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India Darjeeling steam photocharter Tanago railfan tours

India:
Freight to Darjeeling

7th - 14th February 2020

Inida: Freight train to Darjeeling

Our classic Darjeeling freight train is running again! In 2016 we were the first to drive the newly built freight train of classic brown two-axle trucks on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway DHR from Siliguri to Darjeeling. In 2018 we returned and again experienced a tour with many beautiful photo opportunities. 

We have further refined our 2020 program: we start in February already from New Jalpaiguri and thus drive the entire route of the DHR for the first time. The spectacular route between Tindharia and Ghum will be covered by our freight train as well as by a passenger train! Also at the night shots we offer new motives in Kurseong and Darjeeling.

Our travel season at the beginning of February is ideal for cool, sunny days in the mountains.

As a pre-program we offer you a visit to the rustic trams of Calcutta with a special trip and depot visits.

A wonderful video of our 2016 Darjeeling tour, you can watch here

 

 

Railfan Tours Icon
No. of participants Min. 15
Duration 7 days
Meals mostly halfboard
Price from 1.990 €
Open for bookings Tickets left.
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Your itinerary

February 7, 2020, Friday:
If you are just boarding today, you will be picked up at Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri train station upon arrival and transferred to your hotel. Each transfer is based on your individual arrival times.

Meals: Dinner.
Overnight: Marriot Hotel (4 stars), at Siliguri Junction station.

If you are flying directly from Europe to India, you must leave your home airport the day before and arrive in India either on the night of 7 February or the morning of 7 February. Please read all relevant information in the "Information" section.

8 February 2020, Saturday:
Normally the New Jalpaiguri - Ghum section of the narrow-gauge DHR is not so busy: according to the timetable there is a daily passenger train (diesel powered) which leaves New Jalpaiguri at 08:30. The I.R. try to run this train on schedule, but if there are not enough passengers the train is cancelled.

So we will only know at short notice when we can leave New Jalpaiguri station with our steam-covered freight train. First we will concentrate on the short section to Siliguri with our photo stops, then our locomotive has to catch water again. In the meantime we visit the small depot of the narrow gauge railway (610mm gauge). After the lunch break our steam train crosses the worth seeing junction between broad gauge and narrow gauge not far from the station. On this section we cannot arrange so many photo stops, because the entire broad-gauge traffic rests, as long as the narrow-gauge railway has not driven out of the jointly used section. Not every dispatcher sees this operating situation as relaxed...

We follow the train on the road to Sukna. After long negotiations the DHR has agreed to allow photo stops in our sense: stop, push back, drive through. Last time we had already obtained this permission, but only verbally. This led to some unsightly scenes during the drive, when "rule book" and "oral OK" collided. Now everything is in writing, and every unbelieving stationmaster should be convinced!

We use the time on the return journey from Tender-voran to Siliguri for our dinner. If you are still fit afterwards, you can visit the Bw again for night shots.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay: Marriot Hotel (4 stars).

9 February 2020, Sunday:
Today our freight train travels the section from Siliguri to Tindharia, a distance of 28.2 kilometres, on which the train overcomes 738.5 metres in altitude. At first it is quite leisurely, the railway line always runs right next to the main road. Here there are many photo motives with the numerous village crossings. The locals often don't take the train so seriously, and so the track bed is also used for parking. Depending on the locomotive driver, this sometimes ends with a deliberately caused damage to the car body if the vehicle owner does not react to the hectic whistling of the locomotive...

After Sukna the "real" ascent begins, and we drive through the dense rainforest, where even elephants are said to live. Behind Rangtong we have to use the first of many hairpin bends to gain height, past 2 no longer used hairpin bends and through 2 more hairpin bends we reach Tindharia in the evening.

Our train stays overnight there, we drive back on the road to Siliguri.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay: Marriot Hotel (4 stars).

10 February 2020, Monday:
The last kilometres before Tindharia are particularly spectacular, so we will travel again early in the morning with our freight train from Rangtong to Tindharia. While locomotive and crew take a break, we visit the central workshop of the railway in Tindharia: here all locomotives and wagons are serviced. Especially the wagons are subject to an intensive reconstruction program - the number of photogenic passenger wagons in old buildings is decreasing more and more.

If everything goes according to plan, the two daily passenger trains from Siliguri and Darjeeling cross each other around noon in Tindharia, and we also have to wait for the diesel trains to pass by. Afterwards the route is free to Kurseong, our end point today. In the evening we arranged some night shots.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight: Cochrane Place, Kurseong (3 stars).

February 11, 2020, Tuesday:
Today we leave our freight train in Kurseong and drive steam-covered with a passenger train set from Tindharia via Kurseong to Ghum!
As already mentioned, all the old cars are no longer in their "original" condition. But what is "original"? At the DHR there were permanent conversions, sometimes dark, sometimes light, there were red and orange cars, windows were replaced - in other words: our train will consist of blue old cars, and we will choose the most photogenic looking cars. Everything else will be left to the rivet counters.

For our overnight stay we chose the Ramada Hotel in Darjeeling. Our previous hotels were either "very British" in colonial style (and a single disappointment), or "very local" (and typically Indian in terms of volume and service awareness). The Ramada combines a very good location in the city centre with a certain international standard - and it was rebuilt only 2 years ago!

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Accommodation: Ramada by Wyndham Hotel, Darjeeling (5 stars).

12 February 2020, Wednesday:
On the road we return early in the morning to Kurseong and drive our freight train again steam-covered from Kurseong via Ghum to Darjeeling. During the lunch break in Ghum you can visit the railway museum right next to the railway station.

From Ghum the road hell begins. Until now, the road always ran alongside the railway, but the local traffic was negligible, because the through traffic takes today a newly built highway away from the railway. From Kurseong this already changes, but the last kilometres between Ghum and Darjeeling really correspond to the worst prejudices one can have about India's road traffic: Thousands of all-terrain vehicles, buses of all sizes, and trucks are pushing their way through the narrow village crossings. In between there are donkeys, cyclists, cows - and occasionally the train. It is dusty, everyone honks his horn and curses.

So far we have managed through our very dedicated Indian tour guide and an understanding police still to keep the road traffic at short notice from our sham journeys. But we can't do that every 100 metres, so we will focus on the highlights in the Ghum-Darjeeling section: Ghum Monastery, cross-town roads, Batasia-Loop.

Another problem is the intensive schedule of the tourist trains (steam and diesel) between Darjeeling and Ghum: in 3 waves in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon 3 train pairs are sent on the route. In addition there is the passenger train to/from Siliguri, and, theoretically, another passenger train to Kurseong and back. There are hardly any free track sections for our freight train - and when we arrive at the Batasia loop with a 15-minute photo stop when applying for the timetable, the clerks only laugh...

Nevertheless, we want to get our timetable through, because the section from Tindharia is really one of the most beautiful that the DHR has to offer. Many of the "classics" lie on the last 20 kilometres of the train. As usual, we expect a definite timetable only a few days before departure!

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight: Ramada by Wyndham Hotel, Darjeeling (5 stars).

13 February 2020, Thursday:
If you like to get up early this morning, you have the chance to watch the sunrise at the legendary viewpoint at "Tiger Hill" (if the weather is good). The morning is then used for recreation, before we have another freight train ride Darjeeling - Ghum - Darjeeling in the afternoon. The timetable will not be easy, because there are often only 10 minutes between the many tourist trains to move our train. We will therefore, at least this is the current planning, advance step by step in several stages using all possible alternatives.

At the end of our trip we arranged night photos in Darjeeling.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight: Ramada by Wyndham Hotel, Darjeeling (5 stars).

14 February 2020, Friday:
After breakfast we drive back on the road to Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri train station, where we will arrive around noon. There the journey ends.

Alternatively we can book more days in the country for you: on our previous tours a visit to the mountains of Sikkim ("behind" Darjeeling) was very popular, also the "Golden Triangle" Delhi-Agra-Jaipur enjoyed great popularity. 

If you would like us to book your international flights, please note this on the booking form!

Your travel price:

per person

For the pre-cruise programme for the Calcutta tramway (4 - 7 February 2020):

  • 750 Euro in half double room
  • 210 Euro single room supplement

For the main programme DHR photo freight train (7 - 14 February 2020)

  • 1.990 Euro in half double room for booking until 31 August 2019
  • 2.180 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 September 2019
  •    380 Euro single room supplement

We run both programs from 12 participants, please book until 15 December 2019!

The tour price includes (depending on the booked program):

  • Special tram ride Calcutta;
  • Admission to selected tram depots;
  • Sightseeing tour Calcutta;
  • Train ride Howrah - New Jalpaiguri in 1A class;
  • Photo trains on the DHR according to program;
  • Night shots;
  • depot sightseeing;
  • All transfers according to program;
  • Accommodation and meals as advertised;
  • Tanago information material;
  • Tanago tour guide (German/English speaking), plus local tour guide. 

Not included in the tour price are the journey to and from India, flights within India, all expenses of a personal nature (minibar, telephone, cleaning, etc.), visa for India, tips.

This trip is charged to us by our Indian partners in Indian Rupees and in US$. The exchange rates to the Euro are completely out of our control. Since we do not want to burden the travel price with fictitious currency reserves, the published price represents the exchange rates to the Euro as of 1.7.2019. Should the exchange rate drastically deteriorate until the day of departure, we expressly reserve the right to adjust the price.

If you are travelling alone, you can also book a "half" double room, we will do our best to allocate you another "half" double room booker. However, if this is not possible, we will charge you the single supplement.

Please note our extensive insurance options: Tanago cooperates with the HanseMerkur insurance company. You can take out inexpensive protection against illness, loss of valuables, cancellation or interruption of travel simply and quickly online! Find out more on our insurance page.

Information:

India polarizes: there is the saying "either you love it, or you hate it". There is a lot of truth in it, on the other hand all participants on previous trips have also said that they would like to come back again. The food also survived without having to give up the specialist programme on a daily basis due to major problems! 

Their tour guides have often been to India and know the local customs very well. Calcutta is certainly an endurance test right at the beginning of the trip: Luxury and bitter poverty with living conditions that are completely foreign to us "upwards" and "downwards". In the Himalayas we already live in a completely different world, and at the latest in Darjeeling the known rules have caught up with us again.

You can read all official comments on the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

We would like to add the following information:

Arrival and departure: for most nationalities a visa is required. 
We recommend applying for an electronic visa. This can be done easily and quickly via a homepage of the Indian government. It is also a good exercise in Indian bureaucracy ...

We are happy to arrange suitable flights to India and within the country for you. Write us an email and we will prepare the best options for you. Basically it is the case that you either arrive in India around midnight and depart again, or arrive in the morning and depart in the afternoon.

For all midnight flyers we can offer a complete package (transfer airport hotel airport, overnight stay with breakfast) for all Indian cities. This way you can get to the hotel quickly and easily after your arrival and fly on to Bagdogra or Calcutta the next morning. We are also happy to book train tickets for you if you want to explore India by train!

If you have chosen the day variant for your long-haul flights, you usually do not need a hotel. Please talk to us about your preferred travel options.

In the country: on this trip we have chosen very good hotels of international standards in Calcutta, Siliguri, and Darjeeling. Only in Kurseong it is enough 1 night only to 3 stars.

Past tours have shown that our previous solution of road transport with spacious Sedan cars including local drivers was very successful, so we keep this solution on this trip: maximum 3 people share a car, there is still plenty of space for legs and photo equipment! The cars are at our disposal all day long. Please stay relaxed in Indian traffic. The drivers are all very experienced - and what leads to heart racing is not even enough for the drivers to shrug their mouths. 

On the road the law of the strongest applies, even if we as foreigners are shown a little more consideration and understanding. Please be careful and pay attention to your surroundings!

Food & drink: in order to make the best possible use of our time in the country, we start early in the morning and occasionally take our breakfast with us. At noon we usually have a snack on the way (lunch is not included in the tour price), in the evening we will usually eat from the buffet. Of course, there are mainly Indian dishes, but there have also been participants who have eaten only schnitzel with fries during the whole tour. As already mentioned: so far there were no bigger failures on our trips to India because of the food! 

Money: in the hotels you can pay also with credit card, in the country and in the small corner shops only with Indian rupees in cash. The costs of the land program represent a kind of "all-inclusive". Your additional costs on this trip are therefore limited to an optional snack for lunch, excessive drink consumption, or potential extra wishes. It should be noted, however, that India is not a cheap travel country, although food and everyday items are cheap at first glance. As we have provided hotels of the upper category for you, it is usual to provide tips (suitcase carriers, porter, waiter, auxiliary staff, toilet staff). You should expect a minimum of 20 rupees per service. In addition there is only one contribution to the tip fund. We will collect 50 € per participant at the beginning of the trip and distribute it to the local guides, drivers, and other servants during the tour who will make our trips a success! 

Temperatures & Technology:
In Calcutta they have to live with at least 20° Celsius and high humidity, the further up we get, the cooler it gets. The nights in Darjeeling can also get really cold. During the day we expect temperatures in the mountains of around 15°C. The sun usually shines intensely, bring in any case a headgear against wind and sun! Use also stable shoes (we will be the whole day in the area on the way) and you also get dressed for "outside". Please leave jackets or trousers in bright colours in your wardrobe at home.

In India you will need a "colonial plug", because many Indian sockets only work with the bulky, 3-pole English plugs. The mobile radio network is very well developed, in our hotels a free WLAN is available in principle, however transmission rates and signal strengths are occasionally expandable!

Welcome to the Himalayas!