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Love on track - on Kalka-Shimla train

Shimla: It may be better to travel than to arrive, with the railways putting the `honeymoon special` bogey for newlyweds back on track on the Kalka-Shimla route from next week!

"A Kalka-Shimla train will again have a special bogey - Shivalik Queen - for couples from next month," Shimla station superintendent GS Rajput said. The service, by Northern Railway, had been discontinued for the last few months due to renovation.

"The newly renovated compartment, of course, offers more privacy for couples in a luxurious environment with wall-to-wall carpeting and curtained windows," he said.

At least four couples can travel in a bogey at a time and the fare per couple is Rs 750 one way, he said.

According to the railway manual, the Shivalik Queen would be attached to 241 `A` Duplicate Shivalik Express that departs from the Kalka railway station at 6.30 am every day.

"The honeymooners` bogey would be attached with the train only as per reservation. It generally operates regularly during the tourist season. In summer, the season begins April 15 and continues till June 15," commercial manager (railways) Amar Singh Thakur said.

However, if three couples want to travel jointly, they can also hire the Shivalik Palace bogey, but its fare is slightly on the higher side.

"Shivalik Palace is designed like a hotel room for six people. The bogey has folding cushioned beds and seats, wide glass windows that open, a refrigerator, on-board kitchen, a library and a dining table. It can be attached to any train on the Kalka-Shimla route. An onboard helper will be there to assist the travellers," he said.

According to him, the Shivalik Palace fare is Rs.4,970 from Kalka to Shimla and Rs 3,595 from Shimla to Kalka.

"The Shivalik Palace is also suitable for a family or friends who want to travel together," Thakur said.

However, the Shivalik Queen and Palace can only be booked through the Kalka and Shimla railway stations.

The journey from 640 metres above sea level at Kalka meanders through deep ravines, verdant forest of pines, deodars, oak and maples, to the `Queen of Hills` Shimla, which is 2,060 metres above sea level.

The century-old rail line has been chosen by Unesco as a world heritage site in 2008.

This rail route also features in the Guinness Book of World Records for offering the steepest rise in altitude in a space of 96 km. More than two-thirds of the track is curved, sometimes at angles as sharp as 48 degrees.

Seven trains run between Kalka and Shimla during peak tourist season. Each `toy train` - the popular name for it - has about seven coaches and can accommodate nearly 200 passengers.

There are 102 tunnels on the rail line. Initially, there were 103 tunnels, but tunnel number 46 does not exist any more.

"A journey by the Shimla toy train is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas. In fact, the entire journey covered in around five hours is almost incredible," said John Philips, a US citizen, who travelled for the first time on the Kalka-Shimla rail line.

IANS

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