The Darjeeling Toy Train

The train in Darjeeling is called a toy train, which would perhaps be appropriate if the toy were the only possession of a child in Victorian London whose world was composed of equal parts of rain, soot, and coal dust. Probably the child is an orphan. There’s also hail, though maybe that’s to be expected when you’re traveling in the Himalayas and not particularly inherent to the toy train.

The toy train travels on special tracks from Darjeeling to Ghum and maybe further, I don’t know. It runs on coal and makes an immense amount of noise. It is a tiny vision of hell:

This train, it might be worth noting, is a Unesco World Heritage site, perhaps because against all odds it has not managed to fall off the mountain side for (almost) hundreds of years.


Almost as soon as we boarded the train, it began to rain torrentially. There was a great deal of smoke, and even the window sills were covered in coal dust:


To the left in this incomprehensible photo is my person, becoming wetter and wetter. The coal dust transferred itself to me and quickly became soupy wet coal dust. The window above me was not well sealed and I soon found myself drenched by a carbon-enriched waterfall:


(That is my seat after I finally gave up on it.) I am still picking large specks of coal dust out of my hair. Everyone else on the train was entirely fine; Harriet promptly fell asleep and missed everything. When we arrived in Ghum, the Indian Railway Service took pity on me and moved us to a pair of considerably drier seats. Also the rain stopped. Things were simpler. In Ghum there is a museum full of incomprehensible objects:


Also they seem to have this rather charming park-bench train car, on which we were not offered a ride:


The train itself was full of incomprehensible machinery. Perhaps if we knew more about train engineering we would understand what was going on here.


While you do have fine views from the train, they seem a little familiar, as the train mostly travels along Hill Cart Road, the main (only?) road up to Darjeeling. They are still worth seeing, especially when the rain clears:


One thought on “The Darjeeling Toy Train

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *