Kalka (Haryana), Nov 9 (IANS) The 105-year-old railway line that meanders through the hills between Kalka and Shimla, covering 102 tunnels and 800 bridges, was Sunday officially declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Minister of State for Railways R. Velu unveiled the inscription plaque of the Kalka-Shimla Railway as a World Heritage Site at the Kalka railway station, around 25 km from Chandigarh.
The Kalka-Shimla railway line was built in 1898 during British rule to connect the then summer capital of India, Shimla, with other parts of the country. The two-feet-six-inches narrow gauge railway line that covers a distance of 96 km was officially opened for traffic Nov 9, 1903.
'This railway line actually deserves this status and everyone here is happy. Besides the fact that it is more than 100 years old, there are many things that reinforced our claim for this status,' Ajay Kochhar, station superintendent at the Kalka railway station, told IANS.
'We have a good collection of old wheels, jack and various mechanical tools that you will not find anywhere in the world. We also have rare wall clocks and steam engines. All these things have been now preserved at the museum in Shimla,' said Kochhar.
Although the world has entered the computer age, the ancient communication and track control system, called Neals Token Instrument System, is still in use on the Kalka-Shimla route.
'There is a unique exchange of tokens at all stations on the route to get the line clearance. This old system exists nowhere else in our country,' said Kochhar.
He said the rail line is the fourth in the country to get this status. Kalka is the last town in Haryana's Panchkula district on the state's border with Himachal Pradesh.
The journey that starts from Kalka at 656 meters above the sea level finishes at Shimla at an altitude of 2,076 meters above the sea level. The line offers a panoramic view of the hills.
'There are over 20 railway stations on this 96 km stretch. A UNESCO team visited the Kalka-Shimla railway line last year and we got confirmation of this status in August this year,' said Kochhar.
The journey covers prominent tourist spots like Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Taradevi, Barog, Salogra and Summerhill.
The train runs through 102 tunnels and crosses over 800 bridges on the journey. There are over 900 curves on the way, the sharpest being a 48 degree one.
There are also ghost tales associated with these tunnels. A popular lore is of the engineer who built the tunnel at Barog town. He is said to have committed suicide after committing an error while drafting its design.
'Many passengers have claimed to have seen the ghost of the engineer sitting near the railway track. This is the longest tunnel on this route - it is around one-and-a-half kilometres,' said Jasbir Singh, a technician working at the Kalka railway station.
Five trains depart daily for Shimla from Kalka at 4 a.m., 5.30 a.m., 6 a.m., 8.30 a.m. and 12.10 p.m. -- and five trains arrive here from Shimla. The ticket rates vary from Rs.19 to Rs.280.
Said Kochhar: 'A train can carry 210 passengers to Shimla and around 1,000 passengers go to Shimla from Kalka every day. In fact, we have to run two-three more trains during the peak season to meet increased demand.'
The train has deluxe compartment, honeymoon compartment, rail car and chair class.
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