Trains: Railways and Stations in Colombo

May 31 2024.

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text The Whinging Pome

A ferroequinologist is someone who is recreationally interested in trains, and there are all kinds of them. There are people who appreciate looking and travelling on trains and others who are more interested in the engines. There are train museums and transport museums. The one in Colombo has been in the planning for decades. It would support the much-needed drive for more tourists visiting Colombo.

There are those who write down the engine numbers and log them in a book and enthusiasts who want to travel on specific trains or the launch of a new train.  Some folks want to be a part of the last journey of a special engine/train. Many tourists enjoy the trains on the island of Sri Lanka and undertake iconic train journeys, like to and from Colombo, Ella, Jaffna, Kandy, Badulla and more. Trains to Demodara station go round a mountain and exit it under the same station.

The Kandy-Ella train journey is ranked as one of the most scenic train rides in the world. I just hope that the state-run trains will upgrade the toilets. Some trains have no toilets and no toilet on any train I’ve travelled is clean or well-maintained. In the UK the "train nuts" are called Anoraks. This name dates back to the 1930s given the generally bad weather and strategic places people had to stand to get the best photograph of the selected train. Now I can never see myself as an Anorak-type person but after living in Sri Lanka for twenty years I have undertaken lots of train journeys, and seen fascinating old railway stations and many of the engines. Some are out of service.

In 1862 the first locomotive arrived in Sri Lanka from Northern England, built and despatched by the Robert Stephenson company. Stephenson was said by some to be the greatest engineer of the nineteenth century. It always amuses me when Sri Lankans ask me “Why did the British build so many rail tracks in front of the sea?” Just thank god we built them! The first section of new rail built after Sri Lanka's independence was in 2013—after more than six decades of neglect. As I travel around the island I like to drop into railway stations. So many have treasures to be found.

At Diyatalawa, up county, we went to check out the station. It is small but the station manager soon latched on to our enthusiasm so we got the full tour, seeing equipment from the British era still being used daily to ensure two trains on a single track are controlled. At Anuradhapura station within a 15-minute dash around the platforms, I secure photos of five different engines - some quite old. On the nine arch railway bridge near Ella, enthusiastic tourists lean out of the train to have photos taken by their friends. I will continue my quest to find those old stations, and trains and do the trips, whilst enjoying the countryside. So whilst I’m not an “anorak”, I’m still searching out new train experiences in Sri Lanka. Why don't you join me on a trip? 


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