Abdul Hussain, son of the business
tycoon, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy of Mumbai, was a regular visitor to Matheran at
the turn of the century. After having obtained a reluctant consent from his
father, young Abdul Hussain camped at Neral in 1900 AD to plan for a narrow
gauge railway line to Matheran. The construction started in 1904 and the two
feet gauge line finally opened to traffic in 1907.
The Zig Zag Route
Neral, the starting station of this line, falls nearly midway on the
Mumbai-Pune route of the central railway. Starting from Neral, the narrow
gauge two feet line runs parallel to the main broad gauge line leaving the
road to the west of Hardal hill, then turning sharply east. The ascent
commences and road and rail meet at the end of the third mile near
Jummapatti station. They part company again to meet a mile further just
beyond the steep slope of Bhekra Khud.
A narrow stretch of level ground terminates in the abrupt rise underlying
Mount Barry. To avoid a reversion station, a large horseshoe embankment was
constructed. Round this the line runs for a mile in the north direction till
it turns back through the only tunnel on the route. 'One Kiss Tunnel'
gives a couple time just sufficient for a kiss!
Then & Now
The line now lies under Mount Barry, and to negotiate the rise here, the
line zigzags sharply backwards and forwards twice passing through two deep
cuttings. The line pursues its may more decorously and reaches out more or
less straight for panorama point after skirting it and then returns by
Simpson's tank and terminates close to the Matheran Bazaar.
The railway is 12-1/2 miles long and has a gauge of only two feet. The
permanent way originally consisted of rail 30 lb to a yard with a ruling
gradient of 1 in 20. Speed is limited to 12 miles per hour only.
Construction of line was done by local labour though occasionally help was
sought from the 'Pioneer regiments'. The rails have since been
replaced by heavier ones weighing 42 lb to a yard. The permanent way
Inspector of Neral maintains this line.
As a precautionary measure against frequent slides, the line used to close
during the monsoons (July-August) till recently, but now passenger services
continue even during rainy months. To commemorate the continuance of trains
in the monsoon months of 1982, a M.L.R. loco N.o. 741 (O & K 1767 of
1905) has been installed at the Matheran station.