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.

One amongst the few heritage toy trains in India including the Darjeeling Toy Train and the Kangra Valley Toy Train,  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.

You might as well be interested in:

Shimla to Manali – one of the most scenic road trips in India

Little Chillie Shimla

10 slow and steady indulgence to try in Shimla

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44 Responses

  1. Bob

    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.

    • Neha

      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. A memorable trip to Shimla - A Revolving Compass...

    […] 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. Traveling Bytes

    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.

    • Neha

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

  4. saraessop

    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.

  5. Diana Chen

    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!

    • Neha

      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

  6. ljlegend

    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.

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