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DHR to run toy train called Red Panda

Siliguri, April 20: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway will run a steam engine-driven train between Kurseong and Darjeeling from the end of the month and the special train has been named after the red panda.

The endangered animal was recently chosen by the Election Commission as a mascot for creating awareness about free and fair election in the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat.

Sugato Lahiri, the chief public relations officer of Northeast Frontier Railway under which the DHR operates, today said the toy train would run on Saturday and Sundays.

“We had been thinking about starting a special train between Kurseong and Darjeeling since last year. The name Red Panda was also finalised at that time but some formalities had to be completed. Recently, we got the sanction to start the train between Kurseong and Darjeeling and the service would start by the end of the month. The train would run on Saturday and Sunday every week,” Lahiri told The Telegraph from NFR headquarters in Maligaon.

Kurseong is 38km from Darjeeling.

The special train would be driven by steam engines and have two first-class non-AC coaches.

Earlier, toy trains with steam engines ran between Kurseong and Darjeeling but for the past three-four years, the steam engines have been replaced by diesel ones.

Now, steam engines operate only on the Ghoom-Darjeeling route. Ghoom is 68km from here.

Two daily trains run on the Kurseong-Darjeeling stretch. The trains are diesel-driven and have one first class and one second class coach, both non-AC.

The DHR authorities are hopeful that the Red Panda train will generate favourable response among tourists for whom the Unesco World Heritage Railway is a major attraction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the red panda as an endangered species.

“Darjeeling is known for its rich flora and fauna and scenic beauty. Darjeeling hills are famous for being the sanctuary of the Red Panda, which is an endangered species. Tourists come from across the country and abroad to see the animal. Darjeeling is also popular for the DHR. We thought combining the two popular items of the hills would be an attractive package for tourists. To ride in the luxury of first-class coaches drawn by a steam engine would be a rewarding experience for steam engine enthusiasts,” Lahiri said.