A Train Through Toyland

Imagine a world where a train full of candies welcomes you on arrival. Imagine perfectly-paved roads sprinkled with vintage cars, Jeeps and vans. Imagine terraced houses from Britain, row houses from Spain, American bungalows and French quarters. Imagine châteaus and castles, windmills and rope ways, rivers and canals, bridges and tunnels, hills and valleys. Imagine geese and ducks, turkeys and peacocks. Now, imagine all of this in one place.

We arrive at the toy land aptly named NeverEnuf on a sultry afternoon. The sun is bright, the breeze is missing, and I am not sure if it is the right time to be outdoors, but I have decided to trust Adesh, the owner, who has assured us that by late afternoon the sun will be calmer and the Westerly winds will ease the heat.

It is not only the weather that has decided to test our resolve today, even the roads are against us. The last kilometre or so has been completely dug up and is currently being filled with sharp stones and gravel; there is no way we can drive through the patch to reach the destination. Just as we are about to take a U-turn and return, some locals suggest an alternate route. And so, thanks to them, we are now in a land that we could not have imagined existed, at least in India.

Located in the heart of the Aravallis, set amidst large fertile farmlands, frequented by peacocks and peahens, kingfishers and cuckoos, NeverEnuf is a combination of a garden railway and a model village. It recreates the aspects of railways, airways, waterways, towns and villages on a miniature scale. Its speciality? Everything here works. A tiny goods train welcomes us upon arrival. Its brown wagons are filled with candy and it allows you to stop it when you want and let go when you are done gorging on the treats — all you need to do is press a button.

While I get busy following the goods train along the countryside, up and down the hills, across bridges and tunnels, through level crossings and quaint railway stations, my girls and their father focus their energies on boats and cars, both remote operated. The ships and steamers obey their command and navigate the canals and ponds, interrupted only by the father’s inability to handle the remote, and the occasional duck that swims across the canal. The cars, meanwhile, zoom on and off the road, stopping at the traffic signal that operates per the girls’ whims.

What fascinates me most, however, is the model village.

Made on the lines of the European countryside, it has all possible features – hills, ponds, tunnels, bridges, forests, waterfalls, windmills, waterfronts, cliffs – and in the midst of this are tiny buildings of all shapes and sizes. There are marketplaces and carnivals, railway stations and lighthouses, hotels and cafés, fishing villages and jetties, even a library and a petrol station. And all of this complete with tiny people, their children, pets, cars and boats.

In one corner of the town, I see two ladies sitting on a bench, catching up on life; on another are three men holding placards and shouting slogans. On one of the two railway stations some men wait to load goods onto the passing train (which stops there for precisely 30 seconds). On the other are passengers dressed in their Sunday best, with luggage and children in tow, waiting for the train to arrive. Some chicks feed in the yard of a purple house with yellow curtains; a few sheep bathe in the water that the tube-well is drawing out. On a hill, right next to a tall grey castle, is a soldier preparing for combat. There is a rope way too, which traverses water and hills majestically.

My favourite is the man who walks out into the balcony of his yellow house every time the train passes by, and second favourite (it is not easy to choose favourites here) a lonely green cottage with a telephone pole next to it. Actually, I fancy the airport too. The quaint town and its citizens keep me engaged for long, and I forget all about my girls and their father. The younger one, I am told later, has polished off all the candies from the train, the older has been busy gorging on the chips, soft drinks, cake and sandwiches that Adesh’s staff has generously laid on the table for them. They have also tried their hand at painting, chasing the resident turkey and spotting the peacocks, and are presently lazing on the hammock with a book each.

It is almost dusk now. As assured by Adesh, the sun is much calmer. The fading sunlight and the soothing breeze bring out the photographer in me. I am busy trying to capture the wonder of this place on my camera when I see Adesh walking towards me with a bunch of boats. They have apparently been malfunctioning post last night’s showers and he is taking them in to fix them. He sees me and stops by for a chat. “This place is my dream,” he says, looking at his red electric engine chugging by the hillside. “We had made it for personal use and had no plan of opening it to visitors, but then friends suggested that we should open it up to the public, so we did. Even now, we are open only on select days and only to those who are really interested in rail modelling.”

“Is there another place like this in India?” I ask him inquisitively. “According to my research, there is no other such place in the country. Although there are a few people who have model railways installed in their homes, there is nothing of this scale that I know of. The National Rail Museum in Delhi is a treasure trove for rail buffs of the real kind, but then that is neither a garden railway nor a model village. So, at the risk of being immodest, I can call NeverEnuf a pioneer.”

Pioneer or not, NeverEnuf is surely a magical land like none other.

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