Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Route: Kalka - Barog - Dharampore - Taksai - Gamma - Solan - Shimla
Kalka-Shimla RailwayThe idea of a railway line to Shimla dates back to the introduction of railways in India. In the Delhi gazette, a correspondent in November 1847 sketched the route of a railway to Shimla with estimates of the traffic returns etc. in appropriate style. He wrote: “We might then see these cooler regions become the permanent seat of a government daily invigorated by a temperature adapted to refresh an European constitution and keep the mental powers in a state of health alike beneficial both to the rulers and the ruled.”
Survey for a railway line to Shimla featured in the administrative reports of the Indian railways year after year. It is interesting to note that the Shimla line was the most surveyed line. The earliest survey was made in 1884 followed by another survey in 1885. Based on these two surveys, a project report was submitted in 1887 to the government of India for an adhesion line, 68 miles in length and with a ruling gradient of 1 in 33. After the commencement of Delhi-Ambala-Kalka line, fresh surveys were made. Lengthy debates followed and finally an adhesion line was chosen in preference to the rack system.
The Greatest Narrow Gauge Engineering Feat In India
On June 29, 1898, a contract was signed between the secretary of state and the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka railway company for construction and working of a two feet gauge line from Kalka to Shimla. As per the contract, the rail line was to be built without any pecuniary aid or guarantee from the government. The land was, however, provided free of charge.
The military authorities were skeptic about the narrower gauge of two feet chosen for Kalka-Shimla Railway. They recommended a standard two feet by six inches gauge for mountain and light strategic railways. The government of India yielded to the military requirements and on November 15, 1901, the contract with DUK was revised and two feet by six inches gauge was adopted for Kalka-Shimla Railway. This meant change of gauge for a portion of the line built in the year 1901.
In the beginning, the line was laid with 41-1/4 lb flat footed steel rails 21 feet long on steel bearing Paltes and Deodar timber sleepers, nine to a rail. The tack was stone ballasted throughout and fenced only along the Kalka camping ground and through the outskirts of the town of Kalka.
The line measuring 59.44 miles from Kalka to Shimla was opened for traffic on November 9, 1903. Because of peculiar working conditions-high capital cost coupled with high maintenance cost-Kalka Shimla railway was allowed to charge higher rates and fare compared to the then prevailing rates for other lines in the plains. By 1904, a total of Rs. 1,65,25,000 was spent by DUK and it was a serious financial crisis. On representation of the company, the secretary of state decided to purchase the line, the purchase was affected from January 1, 1906.
Combination Of Scientific & Scenic Fiction
The scenery along the whole route is of most magnificent character. Flanked by towering hills, the line, like twin threads of silver, clings perilously to the sides of steep cliffs or ventures boldly over graceful bridges where hundreds of feet below, the little mountain streams gush and sparkle in the sunlight.
On leaving Kalka, 2,100 feet high above mean sea level, the rail line enters the foothills, commencing its picturesque climb immediately on its departure from Kalka station. The first great difficulty met with was the huge landslide on the seventh mile of the cart road, which extends from the hill summit down to Khushallia River 1,500 feet below. It was impossible to find a good alignment passing either below or above the slip, and construction along the face of the landslide was out of question. The only alternative was to burrow under the hill.
A tunnel, nearly half mile long, was constructed in the solid wall behind the disturbed surface strata and is known as “Koti Tunnel”. The main station Dharampur, is at a height of 4,900 feet and is 20 miles from Kalka. The gradient here is very steep and to achieve flatter gradients required by the railway, the line develops into three picturesque loops at Taksal, Gumman and Dharampur respectively. After leaving Dharampur, the railway gains on the road by taking short cuts and tunnels so that up to Taradevi, the distance by rail from Kalka is one-fourth mile less than the distance by road in spite of railway ‘handicaps’. From Taradevi, the rail line goes round prospect hill to Jatogh, winding in a series of graceful curves round the summer hill and burrows under Inverarm hill to emerge below the road on the south side of Inverarm at its 59th mile and so on to the terminus near the old Dovedell chambers. At Dagshai, mile 24, the railway line is 5200 feet about sea level whence it falls to 4900 feet at Solan and to 4,667 feet at Kandaghat where the final ascent towards Shimla begins. Between Dagshai and Solan. The railway pierces the Barogh hill through a tunnel 3,752 feet long and situated 900 feet below the road.
Throughout its length of 60 miles, the line runs in a continuous succession of reverse curves up to 120 feet radius along the valleys and spurs, flanking mountains rising to 6,800 feet above sea level at Shimla railway with its extraordinary feat of engineering skill, more than any other cause, contributed to the speedy development of Shimla.
Some Unique Features
An interesting feature of the Kalka-Shimla Railway is the almost complete absence of Girder bridges. Multi arched galleries like ancient roman aqueducts being the commonest means of carrying the line over the ravines between the hill spurs. There is only on 60 feet plate girder span in a Pinewood near the old engineer bungalow at Dharampur and a steel trestle via duct, which replaced a stone gallery in 1935 in the 869 bridges representing about 3 percent of the line. The entire section has been built with steep gradient through the Shivalik ranges.
Another special feature of the Kalka-Shimla Railway is that as many as 27 cutovers serve as different gradient crossings. There are 20 intermediate stations, and all have crossing facilities. The line also has about 107 tunnels, which, besides representing the engineering feat, also generate a lot of interest in the travellers. During summer months, passenger traffic is heavy whereas in winter months, potato traffic keeps the line busy.
Communicating At The Same Frequency
Another important aspect of this track is its age-old communication system, which is still in vogue. The telephones being used by the stations are block phones and the control phone system; the former establish links between two stations while the latter keeps in touch with other important stations. The lanterns, which were used to stop and give green signals to the trains during the British regime, are to date in operation.
Special Trains For Tourists
In addition to three passenger and one rail motorcar service mentioned in the timetable, two special trains each way run between Summerhigh and Shimla. These special trains cater to military requirements. Deserving special mention are the recently introduced luxurious Shivalik Express and the super-luxurious Shivalik Palace saloon for tourists.