Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Kangra Valley Railway

Route: Palampur - Pathankot - Jawalamukhi - Kangra - Joginder Nagar

The Kangra Valley Railway
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 ast 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.

Kangra Toy Train, where the passengers spend most of the time going through tunnels, the Kangra toy train- linking Pathankot and Joginder Nagar gently meanders through a maze of hills and valleys, offering the travellers enchantingly scenic views. The work on this line started in 1926. Three years later this, 163 km long route was opened to traffic.

The entire route commands glorious views of nature and unveils myriad facets of history, art and culture. The grand spectacle of Kangra Valley begins unfolding after the train enters the foothills. Hillocks rise on both sides and as the train moves over the meandering streams, the Dhauladhar begin to gain in prominence. Emerging through Daulatpur tunnel and past the ruins of the old Kangra fort, one is surprised by the change in the landscape.

The Dhauladhar rises up 13,000 feet from the valley floor. The wide Kangra Valley, with its well-watered terraces, is simply superb. As the train inches on, the passengers adore the open countryside and the shining white peaks. An unmistakable pine scent fills the air and the track is suddenly fringed on both sides by the tea gardens of the Palampur region. The stretch between Baijnath and Joginder Nagar is the steepest. 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.

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