Maharashtra: Central Railway's rock climbers ensure safe passage of trains at ghats

Updated: Jul 01, 2020, 10:17 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

These safety soldiers work throughout the year to ensure a smooth and safe passage to the trains towards Pune and southern parts of India and towards Nashik and northern parts of India

The hill gang members identify the loose and vulnerable boulders and mark it with red paint
The hill gang members identify the loose and vulnerable boulders and mark it with red paint

Central Railway's most challenging workforce, the Hill Gang of the Bhor ghat (between Karjat and Khandala) and Thul ghat (between Kasara and Igatpuri), through their rock climbing and mountain rappelling skills, do ultimate tasks for railway safety.

These safety soldiers work throughout the year to ensure a smooth and safe passage to the trains towards Pune and southern parts of India and towards Nashik and northern parts of India. These hill gang members through their expertise in mountain rappelling, remove loose and dangerous boulders likely to fall on tracks, clear the mud likely to cause landslides, clear the chock up of catch water draining etc., to prevent the possibility of any unusual situation, especially during monsoon.

CR-Rock-Red
A loose boulder marked with red paint

The hill gang members climb the high and steep mountains along the tracks from January to March every year to identify loose and vulnerable boulders and mark it with red paint. In April and May, they remove these boulders by taking 4 to 5 hours each day. These boulders are then removed through a boulder special run for this purpose.

This year alone more than 650 loose boulders were identified and removed in Bhor ghat and Thul ghat and the same were cleared by a 3-wagon boulder special.

This ambitious task is done by 10 hill gang members each in Bhor ghat and in Thul ghat. The safety gears and instruments provided to the team are safety helmet, safety shoes, safety belt (harness), binocular, 100-metre rope, hand gloves, safety jacket, katavni, pahar, fonk, red paint, brush, first aid box, ghan 5 kg, hammer different sizes, crow bar, whistle thunderer, chisel, axe in different sizes, wire claw, hand signal flag Red/Green, shovel, jam bavata and ghamela.

During the monsoon and thereafter, the hill gang members identify scattered loose boulders and remove them as per requirement, clean the chock-up catch water drain and culverts, cut lean trees, and clean the bridges.

Rock-Climbers
The hill gang members remove loose and dangerous boulders likely to fall on tracks

The principal hill range of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra is the Sahyadri range, there are a number of passes or 'ghats' in this range, notable among them being the Bhor Ghat and the Thul ghat. It was through these ghats that the rail line from Mumbai cut through the range and reached Pune and Nashik.

Traversing through these ghats poses a great challenge for both roadways and railways. Moreover, during heavy rains, erosion of steep slopes takes place which leads to rolling down of heavy boulders and small boulders loosen up. The big boulders are cut into pieces by the hill gangs with the help of chisels and hammers and cleared, while small boulders are removed to ensure the safe running of trains.

For many people, mountain rappelling is an adventure, but for members of hill gangs it is a mission performed to ensure the safety of rail passengers. These all-weather railwaymen toil and sweat in difficult terrains so that the trains can pass smoothly through these ghats.

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