The International Steam Pages

LCGB Sri Lanka Tour January 2015, Part 1

For a second report (from Robin Patrick) with completely different pictures, click here.

Chris Cairns writes

The LCGB last ran at tour to Sri Lanka in 1999. For the 2015 tour there were 3 main objectives – to travel by steam over the rebuilt Northern Line to Kankesanthurai, to travel by steam over the rebuilt Mannar line to Talaimannar, and to have 3 working Broad Gauge steam locomotives (working Sri Lankan narrow gauge steam is now one for the History books sadly).

Sri Lanka Railways has achieved several milestones recently. On 13th October 2014 the Northern Line was re-opened to Jaffna, with the final section through to KKS being re-opened on 2nd January 2015. To celebrate 60 years of continuous service Canadian built diesel M2 569 ‘Ontario’, which carries a special 60 years of Excellence Service plate, hauled a special mixed train for invited guests from Dematagoda to Jaffna on 19th December 2014. In remembrance of the 10th Anniversary of the Tsunami train disaster, rebuilt M2 591 ‘Manitoba’, which incorporates the Tsunami waves in its engine cowling livery, hauled at special train from Colombo to Matara on 26th December 2014. To commemorate the first train of Ceylon Railways from Colombo Terminus to Ambepussa on 27th December 1864, a Replica (SLR’s word not mine!) Steam Train hauled special invitees to the opening ceremony of the new National Railway Museum at Kadugannawa on 27 Dec 2014. Whilst many enthusiasts (including myself) will make comment of the somewhat bizarre purple & blue paint scheme applied to E1 93 (the oldest surviving CGR steam locomotive) at least it is now cosmetically complete.

So I hear you asking have SLR forgotten about their steam locomotives? Most definitely not, with a protracted overhaul of B2b 213 being completed just in time for our tour (although it was to suffer some teething problems later). More of the stored steam locomotives are to be cosmetically restored for Phase 2 of the new Museum including J1 220, V2 331, Garratt 347, CPC No.11 and the articulated Robey steam lorry. I was told that B8c 240 is to be overhauled next year, but that remains unconfirmed at present (see our truncated visit below).

So we reached KKS behind steam, although the expected timetables throughout the tour were unachievable, and the honour of returning a steam locomotive to KKS after some 45 years fell to B1d 340 as B2b 213 was failed on shed at Anuradhapura. The Mannar line is still ‘a bridge too far’ with the replacement bridge still not completed to replace the former bridge destroyed in the earlier conflict. Again with some late running the planned excursion up the Mannar line to Madhu Road (current limit of passenger services) was reluctantly cancelled to avoid the knock on effect to the following day’s operations. We also travelled out to Trincomalee & down the full length of the Batticaloa line. No.213 was repaired in time for the leg Anuradhapura to Maho, and pulled our last train from Maho towards Colombo. Sadly leaking glands (a problem on all 3 locos to different degrees) got gradually worse as we got nearer to Colombo, with the resultant loss of steam pressure defeating the fireman and partially applying the train brakes. Thus the Group had no choice sadly but to jump ship at Ragama and battle through the commuter road traffic to secure dinner at the Hotel before the kitchen closed for the night! We were required to have diesel traction attached on the rear for assistance on some graded sections of track, although after the laborious preparation of a special permission we were allowed to have our ‘Thunderbird’ diesel traction for the tour, SLR/Adtranz rebuilt W3 659, follow behind us in section between Gal Oya & Harabana (no run round loop) so the train could be easily diesel hauled back to Gal Oya Junction for the overnight stop.

Our tour was fired with 25 kg bagged Housecoal Group A imported from W.G.Hill & Son, Solid Fuel Merchants, Twyford -

On the last day we were due to visit Ratmalana Works, the German Railway Technical Training Centre next door, and Dematagoda where a break in our visit there was planned for a ride with railcar T1 515 down the harbour branch to visit the Sri Lanka Port Authority running shed. We arrived at Ratmalana Works where the staff pulled miniature steam locomotive SLR 001 & its coaches out of its running shed. Its gauge is now confirmed as 1’ 4 ½” making it a quarter scale model. This was to be steamed in time prior to our departure. With so much to see inevitably some of us got separated from the main group which was being conducted around the large site at a rather fast pace. Steam-wise we saw J1 220 (no apparent progress since last reported, but still bound for the new Museum in Phase 2), Garratt 347 under cosmetic restoration for the new Museum, D2 21 smoke box & boiler in use as a stationary boiler, a jib-less Bridge Engineers Ransomes & Rapier 30 Ton crane under overhaul and the remains of an E1 Class loco (could these be from E1E 269 which was RML’s last steam shunter?). Somewhat embarrassingly (in my opinion) the Group was led away from SLR 001 which was not quite up to working pressure (the Fireman blew the whistle after most of the Group were out of sight). Next door at the German Railway Technical Training Center we had to wait for the preparations to be completed on Robey steam lorry C-6037 which we later saw running in steam, so we sought out the articulated Robey steam lorry X-2553 which is partially stripped down for a cosmetic overhaul then bound for the new National Railway Museum.

At Dematagoda the plan fell apart (a somewhat recurring theme throughout the tour). The Group was finally led to the Viceroy II coach hidden in the carriage sidings for a ‘picnic lunch’ when the bomb shell was dropped. Due to a change in Government we would not be permitted to travel down the harbour branch to the docks due to the high security risk (yet we had been trusted to enter the high security zone that surrounds KKS!), and furthermore the railcar was not available but could be viewed at the ELS, Maradana. Before lunch had finished we were told that the railcar would now come to the HLS to run on a short section of track within the shed area, and to be back from the Running Shed/Shop 26 by 14:30. Sadly that plan changed yet again with the railcar running to Maradana then our coach returning to the Hotel. So our visit to Dematagoda was truncated and I had insufficient time to record/photograph all the remaining relics. N1 566, CPC No.11 & V2 331 (currently in poor condition) are all being/to be cosmetically restored for Phase 2 of the new Museum. The last working narrow gauge locomotive, diesel P1 530, was outside Shop 26. Previously unreported is a smokebox & boiler from an E1 Class locomotive (could these be from E1B 162, last reported at Galgamuwa as a stationary boiler?) dumped next to No.106 close to the former Coaling Stage.

Outside of the main tour I visited No.135 at Colombo Fort station which has gained two mannequins (tastefully done in my opinion) for the crew, the Fireman holding a tablet pouch through the cab window. Access to No.237 along the road has changed since James Waite’s 2010 visit but still possible. Enter these coordinates into Google Maps - 6.928882,79.857905 In Satellite you will see a long building to the right of the location marker. This is a cement depot and if you talk nicely to the security guards at the gate on the far right of the compound you can gain access to walk over to see No.237. Helps if you have a photo of a steam locomotive to explain - took me 5 mins of talking to gain entry. The old Colombo Terminus Station Railway Museum is still open for business but watch out for impromptu Public Holidays (they had one for the Pope's visit which caught me out). Their website has gone now. I believe it is still open Mon - Fri 10:00 to 16:00 except Public Holidays. Technically an LKR 500 entrance fee for foreigners but not collected on my visit. Only the builder’s plates & the commemorative railway opening Roundels have been transferred to the new National Railway Museum. The 3 locos & narrow gauge stock are still present. At Gangaramaya Temple the Motor Trolleys 816 & 817 (plus the Routemaster bus) previously reported there have gone (not inside the temple either). Only the steam roller remains outside.

The new National Railway Museum is at Kadugannawa ( ) – a separate report for this website’s Railway Museums section will follow. It is possible to travel there and back in a day by train from Colombo and catch plinthed CPC No.3 at Rambukkana. The Main Line is currently being rebuilt after a landslide beyond Ella which can affect the train times somewhat, and the train back from Rambukkana may be a 3rd Class only Colombo Commuter S8 DMU (plastic bench seats down the sides but as it starts at Rambukkana you easily get a seat!).

I’m planning to produce illustrated lists for the surviving CPC locomotives, the surviving Broad Gauge steam locomotives, and the surviving Narrow Gauge locomotives which hopefully will be available to download from my OneDrive account. URLs will be provided in due course.

No.340 was the 1st steam locomotive to enter Kankesanthurai station after a 45 year gap.

No.251 departing Kurunegala northbound to Maho Junction after a water stop

No.251 arrives at Maho Junction where No.340 will take over to Anuradhapura

No.213 performing a runpast southbound just north of Galgamuwa on the Northern line

No.340 & No.213 on shed Maho Junction whilst the PW gang repair the points

No.340 performs a runpast southbound near Kalkudah on the Batticaloa line

No.135 has gained a mannequin crew

Purple and blue E1 93

Robey articulated steam lorry X-2553

Garratt 347's cosmetic overhaul

Quarter scale SLR 001

Rob Dickinson