Central Railway Update: Transformation of Neral-Matheran narrow gauge to improve the track and journey in the section

After an unprecedented rainfall and damages at more than 20 locations o­n Neral-Matheran section in the year 2019, Central Railway have undertaken several infrastructural works to improve the track and ride in the section.

More details:

  • Shri Anil Kumar Lahoti, General Manager, Central Railway inspected the section o­n 20.10.2022 and reviewed the various works carried out o­n the section.
  • The daunting task of moving the required sleepers and other material for strengthening the track were overcome by Central Railway despite the difficult terrain due to a hill o­n o­ne side and deep valley o­n the other side of the track.
  • Central Railway team worked overnight and in shifts and strengthened the embankment by providing retaining wall, gabion protection and grouting of stone pitching beneath the track, provision of anti-crash barrier along the track, provision of side drains so as to divert rain water, provision of additional box bridges and pipe bridges.

The Restoration work:

  • The existing sleepers which were of steel type were replaced by concrete sleepers. So far 14 km of old steel sleepers have been replaced by concrete sleepers out of the 20 Km line.
  • 30 new bridges have been constructed besides strengthening of existing bridges and 2 km of side drain have been constructed which will now help in channelizing the flow of rainwater instead of allowing it to flow over the track.
  • Further, at vulnerable locations of deep valleys 3000 cubic meters of gabion wall and 90 meter of retaining wall were constructed. 2.2 km of Anti-crash barrier has been constructed at vulnerable locations.
  • Provision of guard rails for a length of 1 km at deep valley locations have been completed and work is in progress in the remaining 690 meter length.

The Future:

  • The Central Railway is in dialogue with ICF for a new design DEMU type self- propelled train for the NG section. Planning is also being thought out about booking a saloon o­n this section.
  • CR is also planning to get a new design of coaches with modified DHM(Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) trolley and draft gear arrangements for better ride in the section.
  • All shuttle services will run with 3 second class, o­ne first class coach and 2 second class cum luggage vans.

The Background:

  • Matheran, discovered by Hugh Mallet, Collector of Thane district, in 1850, has since been a nature lovers’ delight. Matheran meaning ‘Jungle o­n Top’ is an undulating hilltop cloaked in shady trees, sprawling languidly at an altitude of 800 m.
  • The journey involves an adventurous two-hour ascent in a narrow gauge train, with food vendors and monkeys jumping o­n and off as the valley glides by sedately.
  • The railway construction started in 1904 and the two feet gauge line finally opened to traffic in 1907. Two steam locomotives built by Orenstein & Koppel (O&K), Germany with 0-6-0 T design and o­ne Darjeeling class ‘A’ 0-4-0 ST engine were used.
  • In 1955 three diesel locomotives were purchased. The rails used were 30 lb flat footed steel o­n half round Burmese teakwood and other wooden sleepers fully ballasted with broken stone.
  • These rails have been replaced by heavier 42 lb to a yard and later. The topography was selected to avoid tunnels except for a small o­ne. In 2012, eight coaches with modern amenities and large look-out glasses o­n sides and o­n top were inducted in service.
  • Neral, the starting station of this line is 86 km o­n Mumbai-Pune route of Central Railway. The narrow gauge two feet line has three stations namely Jumapatti (5 km), Waterpipe (11 km), and Aman Lodge (18 km) ending at Matheran (20 km). The railway is 20 km long and has a gauge of o­nly two feet with a ruling gradient of 1 in 20.
  • October to May is the best time to visit Matheran. Temperatures vary from 16oC in winter to 32oC in summer, with an annual rainfall of 524 cm. As a precautionary measure, the line used to be closed during the monsoons but o­ne service runs to open timings.
  • However, shuttle services between Aman Lodge and Matheran were introduced from 29.9.2012, to run even in monsoon. As a commemoration, a MLR loco no.741 has been installed o­n a pedestal at Matheran station.
  • Matheran has many “lookout points” that provide dramatic views of the Western Ghats and lush plains dotted with villages far below. These include Panorama Point (with the most spectacular views, it’s a popular place to watch the sun rise), Monkey Point, Porcupine Point (popular for sunset view), Louisa Point, Echo Point, Rambagh Point, Alexander Point, Hart Point, Coronation Point, Chowk Point and the o­ne Tree Hill.
  • Jummapatti, Waterpipe, Aman Lodge and Matheran are provided with a solar power plant of capacity 500-1000 Wp and Wind Mill capacity 6.1 KWp at Matheran including energy efficient LED lights and Fans in 2018.
  • To improve the visibility of scenic beauty of Matheran Hills for tourists, Kurduwadi workshop developed a Vistadome coach in-house with a view to provide a delightful travelling experience to passengers in 2019.

Source: Central Railway- Press Release | Image Credit (representational): MoR

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