The Kangra Valley Railway to Dharamsala covers extremely difficult mountain terrain, involving the bridging of ravines, crossing over 993 bridges, running through two tunnels winding its way along 484 curves. It is one of two mountain railways running in Himachal Pradesh, the other being Kalka-Shimla Railway, which has been designated as world heritage site by UNESCO. Both of these currently run at a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge, although they do not connect to each other.The Kangra Valley Railway, which plays a significant role in the economy of this region, is in bad shape due to the apathy of the Indian Railways which made no efforts in the past 70 years to convert this 120-km long rail track into a broad gauge line.
Old engines and carriages still run along this route and the whole railway is in need of some urgent upgrades. It takes 7 hours longer than the bus.
As a consequence of being the youngest among five mountain railways of British India, KVR emerged as a successful technological cocktail because engineers employed the zig-zag spirals of Darjeeling toy train route, rack and pinion technique of Nilgiri mountain track, floating axels of Matheran hill railway and aqueduct as well as tunneling style of Kalka-Shimla tourist circuit.
The groundwork for laying the track from Pathankot to Jogindernagar commenced in 1925 and the freight traffic rolled out in just three years for Uhl hydro-electric project at Jogindernagar. Subsequently, passenger services began in April 1929.
Besides technological heritage, the operational originality of Kangra railway remains intact as the traffic on this neglected section is still managed with primitive signalling system and halt stations of colonial architecture.
The Kangra Valley was the centre of the disastrous Dharamsala earthquake some years ago, all structures on the line—which was constructed as recently as 1926-28—are designed to resist shocks as far as possible.
This railway line isn’t actually profitable for the Indian Railways, even after the recent fare hike. The train runs on diesel and it is overcrowded on weekdays. if the train halts for passing, it might stay at any random point forever.
Chakki Bank Bridge collapsed in September 2011 and they are constructing trying to construct a new bridge, which is scheduled to be constructed by April 2012, though at their current pace, it is looking more likely to be closer to 2015.
Dharamsala hosts an unexpected migrant community, the exiled Tibetan government. Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who followed the 14th Dalai Lama. Several thousand Tibetan exiles have now settled in the area.
The route of the Kangra Valley Railway links important towns – very holy Hindu pilgrimage centres & settlements. Initially developed for freight, it quickly became a passenger train, though it suffered a disruption during World War II (1941-42) when a portion of its track was dismantled for war material supply. It was so important that it was restored quickly, just twelve years later in April 1954.
The second section of the Kangra Valley Railway is perhaps the most important. spectacularly beautiful area around Kangra & Palampur is famous for very significant Hindu pilgrimage temples (attracting millions of pilgrims each year) and the Tibetan monastery of the Dalai Lama.
If the Dalai Lama is home it is possible to meet him in person. (See schedule in link below).
When His Holiness is in Dharamsala, his schedule usually includes his daily religious practice and studies taking up the mornings. In the afternoons, His Holiness holds audiences with people, both Tibetans and non-Tibetans.
10 hours overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot.
6 hours Kangra Valley Railway Pathankot to Dharamsala
3 hours Pathankot to Amritsar
Indian Railways Fan Club: http://irfca.org/