Trundling, twist­ing and turn­ing on the ‘Toy Train’ to the Hi­malayas

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

rail­way, has been held. We hurry along to find our car­riage and get seated.

With a great blast on its hooter, the train sets off on its five-hour jour­ney. There’s a hol­i­day at­mos­phere. In ev­ery tun­nel – there are more than 100 – chil­dren (and par­ents) shriek and shout “Whooo…”. The train trun­dles up­hill, twist­ing and turn­ing. It’s a ser­pen­tine switch­back ride and a stun­ning feat of en­gi­neer­ing, with 860 bridges, some as tall as Ro­man viaducts. Lulled by the train’s steady rum-tum-ti-tum-rum-tum rhythm, we thought it was go­ing to be a small vil­lage; they didn’t know there are about 200,000 peo­ple there.”

As evening draws on, a party of half a dozen men loll asleep on each other’s shoul­ders. The sprawl­ing town even­tu­ally looms into view, its houses stuck to the pre­cip­i­tous hill­sides like fridge mag­nets. The street lights merge into the stars.

Next morn­ing, our bal­cony at the Oberoi Ce­cil – Shimla’s finest ho­tel – gives us a bird’s-eye view of the train snaking in and out of the sta­tion, where I meet San­jay Gera, the ge­nial, trim-mous­tached sta­tion su­per­in­ten­dent. A por­trait of Gandhi beams down on him in his of­fice across from a cal­en­dar of the East Lan­cashire Rail­way.

He shows me round the sta­tion, with its curv­ing plat­form, its re­fresh­ment room (soup costs 15 ru­pees – 20p), its Coolie Shel­ter for porters and a stern no­tice: “Com­plaints should be di­rected to Di­rec­tor, Pub­lic Grievance.”

Every­one seems in a good mood, though I sus­pect the guava-peel­ing Ra­jeev Ku­mar may be feel­ing just a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed: there is no snow.

Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxand­kings.co.uk) of­fers a six-night tour to Shimla and Delhi from £1,895 per per­son, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic flights, a Toy Train ride up to Shimla, trans­fers and ac­com­mo­da­tion with break­fast. It fea­tures three nights at the Oberoi New Delhi and three at the Oberoi Ce­cil Shimla

Pas­sen­gers love to take snaps of the hill­side from the Toy Train

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