Foreign tourists charter toy train

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway on Tuesday conducted its first chartered ride after the resumption of the services with a group of 18 tourists from the UK travelling on a toy train from New Jalpaiguri to Sukna.

By BIRESWAR BANERJEE in Siliguri
  • Published 18.10.17
  •  
RIDE THRILL: The UK tourists in front of the loco of the toy train at Sukna on Tuesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
The UK tourists at the DHR Museum in Sukna on Tuesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo

Siliguri: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway on Tuesday conducted its first chartered ride after the resumption of the services with a group of 18 tourists from the UK travelling on a toy train from New Jalpaiguri to Sukna.

The toy train services had resumed on Sunday after a gap of four months with a trip between Siliguri Junction and Sukna. The DHR had halted the services on June 12 because of of the Gorkhaland strike.

The chartered ride by the DHR enthusiasts from the UK, railway officials said, would help in disseminating a positive message among the international travel fraternity that the situation was normal in the Darjeeling hills and the Unesco world heritage property was functioning smoothly.

"We resumed the toy train movement to send a message to tourists that normality had returned to the hills and they can avail themselves of the rides. The toy train attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists every year. It is nice to see that immediately after restarting the service, a group of foreigners enjoyed a chartered ride from here to Sukna today (Tuesday)," said M.K. Narzery, the director of the DHR.

DHR sources said the chartered train had left the NJP station at 8.30am and reached Sukna around 10am. A steam loco hauled two coaches, carrying the passengers.

"It was a one-way ride. From Sukna, they went uphill to Darjeeling by road. At Sukna, they visited the DHR Museum," said the DHR director.

For the chartered ride, the group from the UK had booked a first-class coach that has 18 seats. A general coach having a capacity of 25 seats was attached to it.

"The train, with a loco and two coaches (one first class and a general), was similar to that of the normal service which we have been running since Sunday," a source at the DHR said.

The hill railway has a dining coach and a salon compartment as well.

"If anybody asks for the dining and salon coaches while booking a chartered ride, we would provide the same, instead of the first-class and the general compartments," Narzery said.

While the dining car can accommodate 12 passengers, the salon is mainly for a family or a small group.

The chartered ride - the foreign tourists did not have the opportunity to ascend to the hills by train as tracks were damaged at some spots because of landslides in recent months - would largely help the tourism sector, feel stakeholders.

"Resumption of the toy train services is the most important sign that the hills are normal. Now that foreign tourists have taken a chartered DHR ride, we will be able to drive home the point that tourists can come and enjoy Darjeeling and surrounding destinations. It is important because during the winter months, several foreign tourists pour into Darjeeling," said Debasish Maitra, the president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators' Association.