If you are on summer vacations, or on sabbatical leave or simply have some spare time, take a ride on Indian Hill Railways or Narrow Gauge (NG) lines. You will go through tunnels, little hamlets and over awe-inspiring bridges.
These rail journeys will give you an exhilarating experience when you pass through quaint mountain ranges, and cross over mangroves with thick and lush green environment around you.
Neral and Matheran, in the state of Maharashtra, a hill railway track is a 2 ft. Narrow Gauge line covering 21 km in the midst of thick forests of Western Ghats. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is over 100 years since it was opened back in the year 1907.
Being inside a toy train can be a lifetime experience, the tighter curves, magnificent water bodies and a wide variety of flora & fauna. As the train wheezes up the clear mountains amidst mangroves you cherish these moments of a scenic view. Oh! What a journey it is.
Matheran is the closest hill station to Mumbai in the Sahyadri hill range in Raigad district of Maharashtra State. It is situated at a height of 803 m above sea level.
You can catch a Karjat bound local train from CSTM (a.k.a. VT Mumbai, India) on the Central Railway to Neral Station.
Use the foot over bridge at Neral and get to the other platform. Inquire about the toy train and whether tickets will be available. If you want to ride in the Matheran toy train, then make sure you have booked in advance.
The Toy Train
Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy conceived the imaginative idea of a 2-ft narrow-gauge railway from Neral to Matheran (20 km). He imported three specially made engines from Germany in 1905. The railway was opened in 1907. This train became 100 years old on April 16, 2007.
Places to visit in Matheran:
Lake Charlotte – A spectacular waterfall overflows from the lake during and shortly after the monsoons. It has peaceful surroundings of dense evergreen forests, bird songs, and pretty butterflies.
- Panorama point – is a very beautiful as you can see a panoramic view of the hills on the left and a beautiful Ulhas River to the right. This point is perfect for Sunrise and is also called “Sunrise Point.”
- Heart Point – Here one can see a beautiful scene of the valley and this point looks like a heart, so gets its name.
- Monkey Point – At this point can see the monkeys in large numbers and their mischief life-sized.
- Malang Point
- Luisa Point – The view from here to the waterfall (run off from Charlotte Lake ) during the monsoon is spectacular.
- Honeymoon Hill
- Echo Point
The other grand narrow gauge journeys in India are:-
- Pathankot to Joginder Nagar in the state of Himachal Pradesh
- New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal.
- Mettapulayam to Ooty (Udhagamandalam) in the state of Tamil Nadu.
- Kalka to Shimla in the state of Himachal Pradesh.