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Darjeeling toy train not yet on track

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
With tourists slowly trickling into the ‘Queen of Hills,’ it may take weeks or even months before the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) starts chugging up and down its fascinating loops and the curves.

While the process of restoration of tracks of the UNESCO World Heritage site has started after the 100-day-long strike was lifted in Darjeeling hills on September 27, the Railway authorities said tracks were not yet suitable for the toy train movement.

During the strike, not only the services of the toy train were suspended but agitators also attacked the stations of the DHR at several places. At least two stations along the 87-m route at Gayabarai and Sonada were attacked and set on fire. “It is difficult to quantify the extent of damage. We will also have to take permission from the State government… It will take time,” Divisional Railway Manager of the Katihar division, C.P. Gupta, told The Hindu.

M.K. Narzary, DHR director, said maintenance of the tracks could not be carried out during the strike and weeds and grass had covered the tracks in most places.

Even if services resume, it will be only along certain stretches. The DHR officials plan to start the services first in the 16-km stretch between Darjeeling and the Ghoom railway stations.

“Toy train rides are a major attraction for tourists. Since the DHR services remain suspended, the tourists are missing out these rides in their itinerary,” Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator, said.

According to Northeast Frontier Railway officials, the DHR had suffered a loss of Rs. 3 crore because of the suspension of services and the damage to its property during the shutdown.

News source: The Hindu

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