The Kangra Valley railway is neither fast nor comfortable. But still the natives and railway fans from around the world appreciate the historic connection between the district capital of Pathankot and the city of Joginder Nagar at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains.
At the beginning of the 20th century, present day India was a colony belonging to the British Empire. The progress should be further developed in Northern India, too. In the course of modernization, the government planned to build five hydroelectric power plants for generating electricity. In order to transport building materials and supply goods to the construction sites in the mountains, in 1925 the British engineers began to plan the railway route. The construction work of the Kangra Valley railway began in 1926 and the route was released for freight traffic in 1928. In 1929, also passenger transport started.
The route between the cities of Pathankot and Joginder Nagar is just 164 kilometers long. Despite the short distance, the train crosses about 900 bridges and passes two tunnels. During that, the Kangra Valley railway masters an altitude difference of 800 meters. Due to its routing through the mountain scenery, the engineers opted for a single-track route with a maximum incline of four percent. The narrow gauge with a track width of 762 millimeters has made the train earn the nickname "Toy Train".
In almost 90 years of history of the Kangra Valley railway, the route had to be discontinued again and again. In 1942, rails of that track were dismantled and the steel was used for producing military equipment for the British army in the Second World War. Severe weather conditions at the beginning of the decade led to heavy flooding with flood waves along the route. Bridges and pillars collapsed and had to be reconstructed in a long process. Since 2012, there have been in use ten Class ZDM-3 diesel locomotives and four locomotives of the largely identical Class ZDM-4, that master the route seven times a day.
For avid railway fans, the trip onboard the Kangra Valley railway is a very special experience. Due to its narrow gauge, the train sways from the left to the right at high speeds. The compartments are neither air-conditioned nor particularly comfortable, but the large windows offer a fantastic view of the beautiful nature of the Kangra Valley. A view most natives are not really interested in. They use the train for reaching their workplace or the nearest market in order to trade in tea or other agricultural products. However, intermediate stops are also pay off for tourists. Along the Kangra Valley railway, there are many attractions such as centuries-old temples and pilgrimage sites, castle ruins and rustic mountain villages, as well as terrific tea plantations.