Travel

Tracking tales

Which is the rail route that has the steepest incline and is also listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site? It is the Kalka Shimla heritage toy train that chugs across forests of maple , deodar, pine, oak and fichus, over 800 and more bridges and through over 100 tunnels.

Tracking tales

The Legend

The rail line dates back to 1903 during the British rule and there is story that is not so well known about it.When the Shimla-Kalka railway track was being laid, a Colonel Barog, a British Engineer was supervising its construction. As the digging progressed from both ends the right alignment for the tunnel could just not come about. In spite Barog was fined a princely sum of one rupee, for wasting Government resources, and depressed, he committed suicide and was buried near the incomplete tunnel. His successor H.S Harrington had the same problem. Then a local man Bhalku Ram approached Harrington and offered to help make the tunnel, if the British took the line all the way up to Shimla. Bhalku tapped the mountain walls with his solid wooden staff and depending on the sound he heard, directed the engineers to dig . Following his instructions, the British finally completed the tunnel which is today known as the Barog tunnel. The British Government honoured Bhalku Ram with a medal and a turban. The result was that Bhalku earned himself a saint like status amongst the local people who began to worship him!

Opened in July 2011, the Bhalku Rail Museum gives you an interesting insight into the history of the Kalka-Shimla Railway Line through its collection of rare artefacts. The Photo Galleria has images of the steam-loco-hauled train as well as a train making its way through snow covered tracks. There is a 1930 lost property register bearing the details of lost bags, umbrellas, caps and coats found in waiting rooms of the station and on the train. The furniture and crockery gallery displays fine glassware, wine glasses and vases used in those days. Also on display areteak wood easy chairs that were used in the station rest rooms besides large wooden wall clocks made in England. Old train parts dating back to the early 20th century, seals and labels worn by porters and other staff, steam locomotive headlights, ticket punching machines, brass lamps, lanterns and a rail liner used on the track in 1899 (the oldest item on display) There is also a miniature model of the tunnel and its repair system. A life-sized train stands complete with its old carriages.

The next time you visit Shimla, drop in at the Bhalku Rail Museum. It is a treat and an ode tothe history of Indian Railways.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 11:48:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/tracking-tales/article24752062.ece

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