Kalka-Shimla Railway – Heritage Railways in the World

Kalka shimla train
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The Kalka Shimla railway line is a great achievement of human ingenuity. The Kalka-Shimla Railway built to connect, the summer capital of India in 1903 at an altitude of 2213 meters. The Kalka Shimla Railway line is one of the most popular hill railways in India. The trains running on these tracks are popularly called ‘Toy Trains’.

This toy train journey starts from Kalka, a town in its neighboring state, Haryana and ends in the magnificent Shimla. The Kalka –Shimla Railway is a narrow gauge railway that covers a distance of 96km. This 96-kms long railway track is built over 889 short to long bridges and passes through 102 tunnels in the foothills of the Himalayas. This railway line offers steep rise in altitude in the space of 96 kilometers between Kalka station (656 mtrs) and Shimla station (2076 mtrs). The line has as many as 919 curves,the sharpest being 48 degrees.

Shimla railway

The train ride from Shimla to Kalka takes 5 to 6 hours at a leisurely pace of 25 km/h. This might seem slow to us today but in 1903 it was a vast improvement, as it took at least a couple of days to travel the same distance back then. The track has been active for all these years and proves that when the British build something they build it to last.

There are many stories related to this track including ghosts, suicides and giant snakes.

Colonel Barog and Tunnel 33

Barog Tunnel at 1144 meters is the longest tunnel on the route and appears just before the Barog Station. This tunnel was named after Mr.Barog, who started the digging of this tunnel, but only to commit a mistake. He started the digging of the tunnels from the both end simultaneously to only realized that these two ends were not aligned. The British government fined him INR 1 for wasting government time and money. Barog was upset by this humiliation and shot dead himself one day during the morning walk. Later the tunnel was completed by Chief Engineer H.S. Harrington with the help of local ascetic Bhalku. This tunnel is today’s Barog tunnel even though it is completely different from the failed tunnel of Colonel Barog. The small town of Barog owes its name to the same gentleman.

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The Ghost of Tunnel 103

Tunnel 103 is the last tunnel towards Shimla at the end of the line. It is believed to be haunted by a British gentleman’s ghost who likes chatting up individuals passing by the tunnel. Other ghosts, spirits and paranormal activities have also been observed near tunnel 103. Some talk about a woman wearing a black sari and carrying a malnourished baby.

Started in 1903, this 110 year old engineering marvel is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Darjeeling and Nilgiri Mountain Railways. This rail route features in the Guinness Book of World Records for offering the steepest rise in altitude in the space of 96 kilometers.

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Padam Palace – Residence of Shri Virbhadra Singh

Rampur BushahrRampur Bushahr is the last capital of the Bushahr or Bashahr dynasty that ruled Shimla & Kinnaur regions for a long time. If you go by legends, they trace their ancestry to Pradyumna – the Son of Lord Krishna. You do see a lot of Vishnu temples in the Bushahr region. So the belief may have some basis. However, in the recorded history Bushahr dynasty ruled from Kamru fort near Sangla. Then moved to Sarahan and finally about 100 years back to Rampur on the banks of Sutlej river.

Padam Palace

Padam Palace is one of the most attractions at Rampur Bushahr in Shimla. It once served as the Winter Capital of the former princely state of Bushair. Raja Padam Singh laid the foundation the palace on the left bank of River Satluj in the year 1919. The construction of Padam Palace took six years and it was completed in 1925. Chief engineer who supervised its construction was known as Bir Chand Shukla.

Padam Palace

History of Palace
Padam palace is a private property of the Royal family of Bushahr. Whose current king would have been the current chief minister of Himachal Pradesh – Virbhadra Singh. In fact, he is still referred as Raja Sahib in this area. Padam Singh who built this palace was his father and was the 122nd king in the lineage of this dynasty.

The construction of this palace uses wood heavily. It is designed to make way for interesting spaces such as porticos and galleries. It has a typically colonial design with conical roof, which looks stunning and meant for snow to fall off. It also sports white painted eaves, which add to the colonial-look of the place.

The interiors of this palace are even more beautiful with great glasswork designed using different colours and incredible woodwork. However, this is the private residence of Shri Virbhadra Singh and one requires permission to visit it. There is also a rich library inside. Portraits of royal family members adorn the walls of this palace.

Stones for the building were quarried at Khaneri and the wood was brought down from the jungles of Munish. Black gram paste was used for cementing the stone blocks. The stone arches of the lower floor and woodwork of the upper storey mark a striking contrast. The tipper storey wooden screen has floral and figurine designs so as to partially admit light without exposing those inside.

Captured by VJ@Travellingcamera.com - 9958116604

Macchkandi, the seating area for the royalty during celebrations, is situated at one end of the lawn and is definitely a masterpiece in woodwork. Woodwork has been done so cleverly that sunlight is let in, but people inside are not visible to the outsiders. Gurjit Singh Fishta was the designer of the Macchkandi.

The father-son duo that transformed his designs into reality is that of Gurmail Singh and Gurdev Singh. Even the halls of the Padam Palace are used to host royal functions. Apartments and residences of the royal family members are located inside as well as outside this building.