an hour we were glued to the window looking at the beautiful sight.
The longest tunnel at Barog is 1143.61-metre-long, which passes through fissured sandstone and is traversed in 3 minutes by the toy trains. From this tunnel onwards, the train runs through scenic Solan and Salogra to Kandaghat, which marks the beginning of the final climb. The toy train twists its way gradually through the hills up to the alpine, approaching the Himalayas. Through the way some of the awesome views of the landscape can be cherished at Kushalya River, Koti, Barog, Kanoh, Jabli. Chugging through dense oak forests, the train reaches Taradevi. The temple set on the top of a peak here is truly a legendary temple. The train then winds its way under Prospect Hill to Jutogh, finally arriving via Summer Hill at Shimla.
The journey between Kalka and Shimla is said to be a fairytale coming alive. Whole journey looks like a well versed poem. An experience of lifetime, the journey promises heavenly experiences. The Guinness Book of 'Rail Facts and Feats' records Kalka-Shimla Railways as 'the greatest narrow gauge railway engineering feat in India."