Mr. Franklin Prestage, later Sir Franklin, founder of the DHR.
A very brief history of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
Darjeeling came into existence as a refuge from the Indian summer heat for the more affluent people on the plains. Access to Darjeeling was slow and a typical journey from Siliguri entailed a three day journey up a rocky precipitous road. Later a better but longer road, the Cart Road, was built with easier gradients, and it still took about three days for the journey. Franklin Prestage of the East Bengal Railway, proposed a 2 foot gauge track following the Cart Road whose gradients were just on the upper limit for an adhesion railway.
This railway track was eventually completed in 1882 and the journey to Darjeeling was reduced to one day. To overcome the sections where the Cart Road gradient was too steep, loops and zig-
When completed, the line was about 51 miles long and rose from 398 feet at Siliguri on the plain to 7407 feet at the highest point at Ghum. The small 15 ton B class 0-
In its hey-
In the year 1999, fortune smiled and the line was granted ‘World Heritage” status by UNESCO. In effect this protected the fixed assets of the railway, but did not cover the locomotives and rolling stock. These costs are still covered by Indian Railways who have shown their commitment to the railway by providing two new NDM6 diesel locomotives to relieve the stress on the aging B class locomotives.
For more information about the DHR we recommend ‘A guide to The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – India’s Heritage line’ by Richard Wallace. Available from: http://www.dhrs.org