Shimla (earlier spelt Simla) came into existence when the ‘Gurkha wars’ ended in 1815-16 and the victorious British decided to retain certain pockets as military outposts and sanatoriums.
The first house in Shimla was built in 1822 and is known as ‘Kennedy House’, the residence of Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy, the then political officer to the Hill State. In 1864, Shimla was officially declared the summer capital of British India – a status it retained up to India’s independence in 1947. The decision on Partition was taken in this city in 1947. The historic Indo-Pak Shimla accord was also signed here on 3 July 1972.
A remarkable feature of Shimla is its railway station at an altitude of 2075 metres (6820 ft) and nestled in forests of deodar, pine, asphodel, hyacinth, celandine, fir, Himalayan oak, carmine & rhododendron trees. It was constructed in 1903 under the supervision of the then Chief Engineer and agent of the KSR H S Harington.
The walls of the Shimla station building were made of wooden planks and batons. The sloping roofs were of galvanised iron sheets. This was modified in 1921 with a new double storey design for the offices of station master, staff and control, accident relief arrangements, waiting rooms, telegraph office, shelters, shed for handcarts and a horse stand was devised. The walls were constructed with brick masonry.
In 1944, the platform shelter collapsed due to heavy snowfall(about 12 feet) and a new shed over the station building and platform was built under the supervision of late M W Bouldwin, the then Engineer of the KSR.
In 1986-87, Shimla Railway station was selected for development as a modern station and much work has been undertaken over the years. These include end-to-end platform shelters, platform resurfacing, tourist information office, railway telephone exchange, rebuilding of the platform ticketing office, shifting of offices, provision of a computerised booking-cum-reservation office, provision of shelter on the ramp leading to the road away from the station, retiring rooms (10 rooms each having large windows providing a valley view) and a spacious waiting hall on the ground floor that offers the tourists panoramic views of the valley and snowfall in deep winter.
Among the areas of interest in Shimla are the Ridge that presents an excellent view of the mountain ranges; the mall which is the heart of the town; the Baba Bhalku Rail museum which has rare aretefacts of the bygone era; the Jhakoo temple of Hanuman on Shimla’s highest peak; the Institute of Advanced Studies, formerly the Viceregal Lodge; the Sankat Mochan temple; ice skating spot Kufri; Naldehra, a nine hole golfing course; Mashobra, known for its thick forest; and Tatapani, a hot spring on the banks of the Satluj.
The railway stations of Kalka-Shimla region are all unique:
Kalka (Height 656 m above MSL):- Gateway to Himachal Pradesh, mainly established for transhipment & transit. Derived its name from the famous Kali Mata temple located at the Shimla end of the town. The NG toy train starts its uphill journey from Kalka. A diesel shed as well as narrow gauge workshop located at Kalka caters to the operation and maintenance needs of engines and coaches of Kalka-Shimla Rail section.
Taksal (5.69 km/height- 806m above MSL):- As the train meanders into Himachal Pradesh, this is the first station after Kalka on NG KSR section, which is situated in Parwanoo, an industrial town. Locals say there was a coin mint here in the British era & the name has been derived from that, but no evidence is available in this regard.
Gumman (10.41km, and 940m above MSL):- An isolated station, situated in Kasauli hills. Dangerous wild animals sometimes stray on to the station. The famous Timber Trail Resort is visible (13.00 km) from the rail tracks. The resort has a cable car ropeway service, connecting two peaks.
Koti (16.234 kms, from MSL1098m): The station is often visited by wild animals. The second longest tunnel (No. 10) with a length of 693.72m is situated near this station. A natural water spring also flows near the station.
Sonwara (26 kms, 1334m above MSL):- The peaceful station with slate gabled roofs looks very beautiful. The famous, residential Sanawar School is located nearby. The longest arch gallery bridge (No.226) of Kalka-Shimla section with an overall length of 97.40m and height of 19.31m is situated near this station.
Dharampur (32.14 kms, 1469m above MSL):- The famous hill station Kasauli is about 13 km from this station. The Engineer’s Bungalow (33 km), the official residence of the Engineer in charge of this section till late sixties, later on converted into Northern Railway Safety Institute, is also situated near this station towards Shimla end.
Kumarhati Dagshai (39kms, 1579m above MSL):- This isolated station was a transit point for serving the famous Dagshai Military cantonment & still serves the same purpose. It has a historical Church, old British cemetery & jail.
Barog (42.14kms, 1531 m above MSL):- The station has been named after Engineer Barog, who was in charge of the construction site of the first unsuccessful tunnel. Col. S. Barog was fined Rs 1 by the British authorities, when he failed to connect both ends of this tunnel while burrowing. Frustrated over his failure, he committed suicide with his dog.
His grave still exists near the face of the unsuccessful tunnel, about 1 km. upside of the existing tunnel. This is one of the most beautiful stations of the section. The longest tunnel (No.33) with a length of 1143.61m is situated just near the station towards Kalka end. After the uphill journey the train runs downhill from Barog.
Solan (46.10kms, 1429m above MSL): The National Institute of Research on Mushroom Farming & Solan Agriculture University is situated here.
Salogra (52.70kms, height 1509m above M5L):- This isolated station is famous for Scout Camp and Railway Rest house having a beautiful & picturesque view.
Kandaghat (58.24 km./height above MSL 1433 m) :-The famous hill station & old palace of Maharaja of Patiala, the Chail Palace, now converted into a hotel, is just 29 km. from here. This place is famous for fruit, vegetables & flower farming. The beautiful Arch Bridge No. 493 with a length of 32m is situated here. The final climb of this Rail journey begins from this station, going through lush green forests of oak & deodar.
Kanoh (69.42 kms, at above MSL 1647 m):- This railway station, an engineer’s marvel, is completely unapproachable by road and is situated in a valley. The highest Arch Gallery bridge (No.541) with a height of 23m and length of 54.8m with curved layout is situated here.
Baba Bhalku Rail Museum, Shimla To preserve the rich heritage of Kakla-Shimla Railway, Ambala Division of Northern railway has set up a heritage museum at Shimla containing rare artifacts. The Baba Bhalku Rail Museum commemorates the service provided by Baba Bhalku in guiding engineers for the construction of this line.