Remember the times when you got off The Darjeeling Mail at NJP station, near Siliguri, and boarded the toy train to climb up the hill to Darjeeling. It was a fairytale journey, one that was cut short five years back due to a massive landslide that destroyed a portion of the tracks.
The toy train, given a world heritage tag by UNESCO, resumed the journey and made the 51km stretch between the plains and Darjeeling in just under 10 hours on Friday.
Two pairs of trains, one from NJP to Darjeeling and the other from Darjeeling to NJP undertook the journey. The diesel locomotive from Darjeeling was flagged off at 10.15am pulling two second class and a first class coach. There were 50 passengers in the second class and 10 passengers in the upper class coach.
A landslide at Paglajhora on June 14, 2010, had halted toy train services between NJP and Darjeeling. A truncated service was hastily put in place between Siliguri and Gayabari (16km from Kurseong station on the Siliguri-Kurseong stretch).
Another landslide on National Highway 55, on which the tracks run, at Tindharia in September 2011 had further truncated the service till Rongtong. However, train services between Kurseong and Darjeeling has been running uninterrupted.
On Friday, though the scheduled arrival time at Darjeeling was 4.15pm, the train chugged in over 3 hours late. “The train was delayed on the stretch between Tindharia and Mahanadi owing to the steady drizzle,” said Sudip Singh, a passenger.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip,” Sweta Rani, a tourist from Bhagalpur in Bihar, told HT.
Suman Pradhan, the station manager of Darjeeling, said that a new beginning has been made. “The train will be a regular feature from today (Friday),” he said.