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Railfan Tours

India Darjeeling steam photocharter Tanago railfan tours


Freight to Darjeeling

6. - 12. May 2018

Inida: Freight train to Darjeeling

Enjoy the splendidness of the former British Raj hill resorts at Darjeeling and Ooty / Coonoor - and their narrow gauge steam railways! We explore with our freight train along the whole of the Siliguri to Darjeehling section. Includes a workshop tour at Tindhara, the Batasia Loop and night- time shots.

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

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No. of participants Min. 15
Duration 7 days
Meals mostly halfboard
Price from 1.990 €
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Your itinerary

5 May 2018, Saturday (optional):
Air India flight to Delhi departing from Frankfurt in the afternoon (other airports are often possible at the same price; please contact us to find out the best option for you). Our trip is coordinated with the times of the Air India flight, which arrives in Delhi the next morning and offers a direct connection to Darjeeling.

Most airlines (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, etc.) leave Europe in the morning and arrive in Delhi at around midnight on the same day. In this case you will be met at Delhi Airport and brought straight to the 4-star Holiday Inn hotel (or similar) at the airport. Next morning the transfer service will take you back to the airport, where you will take an Air India or Jet Airways flight to Bagdogra. Please indicate on the booking form if you wish to book this overnight stay (including breakfast).

6 May 2018, Sunday:
All participants will meet up at Bagdogra Airport at 1 pm for the start of the official itinerary. We will travel straight to the little steam engine shed in Siliguri and see our first B-class narrow-gauge locomotive on steam. If the broad-gauge operator allows, we’ll take our special train over the famous crossing between the narrow gauge and Indian broad-gauge tracks. We’ll round the day off with a night-time photo session in the locomotive shed.
Overnight accommodation in a very good tourist class hotel in Siliguri.
Meals: evening meal.

7 May 2018, Monday - 10 May 2018 Thursday:
We’ve set aside four full days for taking photos on the legendary Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These days only diesel trains commute between New Jalpaguri, Siliguri, Kurseong and Darjeeling, so for our photo-shoots we will be bringing the small B-unit steam engines to use in front of our goods train.

Over a total distance of 80 kilometres, trains on the Darjeeling railway have to climb from 131 metres above sea level to Darjeeling (at 2,076 metres) via Ghum (India’s highest train station at an altitude of 2,255 metres). With inclines of up to 4.4% and breath-taking horseshoe and hairpin bends against the backdrop of the Kanchenjunga - the third highest mountain in the world - the route is not only spectacular but also frequently cut off during the summer monsoon season by mudslides and landslips. The line has been fully open since November 2017, but the next summer monsoons aren’t far away ...

We won’t be able to give the same degree of attention to every stretch of the line. There are hardly any scheduled services on the lower section between Siliguri and Kurseong; the area is more unspoiled and not overrun by tourists yet. Later in the tour we will of course be taking our photo-shoot trains along the classic stages of the line through the towns of Ghum and Kurseong, as well as the upper section between Kurseong, Ghum and Darjeeling.

The scenic tranquillity comes to an end here, however: in the wake of various landslides and the increasing amount of road traffic (in many places the railway line and the road share the same foundations) a lot of concrete has been used to stabilise the route and make it suitable for use by heavy trucks. And there are more scheduled passenger trains with diesel engines on this section (between Kurseong and Darjeeling), so things are quite a bit busier both on the track itself and right beside it.

During our highly regarded trip in November 2016 we managed to break a number of »records«: we took the first goods train all the way to Darjeeling for 25 years, the first passenger train from Siliguri to Darjeeling for four years, plus the DHR had never run as many special trains in one go as they did for Tanago.

We will run this goods train from Siliguri to Darjeeling again. Meanwhile, we have refurbished another goods wagon, which we will also include in our goods train for the photo-shoot. The DHR passenger wagons have been completely modernised (sarcasm alert: it’s a World Heritage Site so there’s obviously no need to worry about historically accurate appearance or authentic presentation) and are in constant use with the timetabled trains for normal” passengers.

Having made very thorough preparations during visits to the DHR in April and May 2016 and following the extremely positive response to our trip in November 2016 from the participants, tour managers and the DHR itself, we were always keen to come back. However, the tour we had originally intended to organise for November 2017 fell victim to the general strike in Darjeeling.

Now the DHR has asked us if we could step in at short notice to cover for a cancellation made by a British organiser. We wasted no time in getting together with the DHR to bring the tour up to Tanago standards of quality and professionalism and optimise it to provide the best photo and video opportunities.

  • All our goods trains pulled by steam engines will be accompanied either by a diesel engine driving ahead or by our vehicles on the road: this concept worked well in 2016 even if the temporary road blocks” we frequently erected weren’t always fully appreciated by the local car drivers!
  • For each of the days on the DHR we have hired cars with drivers who will be available to us independently of any train journeys.
  • We will again attach the video wagon to our photography train that will run directly ahead of the steam train.

In other words, this will not be a privately arranged tour on the cheap” but a really well planned and thoroughly prepared photo tour. The management team at the DHR is very cooperative and has been extremely amenable to our special requests:

  • 5 photo trains (goods train with old-style wagons)
  • accompanying diesel train on selected days
  • photo opportunities at Siliguri Junction broad/narrow gauge intersection
  • stages through markets and towns
  • tour of the workshop in Tindharia
  • tours of engine sheds with locomotives on display wherever possible
  • night-time photo sessions

On the Ghum-Darjeeling section there are currently 24 (!) timetabled tourist trains running, some with diesel engines, some with steam. Special trains are added at short notice while under-used services also get cancelled. Gaps in the timetable are few and far between and we will use the May 2018 timetable to decide with the DHR rail operators which trains we will have the exclusive use of and when!

If you should wish to dip out of the railway tour on any one of the days, we would appreciate it if you would briefly let us know. We will meet up again at the hotel in the evening. Hopefully! On one of our Darjeeling days there will also be the option of a trip to Tiger Hill to watch the sun rise over the Himalayas (weather permitting).

Overnight stays in Siliguri (x2), Kurseong (x1) and Darjeeling (x3).
Meals: breakfast and evening meals.

In Darjeeling we’ll be staying at the Little Tibet Hotel (3* Deluxe), with the option of upgrading to the Windamere Hotel (5* Deluxe).

11 May 2018, Friday:
The whole day is free for you to do what you like - our tour vehicles are available throughout the day for up to three passengers per car. You could follow the timetabled diesel and steam trains between Darjeeling and Ghum, stroll through the colonial city of Darjeeling or take a trip on a scheduled train (tickets not included in the tour price).
Overnight stay in Darjeeling.
Meals: breakfast and evening meal.

12 May 2018, Saturday:
After breakfast we’ll leave the Himalayas and travel to the airport at Bagdogra. From there it’s back home via Delhi or Mumbai. As international flights with European airlines and Air India flights always either depart in the middle of the night or only next morning, we will book you into an airport hotel - this is included in the tour price along with the necessary transfers.

Arrival in Europe on Sunday 13 May 2018.

End of the regular itinerary.

Once you are in the country you can book almost any tourist option either before or after the main tour programme with us: what about a trip to the vintage tramways in Kolkata, a stay in Delhi with a visit to the interesting railway museum or perhaps a tour of the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur? We will work out a package with you to include all your transfers, visits and accommodation.

Prices India:

(land only, per person):

1.990 Euro in shared double room, if booked before 28. of february 2018

2.140 Euro in shared double room, if booked after 1. march 2018

260 Euro single room supplement

special discount: If you have been with us 2016 in India, then you pay the early bird discount price of 1.990 Euros, without any time limit in booking. And your partner pays before 28. of february 1.580 Euros, after 1. of march 1.680 Euros.

* * *

options (price per person):

o sunrise on tiger hill: 30 Euros

o transithotel in Dehli at the beginning of our journey (if you do not fly Air India): 80 Euro incl. transfers, breakfast (shared double rrom), single room supplement is 40 Euros more.

o upgrade in the Windamere hotel in Darjeeling: 200 Euros incl. transfers, breakfast (1/2 shared double room), single room supplement is 100 Euros more.

Flight options:
Air India:
Lufthansa / Swiss:

Our services (depending on the part of the tour you book):

  • All necessary transfers from/to airports and train stations according to the itinerary;
  • Permits for visits and photography on railway property, entry fees;
  • 5 steam hauled charter trains on the DHR;
  • Comfortable Sedan type cars at Darjeeling;
  • Night photo shootings;
  • Accommodation at 3* Deluxe or 4* hotels (shared ensuite double rooms);
  • Meals accoring to the itinerary;
  • Tanago tour brochure;
  • Experienced Tanago tour guide (German, English speaking) plus local guides.

Not included in the tour price are international air travel, gratuities, items of a personal nature such as drinks, phone calls and laundry, visas, meals not detailed in the programme.

Tanago wil be charged for this tour in foreign currencies. Lots of currencies fluctuate in their exchange rate to the Euro. We do not want to keep too much of a currency adjustment factor in our tour price, thus the published tour price reflects the exchange rates per 1. January 2018! Should the exchange rate deteriorate, or Tanago is being charged with increased government imposed taxes and fees, we deserve the right to amend the tour price to the new rates.

Even if you travel "alone", you may book a shared double room. We will (most likely) find a matching shared double room participant. In the unlikely case that this should not be possible, we will charge the single room supplement.

This tour will be operated and run by Tanago. The minimum number of participants is 15. Please book until 31. march 2018.

India is a fascinating country. "Beautiful" and "annoying" are sometimes just a few steps apart. While we are fascinated by the rich cultural heritage, the amzing architecture, the colourful festivities, and the friendliness of the people on the one site, millions of Indians live in incredible poverty, the wrong castes limit exchange and success.

We will not travel in a bubble and do not want to do this in general. Even on railway-themed tours we always want to get in touch with the local habbits, and see the "regular" life. This is not always easy if you have to endure the permanent begging at some spots, the visible extreme poverty and terrible individual fates.

Please do not get us wrong: India is a wonderful country to visit. It is also a country with a totally different mindset at certain points - and if you dare to board the train at Siliguri in the morning, knowing that you will watch hundreds of locals perched beside the railway track, doing their morning toilet business, you should better take the car and join the group later...

Our programme has been split into several parts. If you want to join us but prefer your own travel dates, just talk to us: our local agency will help setting up a tailor-made itinerary for you!

The railway administratins in India are well organised and nothing happens without a paper form. Nevertheless it is also a bit chaotic and sudden changes to the itinerary even only a few hours before our event takes place are not uncommon! We got all papers and normally all should go ahead as planned...
During this tour, you may experience laws and standards that are not be the same as you are used to at home. The infrastructure might be less advanced, an open yet cautious mind and a flexible approach can help your enjoyment of the experience.

By their nature, steam locomotives and older locomotives in general are prone to unexpected failure. Should this occur, we will ask the service supplier to substitute the most appropriate alternative equipment or service consistent with the advertised programme.

Any delays or cancellations caused beyond our direct control will be dealt with as quickly as possible. If trains arrive late at their destinations, local tours may
have to be shortened or cancelled. No compensation can be offered for such failure or delay.

Temperatures, technical stuff, immigration:
Visas are required. Please check the requirements for your nationality with the relevant embassies.
There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Please consult your GP or travel health clinic for the recommended vaccinations. The risk of malaria is slight. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Darjeeling and Nilgiri will be warm during the day with cool to cold night time temperatures. Kolkata and Coimbatore have a hot, humid climate. Please note that most hill-resort hotels do not have central heatings in the rooms. In most cases a mobile electric heater will be used at night. In case the power breaks down, an additional sweater and longjohn helps tremendously!

India uses a British style power outlet, an adpater might be necessary. Mobile phone coverage is good.

Namaste !

You will not be travelling in a "bubble". Millions of Chinese travel every day, we will share many of their daily life activities without any barrier in between. This is one of the interesting and many times sought after aspect of the tour. You may experience laws and standards that might not be the same as you are used to at home. The infrastructure might be less advanced, especially in the remoter areas without "classic" tourism we are travelling to, and cultural or local habits might look "strange" and will sometimes even offend you. Please do not forget that China will not change its habits just because we are visiting the country for a 2-weeks-trip. We will be guests in a friendly and welcoming country with a 5.000 year old history!

Our hotels and chartered transportation represent local standards. Road traffic follows only one rule: the jungle law. Respect, care or consideration may exist as expressions in the Chinese language but you will find nothing like this on the road! Thus be careful wherever you are, do not rely on your Western standards and be vigilant and cautious! Insurances offer a wide product range of travel insurances and they will surely meet your needs.

Although our tour is carefully planned we can&apo;t control the schedule to phase out the SY at Fuxin. We have direct contacts to Fuxin and hope to stay tuned very closely. Nevertheless things may change at any minute, even without telling us. Thus it could happen that we get visas, buy air tickets - and then steam vanishes on the day of our arrival in town. We will not assume any responsibilities or liabilities from an early implementation of the diesel traction at Fuxin.

China is a safe country to visit. Of course you should follow some basic rules: stay with the group, do not engage yourself in sole activities, leave your valuables (except your camera) at home!

Our land-arrangement is based on an "all-inclusive"-idea where everything has been pre-arranged for you and you do not have to worry about items like transport or meals. Your extra spending on this tour will be reduced to excessive alcohol consumption, special requests and your contribution to the tip for local staff (busdriver, guides). In the rural areas of China nobody will accept plastic money, you will be better off paying cash (Chinese Yuan/Renmimbi).

Please do care about your health insurance for your trip abroad! We had a customer on our recent trip to China who needed hospital treatment in Fuxin. He would still stay there if he didn&apo;t have a health insurance, covering the expenses of medical treatment and transportation home! Do not try to save some bucks at the wrong end, please!

Temperatures and technical stuff:
Temperatures range around 20?C during the day. We expect sunny weather, the heavy industrialised areas around Shenyang occasionally see smog and air pollution.
China uses the Central European power system: 220 V, 50 Hz, but an adapter is mostly needed for the plugs. The mobile phone coverage is excellent and your mobile from home will work in China, too, if you use an European or multi-frequency standard. But please be warned: roaming is expensive!

A Chinese tourist visa and a valid passport are required. The passport needs to be valid at least six months after the scheduled return and must have at least 2 empty pages left. Please contact the concerned embassy/consulate to inquire about the detailed conditions to enter the country.