The Weekend Leader - Joy ride

Transparent roofed coaches for Matheran heritage train

Quaid Najmi   |   Mumbai


Vol 2 | Issue 44

Thousands of tourists flocking to Matheran, the small hill station close to Mumbai, will soon travel by swanky new coaches of the toy train -- with a 3D view of the hills, forests and wildlife.

The new coaches, painted royal blue and white, with to-and-fro destinations on it, will offer new retractable chair car style seats, arm rests, pleasant interiors, huge windows and a transparent roof.

Matheran toy train with its plush new interiors (Photos: IANS)

In contrast, the old coaches, made of wood and metal, had benches, making the three-hour journey tedious, especially for senior citizens.

A Central Railway official said that following a successful preview and trial runs, work would be undertaken to produce more coaches, each costing Rs.2.25 million.

So far, the Kurduwadi railway workshop has built eight coaches. More will be added within a year.

Those travelling to Matheran by road, some 90 km from Mumbai in Raigad district, must leave their vehicles at a distance and then walk or ride a horse all over the hill station.

Discovered by the British in 1850 and developed thereafter, Matheran is situated around 800 metres above sea level, with lush greenery and cool weather round the year. The monsoons are said to be "magical".

It was in 1907 that Mumbai industrialist Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy built the Matheran Hill Railway. It was inspected by a Unesco heritage site team in 2009. Its status report is awaited.

The official said that after more safety and field trials, Central Railway hopes to put them in service by early 2012, to ferry passengers on the Neral-Matheran-Neral route.

Though the new coaches will provide more comforts and leg room, it would be at the cost of the total capacity.

For instance, in the old version, the first class and second class had a capacity of 24 and 30 passengers. In the new it would be reduced to 24 and 20 respectively.

However, there are plans to join one or two additional coaches to each rake to compensate for the reduced capacity of each coach.

At present, four rakes ply on the 20-km narrow gauge route daily. On weekends it is increased to five pairs daily to cater to the holiday rush.

The new coaches have been provided mobile charging facilities. The first class coaches have fans, seat covers and curtains to make the trip memorable.

By next year, Central Railway hopes to offer services with at least two sets of new rakes, each with six coaches.

The fare structure for the trains with new coaches has not been finalised yet. "The priority is to offer a comfortable journey to the people on this beautiful section," said a railway official. - IANS

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