The International Steam Pages

Steam on the Matheran Hill Railway

For some time it seemed that the reports below about this lovely railway may have been history, as a large section of the lower part was washed away in July 2005 in the monsoon and 6 months later very little appeared to be happening to restore it... (added 10th February 2006). So much for my pessimism, the line has been rebuilt and a re-opening special was run on 5th March 2007 (6th March 2007, report by Santosh Perne forwarded by Rajendra Aklekar). Just in time, for the railway to celebrate its centenary on 15th April 2007, the use of a foreign (ie DHR) loco for the steam element when there are 3 surviving locos in India (not to mention one in working condition in the UK) was the subject of some adverse comment which may shame the railway into restoring one (22nd April 2007). Since this was written MLR 738 formerly preserved in Mumbai has been resored to working order (4th July 2009).

After a long period of nothing but bad news, Ashwani Lohani reports (12th July 2000): "The Indian Railways are planning to resurrect steam on the Neral Matheran Line. One steam locomotive which is presently under repair at Tinsukhia should start plying on this line by December 2000. Hopefully, if better sense continues to prevail on the Indian Railways all the 5 hill railways in India should have partial steam in the next 1 or 2 years."

Steve Hallam adds (6th April 2001) Matheran Saturday 31st March. The Darj B Class No 794 ran on a test train today for the first time. The loco pulled 3 coaches from Neral some time around mid day. I was on the 11:00am departure to Matheran so was ahead of it. Driving back down by car we found the train stopped half way between Jummapatti and Water Pipe Stations. It was a fair way from the road in a cutting with a crowd of people around it. After some time the train backed down hill to Jummapatti. The loco was very low on water and the ensuing scenes looked like something from Thomas the tank engine or the Titfield Thunderbolt as the only means of filling the loco tanks was from temporary water storage tanks by syphon hose or/and bucket. After about an hour spent filling up the tanks and getting boiler water levels and steam pressure back to acceptable levels the loco ran around its train looking as though it was going to return downhill to Neral. Unfortunately I had to leave the scene at this point and return to Mumbai. In summary, considering this was the first outing of the loco on the line the local crew did quite well to get as far as they did. I am sure that as they gain experience they will do well. However the railway will have to address the water provision as at the moment it is grossly inadequate. As a footnote the crew and support team were very friendly but unfortunately an official did not like me taking photographs.

Rob Dickinson