The century-old two-foot narrow-gauge heritage Matheran Hill Railway is all set to resume services fully starting today, 27th January 2018.
The iconic toy train under the Central Railways, covers an expanse of over 21 km, chugging through the large swathes of forest territory connecting Neral to Matheran in the Western Ghats.
This Neral–Matheran Light Railway, a lifeline for tourists, local residents, and hotel operators in the hilly terrain, was first launched service as early as 1907 and was added to UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites.
But the service was suspended in May 2016 after the train carrying over 100 passengers derailed twice, back-to-back on May 1 and 8 in 2016. It wasn’t until 30th October 2017 that the service was resumed only partially on the 2.5-km stretch between Aman Lodge and Matheran.
The good news is, the 110-year-old heritage train service has resumed charge to run along its full 21km stretch regularly starting today, after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated it on Republic day.
On its inaugural run, the train left Neral station at 10.30 am and arrived in Matheran at 2 pm.
But starting today, the train will leave Neral at 6.40 am daily and arrive at Matheran at 9.40 am. And for its return journey, the train will leave Matheran at 3.30 pm and arrive Neral at 6.30 pm everyday.
For all those travelling on the toy train, tickets are issued from the station counter, 45 minutes prior to the departure of the train. While each passenger can carry only 5 kg luggage in second class, first-class passengers can carry 7.5 kg luggage with them.
Only a maximum of four tickets are issued to each person at the station counter. While the second-class tickets for adults cost Rs 45, for children it costs Rs 30. An adult ticket in the first class coach costs Rs 300 and a children’s ticket costs Rs 180.
What are the safety measures undertaken by the Central Railways?
The Central Railways decided to run only a single pair of services every day after its re-launch on Republic day, and five pairs of shuttle services between Aman Lodge and Matheran from today.
The decision for resuming services only came after the Central Railway (CR) authorities conducted safety trials on the entire stretch last month.
For improved safety measures, the CR has already undertaken work costing upto Rs 6 Crores. The Railway line has been equipped with crash barriers, gabion walls and boundary walls, for the safety of passengers.
Other features include dual braking system provided in the loco as well as in coaches, a Microprocessor-based Engine Control System, Vigilant Control Device to monitor alertness of Loco Pilot and Speed Control unit to avoid over speeding of locos, reported the Times of India.
The Railway was first built by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy and was financed by his father, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy at a cost of Rs 16 lakh (US$25,000). The idea to build a railway line came to the young man because he visited Matheran often and wanted to build a railway to make it accessible for more and more people.
While his plans to construct the Matheran Hill Railway started in 1900, the construction started in 1904. The consulting engineer for the project was Everard Calthrop of the famous Barsi Light Railway. The railway line was open to traffic by 1907.