Kalka-Shimla toy train derails, two Britons killed (Third Lead)

Parwanoo (Himachal Pradesh), Sep 12 (IANS) Two Britons were killed and seven injured on Saturday when two coaches of a chartered Kalka-Shimla toy train hired by a group of 37 foreigners derailed near this Himachal Pradesh town, a police officer said.

The dead were identified as two women, Loraine Toner and Joan Nickolas, both 60, Inspector General of Police (Railway) Zahoor Zaidi told IANS over the telephone. The injured were admitted to the PGI hospital in Chandigarh, 30 km from the accident spot.

Over-speeding at a curve was the cause of the accident, one of the survivors told police.

Northern Railway chief public relations officer Neeraj Sharma told reporters in New Delhi that the train was booked by a group of foreigners mainly from Britain.

Police said the train with four engines left Kalka in Haryana at 12.40 p.m. It went off the tracks at Taksal, just three kilometres from Kalka.

The traffic on the 96 km long and a century-old narrow gauge world heritage railroad remained suspended and is likely to be restored by Sunday.

The chartered trains on this rail section are handled by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation, a wing of Indian Railways.

“The reason behind the incident is yet to be ascertained. It might be a problem in the track or in the coach. There is a possibility that an animal suddenly came on the track or rocks falling on the track,” Sharma told IANS in New Delhi earlier.

The Kalka-Shimla rail track was built by the British in 1903 to ferry Europeans to and from this hill town, the erstwhile summer capital of British India. It was chosen by Unesco as a world heritage site in 2008.

Raaja Bhasin, a Shimla-based historian, who was also travelling in the train, told IANS that the group of foreigners was from Britain.

“The accident occurred just 10 minutes after the departure of the train from the Kalka station,” Bhasin told IANS.

The Kalka-Shimla rail route also features in the Guinness Book of World Records for offering the steepest rise in altitude in a space of 96 km. More than two-thirds of the track is curved, sometimes at angles as sharp as 48 degrees.

The glorious journey along the rail line from 640 metres above sea level at Kalka to the lofty heights of Shimla at 2,060 metres takes one’s breath away, as the train meanders through deep ravines, a verdant forest of pine, deodar, oak and maple, and the magnificent scenery of the Shivalik hills.

Five trains run normally between Kalka and Shimla every day. Each ‘toy train’ — the popular name for it — has about seven coaches and can accommodate nearly 200 passengers.

The last derailment on the Kalka-Shimla rail route occurred in December 2008 when one person was killed and three people injured. It went off the track at Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh after completing two hours of the journey.

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