As the World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) conducted a promotional run of the Toy Train’s air-conditioned coach on Thursday, officials said they were working on fixing the fares before the same could be fully operational.
The train with the two AC coaches is scheduled to run the 88-km New Jalapaiguri (Siliguri)-Darjeeling tracks. The DHR on Thursday arranged for the promotional 29-km trip between Siliguri Junction and Tindharia station near Kurseong The railways developed and manufactured the two AC coaches at a cost of Rs 43 lakh in Siliguri itself.
The capacity of each coach is 15 passengers, and depending on the response from passengers and stakeholders, officials said that the Railways plans to develop four more such coaches in 2018-2019.
“The AC coaches would run regularly once the fares are fixed. Trial runs of the coaches were earlier conducted up to Darjeeling. Once operational, the coaches would be available for chartered bookings also,” ADRM at the NJP station, Partha Pratim Roy, said.
The current fare for the first class coach is Rs 1295, and officials said the fares of the AC coach could be around Rs 1500. According to the initial plan, one AC coach, one first class coach and a second class coach or a ‘guard-van’ would regularly ply after its commissioning.
The AC unit of the coach is roof-mounted, while one small but powerful ‘power pack’ has been fitted in the coach for power in the coach. Railway officials said the other special features include interior furnishings, done by using teak panels, large glass windows that are toughened and laminated for safety that will also give passengers a clear view of the surroundings outside as they travel.
“A music system is also fitted in the coach, while the loudspeakers could be used for information sharing and making announcements. The coach has been externally painted with shining metallic colour. One hatch opening has been provided for fresh air and ventilation in case the AC is not in operation. The hatch fan will run with a battery and it will be recharged by the power pack,” a senior railway official said during the promotional ride.
Officials said similar, well-furnished non-AC coaches would be introduced for the joy ride services between Darjeeling and Ghoom. Earlier, the AC railcars were fitted in the Kalka-Shimla Railway, but the initiative was not very successful there, it is learnt.
“We are hopeful that the AC coach here will give more joy and comfort to passengers,” said DHR director MK Narzary. The Kalka-Shimla Railway and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway are two other world heritage sites recognised by the UNESCO.
Meanwhile, some tourists, who had been traveling in another toy train, said they were hopeful the journey in the AC coaches would be more enjoyable.
“We came in a group of 14 to travel in Darejeeling. This is the first time we are travelling in the Toy Train, and it was a wonderful experience. We came to know about the introduction of the AC coaches, and I think it would add more pleasure in the journey,” said Piyali Chakrabarty, a resident of Birati, North 24 Parganas.