North India Shimla - our group in the compartment of the Kalka-Shimla train
The Kalka–Shimla Railway is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway in North-West India travelling along a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for breathtaking views of the hills and surrounding villages.
Shimla (then spelt Simla) was settled by the British shortly after the first Anglo-Gurkha war, and is located at 7,116 feet (2,169 m) in the foothills of the Himalayas. By the 1830s, Shimla had already developed as a major base for the British. It became the summer capital of British India in 1864, and was also the headquarters of the British army in India. Prior to construction of the railway, communication with the outside world was via village cart.
The railway was constructed on a two foot gauge (610mm) by the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway Company commencing in 1898. The estimated cost of Rs 86,78,500, however, the cost doubled during execution of the project. The 96.54 km (59.99 mi) line was opened for traffic November 9, 1903. Because of the high capital and maintenance cost, coupled with peculiar working conditions, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was allowed to charge fares that were higher than the prevailing tariffs on other lines. However, even this was not good enough to sustain the company and then, the Government had to purchase it on January 1, 1906 for Rs 1,71,07,748. In 1905 the line was regauged to 2'6" gauge under guidelines from the Indian War Department seeking to ensure uniformity in all imperial narrow gauge systems. Ordinary local train halts at the Solan Station.
In mid-August 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property in preparation for its review in September.
On this route a city named Solan is passed through, which is also known as mini Shimla. During summer season a festival celebrating a goddess (Shoolini Devi), after which the city is named, is held in June.
For about a week starting on September 11, 2007, an expert team from UNESCO was on a visit to the railway to review and inspect the railway for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On July 8, 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India. The Mountain Railways of India (including Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai have already been declared as world heritage properties.
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Asia is the biggest continent on Earth, a darling little gem floating around in space.
Hm, what is Asia? Who's in on it?
China and India are safe bets for Asian nations. Korea, Japan, Thailand, you're fine.
Europe? No. Europe would sort of be on the "Asian continent" if not for those pesky Ural mountains dividing things up in the middle, and then also the whole lineage of kings and wealth and nations and the EU and all that "give me my respect" stuff.
Russia would probably be happiest as its own continent, so for now we'll leave it in "Eurasia" and just hope the natural gas supplies keep flowing.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are dang close to Asia, but politically they show up in "Middle East" news stories an awful lot. Verdict: Eurasia.
I guess we'll actually have to consider everything from Turkey on eastward to be "Eurasian", although the moniker seems overlappitory of the territory.
The Asian economy is now officially raging like a wild furnace of lava that consumes everything in its path. Japan has had the largest individual economy in Asia for decades, but it is forecast that both India and China will outstrip Japan within twenty years.
China is the largest holder of United States debt and is positioned to become the world's next superpower, provided that Godzilla doesn't return and decide to stomp everybody back into the Shang Dynasty.
Text by Steve Smith.