The first phase of work

After over a century, the Matheran Light Railway is being rebuilt all over again, literally and at a cost of Rs 5 crore. The railways are using the template of track sleepers used in the Himalayan range of Kalka Shimla Railway.

Three years after shut down, the dead stretch of Neral Matheran line is set to chug again. The 2-feet narrow gauge line has been built over a century ago in 1907 as a family enterprise of the Peerbhoys and is now in the UNESCO tentative list for Mountain Railways of India.

The line has been running intermittently since the turn of the century following heavy rainfall and had been extensively damaged  in monsoon and has been shut since June 2019. A small stretch between Aman Lodge and Matheran was restored in December 2019.

“Yes. We are strenghtening the line to the modern standards and for the first time re-laying the entire stretch with concrete sleepers,” Central Railway chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar said.

The existing line is of a mix of old iron, steel and wooden sleepers and will now be upgraded with concrete sleepers. The sleepers are specially made at Khurda rail factory in Madhya Pradesh and are being transported to site.

“The line requires about 37,500 concrete sleepers of which about 2,500 have come so far and 35,000 expected. In addition to sleepers, 800m of retaining wall, 1,300m of gabion walls are being built and approaches being strengthened,” he said, adding the work is expected to complete in a year or so.

The line has also been nominated for the 2021 UNESCO Greece Melina Mercury International UNESCO Prize. The prize is given for “Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes” established in 1995 is an award to outstanding examples of actions to safeguard and enhance the world’s cultural landscapes, a category of World Heritage.

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