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Railfan Tours

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 run the refurbished 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 will focus on the classic section between Rangtong an Ghum this time, covering the zig-zags and loops, and the passages through the small villages along the line. We will run an additional steam hauled passenger train on the central part of the DHR beside our freight train. We have included more nightshots now at Kurseong and Darjeeling.

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

If you like to see more of India, we offer a visit to Calcutta´s classic trams ahead of our DHR trip, and as an extension after the DHR a journey to the mountain rai9lway at Nilgiri.

A wonderful video of our 2016 Darjeeling tour is available here

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No. of participants Min. 15
Duration 7 days
Meals mostly halfboard
Price from 2.180 €
Open for bookings Tickets left.
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Your itinerary

February 7, 2020, Friday
If you are joing us 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: Milestone Hotel, Siliguri.

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 Indian Railways try to run this train on schedule, but if there are not enough passengers, the train will be cancelled.

The exact departure time of our train will thus be set only at short notice. First thing to do will be the "diamond" crossing of Braod and narrow gauge (610mm) at Siliguri. On this section we cannot arrange too many photo stops, because the entire broad-gauge traffic rests, as long as the narrow-gauge train has not cleared the parallel track.

We follow the train on the road to Sukna, the first station after Siliguri. We will pass a lot of settlements just beside the railway track and will get the first "local flavour" shots. While our steam train runs back to Siliguri "tender-first", we´ll have dinner. If you are still interested in more action afterwards, you can visit the steam shed for night shots.

Meals: Breakfast.
Overnight: Milestone Hotel, Siliguri.

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 covers 738.5 metres in altitude. At first it is quite leisurely, the railway line always runs right next to the main road. 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 run through the dense rainforest, where even elephants are said to live. Behind Rangtong we have to use the first of many zig-zags to gain height, our train steams further up north until the small town of Tindharia.

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

Meals: Breakfast.
Overnight: Milestone Hotel, Siliguri.

10 February 2020, Monday
The last kilometres before Tindharia are particularly spectacular, so we will cover this section between Rangtong and Tindharia with our freight train again. 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 "old" photogenic passenger wagons 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. Afterwards the line to Kurseong is ours, many more first class spots can be found on this section again. In the evening we arranged some night shots at the small shed.

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

February 11, 2020, Tuesday
Today we leave our freight train in Kurseong and run a steam hauled passenger train 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 in a dark blue livery, sometimes light blue or even a kind of yellow-orange painting was applied, windows were replaced, doors changed from small to big to small, got different positions over the years - and every passenger coach looked (and still looks) differently. With other words: our train will consist of blue old cars, and we will choose the most photogenic looking cars.

Meals: Breakfast.
Accommodation: Summit Swiss hotel, Darjeeling.

12 February 2020, Wednesday
We return to Kurseong early in the morning on the road to photograph our steam frieght train on its way from Kurseong via Ghum to Darjeeling. During the lunch break at Ghum you can visit the railway museum right next to the railway station.

At 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 a newly built highway away from the railway today. 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 roads. In between there are donkeys, cyclists, cows - and occasionally the train. It is dusty, everyone honks the horn and curses.

On the previous tours we managed very well with our photography thanks to our very dedicated Indian tour guide and an understanding police to keep the road traffic away from us during runpasts. 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 dense schedule of the tourist trains (steam and diesel) between Darjeeling and Ghum: 3 pairs of trains are being sent on the route in 3 waves in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon. In addition there is the passenger train to/from Siliguri, and, theoretically, another passenger train to Kurseong and back. There are hardly any free slots available for our freight train.

Nevertheless, this itinerary was sent to the DHR´s administration a long time ago. A general "OK" was received but we expect a definite timetable only a few days before departure!

Meals: Breakfast.
Accommodation: Summit Swiss hotel, Darjeeling.

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). Here you can see the peaks of the Himalaya mountains catching the first rays of sunlight. For many Hindus this is a very spiritual experience.
While this morning we will take pictures of the regular steam services at Darjeeling, we have another freight train booked between Darjeeling - Ghum - Darjeeling in the afternoon. Running according to the timetable wil lnot be easy and we may have to adapt our timings to the service trains, often there are only 10 minutes between the many tourist trains to move our train.

We will have a night photo session at Darjeeling tonight.

Meals: Breakfast.
Accommodation: Summit Swiss hotel, Darjeeling.

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

  • per person
  • 2.380 Euro in a shared double room
  •    380 Euro single room supplement

We run the tour with at least 12 participants!

The tour price includes:

  • At least 6 steam charter trains (freight) on the DHR according to theprogram;
  • 1 steam hauled passenger train charter;
  • Night shots;
  • Visit of ther steam sheds at Siliguri, Kurseong, Darjeeling;
  • All transfers according to program;
  • Accommodation and meals as shown;
  • Tanago tour brochure;
  • 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. July 2019. Should the exchange rate drastically change 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.

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!