We booked our tickets in advance to avoid any extra headache during the journey. The schedule time of Toy Train from NJP to Darjeeling is at 0900 hrs. While coming to the narrow gauge (2 feet) platform, which is at the far end of NJP station, from the main platform, few taxi drivers tried a lot to stop us from availing Toy Train and insist to take their taxi. As in Toy Train the journey will be at least three times longer. But we had no hurry in reaching Darjeeling. I always believe that for a traveler, the purpose is never just to reach a place, but a new way of seeing things. And in this tour we have a specific plan to see things in a new way, to re-establish ‘Journey is the reward’.
It was 0925 hrs when our journey by Toy Train begun from NJP station. We were pretty excited. Just after few minutes, middle of nowhere our Toy Train stopped. We were trying to realize what went wrong. As there were no signal, actually no question of signal, the line was clear. Suddenly I noticed a person coming towards our Toy Train from a far away railway yard. The person took around five minutes to reach to driver’s cabin of our Toy Train. He handed over a bunch of keys to the driver and our journey resumed.
The first one hour of the journey was through the plains. Mainly through the outskirts of the Siliguri town. But the journey was not at all pleasant. In fact a feeling was started growing inside me like should not have tried this. It is through a very busy locality full of typical city life. Many times you will watch by-cycles / rikshaw vans are overtaking your Toy Train. After crossing the Mahananda river we reached Sukna. A small and calm station with the first feeling of mountains, which is about an hours journey. Green mountains were visible in near far and from this point your Toy Train will start ascending. From here the route went through deep gorges and forest of teak and sal. Beyond this point only you will fill the charm of Toy Train.
One of the most interesting designs of this Toy Train track are the zig-zag reverses. The train moves backward to follow the new path of the track. This is an unique design to negotiate sharp inclinations of the mountains. But, of course, the most enjoyable part of this Toy Train ride is the natural beauty of Hemalaya. And if this is your first visit to Darjeeling, you will have a more memorable experience. Though the journey starts piercing the mountains right after Sukna. But snow peaks starts appearing after Kurseong. Just after leaving Kurseong, Kabru will be clearly visible. For Kancenjunga you need to wait a little more. More you move towards Darjeeling in Toy Train, the range will become more visible to you. And that majestic view can not be expressed in words.
For the best view, make sure that you seat on the left side of the Toy Train. At the right side mainly you will have buildings only. But on top of this the most important ‘X’ factor of mountain, the weather, must support you. What I did not have this time during my Toy Train ride.
Well, I have no regret because of not having perfect weather this time, as one more time I got a chance to realize the humbleness of the local people. It was a lovely morning in the mall and no rooms were available for seating. One local old man noticed me and offered me his seat saying ‘you are my guest, please enjoy the view’…..