The iconic Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), popularly known as the Darjeeling Toy Train,is all set to resume services after lockdown. Trial runs started this Monday and the DHR is just waiting for West Bengal government’s nod.
“We are ready to resume the services. We are waiting for the state government’s permission. Initially, joy rides between Darjeeling and Ghoom and back (total distance of 16 km) would be resumed. We have already written to the state government,” said DHR director AK Mishra.
The DHR is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction in Darjeeling which is a popular hill destination in north Bengal and is often referred to as the Queen of the Hills. The train has appeared in various Bollywood films, including Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore-starrer Aradhana, Shah Rukh Khan’s Main Hoon Na, and Parineeta.
More than 1.5 million tourists come to Darjeeling in north Bengal and Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan state, every year. The Toy Train, comprising three compartments, gets around 60,000 passengers every year. Around 15% of the population in Darjeeling hills is dependent on tourism for their livelihood.
“We have 13 steam engines and five diesel locomotives. The steam engines are the real attractions and are regularly chartered by foreign tourists. The DHR also runs other services between Siliguri and Darjeeling, Siliguri and Tindharia, and Kurseong and Siliguri and those would be resumed later,” said an official.
While long distance train services to New Jalpaiguri station, the nearest railway station to Darjeeling, have already resumed and tourists are flocking to the hill destination, locals said that the resumption of DHR would add to the attraction.
“The DHR has a special role to promote tourism in Darjeeling and is the safest and convenient mode of transportation, especially in the Covid-period. The tourist industry would get required impetus both in Sikkim and Darjeeling once the DHR services resume,” said Sandipan Ghosh, secretary of Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators Association.
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