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    The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

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    Traveling Sardar

    by Traveling Sardar

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    The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, nicknamed the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal, run by the Indian Railways.

    It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 kilometres (53 mi) long. The elevation level is from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. 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. A broad gauge railway connected Calcutta 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. he proposal was accepted in 1879 following the positive report of a committee formed by Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Construction started the same year.

    Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. constructed the railway. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on 23 August 1880, while the official opening of the line up to Darjeeling was on 4 July 1881. Several engineering adjustments were made later in order to ease the gradient of the rails. Despite natural calamities, such as an earthquake in 1897 and a major cyclone in 1899,[3] 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 4 miles (6 km) to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to meet the new broad gauge line there. DHR remained closed for 18 months during the hostile period of Gorkhaland Movement in 1988–1989.