Itís train, Itís toy, Itís beautiful commute

The Neral-Matheran toy train owes its existence to Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, who funded the project, and his son Abdul Hussain, whose engineering genius made it possible.

The railway was built at a staggering cost of Rs 16 lakh in the first decade of last century. While the construction started in 1904, the two-foot guage line was opened to traffic in 1907.

The first toy train was hauled by engine 7-38.

Abdul Hussain visited Germany to negotiate purchase of narrow-gauge steam engines from Orenstein and Koppel. These special locomotives weighing about 7.5 tonnes ran from 1907 to 1982 and were phased out in 1983.

Now, the toy trains are pulled by diesel engines.

Between 1987 and 1992, by order of the central railway general manager, a 7-38 was shifted to CST main gate.

UNESCO is considering granting heritage status to the more than a century old Neral-Matheran railway network.

Meanwhile, heeding a long-pending demand of residents of Matheran and neareby areas, who struggle without transport as vehicles are not permitted beyond Dasturi Naka, shuttle toy trains were started on the three-km Aman Lodge-Matheran Station stretch on October 1.

It was a result of persistent efforts by Z A Siddiqui, CR chief operations manager who retired this month, and general manager Subodh Jain.

The shuttle moved by two engines has seven luxury coaches, including two first-class and four second-class, and a parcel van, each costing Rs 21 lakh. Their windows are large and made of polycarbonate sheets and coach panelling fire-proof. The bogies were made at the Parel workshop, while shells, interiors and other works were done at the Kurudwadi workshop.

The service is set to attract more tourists to the mini hill station of Matheran and will also make life easy for people who live in villages beyond Dasturi Naka. To reach Matheran, which is 3 km from Dasturi Naka, these villagers have been using horses, cycles and hand-pulled rickshaws.

"The service will also cut losses on the mini hill route,'' said Siddqui.

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