The Matheran-Neral toy train services will take more time to resume due to time taken in implementing safety measures and changing the design of the train. The restoration of the shuttle service between Aman Lodge station and Neral, which was expected this week, is also likely to take more time. The services of the toy train were suspended on account of two derailments caused in the beginning of this month. The Central Railway had later declared to resume the Aman Lodge-Matheran train services soon after building 650 metres of concrete retaining walls to avoid further mishap.
However, sources said, some problems were found with the tracks after the first trial run of a loco was conducted Wednesday. “It will take more time to restore the shuttle service between Matheran and Neral. While conducting the trail run yesterday, problems had occurred at the specific spot again. The lesser manpower for handling the irregular maintenance of tracks for years has actually led to a major issue,” said a source.
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Till now, one loco fitted with air-brake system running on 600 horsepower (hp) has been sent to Neral station. Two more locos and five engines are expected to be sent to resume the service of this narrowest gauge railway in the world. “There still exist a lot of work to be done to resume the toy train service. The gauges are not in place and there exist no standard parameter with which the tracks are fitted. Upon that, we will also take time in implementing safety measures of making walls around to ensure passenger safety,” said a senior railway official.
The CR plans to bring a complete rehaul of every major component of the ancient system fitted in 1909. “The Central Railway is so big that it is not feasible for us to allocate most of our time for this. Efforts are on to resume it at the earliest,” said the senior official. The engine and the locos of the narrow gauge train of Neral-Matheran is being serviced at Parel workshop. The locos would also be fitted with Vigilance Control Device (VCD), like those fitted in other suburban and main-line trains. Through this, the motorman of the toy train could be alerted of a possible halt when required. “The vigilance control device will alert the motorman every minute with a buzz. Suppose if the driver is not in place and no response is received to the buzz, the automatic brakes will be applied which will immediately stop the toy train,” said Mahesh Kumar, Chief Workshop Manager, Parel.
A retaining wall of pillars would be built parallel to the tracks near the valley points of the service. However, more trials are likely to be conducted in consultation with the Commission of Railway Safety (CSR), post which services of the toy train would be resumed.