All aboard these toy trains in India for timeless journeys

From the Himalayas in the north to the Nilgiris in the south, these toy train journeys across India will take your breath away.

If you have watched the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory and can relate to Sheldon Cooper’s obsession with trains, you probably know the recipe for the perfect rail journey. A meandering route cutting through rolling valleys, lots of tunnels, a steam-puffing engine, a remarkable history attached to the ancient railway settlement, and of course, sights that can soothe your soul.

And it is all the more enjoyable if the ride is slow, offering you ample time to take it all in. Yes, all train journeys are fun but we are talking about toy trains! If you wish to embark on a slow sojourn in vintage carriages taking you through iconic routes, take a look at these toy train rides in India.

5 most scenic toy train rides in India!

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal

Darjeeling toy train
Take a Joy Ride in the Darjeeling’s toy train. Image: Courtesy Instagram/Subhrajit Pramanick and Harshit.

One of the oldest hill railways to be still in service, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) made its first journey in 1881, but its passenger services only began in 1964. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, the DHR offers vintage, diesel-powered toy train rides along narrow two-feet wide tracks. Enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayas from the carriage’s wide windows as you slowly journey through zig-zag verdurous routes, amid thick forests and lush tea plantations. The settlement will take you back in time to the colonial era. Take the famous Joy Ride from Darjeeling to Ghum that starts from INR1,000 or pick the Jungle Safari in the evening at a similar starting fare.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu

Toy train ooty
The Mettupalayam-Ooty rail route is as scenic as it gets! Image: Courtesy Instagram/Saikanth Krishna.

The UNESCO-listed Nilgiri Mountain Railway was started in 1908 for British administration in Chennai as an escape from the sweltering heat and quick route to the cooler climes of Ooty. The line runs 46 km from Mettupalayam to Ooty (aka Udagamandalam) slowly ascending the Nilgiri Hills and crossing 250 bridges and numerous tunnels. The settlement exemplifies the marvels of engineering and induces a nostalgic appeal o train travel. Expect crossing dense forests, wide spectrum of foliage, misty hills, lush grasslands, and narrow valleys along your journey. The southern toy train with wooden coaches stops at four stations namely Kallar, Lovingdale, Wellington, and the ever-so-charming Coonoor.

Kalka-Shimla Railway, Himachal Pradesh

Kalka to shimla toy train
Experience colonial-era charm as you make your way to Shimla. Image: Courtesy Instagram/Ashish Sulkh.

Starting in the little hamlet of Kalka, the Kalka–Shimla Railway (another UNESCO-listed site) was started functioning in 1903, and today, winds for 96 km up the Himalayan hills. The route was made with great efforts, cutting through 103 tunnels and over 864 bridges to reach its final destination in Shimla. It has a major role in boosting the popularity of Shimla as the summer capital of British India. The toy train here has red-cream carriages and takes four hours to slowly climb 1,420 metres up, making small stop at various stations. If time permits, hop off at the Barog Station to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding Himalayan valleys.

Matheran Hill Railway, Maharashtra

Matheran toy train
No better way to explore the surreal beauty of Matheran than a toy train ride! Image: Courtesy Instagram/Colours of Maharashtra.

Covering a distance of 20 km, the toy train of Matheran Hill Railway runs between Neral and the little hamlet of Matheran. The narrow-gauge train meanders up the zig-zag hilly route that features unique horseback embankments, treating guests with the beautiful vistas of the Western Ghats. The journey takes about two and a half fours, giving one ample time to breathe in the crisp mountain air and enjoy the slow-paced ride. There are several notable points along the route, including the steep grade of Bhakra Khud, Mountain Berry, and the One Kiss Tunnel.

Kangra Valley Railway, Himachal Pradesh

A rather unsung railway line in the sub-Himalayan region as compared to its much popular counterparts, the no-frill Kangra Valley Railway is a living, moving museum of early 20th century technology. The journey starts from the cantonment town of Pathankot in Punjab and ends in Jogindernagar, near Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra Valley. Expect deep gorges, feathery pine forests, fields of mustard, undulating tea gardens, jade green rivers and rock-strewn riverbeds, and many mud-walled farmhouses to keep you company. Peeking through the flanks of oak and deodar-clad valleys are the Dhauladhar ranges, offering the best of views.

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