Saturday, 12 November 2016

The "toy" train

Some of the childhood memories and impressions stay on for ever. One such were the trips to Darjeeling in North Bengal in the 1950s, when the journey was quite difficult - certainly for a ten-year old child. One had then to proceed up to Sakrigali Ghat on the south bank of the Ganga (where it enters West Bengal from Bihar), go over by steamer from there to Manihari Ghat on the north bank of the river, board another (metre-gauge) train that would take one to Siliguri, reaching only early in the morning. But all that strain and hardship were forgotten as soon as one boarded the "toy" train, the narrow-gauge "Darjeeling Himalayan Railways".

Then one entered into a dreamland of sights and sounds: the child of the flat-lands of Calcutta was treated to great forested ridges, the "jhoras" or the leaping waterfalls that sprinkled water over the train coaches, and the chug-chug, chug-chug-chug of the engine as strggled past the "zig-zags" and the loops, stations with names like Tung, Sonada,  Ghoom, and people jumping on and off the train as if  it was a tram-car, before chugging into the railway station at Darjeeling.
The ten delicious days that followed, with hot water bottles under the rugs, sitting up in bed watching through the open window the morning sun light up peak after peak of the Kanchenjungha range, pony rides around the Mall, sweet current buns from Glennaries and Plivas, would be only too short.

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