The Indian Railways, in many ways, is the lifeline of the country, hauling enormous amounts of cargo and passengers from one region to another. With a total route length of 65436 km, it is amongst the largest rail networks in the world. Established in 1853, it now provides employment to more than one million people of the country. According to reports, the agency carried about 8425 million passengers and around 1050.18 million tons of freight during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Some of its routes, which go through mountains, are quite popular among tourists and special trains are operated on them. One such service takes people to Darjeeling and their Darjeeling tour package cost may or may not be inclusive of it.
The Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is undoubtedly the most famous section of the entire system. It is an 88 km long route, between the towns of New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, in the state of West Bengal. Being built between 1879 and 1881 makes it one of the oldest railway sections in India. A combination of steam and diesel locomotives haul the trains. Due to the steepness of the climb, many loops and Z-reverses are constructed along the line to make the ascension easier. The train begins its journey from the New Jalpaiguri station, from where it reaches the town of Siliguri, which has two stations along the route. Next halt is at Sukna, after which the plains are left behind and climb to the mountains begins. During the 8 km long run between Sukna and Rongtong, the track cuts the winding Hill Carter Road at many junctures.
Moving further from Rongtong, the line goes through the first zigzag or Z-reverse. Chunabhatti, the next town, is reached after circling around the first loop. Two consecutive zigzags are parts of the line between Chunabhatti and Tindharia. The latter is a major junction, having workshops and sheds. Agony Point is the name given to the second loop, which is encircled from Tindharia towards Gaya Bari. It is named so because it is quite a tight curve and is prone to derailments. The last Z-reverse on the line leads to the town of Mahanadi. The journey to Kurseong does not involve crossing or climbing any loops and zigzags. A market is located above the Kurseong station, which the track crosses through. The shops are just an arm-stretch away from the coaches and it is almost like strolling past the market. Further on the route are stoppages at Dilaram, Sonada, Rangbul and Jorebunglow.
The highest point of the trip, Ghoom (2258 metres), comes after the town of Jorebunglow. A museum on the first floor of the station building and exhibits housed in the freight warehouse can be seen by tourists. The Batasia Loop is the last loop on the way and comes after Ghoom. From here, travellers get a panoramic view of the high mountains, including the 8586 metres high Kangchenjunga and the destination city, which is the last stop on the line and its terminus. All through the way, people can look down at the plains or the Himalayas. A holiday package in India can be modified to take this train to the city.