Shimla Trip Report
by Vikas Singh
100 years after the line was opened for traffic, I was at Kalka station waiting for the Kalka-Shimla express to depart. Earlier Howrah Kalka mail had reached the station on time despite starting full fifty minutes late from Delhi. Perhaps the mail, which made its maiden journey sometime in 1866, too didn't want to miss the action.
The main gate of Kalka station was decorated with flowers. A beautiful rangoli had been done just near the gate. All round there was festive mood. The Shimla express had been painstakingly decorated. Apart from the usual marigold garlands, the train had been decorated with pine leaves and colored cutouts. The ticket examiners, guard, driver, all were in their best uniforms. My two and half year old son, Arun (IRFCANs beware- a serious rail fan is getting all set to join the group soon) kept asking, " when will the happy birthday train move".
Dot on time at 6, the guard blew the whistle and powered by ZDM 3 (No 156) the train started. We were finally "rail borne". Vikas Chandra had forewarned that there was distinct possibility of missing the steam run. But the temptation of doing the travel on 9th was too much to resist. The guard was a very friendly person who was kind enough to offer a ride with him. Much to the chagrin of my wife, Arun and me immediately accepted his offer. He proved to be a fantastic guy and kept telling us in advance about approaching landmarks like the Koti tunnel, Sonwara bridge and Barog tunnel. At Kanoh station he even offered to stop the train till we had clicked to our heart fill photographs of famous four-tier bridge No 541.
The stations from Kathleeghat to Shimla were all decorated with colored festoons and flowers. The stations were all painted in blue and white colors. Avery weighing machines, and ticket punching machines were all painted in bright red color with the table and ticket cupboards painted in black. School children lined up on both sides of track at stations waving national flags. At Kathleeghat the train was full 50 minutes late but both the guard as well as stationmaster assured us that we would not be missing the steam run. The train finally reached Shimla one hour and fifteen minutes behind schedule. Not wanting to miss the action within seconds we were all on the platform. We were told that "Pawan doot" had still not started from Shimla extension. I could see John, Vikas and one more irfcan near the cabin, ready for action. Courtesy a friendly shatabdi driver, we could get a vantage position on the platform, right where the steam engine was supposed to stop. Soon the vintage steam engine christened Pawan doot driven by Man Singh entered platform No-1.The five coaches attached to it had fancy names like Choor chandni, Dhauladhar, Shivalik, Himalaya and Himadri. The entire train had been painted bright red and decorated with marigold flowers. After a brief stop of five minutes the train left for Kathleeghat. After clicking photographs, I looked up and saw Vikas literally running away. (Perhaps to catch the evening Shatabdi from Kalka). The steam run was followed by bright red painted coaches of Shivalik express powered by ZDM (No 186). There was a mad scramble of people to get inside the train.
With a porter in two we headed for Shimla extension station, which had been converted into an art gallery with pictures of Kalka-Shimla track and paintings of school children. By the time we finally checked in Peterhoff it was 5 in evening! Peterhoff was initially the Rajbhawan but later converted into a hotel.
A number of cars participating in Purolator Oberoi Heritage drive were parked there in evening. We could see a no of Rolls Royce, Austin, Mercedes (Of interest to ISA) Chevrolets and Fiats parked.
Next day after a quick breakfast we were on the ridge. Chief minister formally inaugurated the program. First was brilliant performance by 96 piece symphony bad of army Headquarters, Delhi. It was followed by display by 61 mounted cavalry of army. Raised in 1911, this is the only mounted cavalry in world. Next was motorcycle display from corps of military police "The shwet ashwas". Once the program was over we went back to Shimla station. KC 520 looked regal in the shed. A few more pictures were clicked.
The third day was reserved for some local sightseeing. On 12th we left Shimla by Himalayan Queen. The journey back was again reserved for some photographs. Kalka to Delhi was by Himalayan Queen again. (The broad gauge version).
My scanner has not been working properly. I would soon be uploading the photographs for everyone to savour.