Destinations : Palampur - Pathankot - Jawalamukhi - Kangra - Joginder Nagar
No one could have thought of making a finer selection of territory for building a new mountain railway in India than the Kangra valley. Few places can match this scenic region in the sub-Himalayas. One will stumble across a land that has cast its magic spell upon those who planned the railway and those who built the line. The result is there for all to see- an achievement that in every way makes one proud of the fine record that the history of Indian railways has always had.
Magic Of The Himachal Himalayas
One must remember, the Kangra valley is not one place in particular. It happens to be the name given to the entire region that lies between the Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas to the north and the last strangling foothills to the south. So, roughly speaking, this talk is about a slim rectangular belt running 90 miles in length and 30 miles in breadth through the mountains. To the north, the peaks rear skyward: first a low chain of ridges followed by an extensive line averaging between 7,000 and 9,000 feet. Directly behind those are massifs rising from 13,000 to well over 16,000 feet. Then the snows.
The Kangra valley railway is ample proof of how railway engineers can create a work in harmony with nature. This they have done without destroying the grandeur of the mountain, and at the same time, revealing to the traveller, an enchanted fairyland.
Like the Russian émigré Roerich's paintings, the line is where a poet or an artist would have placed it. This symphony emphasises the tremendous depth of the gorges through which sparkling streams tear their impetuous way to the Great Plains of India.
Anything else would have ruined it. A different alignment, a different mode of taking the railway through the maze of hills and valleys would have spoilt its picture postcard perfectness. This unique line has just two tunnels, one of which is only 250 feet and the other 1,000 feet in length. The traveller must remember this is a total distance of 103 miles. Instead of boring his way through the mountains, the railway engineer has skillfully avoided running head first into the hillside. Instead of following dizzy curves, he has cleverly chosen to avoid the awkward corners and straighten his turning. Never does the traveller feel giddiness stealing upon him as it does sometimes on other mountain routes.
"Go easy on the curves!" could well have been the motto of the builders here. For the Kangra Valley Railway presents to the traveller, a chance to gaze as long as he likes on the ever present panorama of snow-clad ranges and the gold green fields without being swung round every few minutes on a narrow are before his eyes can greet the scenery.
Certainly the scenery through which the train passes is ample compensation for the extra distance covered as compared to getting there by road. The most picturesque parts of the valley are exposed to the view – the stretch of 18 miles from Mangwal to Kangra, for example, lies through country unsurpassed for its majestic grandeur with the majestic Ban Ganga gorge and the deep Kangra chasm as two piece de resistance. As one approaches Palampur, the everpresent background of snowy chain peaks, 15,000 and 16,000 feet in height is barely ten miles away. From here onwards, the line runs parallel to the Dhauladhar range and much nearer to it than any other railways in India that ever comes so close to the eternal snows.
Just before Baijnath, the line enters a stretch of country far superior to the journey by road. Here, the train threads its way among the pines of the Bhir gorge. This stretch between Baijnath and Joginder Nagar is the steepest. Over here the train moves at a snail's pace till it reaches the highest point on the track at Ahju. Not far from here are the popular Para-Gliding and Hang-Gliding sites of Bir and Billing. As the train approaches Joginder Nagar, the white mountains gradually begin fading away.
Not many miles further up the line is the Bathu Khad, which is spanned by a long viaduct constructed on a graceful curve with the rails about 100 feet above the bed of the Nullah. Between this point and Kangra are the only two tunnels: at mile 53 is the Dhundi tunnel, 250 feet long. Four miles further is the Daulatpur tunnel, 1,000 feet in length.
Sightseeing From The Tracks
Through all this portion of the journey, the scenery is very rugged, but extremely interesting especially along the last few miles to Kangra whose ancient Rajput Fort – now in ruins after the 1905 earthquake – is visible from beyond the second tunnel. The line does not pass through Kangra town itself but is separated from it by a gigantic cleft in the hills at the bottom of which runs the picturesque Ban Ganga River.
The Kangra Valley Attractions
As a holiday resort, the valley has irresistible attractions. A congenial climate with alluring chances of spotting wildlife; peaks to tempt mountaineers or just rock faces to scamper over. If one is not the athletic type, there are wonderful walks among the pines at Palampur and elsewhere too. March and April are the best months to visit the valley when it is covered with wild Rambler Roses, Oleanders, Rhododendron and fruit blossoms.
The Vajreshwari Devi Temple in Kangra town, achieved a reputation for wealth in gold, pearls and diamonds and tempted many invaders over centuries. Muhammad Ghazni sacked it in 1009, Muhammad bin Tughlaq in the early 15th century and the temple was sacked yet again by Khawas Khan in 1540.
In the intervening years the temple was rebuilt and refurbished several ties but in the great earthquake of 1905 both the temple and the fort were badly damaged. The present temple was built in 1920 and stands behind the crowded, colourful bazaar. The state govt. maintains the temple and the deity sits under a silver dome with silver umbrellas.
A trip on the Kangra Toy Train is a thrilling experience. It is an unmatched way to savour the beauty of the Kangra Valley. At Joginder Nagar, Himachal Tourism offers a unique herbal package track in Himalayas, which unfolds the ecstasy of Himalayan medicinal plants and creates awareness about depleting bio-resources.
Come any time! The Kangra Valley Railway awaits you!
Rail Tours in India
Luxury Trains in India