Exploring the Harbour Line
by Karan Desai
Yesterday I had around two hours of free time in the afternoon and so I decided to explore and take photographs of a route that has been my favourite since childhood (but very less documented amongst us railfans) - the Harbour line between Wadala Road and CSTM.
I boarded a CSTM bound local from Wadala Road and got off at the next station- Sewri. At Wadala Road, Mumbai Port Trust has a large goods yard and two lines from this yard run parallel to the CR lines upto Sewri. These lines are unelectrified BG lines with semaphore signals which look as if they were never operated since a decade or so. A few times I have seen black-and-white liveried MbPT shunters, resembling our WDS-4 in this stretch but today, none could be seen. I took a few photos of these MbPT lines which veer of to the east into some petrol storage tanks and took another local upto the next station- Cotton Green.
After Sewri, the Harbour line climbs on to a flyover and continues upto Cotton Green. The station is at a height but not on a bridge- it is on an embankment. The entry to station is marked by a grand British-era building of Bombay Cotton Exchange, painted in light green which gives the station its name. This is first of the many stations on this route which are on a steep curve. Soon, I took a local upto the next station- Reay Road.
South of Cotton Green, the Harbour Line descends at a rather gentle gradient to reach Reay Road station which is at ground level. To the east of the station lies a huge abandoned structure which looks like a goods loading/unloading facility. I walked upto the place and found it completely neglected with just a few beggars and anti-social elements whiling away time on what must have been a hub of activity some decades back. ON one side of the covered platform there are around four to five BG railway lines, the one nearest to the station is in a sad state but the others are in quite good condition but I do not know if any trains ever pyl on those lines now.
Back at the station, I wanted to capture on camera the steep up gradient that the trains take just out of Reay Road station but the presence of two RPF constables prevented me from taking a photo. I took a local and began tracking one of the lines that came from the abandoned goods shed and was running parallel to the Harbour Line, the only difference being that we were now at a height while that line was at ground level. Soon, the Harbour Line takes a steep right turn, crossing over an arterial road while the port line goes ahead straight, entering MbPT property and disappearing from view.
The next station, Dockyard Road, is again on an embankment and again on a very steep curve that requires banking of the tracks. An interesting feature of this station is that only the platforms are at a height while the ticket window and even the Station Master's office are located in a quaint wooden structure located at ground level at the end of a steep ramp that leads to the platforms from the main road. I took yet another local for the shortest ride- Dockyard Road and Sandhurst Road are less than 500m apart and it takes just 40 seconds for the journey!
Sandhurst Road station is my personal favourite on this section. The Upper Level of the station serving the Harbour Line is completely on a metal girder bridge with no ballast on the tracks. Once again the station is on a steep 90 degree curve. The Lower Level of this station, right under the bridge serves CR Main Lines. Immediately after the platform begins the steepest ramp on the section with 1 in 34 gradient. Thankfully the trains starting from rest have to descend it and not ascend it. If it would have been the other way round, it would be a motorman's worst nightmare!
I did not alight at Masjid and directly went to CSTM in the next train, quickly checked out the new Re-fresh cafeteria in the suburban concourse, found it too crowded so went to the Main Line side and had lunch at the Re-fresh cafeteria in the Main Line concourse. After lunch, I took the 13:31 Vashi local from PF-1 and again got off at Sandhurst Road to take a few pics which I had not taken earlier.
I got off on PF-3 (CST-Wadala Dn line), went over the FOB, explored PF-4 (Wadala-CST Up line) and when I came back to PF-3 from the FOB, a TTE approached me and asked me for ticket. I showed him my CST-Wadala ticket but he refused to accept it and told me that he saw me coming from PF-4 and hance I must have come from Wadala and am travelling ticketless. He even threatened me that he can find out the truth "from our computer which will tell us from where you travelled". Perplexed to hear about such a technology existing in Mumbai, I quickly realised that the technically-challenged TTE was referring to the CCTVs as "computer"! I explained him that I was an engineering student and was here to observe the sole dual-level station in Mumbai. Initially he refused to listen to me so I decided to tackle him in the manner they know best- I showed him my ATVM ticket with CST to Wadala written on it and the time 13:19 stamped on it and asked him if he could explain me how I could have come from Wadala side if I was at CSTM just 20 minutes ago? I even told him to check the footage of 13:36 Vashi local that arrived on PF-3 and find me alighting from it. By now he was realised that it was futile wasting time with me and he let me go with the customary phrase- "Student hai isliye jaane de raha hoon.. nahi toh dekh leta tereko!"
After this I decided not to alight at further stations enroute and headed straight back to Wadala and from there to college.