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Our trip to Thakurwadi, August 1992

While Mumbai is at sea level, Pune is at 1800 feet above sea level. The railway line climbs this height in a steep 'ghat' which is a steep incline of 28 Kms between Karjat and Lonavala. The incline is 1 in 33 in some places and is an formidable challenge for the railways. However the dedicated railwaymen of Central Railway, Mumbai division ensure over 100 daily movements in both direction in all weathers.

The Model Railway Society of Pune (MRSP) had gone to Thakurwadi in 1992 for a trip to see the ghat operations and particularly to see the  'service tunnel' between Thakurwadi and Nagnath.

ghat.jpg (21535 bytes) This is a rough map of the ghats between Mumbai & Pune. There are three tracks between  Lonavala and Karjat.  The older two tracks go past Thakurwadi, while the newer third line diverts at Monkey Hill and touches Nagnath on the other face of the hill. All lines merge at Jambhrung cabin. 

There are special procedures to prevent accidents in the ghat section.

The Down train  climbs from Karjat at almost sea level to Lonavala through Khandala  at 1800 feet above sea level with the help of banking WCG 2 locomotives. This prevents a coach rolling back in case of a coupling failure as well as to assist the leading loco which is at the limit of adhesion.

The Up train (descending !) stops at three 'catch sidings', which are tracks leading steeply into the hillface. If a train is runaway, and it does not stop at the designated signal for a minimum period, it would go on this track and be braked by the slope of the hill. Under normal circumstances, the Up train stops at Khandala, Monkey Hill, and at Thakurwadi (or Nagnath) for three minutes before being allowed to go on the main track. Thus there are signals, points and a cabin at these locations.

 

Thakurwadi1.jpg (60680 bytes) This is a Pune WDM 2 coming from Jambrung cabin to Thakurwadi. It is crossing the down main line onto the middle line (which can handle up or down traffic).   The Thakurwadi traction substation is towards on the right. Only light locomotives are allowed to climb the ghats without a banking locomotive. Even a single coach train is required to be banked to prevent a runaway in case of coupling failure during the climb.

 

Thakurwadi2.jpg (97839 bytes) It is very hot and the air is still, the WDM 2 drivers work their loco with the doors open. Local public uses the banking locos to travel from one point to another. However they are not allowed in the cab, thus travelling on the buffer beam.   The building on the right is the police post guarding the traction substation.

 

Nagnath1.jpg (128677 bytes) There is a service tunnel which links TKW and top of the NAG catch siding. This view is at the NAG end  of the service tunnel. The service tunnel was used during the construction  of the 3rd line to carry the material from TKW side. As the TKW substation powers all the three lines, the tunnel also carries the 1.5 KVDC OHE cable to the NAG side. This can be seen on the left of the picture. The train (6012 Up Chennai- Mumbai Express, I think) waits at NAG cabin during its mandatory halt.

  

Nagnath2.jpg (141126 bytes) Normally the points are set so that the train would get diverted to the catch siding. Only if the train stops for the 3 minute period do the points now allow the train on the main line. This is a very simple yet effective method of ensuring safety during descent in the steep Bhor ghats. Here the '12 Up' with the WCM 2 power is just starting from NAG.

 

Nagnath3.jpg (143659 bytes) Following the profile of the hill the train crawls down the ghats at 50 Km/h. At such steep grades, all that is required is for brakes to be released and the train achieves its rated velocity within no time at all. The landscape is typical of the rugged western ghats.

 

Nagnath4.jpg (136573 bytes)  

The WCM 2 power crossing our position.

 

Thakurwadi3.jpg (78115 bytes)  

Viraf, Apurva, Manish and Shyama (who took the picture) ride out the BFR ! 

There are three trains round the clock (1007 Dn Deccan Express, 1009 Dn Sinhagad Express and 1023 Siddheswar Express) which carry the fresh shift staff to the substations and the various cabins in the ghat. As per our original schedule, we were due to take the 1009 Dn. Sinhagad Express which stops at TKW for one minute to Pune. But this was not to be !

 

Thakurwadi4.jpg (77765 bytes) There was a derailment near Neral, which delayed all the traffic indefinitely. We heard this news with a knot of fear in our bellies, the thought of walking 11 Kms to Khandala (where the highway crosses the railway lines) in fading light (and through numerous unlit tunnels),  in a tired state was very depressing. However the IR sent the 'work train' to the rescue. This is a departmental rake used for permanent way maintenance which is homed at Lonavala. This rake was sent to bring back all the junta caught in the ghat due to the derailment. Many of our friends climbed into the leading WCG 2 loco, while we chose to ride the BFR flatcar. Note the WCG 2 banker at the rear. Our faces wear the relief having got a ride out of the ghats.

 

Thakurwadi5.jpg (90527 bytes) The view forward of the BFR. Note the rails and the sleepers used as for the permanent way maintenance. The wagon before the BFR is the ballast hopper wagon. Apparently that was more comfortable than the BFR, causing these people to change their perch. The BFR had previously carried some chemicals  which caused severe itching to all of us for a couple of days.

 

Thakurwadi6.jpg (70889 bytes) Shyama is ecstatic about the ride. We always wanted to ride a flat car, and we got the opportunity to do so only in such strange circumstances. We took the 2.6 Kms long tunnel no 26 from Monkey Hill to Khandala on this journey. It is an eerie experience, sitting for many minutes in total darkness without any clue to where we were. The darkness was suddenly broken by the huge ventilation shafts from the tunnel to the top of the mountain.

 

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