Thal Ghat Railway Construction

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The Thal Ghat Railway Incline section through the Western Ghats was a major challenge to extend the north-eastern mainline of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway(GIPR) towards Jubbulpore. The section finally opened in 1865.


The GIPR mainline from Callian (later named Kalyan) to Kasara had opened in 1861 [1] covering a length of 42 miles/68 km) and rising to an altitude of 948 feet/289 m) above sea level at Kasara.

The next section to cross the Thal Ghat from Kasara to Igatpuri was 9.5 miles/15 km) and within that distance the had to rise to 1,918 feet/585 m); the gradient in the section being 1:37 [2]. The line negotiates this steep incline with the help of curves and required the construction of a number of bridges, the Ehagaon Viaduct and tunnels.

The objective was to take the GIPR mainline to Jubbulpore to link to the East Indian Railway. This was acheived in 1870 with the inaugeration of the Alfred Viaduct.


  • Thal Ghat is the spelling used in “The Imperial Gazetteer of India”[3], 1909 which we use as the definitive spelling. It is also used as the primary spelling in Wikipedia[4] along with the modern name Kasara Ghat as the mountain incline or slope near the town of Kasara in Maharashtra.
  • Thull Ghat is the name used in the India Office Records 1853-56 documents, “Grace’s Guide” and in books of the time of construction.
  • Thul Ghat is used in one IOR record and occasionally in other references. The variant Thul Ghaut is used in the James John Berkley, GIPR Chief Engineer's 1860 Paper on the construction [5].


The GIPR Chief Engineer James John Berkley's proposal was to form a grand trunk communication by the north-eastern mainline between Bombay and Calcutta, and the north-west [6], he also proposed a south-eastern line between Bombay and Madras, including also an important line to Nagpore.

  • 1851, Berkley first inspected the Thal Ghat 'to determine what extent of survey would be required. BerKley's Paper #p.11
  • 1852, initial survey to 'obtain a practical line' undertaken. #p.13-14
  • 1853-56, a series of surveys and propsals were put forward, see 'Records' below
  • 1856 Jan, the Thal Ghat section was sanctioned by the Indian government. #p.20.
  • 1857 Aug, Contract let to Messrs Wythes and Jackson 'in the meantime we (GIPR engineers) had been staking out the incline'. #p.20
  • The route of the incline is fully described, together with gradients, location of the 13 tunnels (aggregate length 2652 yards/2425m; 6 viaducts, including the Ehagaon Viaduct; cuttings; embankments; 15 bridges and culverts, #p.22-23 and the Reversing Station. #p.27-28
  • 1865, the Thal Ghat section was finally opened to traffic. Messrs Wythes and Jackson continued the construction on to Bhusawal[7]


The following from the Engineering Department of the GIPR are mentioned 'who have taken part in our operations' #p.28 Note - just the surname is given in the text; we have added the full name where we have been able to identify the engineer.

  • Charles Buchanan Ker, Robert W Graham, Darke, W J Wright (deceased), Inglis, Sanderson, Butt, Gale, Winteringham, Dickenson, A A West, Tate, F A Hawkins, Teasdale, Dangerfield, O'Brien, Cameron, Thompson and Pocock.
  • Consulting Engineers, London - Robert Stevenson 'who created the large professional establishment by which our works are accomplished .. with the able aid of his partner George Berkley, our current Consulting Engineer who adopted and procured those vast supplies of mechanical appliances which the British Islands have contributed' #p.29

Realighnment 1916

The 1916 report states[8] “The Thal Ghat realigned section was brought into use on the 2nd January 1917” by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) “The new alignment is two miles long and is on a grade of 1 in 37, the ruling gradient on the Ghat. It shortens the distance by about 1.5 miles; but its chief value lies in eliminating the reversing station previously in use which was a great handicap to the expeditious handling of traffic. Under old conditions, trains had to be worked in sections and much time was lost in breaking up and remaking trains, further delay being caused at the reversing stations by the reversing of engines. Trains of a length of 850 feet are already in use on the realigned section and it is expected that trains of 1,500 feet and 1,800 feet long will be running shortly. The new alignment has a single tunnel in place of three on the old line.

Upgrading 1930

Even the elimination of the reversing station was insufficient to enable this slow-speed section of line to cope successfully with the heavy traffic it had to carry while steam traction was used, and in 1930 the Thal Ghat section was converted to electric operation[2].


An on-line search of the India Office Records (IOR) records held at the British Library relating to this railway [9] gives several entries, the most relevant as follows: -

  • Thull Ghat (note spelling)
    • Z/E/4/24/T256; “Thull Ghat, question respecting construction of railway from Bombay to Kandeish through; 1853-54
    • Z/E/4/27/S549; “Stephenson, Robert, Opinion on railway over Thull Ghat; 1856
    • Z/E/4/27/T218; “Thull Ghat, proposed line from Bombay to Jubbulpore viâ, sanctioned”; 1856
  • Thul Ghat (note spelling)
    • Z/E/4/25/S935 “Surveys, Thul Ghat, Bombay Government referred to Court's despatch regarding”; 1854-55

Further Information

See Great Indian Peninsula Railway