The Rail Routes of Sri Lanka

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  1. Colombo, Maradana, Kelaniya, Hunupitiya, Ragama Junction, Gampaha, Veyangodde, Mirigama, Alawwe, Polgahawela Junction, Rambukkane (the line climbs a 1:44 gradient upto Kadugannawe - 1700 feet above sea level), Kadigamuwe, Alagalle, Balana (Sensation Rock - a sheer precipice of a thousand feet out of your window !), Peradeniya Junction and Kandy. The route is about 74 miles. Served by the "Senkadagala Menike", "Podi Menike" and the Inter-City Express.

  2. Colombo, Ragama Junction, Polgahawela Junction, Peradeniya Junction, Gampola, Ulapane, Nawalapitiya (elevation 2000 ft, formerly a very active railway town. The "Up Country" climb starts here and most trains are given a "pusher loco"), Halgaranoya, Galabodde, Watawala, Rozella, Hatton, Kotagala, Talawakelle, Watagodde, Great Western, Nanuoya, Ambewela, Pattipola (summit of 6226 ft), Ohiya, Idalgashinna, Haputale, Diyatalawe, Bandarawela (1888), Ella, Demodera (famous loop), Oodoowerre, Hali Ela and Badulla (1924). The route is about 181 miles. Served by the "Podi Menike" and "Udarata Menike"

  3. Colombo, Ragama Junction, Polgahawela Junction, Kurunegala, Maho Junction, Anuradhapura (Served by the "Rajarata Rajini"), Medawachchiya Junction, Vavuniya, Elephant Pass, Jaffna and Kankesanthurai (1902). This route is about 256 miles. Served by the "Yal Devi" and "Uttara Devi". Since 1990 services beyond Vavuniya have been disrupted due to the disturbances in that area. A rail map of 1922 shows a proposed deviation at Koddikamam to Point Pedro. Originally this was called the Northern Railway. An American contractor is reported to have commenced construction from Kankesanthurai downwards in 1902 and eventually joining the main system at Pallai in 1905.

  4. Colombo, Ragama Junction, Negombo, Chilaw, Bangadeniya and Puttalam (1926). Served by the "Muthu Kumari". A route of 83 miles along the North-Western coast. In 1943 the line was removed from Bangadeniya to Puttalam to salvage rails for more important routes, but this was relaid in the 60s beyond Puttalam to Periyanagavillu where a fork routed one line to Aruwakkalu and the other to Illuwankulam. Rumour has it that this was a proposed alternate route to Mannar. Originally called the North Western Railway. New Puttlam Station is located away from where the original station stood. Old Puttlam Station was by the side of the very scenic lagoon (the buildings still exist).

  5. Colombo, Maho Junction, Galoya Junction, Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa 217 miles (1928). Served by the "Udaya Devi" and "Hijra". Extension to Pottuwil funded by Iran, earthworks commenced about 1993. Originally this was called the Batticaloa-Trinco Light Railway. Only locomotives with light axel loads were permited on this line. In the 1950's the route was deviated to avoid some sharp curves and 1:44 gradients along with the change over to heavier rails to match the rest of the system.

  6. Colombo, Maho Junction, Galoya Junction, Trincomalee (1927) 183 miles. Some changes mentioned in the Batticaloa line apply to this line as well.

  7. Colombo, Medawachchiya Junction, Madhu Road, Murunkan, Mannar and Talaimannar Pier (1914) 209 miles. A ferry service connected India thru' Dhanushkodi. At one time this was known as the Indo-Ceylon Railway.

  8. Colombo, Dehiwela, Mount Lavinia, Ratmalana, Moratuwa, Panadure, Wadduwa, Kalutara, Aluthgama, Bentota, Ambalangoda, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Weligama and Matara (1895). A 100 mile route served by the "Ruhunu Kumari" and "Galu Kumari" and upto Galle by the " Samudra Devi". Work was started on an extension to Kataragama in 1988 but now appears to have been suspended. A 1922 Railway map shows proposed extension to Hambantota. Originally called the Southern Railway.

  9. Colombo to Sapugaskanda deviated at Kelaniya (1980). No train has reported to have run on this line yet.

  10. Kandy to Matale (1880). A 17 mile lightly laid route. The Matale Railway is still maintained as a light railway with unballasted track, and only light locomotives are permitted.

  11. Colombo Fort, Maradana, Orugodawatte, Kolonnawa Oil Installations (1922) about 3 miles.

  12. Colombo Fort, Maradana, Orugodawatte, Kelanitissa, Bloemendhal, Mutwal, Pettah and the Harbour Complex (1923) about 6 1/4 miles. Originally called the Mutwal Railway.

  13. Kelani Valley Railway (Narrow Gauge), Colombo, Nugegoda, Padukka, Avissawella Junction and Yatiyantota (1902) 45 miles. Avissawella to Yatyantota removed in 1948. Confusingly, every bit of narrow gauge track is mistakenly referred to as Kelani Valley. Strictly the KVR was the section upto Yatiyantota. Dual gauged upto Avissawella now.

  14. Colombo, Avissawella, Ratnapura, Opanake (1919). 86 miles - Narrow Gauge. Avissawella onwards removed in 1976. Mistakenly refered to as the Kelani Valley Railway, but the Kelani River and the Valley are nowhere near this line except at Avissawella.

  15. Uda Pussellawe Railway. Ceylon's most scenic line, Narrow Gauge from Nanu Oya to Ragalle thru' Nuwara Eliya (1904). Our highest rail elevation was on this route at Kandapola (6386 ft). Line removed in 1948.

  16. Anuradapura to Mihintale laid in 1993, about 7 miles.

The following are the proposed rail routes.

  1. Batticaloa, Kattankudi, Kalmunai, Akkaraipattu, Pottuvil, 65 miles.

  2. Maho Junction, Nikaveratiya, Anamaduwa and Bangadeniya

  3. Matara, Tangalle, Hambantota, Weerawila and Kataragama, 68 miles.

  4. A major proposal of the late 1970s was the Mahaweli Development Railway. This was supposed to branch down in the Manampitiya-Welikanda area (past Polonnaruwa) and serve the newly developed areas stemming from the Mahaweli River development project. Some mention this proposed line as the "Development Frontier Railway". Jungles were cleared and embankments were built in some sections, but before any track was laid the railway project was scrapped. The proposed towns to be covered by this line were Padiyatalawa, Bibile, Walawe (with a link line to Kataragama) and an ultimate connection with Ratnapura.

The Northern and Central areas of the City of Colombo had an electric Tram Car system (42" Gauge). This system commenced operations about 1900 and was discontinued by 1960. The original operator was the Colombo Electric Tram Car and Lighting Company Ltd.(represented by Boustead Brothers) and after the famous Tram Car Strike, the Colombo Municipality took over operations.

Two-foot gauge railway systems operated in the salterns at Palavi, Hambantota and Elephant Pass. The mini locos were made by Simplex.

Naturally, the graphite mines at Bogala, Kahatagaha, Dodangaslanda etc. had rail trolleys on temporary trackage.

There has been a proposal to electrify the suburban routes.

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