‘Heritage status will give fresh life to Kalka-Shimla railway’

November 11th, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

Kalka (Haryana), Nov 11 (IANS) With Unesco declaring the Kalka-Shimla railway line as a World Heritage Site, people here hope the narrow-gauge line that is over a century old will get a fresh lease of life.The railway meanders through the hills between Kalka and Shimla, going through 102 tunnels, crossing 800 bridges and turning at over 900 curves in the 96-km journey.

It was built in 1898 during British rule to connect the then summer capital of India, Shimla, with other parts of the country.

The two foot six inch narrow-gauge railway line that ascends a height of over 4,000 feet was officially opened for traffic Nov 9, 1903.

Ved Parkash, 56, has driven steam engine on the railway track in the late 1960s. Now a technician with the railway system, he doesn’t understand what the heritage status means but is looking forward to development of the area around the track.

“I do not know the meaning of the World Heritage Site but I think that it will improve the financial status of labourers and technicians working here,” Prakash, who has been in Kalka for the last 40 years, told IANS.

“Not even a single day passes when I don’t see huge rush of tourists thronging the train,” he said, adding that the old architecture of the station and its serene beauty is still intact.

Ancient communication and track control system, called Neals Token Instrument System, old lamps, mechanical tools and wall clocks are still in use at the railway stations between Kalka and Shimla.

But the popular hill railway line has been plagued with poor maintenance of the tracks and is frequently hit by landslides.

The inscription plaque of the Kalka-Shimla Railway as a ‘World Heritage Site’ at the Kalka railway station was officially laid at a ceremony Sunday.

“It is a great honour for every individual who is associated with this town. After getting this unique status, we expect it to initiate some developmental projects in the areas,” said Munish Vashisht, who runs a restaurant in the main market in Kalka, the last town in Haryana, 25 km from Chandigarh, from where the rail and road traffic enters Himachal Pradesh.

“Every day thousands of tourists pass through Kalka while going to Himachal Pradesh but nobody is interested in visiting historic places and temples here. Now, we should market such tourist spots and try to woo the tourists to visit them,” said Vashisht.

Said Akash Negi, a cloth merchant: “The name of Kalka town has been flashed on the global map now. Not only domestic tourists but more foreign visitors will come to see this place in the future.”

He lamented that there were very few business opportunities in the town and most of the youngsters migrate to other cities in search of jobs.

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