Sri Lanka Rail Tale


Sri Lanka Railway from Columbo to Weligama, Ella to Nuwara Eliya, and Nuwara Eliya to Kandy.

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I am home now, but this is one of my backlog blogs from my trip to Sri Lanka.

While visiting family in Sri Lanka, I was fortunate to experience the timeless experience of riding on a historic train system.

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My skilled and resourceful traveling partner (a.k.a. husband, Keith) and I, like using public transportation. In Sri Lanka, we took advantage of a unique transportation opportunity. We made several rides on the network of trains that still ramble across the tropical countryside.

Rail transport in Sri Lanka was conceived in the 1850s to develop and unify Sri Lanka. Service began in 1864, with the construction of the Main Line from Colombo to Ambepussa 54 kilometers (34 mi) to the east. During the first half of the 20th century, a tram system operated in Colombo, carrying commuters within the city. The Sri Lanka rail network was introduced by the British colonial government in 1864 to transport tea and coffee from the hill country to Colombo.

There is still a touch of colonialism.

The story of my railway walkabout is very visual.

After a few photos of my first ride, I was hooked and had to capture the historic mixing; the new with the old, tourists with natives, the jungle with development, the moving with the standing still.

There was no announcement. Find the sign to know where the train stopped.

There was no announcement. Find the sign to know where the train stopped.

What appeared to be local people crowded onto the less expensive and less reliable commercial trains. https://www.seat61.com/SriLanka.htm

The Sri Lanka trains are an intercity network connecting major population centers and commuter rail serving Colombo commuters, with most services run by Sri Lanka Railways, known initially as Ceylon Government Railways, as the nation's railway and primary operator. The railway now moves 300,000 passengers daily on 324 trains between 320 stations across the country. At the peak of 1,900 meters (6,200 ft), Sri Lanka has the highest broad-gauge railway in the world.

When I processed the photos I tooknand made them black and white, I was excited to see how well they expressed the historic value of the sights and sounds I found during our train rides.

And what a ride!

Quiet now, but wait for the tourist train to arrive.

Quiet now, but wait for the tourist train to arrive.

When we rode the rail, we were among most tourists. We knew what to expec and anticipated that things could get rough. “This isn’t the place to be polite. Push to get on, otherwise you my be left at the station” was the advice we received.

So we pushed our way onto the trains and stood where we could.

The train passengers were mostly tourists, packed in, pushy, and there was no respect for personal space.

We sat with a family standing next to us in the isles, staring at us, making sad faces, asking us about where we were getting off, all hoping we were getting off at the next stop.

I watched the scenery out the window. I earned this seat.

Local train. No assigned seats in this car.

Local train. No assigned seats in this car.

Most of the train passengers are tourists, crowded with visitors packed in like sardines, going someplace, going no place, going along for the ride. But, there were trains and cars that catered to local travelers.

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Waiting for a seat, people hovered, and it wasn't pretty. There is a high demand for seats with a historical view of the countryside. Crowded, we had to push our way onto the train. I am standing in the doorway and I could easily be nudged off the moving train if the passengers swayed the wrong direction with the lunge of the train. I moved back offering someone else the privilege of hanging out the door of the moving train.

No Disneyland rules on this railway. Hang out of the doors and windows all you like.

No Disneyland rules on this railway. Hang out of the doors and windows all you like.

It can be a long train ride, even if you have a window seat.

It can be a long train ride, even if you have a window seat.

The beauty of these big hunks of forged iron moving along the tracks. Some sit on the sidelines abandoned and rusting in place.

Tourists by the hundreds get off the train at the Ella Station.

Tourists by the hundreds get off the train at the Ella Station.

The all day ride was only a few US dollars, and I wonder how long Sri Lanka will allow tourists to travel so cheaply. I was fortunate to ride the Sri Lank rail, and I hope that it continues to offer a unique authentic tourist experience.