THE AMAZING LOOP at Chambatta, India, on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. As the line had to overcome an ascent of 7,000 ft in less than fifty miles, severe gradients and sharp curves were found to be necessary. The railway, opened in 1880-
THE Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is one of the engineering feats of the world. Although the steepness of the gradients on this narrow-
This little railway has a gauge of 2 ft and a length of fifty-
At one time the journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling was an exhausting one involving many changes. The passenger went by train to Sahebgunge, 219 miles distant. Here a bullock cart had to be taken to the River Ganges, at a point opposite Dingra Ghat. After the river was crossed, by means of a steam ferry, to Carragola, another bullock cart journey ensued to Purneah and Siliguri, over a hundred miles from Sahebgunge. At Siliguri the ascent began to Darjeeling. The whole journey took from five to six days. In 1878 the Northern Bengal State Railway was opened, reducing the time of the journey to less than twenty-
In those days dinner -
NEAR TINDHARIA. The station at the third loop on the railway, sixteen miles from Siliguri. The complete loop is shown in this striking illustration. The sharpest curve on the line has a radius of 69½ ft.
It is at Siliguri that the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway begins its remarkable journey to Darjeeling. Before the railway was built, a first-
The building of the railway aroused great interest in India. Work began in May, 1879, and in March, 1880, the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, travelled on a train as far as the eighteenth mile, which was then the limit of the line. In the following August the line was opened for passenger and goods traffic as far as Kurseong, 4,864 ft above the sea and thirty-
Siliguri lies 398 ft above sea-
The fact that it was decided to work the line by adhesion on the narrow gauge of 2 ft restricted the weight of the trains, but there is nothing of a “toy railway” about the construction of the line or about the amount of passenger and goods traffic that it carries. Steel rails weighing 41¼ lb per yard were laid on wooden sleepers.
For the first seven miles from Siliguri station the gradient was easy, the ascent to Sookna station (533 ft) being at 1 in 281. The heaviest piece of work in this section was the erection of a steel bridge, 700 ft long, in seven 100-
DIAGRAM OF LOOP No. 2 at the fourteenth mile on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The gradient here is 1 in 28.
It is at Sookna that the real ascent begins. After passing the ninth mile-
Soon after Rungtong station the line turns nearly south on to a long spur where another spiral is encountered. This spiral begins just before the fourteenth mile-
The track, now returning northwards and eastwards for a short distance, runs along the old road, but gradually passes below it, until the third loop is reached at the sixteenth mile-
At the eighteenth mile the country presented such difficulties that a spiral was impracticable, and a reverse had to be adopted. At an altitude of 2,438 ft, the line, climbing at 1 in 28, enters a curve of 800 ft radius, followed by one of 400 ft radius, and reaches a dead-
A SECTION OF THE MOUNTAIN LINE showing the tortuous alignment. The railway has a 2 ft gauge, and although there are short gradients as steep as 1 in 23, the line is adhesion operated. Rolling-
Tindharia station is considered to be above the Terai fever level. The workshops of the company are here. In the section of just under four miles between Tindharia and Gyabari stations the heaviest average gradient, 1 in 28¾, has to be faced. After a zigzag outside Tindharia station comes the fourth and final spiral or loop This is generally regarded as the most sensational spot on the line, and is called “Agony Point”. It represents the ascent of another of the conical spurs which are common in the locality. Originally there was so little room that on the upper part of the loop a curve of 59-
The train passes “Agony Point” and proceeds, encountering another zigzag just before Gyabari station. The station stands at an altitude of 3,516 ft. Just beyond it the fourth and last zigzag, or reverse, is negotiated, and the gradient becomes slightly easier, 1 in 32 for the succeeding four miles to Mahanuddy, 4,120 ft above sea-
In the gorges below, it is said that a Nepalese head-
A stream called the “Mad Torrent” marks the hall-
7,400 ft Above Sea-
After leaving Kurseong the grade stiffens slightly to 1 in 31 to Toong station, a distance of about five miles. After Toong the gradient increases to 1 in 29½ for the five miles to Sonada, 6,552 ft above the sea and forty-
It is now only about four miles to Darjeeling, the altitude of which is 6,812 ft; but on this section is found the steepest short gradient, the descent being made at an average of 1 in 31½, but with a short bank of about three-
When the line was first opened engines weighing about eight tons were used, capable of hauling a load of ten tons up the maximum gradients of 1 in 19 and round the sharpest curves. But when the banks were reduced, more powerful locomotives were put into service. These weighed twelve tons and could haul twenty-
At one time tea was the principal commodity carried, but cereals now take pride of place. In the year ended March 31, 1934, the tonnage of goods totalled nearly 80,000, rice accounting for nearly 20,000 tons of this.
ROUNDING “AGONY POINT”. A train on a remarkable section of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The upper part of the loop -
[From part 22, published 28 June 1935]
“Modern Transport in India” on this website.