Small and quaint, surrounded by valleys covered with pine trees, a clear blue sky above for a breath of fresh air, and the sound of chirping birds, these railway stations are temples to the romance of rail.
Did you know that Indian railways made tea India’s favourite beverage? A diversity in the cries of ‘chai, gurram chai,’ ‘khurrab se khurrab chai, sabse khurrab chai’, were clever marketing ideas to launch a thousand teacups! The Indian Tea Association’s experiment for globalising tea began in the railways. In 1901, India was a designated ‘potentially large market for tea.’ By 1930s the Tea Association concluded that ‘a better cup of tea could be had at the platform stall than in the first-class restaurant cars on the trains.’
The Story Behind Our Desi Chai: After World War I, petty contractors were given tea packets and kettles to serve at the chief railway junctions of Bengal, Punjab and North West provinces. Defying the English instructors’ advice, they used more milk and sugar, to appropriate the taste of Indian buttermilk or lassi. Soon, tea became a typical Indian phenomenon.
Now that all our favourites- hill stations, train journeys and chai, are on our mind, let’s simply head out for a truckload of adventure.
- Barog Railway Station
What’s Special: Hanging baskets of pink geraniums, hike to the old abandoned Barog Tunnel near the station.
Train Timings: It takes 4 hours approximately. 6 Toy Trains run from Kalka to Barog, the first at 3:30 PM and last at 12:45 PM.
2. Shimla Railway Station
What’s Special: Views of the Shivalik Hills and Himalayas, tunnels (102) and bridges (87), river valleys and waterfalls
Train Timings: There are 7 trains from Kalka to Shimla. It takes 5 to 7 hours approximately to reach Shimla.Rail Motor is the most convenient as it reaches Shimla at 9:20 AM. KLK SML Passenger is the earliest train leaving Kalka at 3:30 AM. The last train Himalayan Queen leaves Kalka at 12:15 PM.
- Darjeeling Railway Station
What’s Special: Batasia Loop, local markets, towns and bridges (5 major and 500 minor, lush green hills, jungles and Darjeeling tea farms, view of snow covered Himalayas and the world’s third highest peak, Kanchenjunga is mesmerising.
Train Timings: The Darjeeling Toy Train runs 18 rides. Steam engine fare costs INR 1,065 and diesel engine train costs INR 695, for a first class ticket.The first train leaves at 7:40 AM and last at 4:20 PM.
- Ghum Railway Station
What’s Special: The highest railway station in India situated at an altitude of 2,258 meters. DHR museum, adjoining the station, houses the oldest Darjeeling train The Baby Sivok. Other places of interest are Ghum Monastery, Batasia Loop, Dhirdham Temple, Passenger Ropeway, Ghoom Monastery, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Tiger Hill, Dali Monastery
Train Timings: 3 trains run from Ghum to Darjeeling covering a total of 6 kilometres. The two toy trains depart at 8:35 AM and 2:56 PM. The duration of journey is 30 minutes approximately. The other hill train starts at 4:55 PM and takes 1 hour approximately.
- Baramulla Railway Station
What’s Special: The first 130 kilometer long railway line connects Kashmir Valley with Banihal. A part of the Jammu-Baramulla line, the station links Kashmir valley with the Indian railway network. Baramulla is famous for many gurudwaras, temples, monasteries and shrines. Gulmarg is nearby and worth visiting for the world’s highest golf course. At the Baramulla railway station, you’ll see Kashmiri wood architecture in an ambiance of a royal court designed to complement the local surroundings.
Train Timings: 9 trains run from Baramulla. There are 5 trains till Banihal. The first leaves at 7 AM and the last at 4:40 PM. Remaining 4 trains till Badgam start at 10:25 AM, the last one being at 7:45 PM.
6. Katra Railway Station
What’s Special: This station serves the Katra town and the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Temple. You can see the Trikuta Parbal in the background.
Train Timings: A total of 14 trains, including passenger trains and express trains, halt at and depart from Katra railway station.