MATHERAN`S TOY TRAIN, THE JOY AND PRIDE OF TOURISM IN MAHARASHTRA, INDIA, UNDER SAFETY SCRUTINY

.In Maharashtra, India, there is a 2 ft. Narrow Gauge Train climbing from Neral nearly along the abyss of a scenic rim nearly 800 m up to the Hill-Station Matheran, situated on a mountain rim of volcanic origin in midst a lush green forest. In this tar road free ecological sensitive zone only pedestrians, horses, hand-carts and hand pulled rickshaws are allowed.

The train had been built between 1904 and 1907 by a private Entrepreneur as a Light Weight Steam Tramway. 1948 the ownership has been taken over by the Indian Government. The “Joy Train” is operated by the Indian Railway Division: Central Railway. Train-Derailments with narrow escape for the passengers, two Coach Derailments in May 2016 and a Train-Set Run-away in April 2016, have send safety related authorities into a tizzy. In May 2016, in the latest development on the SAFETY-ISSUE the toy train service has been suspended.

January 2017 in the related developments, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu sanctioned Rs. 6.8 crores to build anti-crash barriers, retaining walls and gabion walls along the Neral-Matheran section to ensure the toy train does not fall into the valley in case of a derailment. Central Railway had also decided to bring clean ballast on the entire 22 km corridor to improve the track.

On October 30th 2017, after 17 month of suspension, the shuttle-service resumed its service on the upper 3 km section between Matheran and Aman Lodge with a speed restriction of 10 kmph on a partly rehabilitated formation and with a graduate release dual-pipe (feed- and brake-pipe) compressed air-brake system mounted on the coaches. Since there is no elasticity in the primitive loose coupling system sans dampers and with opening and closing gaps, the jerk-problem has not become less. It seems that with the installation of the dual pipe, non-exhaustive compressed air brake system in lieu of the manual operated brakes, the jerk-problem increased on the shuttle service train-set with front-and rear locomotives. Jerks contribute to derailment proneness.

However, the rail-track itself has not been rehabilitated. The Steel-Trough Sleepers are still resting on earth and mud, and kinks at joints had not been eliminated. As long pedestrians, and even horses, are allowed to use the track as a trail, it will not be possible to maintain a clean and un-fouled ballast cushion.

Although the likelihood for a train to derail has not been reduced, the impact that a derailment might have and the harm a derailment might produce are mitigated by the retainers and crash barriers.

On the shuttle-service section between Matheran and Aman Lodge, at certain locations gabions have been erected as retainer-walls to retain the formation from yielding and to broaden the top formation width. At risky sections, where derailed coaches might be prone to tumble down the precipice, Guard/Crash-Barriers, as used on highways, had been installed. On such risky sections in addition one or two guard-rails have been added between the running rails to prevent derailed rolling stocks to leave the formation.

Begin of December 2017 the safety related works had not yet reached the main section on the west-side of the Panorama Point Rim. The rail-track itself is at it has been 17 month before. There are still severe formation defects, aprons washed out, joints are kinking and there is no ballast under the sleepers. The safety related works for new gabions, retaining walls and crash-barriers, to prevent a derailed train to tumble down the abyss, started November 2017 on the Governor Bungalow Hill west-side as well on Mt. Berry east-side. There is still a lot to do in order to make the main-section on its full length safe for passenger service.

 The technical paper describes the safety shortcomings as well the ongoing safety related works under progress. The independent technical expertise gives recommendations how to redesign and revamp the toy train and the rail track up to modern state-to-the-art international SAFETY STANDARTS, for the ULTIMATE GOAL to provide a safe joy ride for the tourists.

To learn more, download :Matheran Toy Train Safety Issue AMENDMENT 2 PDF

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