Darjeeling Steam Tramway

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The Darjeeling Steam Tramway this 2ft Narrow Gauge(NG) steam tramway was a light railway and largely ran in the road. Hence the appropriate name.

The name changed to the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway Company on the company being formed on 15th September 1881.

Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. constructed the railway.

The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on 23 August 1880, while the official opening of the line up to Darjeeling was opened on 4 July 1881.

The name changed to the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway Company on the company being formed on 15th September 1881.


  • Early 1870's; Franklin Prestage was Agent for the Eastern Bengal Railway (EBR). In its original contract of EBR with the Secretary of State for India, this Guaranteed Railway company was to open up a rail-line to Darjeeling. However the Government of India took a decision to stop expansion of rail-lines by Guaranteed companies in new areas and instead decided to construct and manage rail-lines as State Railways.
  • 1870 Oct; William Sinclair Smith Bisset, Asst Consulting Engineer, Public Works Department, Railway Branch, Bengal posted to the 'Darjiling Railway Survey'- it is presumed this was in connection with Prestage's proposals [1].
  • c.1874 Northern Bengal State Railway(NBR) was formed as a State Railway for construction of rail-lines from the northern bank of Ganges river at Sara and built a metre gauge(MG) line to Siliguri. NBR had no plans to take the rail-line to Darjeeling as the mountain railway was considered a formidable sphere. Where EBR and NBR failed as corporate organisations, Prestage succeeded as an individual entrepreneur.
  • 1878; Prestage submitted a detailed scheme to the Government of Bengal, which was sanctioned by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Ashely Eden. Despite the fact that the Viceroy Lord Lytton himself was also a share holder, the Public Works Department of the Indian Government felt that Bengal had exceeded its powers in terms of the concessions granted, and insisted on cancellation of the contract.
  • 1879; Darjeeling Steam Tramway Company was formed by Prestage and a new Contract was drawn up under revised terms which forced Prestage to settle for a 2ft/610mm narrow gauge(NG) line.
  • 1881; Darjeeling-Himalayan_Railway Co. ( DHR) became the new title of the company and remained effective until the line was taken over by the Indian Government in 1948.


An on-line search of the India Office Records (IOR) records held at the British Library relating to this tramway [2] gives the following: -

  • L/F/8/14/991; "Franklin Prestage, Esq., Contract on behalf of the Darjeeling Steam Tramway Company Limited. Secretary of State"; 8 Apr 1879

Further Information

See Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway