If you saw Wes Anderson's film The Darjeeling Limited, you probably left the cinema with the urge to book a ticket on an old-fashioned train across India.
Those who took that urge and Googled 'The Darjeeling Express', would have met with that search engine's famous rebuff: 'No results found'. But there is a 19th century train that runs from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, unchanged for over 140 years.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or 'Toy Train', passes the world's highest station at the foot of the Himalayas over 7000 feet above sea-level. Rising a total of 6850ft from New Jalpaiguri, the climb begins at Sukna and continuing uninterruptedly to the 7407ft summit at Ghum before descending on the five miles into Darjeeling.
Darjeeling itself is a popular hill resort in the North of West Bengal in India , inhabited by tribes from the neighbouring areas of West Bengal, Nepal, Sikkim , Tibet and Bhutan . Perhaps most famous for its tea, Darjeeling is inhabited by both Hindus from South India and Buddhists from the North. Tourism has brought development, albeit slowly.
There are few more exotic ways to approach the Himalayas , the earths highest mountain range and, in the words of the DHR's PR department, “a land of mystery and imagination". Certainly, you will approach only slightly faster than if you had walked, with the tiny railway labouring uphill at around 10 mph. It is the perfect pace to witness the change in geography and population, from mainly Bengali in the South to a mixture of Sikkimese, Tibetan and Bhutanese. The heat and dust of the vast, fertile plains of India gives way to the spectacular Himalayas .
Unesco awarded it the status of world heritage site in 1999, considering the DHR, with its tiny four-wheel steam locomotives, a living legend. The layout in curves, loops, and steep grades crisscrossing the hill cart road is said to be a work of genius.
For details, visit: http://www.dhr.in/