by Vikas Singh
Ever since the Neral-Matheran services were restored and regular trains started (5th March, 2007), I wanted to do this NG section. With other work taking precedence, I had to miss the centenary celebrations. I finally got the opportunity recently to travel on this line. I had trekked this entire section on foot just after the 2005 monsoons and had seen the damage to the tracks first hand. It is remarkable that the line was restored so soon.
On 9th June, I took the Deccan Queen to Pune. After spending some time, talking to a fellow passenger, I went to the famed dining car. It was quite a let-down. The service was pathetic. Most of the items otherwise sold by vendors in the train were not on the menu. Anyway, I settled down for coffee and bread-omlette. The dining car does not seem to be well patronized as nobody bothered me for the entire two hours I was there, having coffee after coffee.
The next morning I took the Sinhagad express to Karjat and from there a local to Neral.
The timetable at platform talked about five daily services to Matheran:
|Number||Departure||Arrival at Matheran|
|(This service is available only on Sat/Sun)|
The 603 passenger was already at the NG platform. NDM 603 was on duty for the six coach rake of four second class coaches, 864 (Kurudwadi, 2000), 833 (Kurudwadi, 2000), 866 (Kurudwadi, 2004), 840 (Matheran, 1960), one FC 811 (Kurudwadi, 2002) and one SLR 837 (Matheran, 1999). The second class coaches in this section have varying seating capacity of 30, 32 or 37 passengers while the FC can seat 22 or 24 passengers. Also spotted near the platform was flat wagon BFR 9301.
The 602 passenger from Matheran had derailed between Water pipe and Jummappati station and so the departure had been delayed. I went to the diesel shed nearby.
The diesel loco shed at Matheran was established in 1907. It became a part of Central Railway in 1957. It now homes two NDM-1A diesels: 550 and 551; two NDM-1 locos: 501, 502; and two NDM-6 locos: 600 and 603. While 551 and 550 have been built at Parel workshop of CR in June 2006, 501 and 502 has been rebuilt at Parel workshop in 2002. Both the NDM-6 locos have been built by SAN engineering works. DHR loco B-794 (1914, Baldwin) is at the shed to haul tourist specials. This loco was recomissioned at Neral in 2001. Still attached to the loco was RA 801 (Matheran, 1954) and CT 845 (Kurudwadi, 2001). This was probably the rake that had hauled GM special during the centenary celebrations on 15th April.
We finally left at 1000hrs. The speed limit on the entire section is 8km/h. Most of the bridges have been newly built. We reached Jummapatti station at 1030hrs. This station is at 242.01 MSL. The 602 passenger from Matheran was already at the station. The whole train was empty as most passengers had preferred to cover the balance journey by road. It was hauled by NDM-1A 551. It was a six coach train with four second class coaches, 810 (Kurudwadi, 2000), 870 (Kurudwadi, 2000), 842 (Kurudwadi,2000), 838 ( Matheran, 1954); one SLR 885 (Kurudwadi, 2000); and one FC 808 (Matheran, 1960).
We left at 1040hrs. I was now awaiting for the One Kiss tunnel. The tunnel actually turned out to be quite long (35.6 m). We reached Water pipe station at 1115hrs. This station is at 484.63 MSL.I had last seen this station after the monsoon havoc in 2005. The bridge at approach to the station had been washed away and it had taken lot of courage to walk along the track then. A new concrete bridge has now been built. The station building too has received fresh coat of paint. The 604 passenger from Matheran arrived at 1200hrs. It was hauled by NDM 600. It was a six coach train with four second class coaches, 831 (Matheran, 1994), 847 (Mysore, 1994), 846 (Kurudwadi, 2000), 845 (Kurudwadi, 2000); one SLR 880 (Kurudwadi, 2006); and one FC 805. We left Water Pipe station at 1200hrs.
We reached Aman lodge at 1235hrs. The station is at height of 800.22 MSL. After a brief 30 second stop we started again reaching Matheran at 1245hrs. Matheran station is at 803.45 above MSL.
Since I had three hours on hand, I decided to explore the hill station. After a quick lunch and armed with a map from one of the Chikki shops, I trekked to the Alexander point situated close to a kilometer from the station. From there I trekked to the Rambaugh point. Standing at either of the two points, one can see the other point. The drop from these points is steep. Though there is a narrow lane going down from the Rambaugh point, I could not muster courage to go down. From here I trekked to the Little Chowk point and then to the Chowk point. I was now close to 4km away from the station and it had begun to drizzle. So I decided to get back and started the trek back to the station. Nearing the station I went to Khandala point and bought some Chikkis from the shop nearby. Reached back at the station just in time for the 1625 departure.
NDM-1A 551 was on duty. It was a six coach train with four second class coaches, 848 (Matheran, 1999), 832 (Matheran, 1999), 835 (Kurudwadi, 2000), 868 (Kurudwadi,2000); one SLR 891 (Mysore, 1994); and one FC 879. The first class coach was a recent 2005 built. It had been built at Kurudwadi workshop. It looked more like a bus than a railway coach with a sliding door as in buses and bus-like windows. The roof was partly made of fibre glass but covered with sunshade. It could seat 22 passengers but the whole look and feel of this coach was terrible. We reached the Water Pipe station at 1705hrs and departed at 1710hrs.
Nearing Jummapatti station we stopped at the outer at 1740 hours for the arrival of 609 passenger from Neral. It arrived at 1745hrs hauled by NDM 603. It was a six coach train with four second class coaches, 840, 866,833, 864; one SLR 885; and one FC 811. After that we arrived at the station and left for Neral at 1803hrs. We finally arrived at Neral at 1835hrs.
I then took the 1915 local till Karjat from where I boarded the Sahyadri at 1945. Since I did not have a reservation I had to board the general class. It was so crowded that I decided to get down at Lonawala and from there took the 2030 local to Pune. I finally arrived at Pune at 2155hrs.