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Bhore Ghaut Incline, Bombay

William Simpson (1823-1899)


Signed, inscribed with title and dated 1862

Watercolour and pencil with bodycolour

13 ½ x 19 ½ inches

Preliminary drawing for The Illustrated London News, 21 September 1867, page 312

'Chris Beetles Summer Show', Chris Beetles Gallery, 2019, No 47

Thal Ghat and Bhor Ghat Inclines

Thal Ghat and Bhor Ghat, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, are parts of the mountain range known as the Western Ghats. Both carry major rail routes from Mumbai; Bhor Ghat, carries that to Pune, to the southeast of Mumbai, while Thal Ghat carries that via Kasara to Nashik, to the northeast. Those routes were constructed by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, which was founded in 1849, during the control of the British East Indian Company, and developed in the early days of the British Raj.

The first passenger train ran on 16 April 1853, from Mumbai (then known as Bombay) to Thana (Tanna). By 14 June 1858, the line had been extended to Pune (Poona), though the viaduct that crossed the Bhor Ghat took another five years to complete; in the intervening
period, that part of the route was served by palanquin, pony or cart.

The line to Kasara (Kassarah) was opened on 1 January 1861, while the section beyond, which crosses Thal Ghat and leads to Igatpuri (Egutpoora), was opened on 1 January 1865.

Both routes were the results of outstanding achievements in civil engineering. For instance, the original incline through Bhor Ghat involved the construction of 25 tunnels, 8 arched masonry viaducts and numerous embankments. However, the work was hampered by both industrial unrest and disease.

The first contractor of the section covering Bhor Ghat, W F Faviell, was dismissed after he mistreated his workers, while his replacement, Solomon Tredwell, died, of cholera or dysentry, within days of arriving at the site. It was his wife, Alice, who took over the contract, appointing Messrs Adamson and Clowser to complete it in her absence, which they did by 1863.

William Simpson observed and recorded the progress of the railway in January 1862, near the end of his extended stay in India. In his autobiography, he wrote:

The railway was then working from the top of the Thul Ghat at Egatpoora to Chalesgaum, or Deololee. I came by rail therefore to the top of the ghat, made sketches, and then went on to the Bhore Ghat and made sketches of it. These were heavy works, and were not finished at the time of my visit. (George Eyre-Todd (ed),
The Autobiography of William Simpson, RI, London: T Fisher Unwin, 1903, Page 171)

Simpson’s watercolour of the Bhore Ghaut Incline [47] provided the basis for an image that appeared in The Illustrated London News on 21 September 1867. It accompanied an article on the ‘Fall of a Viaduct on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway’.

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