Sri Lanka’s extensive broad gauge (5’ 6”) railway network not only boasts a great deal of classic mechanical signalling (see my earlier “Eye Kandy” post) but also offers some magnificently scenic rail journeys at absurdly cheap fares, and an interesting variety of rolling stock, imported from places as far afield as the US and Japan.
The island’s 937-mile (1,500km) network stretches from Jaffna in the north to Galle and Matara on its southern coast, with a route following the west coast northwards for some 85 miles from Colombo to Puttalam, the “Main Line” heading north-east from the capital to Kandy and on into the Tea Country to a terminus at Badulla, and other branch lines reaching the east coast at Batticaloa and Trincomalee.
Railways on the island were introduced by the British colonial government in the 1860s, and, for those with an interest in British traction, there are a couple of classes of diesel locomotives currently in service amongst the island’s varied fleet. Continue reading “Sri Lankan railway miscellany”
Citizens of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby now know the true cost of High Speed Two. After an endless on/off saga they now know that they will not be able to travel on modern high speed electric trains to the capital and that their Midland Main Line will become the only major route from London that is not electrified.
Critics of HS2 always said that the price to be paid for this multi-billion pound vanity project would be a reduction in investment in our classic rail network, and so it has come to pass. Like people living between Cardiff and Swansea and visitors to Windermere, those in the East Midlands will have to make do with a botched compromise, where inefficient new trains that run on both electric and diesel power will work under the wires as far north as Kettering, before switching to diesel power for the onward journey to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Continue reading “Paying the price for High Speed folly”
Take a three hour train trip from Colombo’s Fort station to Sri Lanka’s second city, Kandy, and there are plenty of reminders of the amazing legacy which Victorian railway pioneers left to this former outpost of the British Empire. While the train itself is likely to be one of the modern Chinese-built S12 diesel units dating from 2012, the bargain priced ticket (190 Rupees second class, or just under £1.00) will be a classic Edmondson card, like all the tickets issued at ticket offices throughout the country.
For the first 90 minutes of the 75-mile journey there is nothing too special to see, other than three unidentifiable steam locomotives standing at the depot just east of the capital, but things start to change when you get to Polgahawela Junction, 45.5 miles from Columbo and the place where the northern route towards Jaffna and Mannar diverges, with the first opportunity to see the classic lower quadrant semaphore signals that are a feature of the route from here to Kandy. Continue reading “Eye Kandy”
Fifty years ago this week-end – on Sunday, 2 July 1967 – I stood by the line close to Basingstoke station while my father photographed the farewell to Southern steam specials from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, hauled by Merchant Navy Class locos 35008 Orient Line, 35028 Clan Line and West Country Class loco 34025 Whimple.
Half a century on there was a fabulous reminder for me of that fateful day, at the Summer Steam Gala on the Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line), where in less than two hours at Medstead & Four Marks station – at 652 feet the highest station in southern England – it was possible to see even more Bulleid Pacific action than I had watched from the line-side on that day back in 1967. Continue reading “Bulleid Magic at Medstead”