Thu, 29 Dec 2005

Neral-Matheran Light Railway

You can see how steep it is here. (Thumbnail) The July 2005 monsoons were not easy on the railway (Thumbnail) Yrs truly in front of the old steam engine (Thumbnail) Monsoon damage and the terrain (Thumbnail) Matheran Queen (Thumbnail) Diesel loco shed neral (Thumbnail) Sumit on the main line (Thumbnail) Like father, like son (Thumbnail) Russ, still blurry from entering shot, Venki, Sumit, and Manish (Thumbnail) Circular rainbow (Thumbnail)

While visiting Rediff.com, my friend Sumit Rajwade took me up to the community of Matheran, between Mumbai and Pune. It's what the Indians call a "hill station". It's a town perched on the top of a hill. Matheran is especially attractive because, although you can drive up to the top, the community does not allow any automobile traffic. On the top of a hill like that, the air is refreshingly clean. With a forest covering the entire hill, it's also cool. Small wonder people go to all the effort to get up there.

I was surprised and pleased to find a two-foot narrow gauge railway going up to Matheran. It winds its way up a ridge leading to the steepest section, and then uses four or five switchbacks to get the rest of the way up. Unfortunately, it wasn't running in December of 2005 because of the damage from the exceptional July 2005 monsoons.

After wandering around on the top, and seeing the old steam engine installed in a shed as a memorial to the railway's builder, we made our way down to the bottom and Neral. The railway meets up with the standard gauge railway there, and has its facilities at that end of the line. You don't see many operating narrow-gauge railways these days, but this is not a tourist railway (in the sense that people come to see the railway -- people use the railway to get to Matheran).

Vivek Manvi apparently got to ride the train back in July 2005.

Back in Mumbai several days later, I snapped a photo of Sumit and Siddhartha in his car, and a timer shot inside Rediff's offices. While flying back over low clouds, I noticed a circular rainbow around the airplane's shadow.

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