I rode the Shimla toy train down the hill to the town of Shoghi this afternoon. It’s only about an hour away, and I decided to do that rather than take it all the way to Kalka, which is about 6 hours. The train moves at a leisurely pace of about 17 or 18 km per hour, which is about twice as long as it takes if you go by bus. It’s a beautiful ride, though.
The route goes along mountain ridges and through many, many tunnels, often through thick forest, stopping at several little towns on the way to Kalka. It’s a really beautiful ride.
I went in unreserved class, which cost me all of Rs30. There were a couple of reserved carriages, a couple of other unreserved carriages, and the unreserved ladies compartment, which occupied half of the caboose. I went for the ladies’ compartment, where a sweet lady from Delhi offered me her window seat since I wasn’t going so far. Most of the ladies seemed to be quite local, though. Apparently, there is a really cheap monthly pass. It must be really cheap to make it worth taking twice as long to get home for commuters.
Unreserved is, of course, not particularly comfortable. It was quite crowded, with one lady hanging out the door, and another who spread a cloth on the floor and took a nap.
If you go to Shimla, I highly recommend a train ride, even if you just take a short ride like I did. Just don’t go if you are in a hurry. In the summer, the afternoon train is fine, but later in the year, the morning train would be better because you don’t want to miss the beautiful scenery.
The Shimla toy train is a World Heritage Site, and it really is a treasure.