England-based Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society pledged Rs10 lakh for its preservation

The state of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has remained in tatters for quite a while now, but help from an unlikely quarter has raised hopes of rejuvenating the world renowned heritage of the Darjeeling hills going forward.

DHRS vice president Paul Whittle.
DHRS vice president Paul Whittle.

England-based Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society (DHRS) has reportedly pledged the toy train Rs10 lakh for its preservation. The money will be awarded to the organisation that comes with a holistic project.

“We have collected Rs10 lakh from our members and will hand it over to the organisation that will provide us with a sound preservation project. We love the DHR and want it preserved and functional not only for foreign tourists but also local stakeholders,” explained DHRS vice president Paul Whittle, who arrived in Darjeeling on Thursday.

Incidentally, Whittle also runs a tour and travel agency in England and visits Darjeeling regularly with visiting groups.

“Our commitment builds on strong relationships with our friends and partners in the Darjeeling region. We will consider a suitable project that directly helps to preserve the unique character of the DHR,” he said.

The DHRS will also communicate with DHR officials for future projects that may need external support.

“We are already in talks with DHR authorities as to the type of projects they would like us to support. We are ready to extend all possible help,” said the DHRS vice chairman. Whittle added he would meet the DHR divisional manager on Sunday to enquire The DHRS was founded in 1997 and boasts of more than 700 members in 24 countries working towards providing support and awareness about the DHR.

“This is the first time that we are handing out money for preservation work of the DHR. Our initial objective was to be involved only in creating awareness in various countries besides holding charity events to raise money,” said Whittle.

The DHRS vice president pointed out the importance of restoring the DHR track that runs the entire length to Darjeeling from New Jalpaiguri station.

“It is important the lines get restored all the way from Darjeeling to NJP. Some stretches have been damaged by landslides,” he noted.

Stretches of the DHR track was washed away in 2010 by landslides near Paglajhora, while the Tindharay stretch also got heavily damaged two years later.

“I have seen work in progress to restore the tracks and lines at Paglajhora and in Tindharay. Much needs to be done urgently even though the ongoing restoration work is impressive,” remarked Whittle.

He was of the opinion that fast-tracking the restoration work would attract tourists whose love affair with the DHR has got rudely interrupted.

“I have written to senior officials requesting railway lines be opened till Tindharay from Darjeeling by the middle of this month as 60 visitors from the UK are coming only to ride on the toy train. But there has been no response so far,” said the DHRS vice president.

Meanwhile, DHR officials could not be contacted for comment on the DHRS initiative even after several attempts.


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