The colourful toy train in Shimla.
The colourful toy train in Shimla.

A guide to riding the toy trains from Shimla to Kalka

Step back in time on the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Shimla to Kalka Toy Train, witnessing some of the most scenic parts of India.
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If you’ve not already considered taking a step back in time on-board the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Shimla to Kalka Toy Train, we’re pretty sure you’ll soon want to. This is an enchanting journey through some of the most scenic parts of India that simply cannot be missed.

A railway just 2 ft 6 inches wide and more than 2,000 metres above sea level at its peak, this might just be one of the most iconic journeys in the world. Linking a colonial past to the India we know best today – rickshaws, the Golden Triangle and beautiful beaches – it’s a truly special journey. 

The railway was constructed by the British over the course of five years, dating back to 1903 to provide access to their summer capital of Shimla.

As you make your way from Shimla to Kalka, you’ll ride the narrow track taking you on a journey of a lifetime through the rugged mountains and pine forests of Northern India. Located just north of the modern city of Chandigarh of Himachal Pradesh, this is a must-see attraction if you’re in the area. 

The captivating train route connects Shimla to Kalka across 96 kilometres, passing through 20 railway stations. If you enjoy the entire journey, you’ll pass through 103 tunnels, 800 bridges and an astonishing 900 curves, with picture-postcard scenery to be enjoyed continuously along the way.

Although the speed of the train is restricted thanks to the steep gradients, you won’t be complaining as you bask in the breath-taking sights from start to finish. For us, the most fascinating scenery can be found from Barog, the main railway station, all the way to Shimla

Our top tip for this journey is to sit along the left side of the train if you’re travelling from Kalka to Shimla for the very best views and vice versa for the return. 

Shimla

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Shimla is an astonishingly beautiful old city once graced by the colonels and viceroys, playing a vitally important part to the empire in its day.

As one of the most Northern cities, the region provides a gentler climate during the challenging summer months. But it’s so much more than a retreat from the warm.

As the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is bursting with memories and history yearning to be discovered. 

On your approach to the city, you might expect to be entering some kind of time warp. Upon further discovery, you’ll find Victorian coffee shops, a Christian church and a unique blend of British architecture married with a distinct Nepalese influence and the culinary excellence of Punjab.

With modern influences shaping the city, one of the only things that remains unchanged to this day is the picturesque views. Views that you will never tire of. 

Kalka

Kalka is a sleepy little town in the Panchkula district of Haryana. The town’s name is derived from the goddess Kali. Situated along the foothills of the Himalayas, Kalka serves as a gateway to the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh along the national highway linking Chandigarh to Shimla.

Once a state acquired by British India back in 1843, this town that was once inhabited by just 8,000 people is bursting with culture and history. 

If you’re planning on staying overnight in Kalka ahead of your journey, plan ahead as there are limited accommodation options to choose from. If you’ve left it a little late, just a few kilometres away in Parwanoo, you’ll find a vaster choice of options.

If you fancy splurging, you should book into the Moksha Spa, named of the top Himalayan spa resorts in India. 

Along with the two passenger trains, there are a further three tourist train services that run along the Kalka Shimla runway: 

Shivalik Deluxe Express – a premium ‘express’ train complete with wide glass windows, plush cushioned seats, onboard music and upgrades toilets. This service accommodates 120 passengers, food is provided, and the train only stops once at Barog. 

Departure: 5:45 am Arrival 10:35am. It’s worth noting that this train often arrives an hour or two late.  

Himalayan Queen – this is a standard train with first and second class carriages. If you like to get and out explore, this is the option for you. Stopping at nine stations along the way, for up to 10 minutes, you’ll be able to hop off and snap away to get some stunning photos for the scrapbook. There’s no food onboard, however, there are options at the stations. 

Departure: 12:10 pm Arrival: 5:30pm. Again, in reality, this journey can take up to seven hours. 

Rail Motor Car – Now, this is a really special option. Resembled a bus from the time of the Second World War, the rail motor car features a transparent roof and just 14 seats. Stopping at only Barog and serving food onboard, getting tickets for this unique service can be a little difficult. 

Departure: 5:25am Arrival: 9:25am. This service is usually on-time. 

Other details

It’s worth noting that none of the three tourist trains offers air conditioning. The only service that does is the regular Kalka-Shimla NG Express passenger train. If comfort is key for you, opt for the Shivalik Deluxe or Rail Motor Car, if you can’t get a ticket for either, first class on the Himalayan Queen is the next best option. 

The Kalka-Shimla NG Passenger is a much cheaper option for unserved seating. As is the NG for unreserved tickets, with both passenger trains offering numerous options of class and seating. With that said, we’d recommend hopping on board the Rail Motor Car or the Shivalik Deluxe for the best experience of the railway.

For further information on all the services linking Kalka to Shimla across on the of worlds most scenic journeys, visit our website.

If you truly want to experience the diverse culture, landscapes and attractions of Northern India, our Golden Triangle & Shimla tour is perfect for you. From riding the toy train and searching for the tigers of Ranthambhore on safari to watching the sunrise at the Taj Mahal and soaking up the sights in Jaipur, this tour has it all. 

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