British tourists first to charter Darjeeling toy train after it resumed service
Right now service has resumed in only two stretches -- Siliguri to Sukna and New Jalpaiguri and Tindharia. It will take some time to open the entire route between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.kolkata Updated: Oct 18, 2017 12:18 IST
Darjeeling Himalaya Railway (DHR), popular as the Darjeeling toy train and a world heritage item, had its first foreign takers on Tuesday after it resumed service following a nearly four month-shutdown.
The 18-member British tourist team became the first to charter the two-coach train hauled by a steam engine between Siliguri and Sukna -- a distance of 16 km.
“A travel agency chartered the train for the British guests two days ago as the news of the toy train resuming services spread,” DHR director N K Narzary told HT.
The toy train that snakes along the north Bengal hills for about 88 km is a British legacy and extremely popular among foreigners. The train ride is supposed to be the second most important tourist attraction after Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world that straddles Nepal and Sikkim and is clearly visible from Darjeeling.
“We are hopeful to launch the joy rides between Darjeeling and Ghoom by end October. Resuming normal services between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling would take some time,” said Narzary.
It costs about Rs 56,000 to charter a train in between New Jalpaiguri and Sukna. The chartered trains are hauled by steam engines and consist of one first class and a general coach.
Apart from the stretch from Siliguri to Sukna, tourists can now also hire the train from New Jalpaiguri and Tindharia, a distance of 30 km.
The cost of chartering DHR trains depends on what sorts of coaches passengers want. DHR has saloons and dining cars.
DHR was accorded world heritage status by UNESCO in 1999. However, it is a loss making venture. Most of its revenues come from chartered trains and joy rides between Darjeeling and Ghoom.
The 104-day general strike demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland that paralysed everything in the north Bengal hills badly affected DHR services.
A large portion of the track is covered by weeds and DHR sources said it would take some time to restore the track to shape.