Mumbai: Family wants Matheran toy train to be renamed to Peerbhoy Express

Updated: Dec 14, 2018, 16:10 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar

They want CR to name the Matheran toy train after the man who started it way back in 1907

Mumbai: Family wants Matheran toy train to be renamed to Peerbhoy Express
The family wants the Matheran toy train to be named Peerbhoy Express. file pic

More than a century after giving birth to the Matheran Hill Railway, the Peerbhoy family wants the railways to immortalise the man who started it all - Abdul Hussain Peerbhoy. To mark the centenary of his death anniversary on December 18, the family wants the Matheran toy train to be rechristened as Peerbhoy Express. They and have also appealed to the Central Railway (CR) to set up a small museum on their family. In return, the family is ready to hand over 2,300 family archival items to CR.

No luck yet
In letters of petition written to CR's general manager, copies of which are with mid-day, great-grandson Ali Akbar Peerbhoy has requested that a small function be organised at Matheran station on the day to allow people to pay tribute.

"I have tried meeting the general manager on behalf of the family, without success. It is only about recognition to the family who pioneered the railway line," Ali Akbar told this paper.

An application dated 1901 by Abdul Hussain Adamjee Peerbhoy, seeking a land survey between Matheran and Neral for a light tramway, which eventually became the Matheran Hill Railway
An application dated 1901 by Abdul Hussain Adamjee Peerbhoy, seeking a land survey between Matheran and Neral for a light tramway, which eventually became the Matheran Hill Railway

On December 11, mid-day had reported on the family's allegations that CR was not interested in keeping the iconic railway line alive, and offered conspiracy theories about why the line had been victim to so many derailments. CR officials said that the Matheran line has been on their priority list, and if they were not interested, as alleged by the family, they would not have revived it. The line had been completely washed away by the July 26 floods in 2005. The damage was colossal.

In some parts, the track dangled from the cliffs, where the land beneath had been washed away. It was the first time this line had suffered such huge damage since its inception. CR had spent quite a lot of money and manpower to lay the tracks safely again and revive the line in two years by 2007. Following derailments again in 2016, the line was protected, upgraded and opened to public service this year.

CR says
"Central Railway has been continuously working on the line and all allegations and conspiracy theories are wrong," Sunil Udasi, CR's chief public relations officer, said. He added that CR was open to suggestions and the Peerbhoy family should get in touch with them.

The Matheran Railway had made it to UNESCO's tentative heritage list for India in December 2005. A railway said, "The Matheran Light Railway is one of the best-preserved heritage railways in India. Such railways are rare and it deserves conservation and global recognition of its qualities."

Plenty of history
The Railway is about 19.97 km long and has a gauge of only two feet. The construction of the line began in 1904, and was finally opened to traffic on March 22, 1907. There were four novel steam locomotives that the Peerbhoy family had bought specially for the mountainous railway from Messrs. Orienstein & Koppel, Germany.

These were specially made for the narrow curves and steep climbs of the Matheran hills. All the original four engines - MLR 738, MLR 739, MLR 740 and MLR 741 - survive today. The oldest loco, MLR 738, is at Neral station, while MLR 741 is outside Matheran station. MLR 739 is at the National Railway Museum in New Delhi, while MLR 740 is currently in the UK, plying a 70-minute round trip to and from Stonehenge Works station in Bedfordshire.

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