Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kalka-Shimla-Kalka Motor Rail Journey: An Inexpensive Heritage Rail Experience to Try Out In India!

It was some 35 years ago, I had the first opportunity to travel by the narrow gauge rail line connecting Kalka and Shimla. 

Kalka is a small town in the Pachkula District of Haryana State of India and is about 28 km from Chandigarh- a pre-engineered city of India which functions as the capital of both  Haryana and Punjab States. Shimla is a mountain resort city and is the capital of Himachal Pradesh State. 

Kalka Railway Station in the early Morning Nov-2013

Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge rail line is about 100 km long and is a world heritage declared by the UNESCO. This rail line ascends continuously from an altitude of 656 M at Kalka to reach the 2200 M elevation of Shimla. To reach this 2.2 km height above mean sea level, one has to travel about 96 km through the narrow gauge rail passing through 100 odd tunnels, 900 curves and about 800 bridges.
The Rail Motor at Kalka just before the departure!
One of the best travel delight on this heritage rail line is the unique facility for the rail motor car journey. While decades ago I used the narrow guage rail line for my travel from Shimla to Kalka, I could not enjoy the rail motor car journey at that time. I have been waiting for an opportunity for that and I got it a few months ago when I had to visit Chandigarh to attend my friend's son's marriage.
Rail Motor at Barog Railway Station
The motor car trip was indeed a remarkable experience and was much simpler than I thought. While there are other narrow gauge trains, I was more particular about this rail motor car experience. 
The Rail Motor Car Locomotive Diesel Engine!
It is a single rail coach self propelled by a diesel locomotive engine with 14 cushioned seats considered as first class. It is not air conditioned and for that matter a/c is not essential for this part of the country as most of the time it is cold rather than hot. 
It is the brake of the Rail Motor and not the steering!
One can book the tickets in advance  using any one of the travel portals like yatra, makemytrip or irctc. The rail car that starts from Kalka to go to Shimla is named 72451/Kalka-Shimla Rail Motor and departs at 5-10 a.m and reaches Shimla at about 9.50 a.m. 
View of Simla from Simla Railway Station
In the evening, the same rail car departs from Shimla as 72452/Shimla-Kalka Rail Motor and departs at 4.25 p.m and reaches Kalka at about 9.35 p.m. 
View through the glass window of the Rail Motor Car!
The average speed of this rail motor car is about 30 Km/hr, but the car actually travels much faster. For example, when I traveled by it from Shimla to Kalka, it reached Kalka one hour before its scheduled arrival time! 
video
Experience the Rail Motor Speed by viewing this video!
Barog railway station about midway is the place where passengers can alight for about 15 minutes for refreshing. 
Tourist Places Information Board at Simla Railway Station!
The fare for a person in this rail motor car is Rs.292/- one way from Kalka-Simla or Simla-Kalka. It is quite affordable for a tourist. The timings are too convenient for any one who visits Chandigarh to spend a day in Shimla. But the taxi fare from Chandigarh to Kalka and Kalka to Chandigarh in the early morning and late evening could be more than three times the rail motor fare!
A View of the Himalayan Life from the Outskirts of Simla!
Simla is in reality very easy to access by rail or by road. The highway connecting Simla to Chandigarh runs almost parallel to the rail line at many places.
The sign board at Simla Railway Station declaring its Heritage!
Unlike other hill stations of India, one important aspect of the Kalka Simla route is its relative safety. The rail line and road are considerably safe as accidents are comparatively much less. Road and rail disruptions during snow fall or land slides are also much lower as compared to other hill station areas of India.

So, if you haven't yet gone to this place, plan your trip soon. And don't miss the rail motor journey!  

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