At Sandhurst Road, the two tracks of the Harbour Line part from the four tracks of the Central Line, meeting once at Kurla, ne’er to meet again. The Duronto to Nagpur – and my parents – passes by.Listen to the clang of trains being shunted and an engine’s call. Beyond is the harbour that gives the city its name: “Bom Bahia” (meaning “good bay”). Southbound services overflow with light; the doors of ’burb-bound locals are darkened by clinging, straining bodies.Fourteen cavernous godowns are separated by cobblestone plazas. The nearby offices of Raj and Co. Today, a few men load white parcels into a single windowless luggage van stabled at one of the few godowns still in use. I have eyes only for the eponymous railway that adorns the city’s “other” coast like a less ostentatious necklace: the humble, plodding Harbour Line. Grass grows between rails, and vegetables are grown between tracks. To admire the railway, climb the hill and enter the garden. Faded orange bunting harks of a union function. Each godaam shelters an island platform that was once flanked by two side lines; most of these have been stripped away. (Clearing, Forwarding Transport Agents) consist China Automotive molds of three chairs, a table, and a solitary clerk flipping desultorily through a yellowed register. This arboretum boasts of old trees, vast lawns, lovers in gazebos, swotting students, jogging aunties, blink-and-you-miss-them exit staircases, and a vantage point to view Mumbai’s three main modes of transport: road, ship, and rail. From your height, it looks like a toy train.The abandoned platforms are strewn with spools of thick cables, cannibalised machines, and obsolete wooden sleepers arranged in a pyre.Leap onto the parapet.
So will the Konkan Kanya to Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg and Goa, and our old friend the Mahanagari, to Khandwa and Itarsi and Jabalpur and Satna and…— By arrangement with TheCityStory. Watch the sun set over colonial Bombay. Walk past the baby-blue staircase leading up to the office of the Senior Sectional Engineer (Electric) and find yourself in a station area like no other. One godown has been commandeered by a shantytown. Mismatched rakes of the old and new Rajdhanis, pantry cars, sleeper coaches, bio-toilets, and generator vans reach the end of the line – and life – here. No one else is in sight. The clickety-clack of trains hurtling on the ground over concrete sleepers is replaced by the thunder of Harbour Line trains ascending the ramp over metal ones; Sandhurst Road is the only station to have platforms at two levels. Trample past some shrubs and lo! – an ancient nine-coach rake trundles out of unseen Dockyard Road, curves eastwards over an expansive train yard, and reaches Sandhurst Road seconds after the guard’s cabin has cleared Dockyard. – Shipbuilders to the Nation.Dockyard Road railway station abuts Bhandarwada Hill, which is crowned by a garden named after Joseph Baptista, Tilak associate, Bombay mayor and local Mazagaon boy. Hop over the railing. So do the Howrah Mail to Calcutta and the Devagiri Express to Secunderabad. If only you had a remote. Clothes dry on a wire strung between mighty pillars that support this once buzzing yard.Beside the railway is a hill and on the hill is a garden.Wadi Bunder is an old age home/graveyard for derelict compartments. I count the coaches of every outstation train – a childhood obsession.
The roof is corrugated metal. Come evening, spotlights are switched on.“And he stood upon the foot overbridge, Lord of all he surveyed.In the foreground is the conveyor belt of the Eastern Freeway. This is where Miss Havisham would park her personal train. The walls consist of 15 or 20-foot high stone arches joined by brick. Someone alert Sanjay Gupta about this readymade film set.Clamber down the seldom used stairs of Sandhurst Road’s Platform Number 4.The foot overbridge shudders as a local enters the station, the rails gleaming in its headlamp.” – Gospel of Mrigank. Young men in rolled-up trousers hose the exterior while ragpickers scamper through the inside, cleaning the train before its 1,500 kilometre journey to the north. In its 20th century heyday, Wadi Bunder was the city’s premier hub for goods transport, employing thousands of labourers.Walk back towards, under, and past the station. Behind it looms the mammoth yellow arch of Mazagon Dock Ltd. The unlit coaches of a train crawl out of Wadi Bunder towards CST, soon to burst with light and people. Climb a concrete ramp between stationary trains and watch 11093 Down CST-Varanasi Mahanagari Express being prepped for tonight’s journey
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