Luxury Travel On Wheels
The verdant valleys of Himachal Pradesh are incomparable in offering a panoramic feast to tourists who flock to the state round the year. Easily accessible from the plains of northern India, the picturesque Shivalik valley in the Kalka-Shimla region affords a breathtaking experience.
Promoting the concept of integrated tourism development, the Indian Railways after collaborating with the Himachal Tourism have added a touch of class to the Kalka-Shimla toy-train services.
The Kalka Shimla Rail Route
The 96-km long Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge railway track combines antiquity and modernity with a cocktail of pilgrimage and glamour. The rail motor car of 1927 vintage which had the unique distinction of bringing Mahatma Gandhi in 1945 to Shimla for talks with Viceroy Wavell about British plans for leaving India, is still rail worthy and remains a tourist's delight. The Gothic-style Barog railway station has become a favourite jaunt of Bollywood stars.
If the Kalka-Shimla road is a triumph of engineering skill, the phrase can be applied with even greater truth to the Kalka-Shimla rail track. Going back to 1903, it is an engineering marvel, with 103 tunnels and over 700 non-girder bridges in a distance of only 96-km. The route's longest tunnel, midway at Barog, is 3,760 feet long. More than two- thirds of the entire track is on curves, some as sharp as 48 degrees.
Beside the sleek rail services, the train stops at or run past Jabli, Dharampur, Barog, Solan, Salogra, Kandaghat and Taradevi, to name a few of the spick-and-span railway stations en route. If the six pairs of seven-coach trains and a pair of rail motor cars serve the passengers of modest means, the Shivalik Deluxe Express, popularly known as the narrow-gauge Shatabdi, caters to top-of-the-line clientele. Introduced in June 1996, the Shivalik Deluxe Express runs packed to nine months capacity during the year.
The Inside Appeal
With wide glass windows, ergonomically designed reversible cushioned chairs, fancy electrical fittings, wall-to-wall carpeting, modern toilet amenities, exclusive cabins for couples, a music system, communication facilities with the guard and customised on-board catering services, this train is extremely popular among tourists. The picturesque view outside and personalised care within make it an experience of a lifetime.
The Deluxe Rail Motor Car
Equally exciting is the journey by the Deluxe Rail Motor Car, superior cousin of the Shivalik Deluxe Express, as the add-on features include a transparent roof giving an overhead view, a digital time-cum-temperature display unit, an altimeter to indicate the rail car's height above sea travel, TV/VCP, tasteful tapestry and ingenious interior decor. Priced at par with the Shivalik Deluxe Express, this is a tailor-made product for 14 passengers.
Shivalik Palace Tourist Coach
There is the Shivalik Palace tourist coach, a luxury on wheels in the genre of the Palace-on-Wheels. It has a deluxe hotel room and a kitchenette. The fare includes meals on board and two retiring rooms for a one-day stay at Shimla. A family of six can book this coach for the onward journey from Kalka to Shimla. The fare for the return direction is also quiet modest.
It has tastefully decorated interiors, folding beds/dining and dressing tables, cushioned chairs, wall clock, temperature-cum-time indicator, fans, fridge, kitchenware, cutlery, crockery, cooking range, music channel, cordless bell, and much more. Indoor games and light reading material are also provided to let the passengers enjoy a full-fledged luxury stay. An attendant accompanies the travelling party. This coach can be attached in the rear of any train on the route so that the travelling party gets a 'peninsular' view of the valleys, mountains and clouds.
An Affair To Remember
On the cards are exclusive and exquisite honeymooners' carriages and cottages to provide a unique class of pleasure. With emphasis on quality and comfort, these new products will be small but beautiful.