Another attempt to put Matheran rly on heritage list

Central Railway has decided to revive its efforts to get Matheran Light Rail (MLR) inscribed on the World Heritage List prepared by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Matheran was connected with Neral station by constructing a unique two-ft narrow gauge railway track by Abdul Hussain, son of Mumbai-based business tycoon Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy. The construction started in 1904 and the toy train had its first run in 1907. The trains take about two and a half hours to traverse the 19.97-km route with 221 curves.

Asenior railway official said, “MLR, which is in the western ghats, has the credentials to deserve the world heritage site tag as the toy train criss-crosses on a two-ft-wide narrow gauge through the difficult mountainous terrain. Its stations, too, because of their distinct design have an old-world charm.”

“If this happens, it will transform the economy of the tiny hill station, besides bringing Matheran into prominence globally.”
Indian Railways first submitted a proposal for listing of MLR in 2005. However, the 26/7 deluge later that year washed away almost half the tracks. After enormous efforts, CR managed to restore the toy train service, making it re-operational in February 2007. A Unesco team had visited Matheran in 2009, but MLR failed to make a cut.

While the Kalka-Shimla Railway line in the Himalayan Range, which was opened on November 9, 1903, made it to the World Heritage List in 2008, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway too got itself inscribed in the list in 1999. The Nilgiri Mountain railway in the eastern ghats too has found a place in the list.

The official said, “We are keen to run MLR efficiently even though it is a loss-making route. We are trying to reduce the losses by running shuttle services during monsoon and attaching luxury coaches in the train.”

On December 22 last year, 3,099 passengers travelled by the toy trains with CR earning 1.71 lakh in a day, setting a record for mountain railways in India.