Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
A beautifully written piece full of nostalgia for that Great Lady: the Udarata Menike.
An M2 hauls the Udarata Menike
The blue M2 Canadian diesel locomotives that came into service starting 1954 powered the Udarata Menike, Yal Devi, Ruhunu Kumar and the Podi Manike (the Nan Oya Express). At that time we lived at the end of Ramakrishna Road with only the approach road separating us from the railway line. Little as I was, I remembered the Ruhunu Kumari, (the Matara Express) roaring past us in the morning. Later I would watch her out of my class window in Miss Dwight’s Standard II class at St Thomas’ Prep School.
M2 # 570 Alberta which hauls Yal Devi to Kankasanthurai.
The M2 manufactured by Canadian General Electric was so successful in then Ceylon, that when the purchase of another batch of diesel locomotives was being considered in the 1960s the contract went to the Canadians again. This time MLW, the Montreal Locomotive Works, who supplied the M4 commencing 1975; another set of blue Canadian diesels!
Class M4 No. 745Ruwanweli
THE CANADIAN CONNECTION
My Dad was on Carolina Group, Watawala for 27 years, and before he retired, he planted in Bandarawela for four years. Carolina was a huge estate of 2230 acres. By a topographical twist of fate, the railway line from Colombo to Badulla went through one of the divisions of Carolina called Mt.Jean. In fact the Watawala railway station was located on Mt.Jean division! Our bungalow on Kadawella division was some distance away from the railway track, but each day around. we could hear the sound of the horn and the throbbing hum of the diesel locomotive as the "Menike" slided on ribbons of steel on her onward journey uphill amidst spectacular landscape on the way to Badulla. The blast of the horn would echo through the green hills and in the solitude of an estate bungalow it was a reassuring sound.When the "Udarata Menike" was first introduced in 1954 it was powered by two British diesel locomotives. Before this, the train to Badulla was hauled by two steam engines which meant getting flecks of coal in one's eye, when looking out of the window ! And with the puffs of smoke blowing all over, the journey was not very pleasant. The introduction of diesel changed all that. A new set of carriages were hitched onto the diesel locomotives on her maiden run, and thats how it remained as long as I remember. The icing on the cake was the gift of twelve Canadian diesel locomotives under the Colombo Plan in the late 50's - an outright gift from the Canadian government under the premiership of Pierre Trudeau. These diesels were a joy to behold, and I still remember the names of some of them, on either side of the locomotive gleaming in silver and blue. They were "Alberta" "Montreal" "Sasketchwan" "Prince Edward Island" "Vancouver" "Manitoba" "Toronto" and "Ontario". Out went the British locomotives - at least on the up-country run, and in came one Canadian diesel to take their place. I later picked up some trivia about the Canadian locomotives. The distances they covered in Canada were at times over a thousand miles, and apparently the distance from Colombo to Badulla was insufficient for such high powered diesels of 2500 horse power. So after the "Menike" reached Badulla around each evening, the locomotive had to be kept running for some hours after that, even though the journey had ended ! Apparently, one locomotive could provide electricity for an entire town ! After Dad went to Bandarawela, I used to travel by the "Udarata Menike" several times whenever I came to Colombo, and the return journey was one which I always anticipated with joy. It was not the train per se, but the incredible journey and the terrain of the track.In the the low country from Colombo to Rambukkana it was a smooth run. But once the train reached Kadugannawa the climb began, and if you sat on the right and dared to look out of the window when the train skirted the ridge called "Sensation Rock" you risked a nervous breakdown because a thousand feet below, you could see the roofs of thatched village houses and expanses of paddy fields - all in minature. There was no protective barrier along this length of track and the train was travelling on the edge of a sheer precipice ! Once this nerve shattering climb was negotiated, the terrain evened out to a level run upto Nawalapitiya. It was past Nawalapitiya that the real torturous climb began all the way to Nanuoya and from there to a spot on the track between Ambawela and Pattipola which is the highest point on the railway. After this it was 'downhill' all the way in the plains of Uva to the terminus at Badulla. On one of these trips I happened to be in the compartment up front behind the locomotive, and a very friendly guard took me into his section of the compartment from where I could see the driver in his cabin and observe this Canadian powerhorse in action. I was introduced to the driver, Mr.Wadugodapitiya an old Trinitian, and a senior driver in the Ceylon Government Railways. It was he who gave me the trivia I quoted earlier on the Canadian diesels.I have done many trips by train in other countries and can tell you that the trip from Colombo to Badulla should be classed as one of the great train journeys of the world. Apart from the spectacular scenery through which the track goes through, specially in the hill country, just consider the near impossible gradient which the train traverses.......In fact there is a place called for some unknown reason, "Soda Bottle" bend on the line between Kotagala and Great Western which is an engineering marvel. So steep is the gradient that at a certain point on looking out of the window if one is seated on the right side of the train, one can see the railway track in two tiers below - a graphic indication of the height the traveller has just passed through. And then there is the engineering masterpiece of the Demodera loop ! Once the train leaves Demodera station (two halts before Badulla) it goes full circle and at one stage passes right under the station which it has just left, on its way to Badulla ! Imagine leaving a station and then after about five minutes looking out of the window - or rather, looking up - to find the station you just left is right above you !! Talk about the realms of fantasy ! It is a matter of regret that the name of the engineer who devised this masterpiece has not been recorded for posterity. On the return trip past Nanuoya, one gets a clear view of Adam's Peak in the distance - weather permitting - until one reaches Talawakelle. At Nanuoya - and this is addressed to old Anthonians in particular - there is a little hill near the station, with a neat little bungalow on its summit. This was the home of Freddy, Paddy, Gerry, and Merry Guneratne when their Dad Alec Guneratne - an old Anthonian and legendary soccer star of a bygone era - was stationed in Nanuoya during his service with the Ceylon Government Railways. I once walked with Royston and Basil Hyde from their home on Scrubbs Estate, Nuwaraeliya to the Guneratne home at Nanuoya - a distance of four miles. We were entertained with cordon bleu home made delicacies by Paddy's Mum - it is still a warm memory that never fades and sparks nostalgia for a happy time and place...... But I digress, so I had better get back on track........From Ohiya station upto Haputale the track seems to defy gravity ! It is cut on the side of a mountain and runs at the edge of a precipice with heart stopping views of the little villages far down below. It is a hair raising experience which I term as death defying ! You have to sit on the left of the compartment to get your hair standing on all ends ! If you wish to play it safe, just sit on the right and all you will see is the side of a cliff. But the scenery which greets the traveller will live in memory forever. A panorama of deep valleys, green hills and lush countryside where nature has run riot with her paintbrush painting the land in colours of every hue......This kaladescope of nature's bounty penetrates your very soul to inspire and nurture the spirit........It is a photographer's delight and an artists paradise........and the bracing mountair air gives one a near supernatural sense of well being. The scenery on this entire journey is a nature lover's delight. From the lush hills on the Kadugannawa climb right upto Nawalapitiya, and then the beautiful tea country all the way to Nanuoya.There were no luxury compartments. There was 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and an excellent Restaurant Car staffed by uniformed waiters. The catering was done by U.K.Edmund. For Rs.1.50 you could enjoy a delicious rice and curry and the tea was the nectar of the Gods. There was no Observation Car.I think today the "Menike" is powered by a German Henschel locomotive and has some Rumanian compartments. In my humble opinion the Henschel diesel does not in any way, shape or form look as sleek, majestic and inspiring as her Canadian counterpart. During my last visit to Sri Lanka in 2000, I was pleased to see some of the Canadian locomotives still riding the rails. On a trip from Haputale to Colombo in the "Udarata Menike" we crossed the "Podi Menike" the younger sister of the "Udarata Menike" which I observed was hauled by a Canadian diesel locomotive, "Montreal". With that I shall conclude this email. But the "Menike" - 'The Maid of the Mountains' or, as I prefer to call her 'The Maid of the Mists', will forever travel the corners of our minds in the realms of memory on a journey that has no end...Bernard VanCuylenburg.Bernard turned 70 on the 25th February.
Posted by Asela at 4:04 AM
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
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Indian built Northern railway line on trackApril 26, 2013, 8:38 pm
The Indian-built Northern railway line is on schedule, officials said. A trial run was conducted on the completed new railway track between Medawachchiya and Madhu Road, covering a distance of 43 kms recently.
The reconstructed track is a 43 km long segment in the prestigious Northern Railway Line projects, comprising a 252 km route length, which is being executed by Ircon International Limited, a government company under the Ministry of Railways India. The project is funded by the Government of India, under the Indian Line of Credit. "This segment is now dedicated to the public of Sri Lanka and has been completed well within the scheduled completion date", said S L Gupta, General Manager of Ircon International Limited.
The reconstructed railway track is designed with a speed potential of 120kmph. Rail joints are minimized using the latest modern welding technology. Pre-stressed concrete sleepers have been used to lay the track, instead of traditional wooden sleepers to ensure durable and stronger tracks, simultaneously helping to preserve the environment. CMS (Cast Manganese Steel) crossings with standard turnouts, long welded rails with switch expansion joints, panel interlocking, flash butt welding, etc. have been incorporated to provide a long lasting track, with minimal maintenance effort.
"For the execution of the project, local manpower and agencies have been deployed in order to generate local employment as well as for purposes of skills development", said Gupta.
The railway tracks from Omanthai to Kankesanthurai and Medawachchiya to Talaimannar were completely destroyed during the devastating civil war. The Government of India has extended its support to the Government of Sri Lanka to rebuild the 252 km route length track under the 800 Million US$ lines of credit. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 5 phases and all segments of the project are progressing well according to schedule", said Gupta. MPLN Peiris, Project Director of Sri Lanka Railway, M P De Silva, Team Leader of CECB and S L Gupta, General Manager of Ircon International Limited, undertook the trial run on 23-04-2013. Other officers from Sri Lanka Railway, CECB and Ircon also participated in the trial run. The trial run commenced from Medawachchiya station and ended at the newly constructed Madhu Road Station.
"The trial run was successful and comfortable and we are very pleased that this phase of the project has been completed", said Gupta.
Posted by Asela at 9:14 AM
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Eleven countries by 48 trains in 15 daysApril 19, 2013, 4:32 pm
By Eng. Asela K. Kulatunga
Secretary-Railway Heritage Trust -
Secretary-Railway Heritage Trust -
Travelling is one of the main categories of enjoyment for many. Those who have high spending power do this on foreign soil and those who cannot afford that satisfy themselves with local trips. However, there are a few in this country who fall into the first category.
Recently, one of my friends, Nimal Perera, a Grade 1 locomotive driver of SLR and a founding member of our Railway Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka, did a magnificent tour of Europe on a small budget saved over the past year untiringly. Due to various reasons, I thought of sharing his experiences with many of our readers who might take-up the challenge Nimal Perera stood up to, in the years to come.
He did this tour with a 1st class Euro-rail pass which cost him about
Swiss Franc 605- Rs. 80,000/-. This Europe-wide trip started from Basel, Switzerland, where he stayed with some of his friends for a couple of days. Initial leg of the tour was from Basel to Hamburg in Germany by the Basel - Hamburg train. This journey took him about 6 hrs. His main intention was to visit the world's biggest miniature railway wonderland. This place has the world's largest collection of railway models, including world famous railway tracks, such as, Grand Canyon of USA. In addition, he went on a city tour which covered most of the monuments and public attractions. He stayed that night in one of the world's most famous budget accommodation hostel chains called Youth Hostel (AO hostel) at Leipzig , Germany.
Following day he visited the Czech Republic via the Berlin to Linz train and had the opportunity of seeing the ancient buildings and art galleries situated in Ceske Bude Jovice. Second night was spent at a hotel of the same city for Crone 300/-. Following day he visited the Slovekian city called Bratislava and stayed the third night at the Youth Hostel (YH) at Corvin Point.
From Bratislava, next, he travelled to a city known as Kosice, which was a 5hrs train journey and situated on the Ukrainian Border. There was a bus service operating from this city to London. In this city our traveller faced some unpleasantness from Gypsies who live there. However, some security personnel supported him to get over the incident. Same day he travelled to the Hungarian capital Budapest and stayed the night at YH there and he was the first Sri Lankan to stay at that hostel, according to the authorities. The next day he visited many palaces in the Hungarian capital and walked along the banks of river Danube and he also took the footpath of the world famous ancient chain bridge. In addition there are many palaces, churches of gothic architecture. According our traveller, Perera, this was the city where he met the most hospitable people he has ever come across in the EU. Most of the PROs of the railway stations were very supportive of visitors.
Same day evening, he took a train to visit the famous BRAMS Castle situated in Brasov in Transylvania (Previous name used for Rumania). From there he took a rail jet to Wien in the Austrian capital the same evening and spent some time at the Wien YH. Next day he went to Semarine highlands through a track full of tunnels and culverts. The track was laid through a part of Alps. Towards night the same day, he returned to the Czech Republic city called Ceske Bude Jovice and stayed the night with a Czech couple, Irena & Jara, known to him.
He was amazed at their hospitality, especially to note the delicious food they served and was impressed that the couple arranged for the next day's bookings as well. On his seventh day he visited the capital of Czech, Prague, which is full of many ancient palaces and buildings and later got on to a train to travel to Berlin where he got the opportunity of having a cab ride as well. That night he got accommodation at YH Berlin, the city full of oriental music players.
Nimal Perera had a most memorable experience on his eighth day of the tour, on his way to Copenhagen, Denmark. This journey involved a 45 minute ferry travel through the Baltic Sea. Here the train initially goes to the ferry and the ferry takes the train to the other shore. At Copenhagen he stayed at DAN hostel and next day went on a city tour organised by the YH, free of charge. That evening he took a train to Sweden, Stockholm, where he arrived the next morning. From there he went to a city called Ostersund on the northern side. This part of the journey went mainly through thick jungles covered with cypress trees. From there, towards early morning, he took a train in the westward direction to cross the Sweden - Norway border to reach a city called Trondheim by 9 pm. During this part of the journey he noticed many freight trains full of logs, including forest cover. On the border, Norwegian Border Police checked the whole train. Even though he travelled during the evenings and early at night, he did not see any difference in the times of day since it was summer for the North Pole. From Trondheim, he moved to Oslo by a night train, and reached there by 6.45 am. He did not stay at any hotels in Norway and Sweden since accommodation and food was very expensive compared to other European countries.
From Oslo, he travelled to Amsterdam of Netherlands via Hallsburg of Sweden and to Copenhagen of Denmark, on the tenth day of the tour. While he was in Amsterdam, he visited famous museums in the city. Same night he took a city night train to reach Basel, Switzerland, where he started the journey. This journey took 12 days, 33 trains and covered nine countries.
The next leg of the tour started on the same day, after having a four hour rest, to get a change of clothing etc., from Luzern via Olten in Switzerland. The original plan was to travel to Milano of Italy via the St. Gotherd line. However, there was an earthslip between Fluelen and Goschenen, and the passengers were moved by buses. That night he spent in Monza in Italy and the next morning he travelled to Milano and stayed with his friends there and had some Sri Lankan food after two weeks.
Next day he visited the world famous church named after St. Anthony of Padua. From there he visited Verona to see the Romeo & Juliet antique house. From there he moved to Milano and took the evening train to reach Tirano, which is last station in eastern Italy and which is on Switzerland border. He stayed the night at a very cheap place for around 30 Euros. Next day, he travelled to St Moritz by the world famous Bernina express which travels in a scenic, mountainous area covering many glaziers, tunnels, viaducts, waterfalls, and precipitous valleys, where his mind went back to the Pattipola-Haputale stretch where he used to drive locos quiet frequently. According to Perera, the stretch between Trerano-Chur and St. Moritz is the best such segment he has covered so far.
The same day he returned to Zurich from Chur, then to Luzern, then to Basel via the beautiful Interlaken. This stretch is known as the Golden Pass due to its scenery. Thus ended the 15- day tour, which covered 11 countries on 48 trains.
Nimal Perera would like to thank the Swiss embassy in Sri Lanka, especially the visa section officials. Further, the sponsors of the tour, Rohan Perera and Hans Sommer, Hans Jurg Moser & Mrs. Brigita in Switzerland and Irena Vagnerova, Jara Vagnerova of Czech Republic, who had given their fullest support during his stay in the Czech Republic and Ms. Ajantha Hostetler of Switzerland and finally to Roland Feer (Loco Crew manager) of Swiss federal railways for interviewing him and Mrs. Annette Fuhrer for publishing an article in the Swiss Info magazine.
Email of mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Asela at 7:07 AM