by Newsgram staff writer
Parwanoo (Himachal Pradesh): Two coaches of a chartered Kalka-Shimla toy train hired by a group of 37 foreigners derailed, killing two Britons and injuring seven, near this Himachal Pradesh town, a police officer said.
The deceased were identified as two women, Loraine Toner and Joan Nickolas, both 60, Inspector General of Police (Railway) Zahoor Zaidi said. The injured were admitted to the PGI hospital in Chandigarh, 30 km from the accident spot.
One of the survivors cited over-speeding at a curve as the cause of the accident.
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. There were 37 passengers on board at the time of the accident, he added.
Police said the train with four engines left Kalka in Haryana at 12.40 pm and went off the tracks just after three kilometers at Taksal.
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,” said Sharma.
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.
The 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.
From amongst those injured, ten Britons have been discharged from the hospital, while three –Diane Logan, George Bertram and Andrew Summerhayes– remain admitted, an official said.
Sumeet Arya, head, emergency, of the hospital, said George has a laceration on the scalp which has been sutured and a soft tissue injury on the right arm, while Diana had an avulsion of the scalp which has been sutured by the plastic surgeon. She also has facial injuries, he added.
(with inputs from IANS)