Churchgate Station, Matheran Light Railway in revised UNESCO List

ChurchgateMumbai: The Western Railway headquarters (Churchgate station) and the narrow gauge Neral-Matheran railway are the two inclusions among the 46 nominations listed by the union ministry of culture in its revised UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

The announcement was made on Wednesday in Parliament by minister of state, culture and tourism (independent charge) Dr Mahesh Sharma.

Sources said Churchgate station and Matheran Light Railway have been considered in the tentative UNESCO list and India has now sent the nominations at the next convention.

The Churchgate building was built in the 19th century as the headquarters of the erstwhile Bombay Baroda & Central India Railways (BB&CI) – now the Western Railway.

matheran-hill-railwayThe Matheran Light Railway has been described as a master piece of engineering art put on the difficult terrain of Matheran more than a century ago with primitive engineering tools and technology with no parallel in the world.

History of Churchgate Railway Station

Churchgate station gets its name from Church Gate street which is on the immediate south of the station. This is the first station of the Western Railway suburban network of Mumbai. Churchgate station is a terminus of Western Railway line of Mumbai Suburban Railway. It is the southernmost station of the city, though up to the 1931, Colaba was the southernmost station, however the rail line was removed beyond Churchgate, making Churchgate the southernmost station.

Churchgate station (Circa 1910), Mumbai, Maharashtra
Churchgate station (Circa 1910), Mumbai, Maharashtra

The Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (present Western Railway) was inaugurated in 1855 with the construction of BG rail line between Ankleshwar and Uttaran (a distance of 29 miles). In 1859 this line was further extended on the west coast up to Bombay. By 1867, a track along the foreshore, further than Grant Road station was constructed, up to the station named as “Bombay Backbay” near Marine Lines. On 12 April 1867, the first suburban train was started with one train each way from Virar to Bombay Back Bay. The stations were then named, “Viraur, Neela, Bassein, Panje, Borewla, Pahadee, Andaru, Santa Cruz, Bandora, Mahim, Dadur, Grant Road and Bombay Backbay”.

Old_ChurchgateIn year 1870, Churchgate was first time mentioned as the station. The line further extended towards Colaba in 1872, and goods shed was built there. In year 1896, a brand new station was established at Colaba to serve as terminus for both passenger and suburban lines. The Government of Bombay issued order to the railway to hand over the section of rail line between Churchgate and Colaba. Therefore Bombay Central (Mumbai Central), a new station was constructed near Bellasis Bridge, which was opened on 18 December 1930. From the midnight of 31 December, Colaba, ceased to be a terminus.

About Matheran Hill Railway

Matheran Hill Railway is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in Maharashtra, India. The railways comes under the administration of the Central Railway.  The railway covers a distance of 21 km (13.05 mi), over large swathes of forest territory connecting Neral to Matheran in the Western Ghats of India.

Matheran Hill Railway Toy Train2The Neral-Matheran Light Railway was built between 1901 and 1907 by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy, financed by his father, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy at a cost of INR16 Lakhs (US$25,000).  Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy visited Matheran often and wanted to build a railway to make it easier to get there. Hussain’s plans for the Matheran Hill Railway were formulated in 1900 and construction started in 1904. Consulting engineer was Everard Calthrop of Barsi Light Railway fame. The line was open to traffic by 1907. Originally, the tracks were laid with 30 lb/yd (14.9 kg/m) rails but now has 42 lb/yd (20.8 kg/m) rails. Ruling gradient is 1:20 (5%) with tight curves and speeds are limited to 12 km/h (7.5 mph).

The railway was closed by flood damage during 2005 and was not expected to re-open before April 2007. Contrary to those expectations, the first run on the repaired railway was on 5 March 2007.  The line observed its centenary on 15 April 2007.

Matheran Hill Railway Toy TrainTrain services were suspended during the monsoon season from June to October because of the danger of landslides. During the 2012 monsoon season, CR conducted tests of the air brakes, and after receiving approval from the Commissioner of Railway Safety, ran the train during the monsoon for the first time.  CR plans to shorten the period during which services are suspended by suspending services only from July 15 and restarting them on October 1

In November 2012, CR added a special coach called a saloon to trains operating on the line. The saloons feature cushioned sofas and LCD screens showing images from outside the train. Earlier, these saloons were available only to railway officers.