Built especially for this small section of the Western Ghats, the two feet narrow gauge locomotives of the Matheran Light Railway system are unlike any other locomotives of the Indian Railway.
The building of the Matheran Light Railway was another project on the Western Ghats that tested the enineering prowess and innovation skills of the railway engineers of the time. After Bhore Ghat, Matheran was another region with extremely difficult terrain to build on but beautiful to behold. The Hill Railway was infact built by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy, son of business tycoon Adamjee Peerbhoy of Bombay, as a way to have an easier way to get to the hill station which he loved to visited so frequently.
Small, four wheeled units were especially designed for the Matheran Light Railway because of the line's sharp curves and steep gradient.
The construction of the railway line started in 1904 and the 21 km track of two feet narrow gauge was finally opened in 1907.
The MLR-738 (Year Built 1907) was the first of the locomotives imported for this track. It is now preserved at Neral Station.
MLR 739National Rail Museum
The next locomotive, MLR-739 which is now stationed at the National Rail Museum of New Delhi, served the Neral-Matheran two feet narrow gauge section of Matheran Light Railway (MLR) for over 73 yrs! Built in 1907 by Orenstein & Koppel of Germany, it was one of MLR's sturdiest locomotives and eventually became part of the Central Railway.
The ML class was probably the only class of locomotives in India to be fitted with articulated coupled axles which enabled the locos to negotiate sharp curves on the steeply graded hill lines of the Neral-Matheran Light Railway.
MLR-739 has a wheel arrangement of 0-6-0 and is equipped with 'Hayward' axles. This German built locomotive had maker number 2342.
Take a virtual walk around this locomotive, today known as MLR no.2, on display at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi.
Matheran Rail Car
Instead of coaches, the Matheran Light Railway made use of rail cars. Rail cars were used in the railways to run sections where running a complete train was not economically viable. Their structural design resembled that of an automobile but the working was different. The Matheran rail car worked on a two feet narrow gauge line in Neral Matheran hill section and had a carrying capacity of twelve passengers. It was fitted with a fuel tank which could hold 38 litres and was provided with petrol driven engine of six cylinders with 30 BHP. It is now preserved at National Rail Museum, New Delhi.
The Neral Matheran RailcarNational Rail Museum
The rail car had a unique wheel design that enabled them to negotiate the sharp and steep curves of the narrow Matheran Light Railway. The vehicle had a hand brake arrangement actuated by turning the steering wheel.
The Neral Matheran Railcar - front viewNational Rail Museum
The wooden bodied Matheran rail car was imported from Graham Paige based in Detroit, USA, in 1932. In 1925, the firm Graham Paige was acquired by another firm by the name of Dodge Brothers. We can find both these names embossed on the locomotive.
Matheran Light RailwayHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways
The building of the Matheran Light Railway was an important engineering achievemnet of its time and has been recognised as such with the stamp being issued in its name.