'Full-proof safety must for Matheran toy train to run full stretch'
Mumbai: The Central Railway (CR) has said that the toy train would be able to run on the entire 21-km hilly stretch of Neral to Matheran near here only when they are sure about the foolproof safety on the tracks.
The services of the 110-year-old toy train, synonymous with the tourist spot located in the Western Ghats of the neighbouring Raigad district, were suspended in May last year following two incidents of derailments that month.
The train, a big attraction for tourists visiting the picturesque Matheran hill station, resumed its journey on October 31 this year between Aman lodge and Matheran, a nearly three-km stretch, after being halted for over one year.
CR's chief safety officer Shubhranshu yesterday told reporters here that they resumed the service after ensuring its full safety.
Even in case of any untoward incident, the train will not topple, he said.
"We are working on starting the toy train service on the entire 21-km stretch within a few months. The train would be operational on the entire stretch only when the entire track is foolproof and there are no safety issues," the official said.
He said the Central Railway has worked to ensure the safety of tracks, locomotives and smooth operation of the service on the stretch, which has steep curves -- ranging from 60 degrees to 127 degrees.
"Therefore, we have installed crash barriers, gabion walls (a retaining wall made of stacked stone-filled gabions tied together with wire) and safety walls alongside the tracks, and also got powerful engines with 650 horse power, while the earlier engines were of 306 horse power," he said.
The CR has sanctioned Rs 18 crore for the makeover of the hilly stretch.
Following the two successive derailments in May last year, the then railway minister, Suresh Prabhu, had stopped the services till the safety measures were not ensured as per the parameters.
After the toy train was halted, the tourism industry in the area was adversely hit, following which a delegation of residents of Matheran demanded resumption of the toy train.
The operation of the narrow gauge heritage train has posed challenges for the Central Railway as the stretch not only passes through a sloppy, zigzag and forest route, but has also not been economically viable.