The idea of a railway line to Shimla
dates back to the introduction of railways in India. In the Delhi gazette, a
correspondent in November 1847 sketched the route of a railway to Shimla
with estimates of the traffic returns etc. in appropriate style. He wrote: "We
might then see these cooler regions become the permanent seat of a
government daily invigorated by a temperature adapted to refresh an European
constitution and keep the mental powers in a state of health alike
beneficial both to the rulers and the ruled."
Survey for a railway line to Shimla featured in the administrative reports
of the Indian railways year after year. It is interesting to note that the
Shimla line was the most surveyed line. The earliest survey was made in 1884
followed by another survey in 1885. Based on these two surveys, a project
report was submitted in 1887 to the government of India for an adhesion
line, 68 miles in length and with a ruling gradient of 1 in 33. After the
commencement of Delhi-Ambala-Kalka line, fresh surveys were made. Lengthy
debates followed and finally an adhesion line was chosen in preference to
the rack system.
The Greatest Narrow Gauge Engineering Feat In India
On June 29, 1898, a contract was signed between the secretary of state and
the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka railway company for construction and working of a two
feet gauge line from Kalka to Shimla
. As per the contract, the rail line was
to be built without any pecuniary aid or guarantee from the government. The
land was, however, provided free of charge.
The military authorities were skeptic about the narrower gauge of two feet
chosen for Kalka-Shimla Railway
. They recommended a standard two feet by six
inches gauge for mountain and light strategic railways. The government of
India yielded to the military requirements and on November 15, 1901, the
contract with DUK was revised and two feet by six inches gauge was adopted
for Kalka-Shimla Railway
. This meant change of gauge for a portion of the
line built in the year 1901.
In the beginning, the line was laid with 41-1/4 lb flat footed steel rails
21 feet long on steel bearing Paltes and Deodar timber sleepers, nine to a
rail. The tack was stone ballasted throughout and fenced only along the
Kalka camping ground and through the outskirts of the town of Kalka.
The line measuring 59.44 miles from Kalka to Shimla
was opened for traffic
on November 9, 1903. Because of peculiar working conditions-high capital
cost coupled with high maintenance cost-Kalka Shimla railway
was allowed to
charge higher rates and fare compared to the then prevailing rates for other
lines in the plains. By 1904, a total of Rs. 1,65,25,000 was spent by DUK
and it was a serious financial crisis. On representation of the company, the
secretary of state decided to purchase the line, the purchase was affected
from January 1, 1906.
Combination Of Scientific &
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 or ventures boldly over graceful bridges where
hundreds of feet below, the little mountain streams gush and sparkle in the
On leaving Kalka, 2,100 feet high above mean sea level, the rail line
enters the foothills, commencing its picturesque climb immediately on its
departure from Kalka station. The first great difficulty met with was the
huge landslide on the seventh mile of the cart road, which extends from the
hill summit down to Khushallia River 1,500 feet below. It was impossible to
find a good alignment passing either below or above the slip, and
construction along the face of the landslide was out of question. The only
alternative was to burrow under the hill.
A tunnel, nearly half mile long, was constructed in the solid wall behind
the disturbed surface strata and is known as "Koti Tunnel". The
main station Dharampur, is at a height of 4,900 feet and is 20 miles from
Kalka. The gradient here is very steep and to achieve flatter gradients
required by the railway, the line develops into three picturesque loops at
Taksal, Gumman and Dharampur respectively. After leaving Dharampur, the
railway gains on the road by taking short cuts and tunnels so that up to
Taradevi, the distance by rail from Kalka is one-fourth mile less than the
distance by road in spite of railway 'handicaps'. From Taradevi,
the rail line goes round prospect hill to Jatogh, winding in a series of
graceful curves round the summer hill and burrows under Inverarm hill to
emerge below the road on the south side of Inverarm at its 59th mile and so
on to the terminus near the old Dovedell chambers. At Dagshai, mile 24, the
railway line is 5200 feet about sea level whence it falls to 4900 feet at
Solan and to 4,667 feet at Kandaghat where the final ascent towards Shimla
begins. Between Dagshai and Solan. The railway pierces the Barogh hill
through a tunnel 3,752 feet long and situated 900 feet below the road.
Throughout its length of 60
miles, the line runs in a continuous succession of reverse curves up to 120
feet radius along the valleys and spurs, flanking mountains rising to 6,800
feet above sea level at Shimla railway
with its extraordinary feat of
engineering skill, more than any other cause, contributed to the speedy
development of Shimla.
Some Unique Features
An interesting feature of the Kalka-Shimla Railway
is the almost complete
absence of Girder bridges. Multi arched galleries like ancient roman
aqueducts being the commonest means of carrying the line over the ravines
between the hill spurs. There is only on 60 feet plate girder span in a
Pinewood near the old engineer bungalow at Dharampur and a steel trestle via
duct, which replaced a stone gallery in 1935 in the 869 bridges representing
about 3 percent of the line. The entire section has been built with steep
gradient through the Shivalik ranges.
Another special feature of the Kalka-Shimla Railway
is that as many as 27
cutovers serve as different gradient crossings. There are 20 intermediate
stations, and all have crossing facilities. The line also has about 107
tunnels, which, besides representing the engineering feat, also generate a
lot of interest in the travellers. During summer months, passenger traffic
is heavy whereas in winter months, potato traffic keeps the line busy.
Communicating At The Same
Another important aspect of this track is its age-old communication system,
which is still in vogue. The telephones being used by the stations are block
phones and the control phone system; the former establish links between two
stations while the latter keeps in touch with other important stations. The
lanterns, which were used to stop and give green signals to the trains
during the British regime, are to date in operation.
Special Trains For Tourists
In addition to three passenger and one rail motorcar service mentioned in
the timetable, two special trains each way run between Summerhigh and
Shimla. These special trains cater to military requirements. Deserving
special mention are the recently introduced luxurious Shivalik Express and
the super-luxurious Shivalik Palace saloon for tourists.
HPTDC & NORTHERN RAILWAY JOINT PACKAGE TO SHIMLA HILLS ITINERARY
Dep: By 2311 (Kalka Mail) at 2250 hrs from Delhi Main station in 1st
AC-cum-2AC composite coach.
Kalka arrival at 0500 hrs. dep. from Kalka at 0600 hrs. by Rail Car/ 251UP
Kalka SML Exp. Arr. Shimla at 1100 hrs. Lunch, local sight seeing at Shimla,
dinner and night stay at hotel holiday home, Shimla
Leaving Shimla after breakfast at 0900 hrs. for sightseeing and lunch at
Naldehra. Evening tea at café Lalit Chini Bungalow, Kufri. Dinner and
night stay at Palace Hotel, Chail.
Dep. Chail after breakfast at 1000 hrs. for Narkanda. Lunch, evening tea,
dinner and night stay at Hotel Hatu, Narkanda.
Dep. Narkanda after Breakfast at 0900 hrs. for Shimla-64 km. Arr. 1200 hrs.
Lunch, evening tea at Hotel Holiday Home, Shimla.
Departure from Shimla at 1630 hrs. by rail car/252 Kalka-Shimla Exp
Arrival at Kalka 2230 hrs.
Departure from Kalka at 2330 hrs. by 2312 Kalka Mail.
Arrival Delhi at 0630 hrs.