The railways will run a vistadome coach on the narrow gauge in the Kalka-Shimla route in the next ten days and it is likely to cost more than Rs 500 per seat, catering to mostly foreign tourists.
For the first time, tourists in Shimla will be able to experience snow and rainfall in these glass-enclosed coaches. The only such coach in a narrow gauge network exists in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).
Such coaches, with transparent roofs to enjoy the scenic beauty outside, are currently run in broad gauge networks between Mumbai-Goa and Vishakapatnam to Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh.
There is also a proposal to run vistadome coaches in Jammu and Kashmir, but security issues have kept the plans on hold, sources said.
The vistadome coach, which will run on the 95.5 km route, has been built locally in 100 days at a cost of around Rs 10 lakh.
Currently, the fare of the Shivalik Deluxe Express which runs on the route is Rs 425 and the cheapest costs Rs 25.
An official said the fare of the vistadome coach, which is the first train on the route to have air-conditioning, is likely to be more than Rs 500.
“This coach is an old second-class coach which has been refurbished, seats have been upgraded and we have installed glasses all around so that the tourist can sit in the train and enjoy the beauty of the area without even stepping out. It has a capacity of 36 seats, with no toilets or catering presently,” said Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala, DC Sharma, adding the next coach was expected to have toilets.
Sharma said as compared to the other vistadome coaches on the broad gauge routes, the one on the Kalka -Shimla route was a basic one.
“However, the scenic beauty is incomparable and we plan to open this for the public in the next 10 days,” he said.
Depending on the success of these coaches, Sharma said more such glass-enclosed coaches would be put into service.
“There was a huge demand from foreign tourists and even tour operators to have such a coach and this is primarily for them. This is an unique experience. It’s likely to cost more than Rs 500,” a senior official said.
The train with such a coach currently will run at a speed of 25 km/hr and but a trial run on December 1 is going to ramp it to up to 35 kmph.