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Toy train eyes Berlin boost to keep chugging

Siliguri, May 25: Railway authorities are banking on a two-week exhibition in Berlin for the heritage-on-wheels to chug its way into the hearts of foreign investors.

The prospect of funds comes at a time when the toy train is burdened with huge losses. Adding to the worry, Unesco is threatening to withdraw the heritage status it had given the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway because the authorities have dumped the steam engines for the more modern diesel locomotive.

Earlier this year, railway officials had taken part in a two-day seminar on international railway tourism in the German capital.

Officials are optimistic about a change in fortunes. Vipan Nanda, the general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway, which runs the DHR, said: “We have received a formal invitation to take part in the Berlin exhibition. We will capitalise on this to generate funds for the toy train to make it more viable.”

“We are in constant touch with DHR societies in Australia and UK to develop new strategies to get more funds for the toy train,” he added.

Top officers of the railway said they would use the Berlin exhibition to showcase the many facets of the DHR and project its tourism potential.

They admitted that “significant” progress had been made during their earlier trip to Berlin. The need to tap unconventional sources of income for the “ailing” railway had also been chalked out.

In the face of rising costs, the authorities are struggling to evolve ways to attract foreign funds to offset the losses incurred by the DHR.

The annual loss incurred by the DHR is around Rs 9 crore. Railway officials said they had taken the initiative to modernise the DHR but a lot remained to be done on the tourism and allied fronts.

“We have also planned to rent out the toy train to private parties. Travel arrangers Cox & Kings has approached us with a plan to charter the toy train,” Nanda said.

Experts had been stressing on the need to generate funds for the toy train, especially since it was given heritage status in 1999.

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