Kalka-Shimla Toy Train – breathtaking journey , must ride

Toy Train 1

The Kalka-Shimla Toy Train is a narrow gauge train that Runs for a stretch of 90kms (around 60miles) from Kalka to Shimla, climbing more than 4800 feets!. On it’s route, it crosses ~103 tunnels, 800 bridges and 900 curves! There are 20 old worldly stations dotted along the complete route from Kalka to Shimla. They are mostly simple blue-white-red colored small stations, with wooden benches and small platforms, giving them the “right out of picture” look. Some of them have multi storeys now.

The Kalka Shimla Toy Train ride is one of the most scenic train journeys in India. The train slowly winds it’s way through the upward track from Kalka to Shimla, through rugged mountains, waterfalls, tunnels and pine forests, crossing on its way jungles of wild flowers and beautiful bridges. The scenery is simply breathtaking.

Since the train ascends through steep mountains, it goes at a very slow pace. This gives plenty of time for the on-boarded passengers to sync in the glorious beauty of nature that they are passing by. At curves and nearing stations the train speed gets quiet slow. It gives a nice opportunity for the passengers to hop out, take a walk along the track besides the train, snap some beautiful pictures and then hop-in back!! (Yes, we did that, be careful when you try it).

Toy Train 2
Himalayan Queen passing through a tunnel
image credit @ wikipedia

Timings of the Kalka Shimla Toy Train

There are regular trains from Kalka to Shimla. First one leaves at 4am(Kalka Shimla Narrow Gauge Passenger) in the morning, followed by the next ones at 5:10am(Kalka Shimla Rail Motor), 5:30am(Shivalik Deluxe Express), 6am(Kalka Shimla NG Express) and 12:10pm(Himalayan Queen). Almost all of these run daily. One can book tickets online at irctc.co.in  for  Shivalik Deluxe Express, Kalka Shimla NG Express and Himalayan Queen. One can as well buy a ticket at the ticket counter at Kalka Railway Station. The Kalka Shimla toy train booking opens one month in advance. Bookings have to be done in advance especially in summer and winter, as large numbers of tourists are pouring in and tickets get sold out soon.The same trains run back from Shimla to Kalka follow similar timetable patterns. You can check the timing on the official Indian Railways Website for them.

How best to reach Kalka to catch the Kalka Shimla Toy Train

Kalka can be easily reached from both Delhi and Chandigarh. One can fly into Delhi or Chandigarh International Airport. From Delhi, there are several trains to Kalka, the journey duration is between 4-7 hrs. Most of the trains comply daily. A train that either reaches Kalka early in the morning or late at night would be preferable, as, then one can catch one of the many toy trains scheduled to leave Kalka station between 5:00am – 12:10pm. One can as well take a cab or a bus. Comfortable AC and Volvo buses run from Delhi and they can be booked almost one month in advance, online. From Chandigarh also one can take a cab or a bus and reach Kalka in around 2 hrs. When we took our toy train journey, we reached Kalka from Delhi by a volvo bus, stayed overnight at Kalka and then took the morning train to Shimla. We comfortably reached Shimla by afternoon.

So next time you travel to Shimla, do plan a ride on the Kalka Shimla route..it will turn out to be one of the most memorable train journeys of your lifetime.

Note: when traveling from Delhi to Kalka by train, you might need to book your tickets somewhere in 60-120days in advance. You can check for the ticket booking window and timetable at the Indian Railway Website and book your ticket from irctc.co.in

History of Kalka Shimla Toy Train

When India was under British rule, Shimla was the summer capital of the British empire. There were no good routes to reach Shimla at this point of time. Whatever mountain route was available, it was very rickety and dangerous. It also used to take a lot of time to travel because of the bad condition of the route. In November 1903, the Kalka Shimla narrow gauge train was started to provide easy access from the plains to Shimla. Driven by a steam engine, the train passed through 109 tunnels and took 7 hrs to reach Shimla. The then viceroy Lord Curzon boarded the train on the first ride from Kalka to Shimla. Since then, the train has been complying daily, except for few maintenance breaks in between. The stations still use the old clocks to sync timings between them. Most of these stations are located besides picturesque bridges that provide an easy access from the mountain tracks to the stations. Sunlight is still used to illuminate the dark tunnels where the light is reflected through the mirrors.

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44 Responses

  1. I did watch one 21 minute youtube video, and even with lots of editing, which I’m sure included deleting parts that looked the same, the scenery mostly looked the same, just some hills/mountains and greenery, and passing a simple station now and then, and was not interesting for the most part. Maybe it wasn’t a good video. Do you pass lots of interesting views? Anyone can provide links that show me how beautiful and interesting it is, and not so repetitive? Thanks.

    • It very much depends on how the video was captured. From my personal experience I can tell you it’s a unique and beautiful journey. As the train passes through the mountain track, sometimes you see valleys covered with wild flowers, sometimes green forests, sometimes waterfalls. The train passes through some 100 natural tunnels and they are also very beautiful. The cute little stations are something I like actually. And so is the view of the distant mountains. I haven’t seen any videos of this journey yet. I guess it is something to be experienced.

  2. […] Why Kalka? Well because, the Heritage Mountain train route from Kalka to take a trip to Shimla is mesmerizing beyond words! The administrative capital of Himachal Pradesh is Shimla and it is renowned for it’s scenic beauty as well as bustling tourism. The Kalka Shimla Toy Train is a heritage of India. It passes through the most picturesque parts of the himalayan ranges. And is a treat of a journey when taken in both summer and winter alike. Read here about the Kalka Shimla Toy Train.  […]

  3. Your write up reminds me of my toy train journey.One of the best summer vacation trip it was and thanks for sharing the history behind. I did not know about the old clock

  4. Even before reading, just looking at the second pic, I knew that this is what I definitely want to do. It must be so much fun to ride in one of these old-fashioned carriages through the amazing greenery. I can easily see why the Kalka Shimla Toy Train ride is one of the most scenic train journeys in India. Hop off to take a photo and hop on back sounds almost like childhood shenanigans. Thank you for sharing.

    • Definitely. Aren’t you getting excited? Think how much excitement it would be to really ride this train 🙂

  5. This looks really cool! I would love to experience this one day. 🙂 The views from the train must be incredible.

  6. I love travelling by train and this trip looks amazing. The toy train sounds like something out of a fairytale and the scenery is stunning. When I get to Shimla one day, I really want to do this trip.

  7. Wow so cool, I’d love to ride this sometime. I typically don’t like slow trains, but with these views I’d appreciate having more opportunities to admire the view and snap some photos. Thanks for sharing about this gem!

    • Thats the point. If this train were to rush through the scenery at a 100 kilometers per hour speed , you wont be able to admire the breathtaking beauty around for sure

  8. I have heard of the train before, but I really didn’t realise that it was that slow you could actually hop off take a picture and get back on. What I liked about your post, is you took the time to share the history as well. Really Great Post.

  9. natalietanner

    Hop out, take photos, and get back in? That is a slow train! We love trains in general because it is such a family friendly way to travel. Everyone can move around and everyone can pay attention to the scenery and not worry about the traffic and the maps, etc. Would love to take this train in India with the kids!

    • Yes, definitely it is a slow moving train dear. Because the terrain on which it runs is one of the most difficult in the world..the himalayan ranges..and the speed gives us more space to enjoy the beauty around

  10. Wow!!! This is gorgeous. I recently went on the mountain railway to Borra Caves from Vizag and it was an amazing feeling. I really hope to travel on Kalka Simla Railway soon!!!

    • You definitely should not miss it if you get a chance. This was my most memorable train trip so far

  11. I visited Shimla but somehow missed the toy train, I’m quite jealous of your experience. You took a great couple of actions shots of the train taking the bends, the scenery looks green and beautiful. I also visited Chandigarh, if I’d know about this train I’d have gone out to Kalka.

    • Hopefully you will get another chance to visit Himachal and you can take the toy train at that time 🙂

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  13. We missed this one when we were in Shimla as we were on a road trip. This looks really picturesque. I love these kind of trains, anywhere in the world, they are so romantic. I loved the Darjeeling one too.

  14. What a cool think to do! I have never been to India but it’s on my radar

  15. Omg! This looks like something I’d really love to do! I’m a fan of vintage (especially steam-powered) trains and this seems to make the cut! 😀 That bridge is beautiful! I never knew there’s a place like this in India! Definitely something I’d like to experience someday!

  16. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this before, as I’m a bit of a train nerd! This sounds really cool. Your pictures are great.

  17. A lovely way to experience the countryside

  18. Wow, these photos look incredible and as both a history buff and a train enthusiast, I would LOVE to experience this journey. I have recently completed the Trans-Mongolian Railway but a train trip in India is right there at the top of my bucket list. You’re tips are great but I love how you included a little of the history. Trains have such an important past and I always find it humbling to take a journey that people have been taking a literal century. Very much enjoyed

    • Thanks Gareth. As I always say, every place, every travel related stuff has a history behind it. And when you know the story behind it, that makes it all the way more interesting to experience.

  19. I love scenic train rides, one of the best way to see countryside! Would be particularly cool in India

  20. This looks amazing! Taking a train in Sri Lanka’s tea country was one of our favorite things we did, and this train ride looks like it would be a favorite too. Trains are a great way to see a country’s landscape!

    • So true..trains are indeed the best way to experience a country’s landscape.

  21. I want to experience this! It kinda reminds me of the train I took in Switzerland.

  22. […] time, so we choose the shortest path to Shimla. If you can, we would highly recommend to take the kalka – shimla toy train to reach shimla. Checkout this post to get all the information on how to book, when to book and […]

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