Shimla was established by the British soon after the first Anglo- Gurkha war and is situated at 7,116 feet in the foothills of the Himalaya. By the 1830s, Shimla had already established as a major base for the British. It became the summer capital of British India in 1864, and too the Headquarters of the British armed forces in India. The Kalka Shimla Railway was constructed to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British period. In this post I will share few interesting facts and myths about Kalka Shimla Railway.
1. In 1998 the Kalka Shimla Railway construction started on 2 ft narrow gauge tracks by the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway Company. The track was 96.6 km long.
2. 107 tunnels were there at the time of building which is now reduced to 103.
3. The estimated cost for the project was projected at Rs. 86, 78,500 but the cost doubled during construction.
4. Barog tunnel is the longest of the 103 operative tunnels on the route. Trains take about 2.5 minutes to pass this tunnel, running at 25 kilometers per hour.
5. In 1903 the line was inaugurated by then viceroy of India – Lord Curzon.
6. 1906 the line was re-gauged to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) to follow to standards set by the Indian Armed Force.
7. In 2008, the Shimla Kalka railway became a world heritage site.
8. H.S. Harington was the Chief Engineer of the project.
9. Barog railway station is named after Colonel Barog. It was under his supervision the excavating of the Barog tunnel started. The tunneling was being done from both sides and the engineers discovered mid-way that a proper alignment to the tunnel could not be found. The British government fined Barog (Just Rupee 1) with allegations of wasting government property. Colonel Barog felt humiliated and out of frustration and despair committed suicide. He was buried near the incomplete tunnel. The work was then allocated to Chief Engineer HS Harrington.
10. It is said that one night on a walk with his pet dog, Colonel Barog shot himself out of his depression. While the dog tried to get people’s attention seeing his master bleed, by the time the dog could get any help, his master had died. Barog was buried outside the incomplete tunnel to pay respect to his work. But locals believe he never left the place. His spirit still haunts the tunnel.
11. Harrington and his team with all their instruments struggled to find a solution to the same hurdle of alignment. Then Harrington and his team found Baba Bhalku or vice versa. What is known is that Bhalku joined Harrington’s team and soon became the most significant man in it. His only instrument was a long and solid wooden staff with which he would hit the mountain wall inside the tunnel and listen to the sound. He repeated the exercise on various points inside the tunnel and then filtered the info based on the sound. When he found something, he would instruct the engineers to dig from that point. And they followed him. To cut the long story short, the alignment to the Barog tunnel was found, and what could not be achieved with a reasonable explanation. Bhalku was the reason why this difficult and ambitious project was completed in record time and has stood the test of time. The British Government honored Bhalku Ram by awarding him a medal and a turban. What was Bhalku doing? He knew something but he did not know what and how. The part of our brain that jumps to conclusions like this is called the adaptive unconscious, and the study of this kind of decision-making is one of the most important new fields in psychology. “The adaptive unconscious is not to be confused with the unconscious described by Sigmund Freud, which was a dark and foggy place filled with desires and memories and fantasies that were too disturbing for us to believe consciously.”
12. There are 864 bridges. 919 curves.
13. In 1930 Mahatma Gandhi traveled by this track to meet Lord Irwin. Late Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the Ex-President of India always favored Kalka Shimla Rail Journey while going to Shimla.
14. “The Guinness Book of Rail facts & feats” records Kalka Shimla Railways as the supreme narrow gauge engineering in India.
15. All the stations are fairly neat and clean, but the Barog station is eye-catching and spectacularly beautiful. The restaurant of Barog Railway Station is one of the oldest and still maintained with the oldest ambiance.
16. The rail line starts its hike almost immediately after its departure from the Kalka railway station. The toy train gulps along the line, whistling through the deodar, pine, oak, and maple woods at a speed of 25 km an hour.
17. The locomotive steam engine was used to carry seven coaches till 1971 when the Diesel Engine was introduced.
18. The age-old “Neals Token Instrument System” is still in use to establish communication between stations. A token is an object which a train driver is compulsory to possess or see before entering onto a specific section of singletrack. The token is clearly authorized with the names of the section it belongs to. A token system is more commonly used for single lines due to the greater risk of collision within the event of an error being made by a signaler or train crew, than on double lines.
19. The Kalka Shimla toy train was a Joint venture of Indian Railways and Himachal Pradesh Tourism to promote the picturesque valleys, pine forest, fascinating culture, and significant history, colonial wonders and natural beauty of the hill state.
20. In the starting the trains were run with the help of the steam engines and there were only four coaches at that time, but with the passing of time the locomotives are replaced by the diesel engines and there are 6-7 coaches joined to the engines. The first locomotives were bought from the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1901.
21. The line has 864 small and big bridges. Bridges No.493, historically known as the “Arch Gallery”, located between Kandaghat and Kanoh stations, is an arch bridges in three stages, constructed with stone Sonwara and Dharampur is an arch gallery bridge having 5 tier galleries of multiple spans, constructed with stone masonry and bridging a deep valley.
22. Another interesting feature is the Rail Motor Car of 1927 vintage – Which was especially used for the traveling of Viceroys (Governor-General) from Kalka to Shimla.
23. Another major aspect of this track is its age-old communication system, which is still working today. The telephones being used by the stations are block phones and the control phone system, the former establish links between two stations while the later keeps in touch with other important stations.
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How many of these points did you know? Did I miss any? Do you want to add more? Just comment in the comment box below.