Train journeys tend to draw out a feeling even among the least sentimental of us—whether a rose-tinted nostalgia for childhood journeys or even a longing for the pace of leisurely train rides where the destination is secondary. Toy trains, in particular, are infamous for invoking these emotions; blame it on their diminutive, charming make and size, or the mountainous landscapes they help carry us through.
In case you’d want to take the trip, we track down a few functional toy trains in India—lest we derail from the point, do forgive us. One can’t fight nostalgia, after all.
Matheran Toy Train
The rainbow train chugs along the track amidst a thick evergreen forest cover on one side of Matheran’s cool hill station. Some people munch the sweet-peanut chikki on the ride, while others look out the window in awe. Journeying on the toy train in this Maharashtrian hill station doesn’t ever get staid, especially since its re-launch earlier in 2018. The 21km train route starts from Neral and goes up to Matheran in the Raigad district, with a stop in between at Aman Lodge station.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
If there ever is a rollercoaster equivalent of a train, it would probably be the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling. The train, built in 1881, is a thrilling ride with loops, turns and zigzags along its tracks to help gain its monumental height above sea level more easily.
There is a short steam loco ‘Joy Ride’ that takes passengers from Darjeeling to Ghum and back to Darjeeling, while taking you through the famous hairpin turn, the Batasia Loop and the Rail Museum at Ghum. This UNESCO Heritage site is also considered the world’s 22nd highest railway.
In the early 20th century, the Kalka-Shimla Railway was built as an easy escape to India’s then-summer capital, Shimla. Rushing through rugged heights, bridges and many tunnels, this UNESCO Heritage Site achieves a startling height of 2,076 meters above sea level.
There are 18 stops covered along the way including Koti, Dharampur, Barog, Solan and Khandaghat in just 5 hours. The four trains that you can choose on this route are the Shivalik Deluxe Express, the Deluxe Rail Motor Car, the Shivalik Palace and the Shivalik Queen Tourist Couch. Recently, the railway even held a literary symposium on-the-go.
Kangra Valley Train
The least known of the lot, the Kangra Valley Train connects passengers from Pathankot in Punjab to the small town of Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh. Now, there’s a high possibility that you may not actually wish to visit either end of the destination, but Kangra has something even more alluring to offer: the view.
This toy train chugs along over 10 years and on its way, passes by fields, pine trees, hills, the Dhauladhar mountain ranges and 950 bridges along its way. A few notable stations along the way include Palampur and Kangra.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Isn’t there something charming in the air when you say you’re going to the Nilgiris? It doesn’t help matters that the train ride you take passes through romantic-sounding towns of the likes of Lovedale, Hill Grove, Adderly. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a toy train that leisurely travels from the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu to Ooty in Karnataka.
The journey begins in the small town of Mettupaiyan, although you can do a short 28-km journey from just Conoor to Ooty in 28km.