Hill Gang – CR’s Safety Soldiers of Ghats.

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Central Railway’s most challenging workforce, the Hill Gang of the Bhor Ghat (between Karjat & Khandala) and Thul Ghat (between Kasara & Igatpuri) through their rock climbing & mountain rappelling does the ultimate challenge in Railway Safety. These safety soldiers work throughout the year in ensuring a smooth and safe passage to the trains towards Pune & southern parts of India and towards Nashik & northern parts of India. These hill gang members through their expertise in mountain rappelling, remove loose & dangerous boulders likely to fall on tracks, clear the mud likely to cause landslides, clear the chock up of catch water draining etc. to avert any unusual likely to be caused especially during monsoon.

The hill gang members climb the high and steep mountains along the tracks and through rappelling identify the loose and vulnerable boulders and mark it with red paint throughout the month of January to March every year. Then, in the month of April and May they drop the loose and vulnerable boulders marked by taking a block of 4 to 5 hours each day. These boulders are then cleared through a boulder special run especially for this purpose. This year alone more than 650 loose boulders were identified and dropped both in Bhor ghat and Thul ghat and the same were cleared by a 3-wagon boulder special by taking a block for 4-5 hours for 60 days.

This ambitious and awe-inspiring task has been fulfilled by 10 hill gang members each in Bhor ghat and in Thul ghat. To fulfil this task the safety gears and instruments provided were safety helmet, safety shoes, safety belt (harness), binocular, 100 metre rope, hand gloves, safety jacket, katavni, pahar, fonk, red paint, brush, first aid box, ghan 5 kg, hammer different sizes, crowbar, whistle thunderer, chisel, axe in different sizes, wire claw, hand signal flag Red/Green, shovel, jam bavata and ghamela. During the monsoon and thereafter the hill gang members do the work of scanning for scattered loose boulders & dropping as per requirement, clean the chock-up catch water drain & culverts, lean tree cutting and bridge cleaning.

The principal hill range of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra is the Sahyadri range, there are a number of passes or ‘Ghats’ in this range, notable among them being the Bhor Ghat and the Thul ghat. It was through these ghats that the rail line from Mumbai cut through the range and reached Pune & Nashik respectively. Traversing through these Ghats poses a great challenge to both Roadways and Railways. The steep gradient rail line through these Ghats pose a unique challenge to Central Railway, Moreover, during heavy rains erosions of steep slopes takes place which gives way to heavy boulders to roll down and small boulders loosen up. The big Boulders are cut into pieces by the hill gangs with the help of chisels and hammers and cleared, while small boulders are dropped to ensure the safe running of trains.

For many rock climbers, mountain rappelling is an adventure, but for these hill gangs of the Central Railway, this is a mission performed to ensure the safety of railways. These all-weather railwaymen toil, sweat in a very difficult terrain so that the trains pass through these Ghats are protected from any unusual. The challenge is on every year after year for the hill gang of Central Railway.

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