Old engines for new-look Neral-Matheran route

Mumbai Tie-up with Leighton Buzzard Railway of UK for popularising the mountain railway

The Neral to Matheran ride for hill-station tourists is getting a makeover, to make the narrow-gauge ride more attractive for tourists. Shopping, buffets, special events and parties are being planned en route, as enjoyed by those taking Britain’s Leighton Buzzard Railway.

The Leighton Buzzard Railway (LBR), one of Britain’s leading narrow gauge heritage railways, offers a ride on trains drawn by vintage steam locomotives, some of them procured from the Neral-Matheran track. Soon, the Neral-Matheran joyride will see steam engines chugging again.

An old engine is being refurbished at Parel.

To popularise the ride and tap profits, the Central Railway is drawing from the LBR experience and has tied up with it.

“The CR is putting in all efforts to make the 21-km ride as popular as LBR. A 16-member LBR team, including its chairman, two vice-presidents and engineers recently visited CR’s Parel workshop where an old narrow gauge steam engine is being refurbished.

The itinerary of the visiting team included a meeting with the CR General Manager B B Mudgil followed by the inspection of the Neral-Matheran narrow gauge railway.

The steam engine (engine No 738) being revived at Parel workshop, was one of the four narrow gauge steam engines purchased by Adamjee Peerbhoy, the pioneer of the Neral-Matheran Railway, from UK-based German firm Orenstein and Koppel.

When steam locomotives were phased out from this section to be replaced by diesel engines, LBR purchased its steam engine number 740. LBR has been operating it. Engine 741 is an exhibit at Matheran station while the fourth is at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi.

According to BL Patil, Chief Works Manager, “The CR has decided to renew all these three narrow gauge steam engines. We are renewing steam engine no 738. We are taking technical help from engineers of the LBR.”

According to Railway sources, in May, 2008, the then General Manager, CR Sowmya Raghwan, had gone to the UK along with Rajesh Agarwal, Executive Director (Heritage), Ministry of Railways signed a memorandum of understanding with LBR.

On the MOU signed by CR, Agarwal said: “(The MoU is about) mainly two things, technical and commercial suggestions from LBR and how this section may be popularised to exploit it commercially”

When contacted, S Mudgerikar, Chief Public Relations Officer said: “CR has tied up with LBR to popularise the Neral-Matheran narrow gauge railway.”

Leighton Buzzard Railway, UK
* Leighton Buzzard Railway was opened in 1919
* Steam engines are used on the four-mile narrow gauge route
* On Christmas-eve, the Santa special is quite popular
* There are stations, shops and buffets at Page’s park station Neral-Matheran Mini Railway
* Neral-Matheran railway opened to public in 1907
* The 21-km line was built by businessman Adamjee Peerbhoy
* Four steam engines ran until 1982, some ended up as showpieces
* One of the original Neral-Matheran engines is used by LBR in UK