11 August 2012

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway…


Indian themes on foreign stamps…

- Kenneth Sequeira


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The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR)  nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft railway from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways.

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It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 kms.  Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services: however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India's highest railway station) are handled by vintage British-built B Class steam locomotives. Since 1999 the train has been a World Heritage Site as listed by UNESCO along with the Niligiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the original destination. Its the 2nd railway to have this honour bestowed upon it, after Semmering Railway of Austria.

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A broad gauge railway connected Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Siliguri in 1878. Siliguri, at the base of the Himalayas, was connected to Darjeeling by a cart road (the present day Hill Cart Road) on which "Tonga services" (carriage services) were available. Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company approached the government with a proposal of laying a steam tramway from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The proposal was accepted in 1879  by Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal

Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. constructed the railway. The stretch was opened on 23 August 1880, while the official opening of the line up to Darjeeling was on 4 July 1881. Despite natural calamities, such as an earthquake in 1897 and a major cyclone in 1899, the DHR continued to improve with new extension lines being built in response to growing passenger and freight traffic. However, the DHR started to face competition from bus services that started operating over the Hill Cart Road, offering a shorter journey time. During World War II, the DHR played a vital role transporting military personnel and supplies to the numerous camps around Ghum and Darjeeling.

After the independence of India, the DHR was absorbed into Indian Railways and became a part of the Northeast Frontier Railway zone in 1958. In 1962, the line was realigned at Siliguri and extended by nearly 6 km to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to meet the new broad gauge line there.

Bhutan & Gambia released stamps on this railway line as part of the Famous Trains / Locomotives across the world.


India Post issued  a commemorative stamp on Centenary of  The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway on 18 December 1982.

- Kenneth Sequira, Dubai (UAE) : email -  kenneth.sequeira@hotmail.com

Also Read….The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and its Locomotives by Vikas Singh

1 comment:

Shridhar Mhatre said...

nice collection of stamps.. for Darjeeling Toy Trains Time Table visit Fabulous India

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