Baba Bhalku Rail Museum

Museums are meant to preserve different items associated with the past so that visitors learn about that time’s traditions, rituals, and social practices. Some museums keep exhibits of all types and some are meant for specific items associated with a particular sphere of life. Baba Bhalku Railway Museum is located 1 km from Shimla Railway Station and 190 m from Shimla Old Bus Stand. It was introduced on 7 July 2011 as a tribute to the one who directed the development of the rail line with his supernatural powers.

Museums of the World: Baba Bhalku Rail Museum - Sheet1

Baba Bhalku

Under the supervision of Colonel S Barog, the Shimla – Kalka railway track was constructed to create the longest tunnel on the route. Barog ordered his team to team to start digging only to realize mid-construction the gross mistake he made in calculating the alignment. The mistake cost him a fine of Re 1 from the British government for wasting both time and resources. Col. Barog felt so humiliated that he committed suicide at the entrance of the unfinished tunnel.

His successor, Chief Engineer HS Harrington, faced the same problem until Bhalku Ram, a humble shepherd from Jhajha village near Chail, offered to help Harrington build the tunnel. There is no evidence available on whether Harrington met Bhalku first or vice versa. Bhalku then joined the British team of engineers and soon was the most important member of it. Bhalku Ram was called as ‘Baba Bhalku’ by the locals. According to the legends, Baba Bhalku would tap the walls of the mountain with his wooden staff and listen to the sounds produced from the walls, then would mark out points for the team to dig. Due to his help, the British team finally managed to complete the 1143.61-meter-long tunnel, called the ‘Barog Tunnel’ (no 33).

Needless to say, Bhalku and his magical skills were then employed to build the rest of the tunnels on that route. For his help and efforts, the British Viceroy affiliated Bhalku Ram with a medal and turban that are still treasured by his family. It is believed that after the completion of the Kalka – Shimla track in 1903, Bhalku Ram went on a pilgrimage and never returned. 

There are several plaques in the Museum, in which glowing testimonials have been poured on ‘Balkoo’ by British officers. Quoted by Lieutenant Colonel H. Moore, dated October 17, 1875: “All I can say is that I have known Balkoo for the last 14 years; that he is not only an excellent public servant but a highly esteemed and excellent man, whose charity and benevolence is known throughout the hills to all.” Another testimonial issued by Major RM Lang in 1875 says, “He has an instinctive aptitude for selecting the best line for a road across the precipitous country.” Deputy Commissioner of Hill States, WM Hay, wrote, “I should be sorry to leave the Shimla hills without giving my friend Balkoo a few lines testifying to his values as a government servant. A most indefatigably industrious, single-minded, and honest man.” (Pal, 2021)

Baba Bhalku Ram_©WikimediaCommons

The Museum

The Ambala division of Northern Railway set up a railway museum at Shimla to preserve the rich of the Kalka – Shimla railway line. The museum is named after the local saint, Bhalku Ram (Baba Bhalku to the locals) who, is believed to possess supernatural engineering skills and helped the Britishers in laying down the Kalka – Shimla rail track. The Indian Railway Museum is named after him to pay him tribute for the exceptional service and help he provided. This museum depicts the various elements of the Kalka – Shimla Railway line through a collection of extremely rare artifacts collected over the decades. The museum was inaugurated in July 2011. A statue of Baba Bhalku is installed at the entrance of the museum. Apart from the rare artifacts, the museum also houses old wooden benches and chairs which were put in the restrooms at various stations. The wall clocks that were made in England are displayed in the museum. Several items and parts used in the trains date back to the early 20th century and are on display. A collection of vintage cutleries used in the train at that time is also showcased in the museum. They include silver cutlery, fine glassware, wine glasses, floral and patterned crockery, and vases. 

The museum has fascinating register entries of lost property dating back to 1930. The register mentions the lost properties like caps, bags, umbrellas, and coats left in the waiting rooms of the station or the train. The most intriguing lost property mentioned is a letter written by Mumtaz Begum. The letter included a written request from her to the Station Master to return her lost father’s cap to her home address in Amritsar. The handwritten letter dates back to August 8, 1930. Old railway journals, ledgers, and manuals are also preserved at the museum. The museum has a vast collection of badges and labels worn by porters and other staff of the railway. There are also other features of the train like steam locomotive headlights, brass lamps, lanterns, and ticket-punching machines on display. The oldest object in the museum is the rail liner dated 1899 which was used on the track. 

Looking at all the historical artifacts on display, one can get a faint idea of the luxurious and comfortable travel that the public had the privilege to experience during those days on the Kalka – Shimla Railway line. Another main attraction of the museum is the Shivalik Palace, it is a premium express train; like luxury on wheels to experience the royal and comfortable train travel. One can book this coach for the journey ahead from Kalka to Shimla. There are no stops along the way. Don’t forget to visit this exquisite museum when in Shimla. 


  • Google Arts and Culture – Baba Bhalku Rail Museum [online] Available at –
  • The Tribune (2019) Baba Bhalku and his contribution to Kalka Shimla Railway [online] Available at –
  • Pal S. (2021) The shepherd without whom the British couldn’t have bult Kalka – Shimla Railway, The Better India [online] Available at –

Image Sources:

  • Image 1: Tripopola [online] Available at –
  • Image 1: Wikimedia commons [online] Available at –

Isha Mutha is a student at MM College of architecture, Pune. She appreciates architecture but also has an undying passion for literature. Attempting to combine her design motives with creativity for storytelling. She strongly believes that a pen is mightier than a sword and hence changing perspectives one word at a time.