By Prarthana Mitra
While western filmmakers have expressly fawned over the quaint charm of Indian trains (cue, The Darjeeling Limited theme), Indian travellers have been enchanted with European trains with glass ceilings that they have seen in books, postcards, paintings and films.
Keeping that in mind and in a bid to promote tourism, the Kalka-Shimla rail is the latest inductee into an exclusive company of luxury trains in Indian railways that have vista dome coaches, that is, coaches with a glass ceiling. The Indian railways began converting some of the luxury trains on its most scenic routes from last year. Very few trains, such as the Mumbai-Goa local on the Konkan line, have incorporated these special coaches that allow for a more immersive train journey.
The vista dome coach on the Kalka-Shimla line will soon enable passengers to soak in the breathtaking panoramic views of the “aesthetic landscape”, according to Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Railways. Goyal on Tuesday announced that the pilot trip was conducted recently, and the passengers aboard the trial run were pleased with the better views that the see through glass roof afforded. The newly converted coach, nicknamed Nihaar, has a seating capacity of 36 with upgraded windows and air conditioning system to make the journey more pleasant for the travellers. The vista dome coach has also been equipped with wooden interiors, cushioned upholstery, LED lights, and window blinds.
The express which winds its way through the hills of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, now gives travellers one more reason to take a train instead of a flight. The footfall in Kalka and Shimla, and all other hill stations in between, is also likely to increase following the rollout. The vistadome coach will further offer passengers a glimpse of one of the country’s few remaining narrow gauge railways sections, currently a UNESCO World Heritage site. The new Hop-On-Hop-Off service, introduced by the Northern railways, will also enable travellers to check all places of interest with a single ticket purchase, which usually ranges from Rs 500 for one day to Rs 1000 for three days. The rate is significantly less for children below the age of 12 years.
The first such coach started running between Visakhapatnam and Araku Valley, while the one attached to the Dadar-Madgaon Jan Shatabdi Express in 2017 was the second vista dome coach that became operational on Indian railways. The latter comes with an electronically controlled glass roof that can be switched to transparent for a clearer view, seats that rotate 180 degrees, an observation lounge, and automatic doors, among other features.
Depending on the popularity and impact of the Kalka-Shimla upgraded coach on the region’s tourism, more European-styled vista dome coaches will be introduced to other sections of the Indian railways.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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