February 23, 2009

World famous toy train resumes run in West Bengal

Siliguri (WB), Feb 22: The world famous toy train in Darjeeling hills is back on track after it was suspended for 10 days following agitation for a separate Gorkha state.The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) is on a roll to attract as many tourists as possible across the globe. The train, listed among UNESCO’’s World Heritage Sites, passes through a number of picturesque locations including ”Batasia Loop” (the valley of storm), the tea gardens of the Darjeeling Himalayas, the world’’s highest rail station ”Ghoom” and many other locations covering the forest lands of Terai.
The operation of the train has been severely curtailed in the last three years in the wake of the agitation by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM).The train chugged again since February 19 after being closed down on February 9. Despite the turmoil, the magnetic charm of the world famous toy train brings back the tourists.“It is a very famous train, and very well known train in England. People know about it,” said Mark James, a tourist from United Kingdom.Ever since the GJM agitation rocked the Darjeeling hills, the tourism industry in the region received a major setback. Last year 16 charters and eight-winter safaris had to be cancelled due to the agitation and strikes in the hills.There has also been a steady drop in the number of tourists.
The DHR reports project a drop of 28 per cent in volume with mounting losses of rupees two million.“Last year, I brought 42 people from all over the world. We were unable to run because of the Gorkha strike. One of our people comes back this year. I now know that there was another strike last week. But we better be sure we run for the next two days,” said Andrew Nil, the tour conductor from U.K. The DHR toy train was started in 1896 by the then British Lieutenant Governor Ashley Eden, offering riders an opportunity to enjoy the majestic beauty of nature along the Darjeeling hills.At the beginning, this railway was named as the Darjeeling steam Tramway Co. Later when India gained independence in 1947, the railway was named as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO on December 5 at their 23rd session. (ANI)

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