Simla, 1883-84. Tonga House
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of Shimla with a Tonga house in the foreground, from the Macnabb Collection (Col James Henry Erskine Reid): Album of Miscellaneous views, taken in 1885. The hill-station of Simla, now the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, became a popular resort with British residents of India in the 1820s. It also became the Presidency's summer capital when the Governor-General began to take his administration with him to the hills to escape the intense heat of Calcutta 1300 miles away. A Tonga was a two-wheeled covered cart, drawn by two ponies, which, in 1881, became the method of carrying local and parcel mail, and sometimes, if space and weight permitted, also carried passengers. The Tonga drivers were considered 'a class of men apart' who often risked their lives to deliver the mail. The service stopped in 1903 when the Kalka-Simla Railway was opened to the public.