The Laying-Down Of India's Smallest Train Track
The astounding journey through 103 tunnels by toy train from Kalka to Shimla is an unforgettable affair. So is the story of the laying down of the track and its unique communication system. It is said that the Englishmen who engineered this track sought the help of a commoner in laying down the track. This track was surveyed half a century earlier before it was actually Okayed for running trains.
The Kalka-Shimla railway is often termed as a scientific fiction. Covering a distance of 95-km through 103 tunnels and 869 bridges, it has 919 curves (68-km) 20 railway station and 5 level crossings on the route. This track is one of the most unique railway tracks of the world. It has also been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as India's smallest railway line.
Railway chronicles show it as the most surveyed project. It is said that a correspondent of the Delhi Gazette had first sketched this railway line sometime in November 1847, almost half a century before it was actually constructed. The project was revived again in 1885 but nothing came of it. Another project report prepared during 1887 also failed to commence the construction of the route. Finally, a survey of the terrain in 1895 paved the way for singing the construction contract on June 29, 1898.
The story goes that the Englishman, while constructing this track and the bridges in particular sought the help of Bhalkhu Baba, a commoner who hailed from Jhajha hamlet near Chail in Solan district. It is said that some evil spirits did not let the engineers perform their duty and the Baba, according to the legend, possessed spiritual powers and helped pacify the evil spirits. Bhalkhu Baba, who was showered the honour of Jamindar by the British, also finds a place in the Shimla Gazette. Baba's family still possesses a turban and a medal, which were presented to him by the then Viceroy of India.
Though the construction of the Kalka-Shimla route was completed on November 2, 1903, it was opened for the general public only on January 1, 1906. It is a living tribute to the engineers who dared to bore 107 tunnels out of which 103 are still in use. The longest tunnel at Barog, traversed in 3 minutes by the toy train, also has an interesting story behind it. This station is named after Engineer Barog who sacrificed his life here.
An Old Tunnel And A Grave
Just 1-km from the station lies a forlorn tunnel and the grave of this engineer who tried to construct this tunnel but failed to align both sides. The wastage of a vast amount of public money forced him to embrace death. If the tunnel had been aligned properly, it would have been the longest railway tunnel in the world and the track would have not been running through solan and salogra.
Age-Old Communication System
A part from the Barog tunnel, three other big tunnels on this route are Koti, Taradevi and tunnel no. 103. Another important aspect of this track is its age-old communication system, which is still in vogue. Northern Railway still uses Niels Token Block instruments, which is a unique system to communicate between stations. The telephones being used by the stations on this route are block phones and the control phone systems. While the block phones only establish links between two stations, using the control phone system links other important stations. Since, manufacturing of these is not done today, only overhauling is done at Ghaziabad . The lanterns, which stopped and gave the green signal to the trains during the British regime, are still in vogue.