Subcontinental Railway News from Rinbad

News items of subcontinental interest collected from the Rinbad newsletter.

Note: Many links pointing to other websites in this document are non-functional. The editors of IRFCA will search and add relevant ones saved at the Internet Archive in due course.

3912][IN] Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus: (BLN 772.081) Designed by British architect F W Stevens, the huge and ornate Bombay Victoria Terminus, an eclectic mix of Indian and Gothic architectural styles built in the most confident period of the Raj, was named after Queen Empress Victoria when it opened in 1887. Renamed in January 1996 (along with the city itself) it remains a very busy working station as well as an outstanding piece of railway architecture. In July 2004 it has deservedly been included on the United Nations list of World Heritage sites.

3581][IN] Delhi metro: (R.2409, 2695) A further 4.5km extension (Tis Hazari - Tri Nagar) opened 2 October 2003. (Tramways & Urban Transit, November 2003)

3561][PK][IN] Lahore - Wagah PR - Atari IR (- Amritsar - Delhi): The only rail border-crossing between Pakistan and India that has operated in recent years (R.1435) closed 1 January 2002 at a time of political tension, but reopened 15 January 2004, with an international passenger service (Samjota/Samjhauta Express) twice-weekly on Mondays and Thursdays, and a daily freight train to start on 18 January. Timings for the c.30km cross-border journey on the Pakistan Railways diesel-hauled passenger train are Lahore 08:00 - 09:00 Wagah (lengthy stop for security checks before departure at 12:00) - 12:30 Atari (arriving platform 2, for Indian customs and immigration checks), leaving Atari (platform 3) at 13:30 for the run back to Wagah and Lahore. The connecting Indian train, overnight to and from Delhi, is #4001/2 Atari 20:05 - 03:45 Delhi 21:00 - 04:40 Atari. (The Nation; Dawn; Deccan Herald)

3560][IR][PK] (Tehran - Bafq -) Kerman - Bam - Fahraj - Zahedan (- Mirjaveh RAI - Qila Saveh PR - Quetta): (R.0586, 2059) During 2003 the long-planned link between the railway networks of west and south Asia, enabling an all-rail journey from Istanbul to the Indian subcontinent, came a little closer. In February 2003 Rah Ahan Iran (= Iranian railways) said that track-laying was complete on the 224km Kerman - Bam section, filling part of the 547km gap between RAI's standard-gauge system and Zahedan, the Iranian end of the broad-gauge (1676mm) line worked as part of Pakistan Railways. ( The destructive earthquake at Bam in December 2003 did not seriously damage the new section, for on 28 December the UK Department for International Development reported that the railway to Bam was again open. Given no new financial or other problems, RAI say they hope to complete the Bam - Zahedan link by March 2007, but pace of construction in recent years has been spasmodic, and Iranian efforts seem rather to be concentrated on the Mashhad - Bafq (- Bandar Abbas) line, of which c.250km have been built. In December 2003 Iran's deputy transport minister said that this line should be completed 'next year' - presumably meaning by March 2005, since the Iranian year ends in March. This would significantly shorten the rail route from five land-locked countries of the former Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) south to an Iranian seaport. A map of Iran's railways is at

2695][IN] Delhi metro: (R.2409) After being inaugurated by the Indian prime minister on 24 December, the first section (Shahdara - Tis Hazari; 8.3km, six stops) was swamped by public demand on 25 December 2002. (

2410][IN] New Jalpaiguri - Siliguri Jn - Sukna - Tindharia - Kurseong - Ghoom - Darjeeling: (R.0588) The 610mm-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, now an international heritage site, has long been afflicted by washouts, as indeed has the parallel national highway 55 up to the hill town of Darjeeling. A landslide during August damaged 200m of track and closed the line as a through route for some weeks, though it was expected to reopen by 15 September 2002. (

2409][IN] Delhi metro: The first rolling-stock for the Indian capital's 1676mm-gauge heavy-rail metro arrived from Korea via Kolkata in September 2002. The first 8.3km section of line from the east of the city to the north of its centre (Shahdara - Tis Hazari) is planned to be operating by December 2002. Target opening-date for the whole of the 62km first phase is 2005, with a possible 40km second phase to follow. (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation via Financial Times; map at

2328][IN] Mumbai - Khandala - Pune: The century-old but now-disused reversing station of Bhore Ghat near Khandala, a heritage structure where the pioneering broad-gauge Great Indian Peninsula Railway from Bombay to Poona once zig-zagged to gain height, was in summer 2002 being demolished to make way for a highway. (

2268][IN] Achalpur - Murtazapur - Yavatmal: This 189km line, in effect two long 762mm-gauge branches from the broad-gauge station of Murtazapur in the state of Maharashtra, is shown as government-owned on the official railway map of India (8th and 10th editions, 1976 and 1979) but though operated by Indian Railways, it was once a private railway in which a British firm reportedly may still have an interest under a 1903 contract which expires in 2003. Steam traction was replaced in 1995, and 1921-built steam locomotive #724F from the line is plinthed outside Pune station. The locomotive is named Shakuntala after a female deity in an Indian legend. The line is also known locally as the Shakuntala railway. A single diesel-hauled mixed train plies the route daily, comprising two or three elderly passenger coaches and a couple of goods wagons, but its future is threatened. A preservation group are seeking support to take over the line (or presumably a section of it, given its length). Partly based in Britain and as yet informal, the group have set up a website at

2148][IN] Neral - Matheran: From the junction of Neral on the Central Railway's Mumbai - Pune (formerly Bombay - Poona) 1676mm-gauge main line, this 610mm-gauge railway opened in 1907, running parallel to the broad-gauge line for a short distance before turning sharply east to head up to Matheran. This picturesque 'hill-station' 86km from Mumbai was once much favoured by Bombay-based British administrators of the Raj and their families during the 'hot weather' season, and is now a popular tourist destination. Operated with diesel traction since the early 1980s, the line has in spring 2002 again begun to see steam as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Indian Railways. India's railways minister flagged away the first run of a Neral - Matheran two-coach heritage train hauled by an 1889-design B-class tank-engine (DHR #794) brought in from the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (New Jalpaiguri - Siliguri Jn - Tindharia - Kurseong - Ghoom - Darjeeling).

2061][LK] Colombo - Homagama - Avissawella: (BLN 701.03, 706.011, 817.018) Originally 762mm-gauge, the 60km of the Kelani Valley line from Sri Lanka's capital out to Avissawella was converted to carry 1676mm-gauge trains in August 1997, though at that time the 26km suburban Colombo - Homagama section retained a few narrow-gauge passenger workings on dual-gauge track. By 2002 some of the rails had been removed from the dual section, so narrow-gauge running was no longer feasible, and all trains were broad-gauge.

2060][IN] Mettupalaiyam - Coonoor - Ootacamund: The completion in the 1870s of the broad-gauge (1676mm) Podanur - Mettupalaiyam branch fed the demand for a railway to climb high into the Nilgiri hills to the cooler levels favoured by the ruling British during the hot season. The 28km Mettupalaiyam - Coonoor section was built 1891-98 and the line was extended 18km to Ootacamund in September 1908. It is metre-gauge, with Abt rack on the steepest sections, reaching a summit of c.2225m between Lovedale and the 147m tunnel under Fern Hill, Ootacamund. The first 16km out of Mettupalaiyam are heavily engineered, with 19 significant viaducts, and the 46km line counts as 116 tariff-km for ticket-pricing. Trains, still all worked by the seven operational steam locomotives, are leisurely, with an uphill journey-time of some 4h20min, downhill 3h30min. Conversion to oil firing has so far not been entirely successful, as a converted engine can take an extra hour to climb the hill compared with a coal-fired one. The line was breached on 24 December 2001, and still closed with repairs in progress in mid-February 2002. A steam-hauled works-train was operating on weekdays from Mettupalaiyam to the breach. The foreman at Coonoor expected the line to reopen on 1 April 2002.

2059][IR][PK] (Tehran - Bafq -) Kerman - Bam - Zahedan (- Mirjaveh RAI - Qila Saveh PR - Quetta): (R.0586) An Iranian government minister said on 21 December 2001 that the Kerman - Bam section is to be operational by the end of June 2002. ( When completed to Zahedan, the new standard-gauge line will meet the Iranian end of the broad-gauge (1676mm) line worked as part of Pakistan Railways, and will bridge the gap between the railway networks of west and south Asia, enabling an all-rail journey from Istanbul to the Indian subcontinent.

1734][AF][PK][TM][UZ] Afghanistan: This austere and violent country has never had any significant railways. According to the IRFCA website on railways of the Indian subcontinent (, the British laid a 32km stretch of metre-gauge track from what is now Pakistan into Afghanistan along the Kabul valley, turning westwards towards the Loi Shilman valley, but this military line was dismantled in 1909. Later, to facilitate deployment of troops to their Indian Empire's frontier with Afghanistan, the British also built the broad-gauge (1676mm) railway that still runs from Peshawar in Pakistan west to the Khyber Pass (Peshawar Cantonment - Landi Kotal - Landi Khana; R.1230). The section up to Landi Kotal was completed in 1925 and the remaining section downhill (with a ruling gradient of 1:25) to Landi Khana in 1926. From Landi Khana 2km of track was built to the border-post but never used. Further south, the Kandahar State Railway was ambitiously planned, but it was destined never to reach Kandahar in Afghanistan. The section from Bostan, north of Quetta, known as the Chaman Extension Railway, was however built, incorporating Khojak tunnel, which on completion in 1891 was the longest railway tunnel in British India. The 1676mm-gauge Bostan - Chaman line ends at Chaman with the buffer-stops about 200m short of the Afghan border.

To support their military operations after invading Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviet Union extended two broad-gauge (1520mm) lines in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan a short distance across the respective frontiers, but after Soviet withdrawal these railways fell into disrepair. The lines were Kushka/Gushgy [TM] - Towraghondi (9.6km) and Termez/Termiz [UZ] - Kheyrabad (15km), the last place being a transhipment point on the south bank of the broad river Amu Darya which forms the frontier.

1435][IN][PK] (Delhi -) Amritsar - Atari - Lahore: The sole cross-border passenger train between India and Pakistan originally ran as the Amritsar - Lahore Express, but concern over smuggling and cross-border infiltration of undesirable persons cut back its through running. The Indian connection now departs from Delhi at night, running via Amritsar to terminate 26km beyond at Atari, the Indian border-station, at 10:00 the next day. The island platform has a high wire-mesh fence down the centre. Ticket-windows allow arriving passengers from either country to purchase tickets onward to major destinations on the other side of the frontier. Passengers alighting from the Indian train put their luggage on airport-style luggage-trolleys and proceed via two or three openings in the fence past seated customs officials and airport-style luggage x-ray machines to the other side of the platform. Here the Pakistan Railways Atari - Lahore train is waiting, quickly becoming crowded, for it has fewer coaches, generally elderly wooden-bodied stock with a PR Alco diesel locomotive. After c.3km the train passes through the Zero line gate west into Pakistan. On its eastbound working from the Zero line, the PR train entering India is picturesquely escorted on both sides by 25-30 customs and Border Security Force officers on horseback to make sure that no passenger escapes the frontier checks at Atari station. The operating agreement was that each railway would in turn provide the locomotive and a rake of carriages for the weekly international train for a period of six months, but in practice Indian Railways have not done so since about 1995. After talks held in September 2000, IR have again agreed to provide stock, and a proposal that the service should become twice-weekly, with each railway running one train-pair, is under official consideration.

1230][PK] Peshawar Cantonment - Jamrud - Medanak - Changai - Shahgai - Landi Kotal: The broad-gauge (1676mm) railway west to the Khyber Pass was built by the British in 1920-26 essentially to facilitate deployment of troops to their Indian Empire's frontier with Afghanistan, then as now a violent place. The line still appeared in the April 1987 issue of Pakistan Railways public timetable with a pair of passenger trains (P-475/6 Fridays-only 1st & 2nd class Peshawar Cant 09:00 - 11:55 Landi Kotal 14:00 - 17:05 Peshawar Cant) but, with their two reversals (at Medanak and Changai) and the fierce ruling gradient of 1 in 33, the trains were no match for frequent local buses. By the timetable for 15 October 1989 - 14 April 1990 no train service was shown, the line's distances (52km) and heights (365m at Peshawar Cant, climbing to 760m at Landi Kotal) alone remaining. (These heights are not necessarily correct, for another table in the same book shows Peshawar Cantonment as 319m above the sea!) In the current PR timetable, valid 15 October 2000 - 14 April 2001, the line has vanished altogether. Nevertheless tourist trains run, and seem well-supported, though they cannot be particularly profitable given the high operating costs of a locomotive on each end. Peshawar motive-power depot has five 2-8-0 HGS Class steam locomotives available to work to the Khyber Pass. Consideration is being given to tourism elsewhere in the area, including use as a tourist base of one of the stations on the Rawalpindi - Attock - Nowshera Jn - Peshawar main line, Attock Khurd, a charming building close to an attractive section of the river Indus. A small railway museum is being planned within Peshawar depot, with the support of PR's District Superintendent. On the debit side, the 2000-01 timetable has also marked the disappearance of the branches Nowshera Jn - Mardan Jn - Durgai and Mardan Jn - Charsadda.

0875][IN][BD] (Kolkata/Calcutta - Bangaon Jn -) Petrapol ER - Benapol BdR (- Jessore): This 1676mm-gauge link from India's Eastern Railway to the Bangladesh Railway closed in 1974. (Shown on the 1975 eighth edition of the official railway map of India, it appears to be broken on the 1979 tenth edition.). In summer 2000 the two governments signed an agreement to restore a short section of the broad-gauge track and resume cross-border freight. (International Railway Journal, August 2000)

0589][IN] Mumbai: Elefanta Island railway: This island off Mumbai (formerly Bombay) has a short 890mm-gauge railway to convey tourists, making a sharp right turn from the pier to run some 800m to the steps leading to the Monolithic Temple, a major visitor attraction. Attached to each end of the train is a diesel locomotive modelled to resemble a steam locomotive in appearance. The locomotives have forward gears only, so the driver changes ends and starts the front locomotive before departure.

0588][IN] New Jalpaiguri - Siliguri Jn - Sukna - Tindharia - Kurseong - Ghoom - Darjeeling: (BLN 849.0253) The major washouts of March 1999 were restored, and in February 2000 the 87km Darjeeling and Himalayan Railway was operational throughout. The junction of New Jalpaiguri on the Northeast Frontier Railway has Indian broad-gauge (1676mm), metre-gauge and narrow-gauge (610mm) lines. The 610mm-gauge DHR runs parallel to the metre-gauge line as far as Siliguri Jn and then, still on fairly flat terrain, diverges to Sukna where it starts its climb up gradients as steep as 1-in-23 to the summit at Ghoom. From Sukna to Darjeeling, the track follows the mountain road very closely, also using the main streets in towns like Kurseong. As the road curves more sharply than the railway, the track seems to cross each corner of the road on major bends, giving rise to about 132 level-crossings, many giving drivers very limited visibility. Several spirals and zig-zag reversals are used to gain height. During busy times, several trains may run in convoy. Few loops exist and trains usually pass by one of them reversing into a siding. The simple layouts can cause delay, as at Sonada, where the uphill train takes on water at the station before drawing forward and reversing into the siding, leaving the downhill train to wait around the corner for its access to the station. Some stations, including Darjeeling, lack watering facilities, and water is taken on between stations, usually where the line crosses a small river and a simple tank has been installed. All of this leads to a typical journey time of nine hours, at an average speed of less than 10km/h. The elderly steam locomotives each have a crew of up to five, comprising driver, fireman, man on top of engine to pass coal to fireman, and two men on the front to sand the rails. Due to the reduced boiler pressure now permitted they can pull only three carriages rather than four, and they have become increasingly unreliable. On 19 February a New Jalpaiguri - Darjeeling train failed several times (bearings, slide valve, blown plug), and was three hours late by sunset at Kurseong, where it was terminated. It was reported locally that diesels were to take over on the New Jalpaiguri - Darjeeling through trains from 5 March 2000, but only one diesel was observed at New Jalpaiguri depot and full implementation may take longer. This diesel is in the same number sequence as those used on the Neral - Matheran line near Mumbai.

0587][IN] Delhi - Ambala - Chandigarh - Kalka and Kalka - Shimla: (BLN 849.0253) Although nearly all of the Delhi - Ambala - Chandigarh - Kalka broad-gauge line appears electrified, the wires do not quite reach the platforms at Kalka, and may not be live, so 25kV 50Hz traction throughout is still not feasible. On 14 February 2000 the New Dehli - Kalka Himalayan Queen 1676mm-gauge express was terminated at Ambala because of a derailment the previous night on the Ambala - Kalka section. Indian Railways do not provide any onward connections by bus, only a refund for the part of the journey not completed, so it was up to passengers to make their own way. After much delay our reporter completed his journey to Shimla by road as the last uphill Kalka - Shimla train had long gone. By 16 February broad-gauge services had been restored, and the train from Delhi ran through to Kalka, arriving diesel-hauled. The 762mm-gauge Kalka - Shimla line, with its spirals and steep gradients, remains well maintained. At the Shimla end, some services terminate and start up to 2km beyond the main station at Shimla Extension, which comprises a platform, a run-round loop and a few sidings in a concrete basement beneath the bus-station. The Extension may once have been a freight line, but it seems to be used for passenger interchange because buses cannot easily reach Shimla main station.

0586][IR][PK] (Tehran - Bafq -) Kerman - Zahedan (- Mirjaveh RAI - Qila Saveh PR - Quetta): Iranian railways (RAI) plan during the current Islamic year 1379 to open a standard-gauge (1435mm) line from the main Rah Ahan Iran system at Kerman 540km east to Zahedan. Zahedan is the Iranian end of the broad-gauge (1676mm) line, British-built in 1920, which runs some 90km east to the Pakistan border, and is worked effectively as part of the Pakistan Railways system. A weekly international through train is timetabled, departing on Mondays from Zahedan, Saturdays from Quetta, 734km away. The Kerman - Zahedan link would for the first time bridge the gap between the railway networks of west and south Asia, and thus enable an all-rail journey from Europe to the Indian subcontinent. (Unofficial RAI website:

BLN 849.0253][IN] Delhi - Chandigarh - Kalka and Kalka - Shimla: During the 'hot weather' season, Delhi-based British administrators of the Raj and their families used to retreat north 268km on the 1676mm-gauge main line to Kalka, 771m above sea-level, transferring there to a 762mm-gauge line climbing to the much cooler 'hill-station' of Simla, 2042m up in the foothills of the Himalayas. On 4 April 1999 the broad-gauge trains were still diesel throughout, though the Northern Railway had already wired Delhi - Chandigarh for 25kV 50Hz traction and were wiring the single-line Chandigarh - Kalka section. In good condition and fully signalled with lower-quadrant semaphores, the narrow-gauge Kalka - Shimla line was well used, with three trains each way plus extras at holiday times, taking 5h30mins for the 97km journey, up gradients as steep as 1 in 33 and curvature as tight as 45m radius. It is said to have 850 bridges and 105 tunnels, figures not checked by BLN's reporter, though he did count six passing-loops. The spelling 'Shimla' seems now to be favoured for the upper terminus, which is on a very tight curve, with a scissors-crossover allowing two trains to be in the station at once. Bo-Bo diesel locomotives (Henschel-built in 1985) haul seven 30-passenger 12.5t vacuum-braked coaches, and a small four-wheel railcar is also in service. Britons serving in Calcutta were carried to their summer hill-station of Darjeeling by the Northeast Frontier Railway's famous Himalayan line (New Jalpaiguri - Siliguri Jn - Tindharia - Kurseong - Ghoom - Darjeeling; 87km, 610mm-gauge, 1-in-23 gradients). This line has always been afflicted by track washouts, and on 28 March 1999 two such washouts meant it was not open throughout, and indeed it was said that only the top 6km section from Ghoom summit down into Darjeeling was available. However all trains had anyway been cancelled due to a political murder that day in Darjeeling. One of the 0-4-0T locomotives (#788) was seen in steam, shunting Darjeeling station.

BLN 839.0607][PK] Bostan - Zhob: (BLN 742.0352, 828.0296) The government minister who ordered resumption of the passenger service is no longer in office, and no trains appear to have begun operating on this 296km 762mm-gauge line of Pakistan Railways, out of use since at least 1993. The tour planned by a British operator has been postponed till at least winter 1999-2000, but resurrection of the line must be doubtful. (World Steam 98/8, December 1998)

BLN 830.0348][LK] Colombo: The Vihara Mahadevi Park in Sri Lanka's capital offers an 800m end-to-end run on a 762mm-gauge line worked by 0-6-0D locomotive #527 (HE4156/1949). Though the line was not properly open for business on a weekday morning in January 1998, a personal special working was chartered for LKR300 (= £3).

BLN 828.0296][PK] Bostan - Zhob: (BLN 742.0352) This Pakistan Railways 762mm-gauge line, extending over 296km west-to-east and reaching a height of 2200m in the remote and mountainous northern part of Baluchistan province, saw its once-a-week passenger service suspended in 1986 or earlier, and deleted from the working timetable by 1993. Monthly ore trains may have continued over part of the line for a period thereafter before it fell out of use. Rather surprisingly, the narrow-gauge line is proposed for reopening with a weekly passenger service from July 1998, and a British tour operator (Enthusiast Holidays on 0181 699 3654) is planning a charter train there over Christmas 1998.

BLN 817.018][LK] Colombo - Homagama - Avissawella (- Opanake): (BLN 701.03, 706.011) Sri Lanka's transport minister on 11 August 1997 inaugurated the regauged Homagama - Avissawella section, and the whole of the Kelani Valley line that remains, some 60km, can now carry 1676mm-gauge traffic. The line retains its old 762mm-gauge alignment, so the curves are sharp for broad-gauge trains, resulting in high maintenance costs and not a few derailments. The suburban section out to Homagama (26km) retains some narrow-gauge passenger trains on its dual-gauge track. (Continental Railway Journal, winter 1997-98)

BLN 742.0352][PK] Pakistan narrow-gauge: The once-a-week passenger service on the 296km 762mm-gauge line from Bostan Jn to Zhob, 'suspended' since at least 1986, had by 1993 been deleted from the working timetable. Monthly ore trains ran over part of this line, perhaps after 1993. Does anything still operate?

The last narrow (as distinct from metre) gauge passenger services in Pakistan were withdrawn from 1 July 1991, and the three 762mm-gauge lines (the 141km Mari Indus - Laki Marwat Jn - Bannu; the 67km branch from Laki Marwat Jn to Tank; and the 102km line from Kohat Cantonment to Thal) were closed completely. The latter two lines had been operating only once a week. Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province still requires the authorities to keep a watchful eye on law and order, as in the days of the British Raj. In January 1990 the station restaurant at Laki Marwat Jn had on the wall a varnished wooden sign, presumably of pre-1948 vintage, with the warning in English 'Please do not discuss military subjects here', and a special Pakistan Railways narrow-gauge gaol-coach (no.225, labelled 'Prisoners' in English, and having securely-barred windows) was photographed, in good order, at Mari Indus.

BLN 772.081][IN] Bombay Victoria Terminus: The huge and ornate 1887 station, an eclectic mix of architectural styles built in the most confident period of the Raj, and indeed the largest edifice built during British rule in India, has been compared to London St.Pancras, but is even more impressive, efficiently handling nearly 1000 trains and up to 2 million passengers a day, though it is by no means the city's only main station. Known to everyone for over a century simply as 'VT', it has now been given a new and rather less memorable name. On 15 January 1996 the Hindu-nationalist city government renamed VT officially as the Chchatrapati Shivaji Railway Terminus, and for good measure gave Bombay itself an older form of its name, Mumbai. But, as The Independent reported on 23 January, several generations may come and go before the drivers of the city's taxis and auto-rickshaws respond to VT's new name with anything other than a blank stare.

BLN 757.0311][IN] Delhi - Trivandrum: The Guwahati Express, timed to make its weekly 3550km run from the capital to the far south of Kerala province in 71 hours and 25 minutes, has never once been on time in ten years, suffering an average delay of 20 hours, according to a newspaper report. (AFP, quoted in The Times, 8 June 1995) Like all those punctuality-and-reliability charts on boards at British stations, the figures should probably be regarded as only part of the story, but long-distance passengers on India's fascinating and rewarding railway system are certainly advised to leave a reasonable amount of slack between a timetabled arrival and anything time-sensitive like a reservation on a flight to Europe.

BLN 706.011][LK] Sri Lanka: The restoration of passenger services between Padukka and Avissawella had been effected by early 1979 (rather than 1982). Contrary to the pessimism expressed in BLN 701,p.78/93-03, the next stage of the conversion of the Kelani Valley line to dual 762mm/1676mm gauge - the 15.5km from Nugegoda to Homagama - was completed in January 1993, and it is reported that the whole remaining line to Avissawella, some 60km out of Colombo, will be converted by the end of 1993.

BLN 701.03][LK] Sri Lanka: The Ceylon Government Railways 762mm-gauge Kelani Valley line, at its maximum extent, ran from Colombo Fort station via Colombo Maradana (1.89km), Nugegoda (10.98km), Homagama (26.49km), Padukka (37.18km), Avissawella (61.24km) to Opanake (139.41km). It seems to have been cut back to Avissawella in 1942, but reopened after World War II. The name changed to Sri Lanka Railways in 1972. In 1976 the line was again cut back, to Padukka, but by 1982 it had been restored to Avissawella, its present terminus. Traffic levels are quite high on the section near the city, and conversion to 1676mm gauge was officially inaugurated on 25 October 1991, the first works involving closure from Colombo Fort to Maradana (where the line is paralleled by triple broad gauge) and dual-gauging of the section to Nugegoda. Subsequent projected stages are to regauge to Homagama and then to Avissawella, but traffic levels at the outer end suggest that beyond Homagama may be more likely to close. The broad-gauge trains are diesel multiple-units. Only one passenger-carrying narrow-gauge train (the 1910 from Homagama to Maradana) runs over the dual-gauge section. Narrow-gauge stock is stabled at Avissawella (two sets) and at Maradana, while the diesel locos stable at Dematagoda, which is accessed at Maradana. Twelve 762mm-gauge diesel locos have been supplied to the line (earliest 1949, latest 1973) by Hunslet, Krupp and Kawasaki. Two Hunslet 4-6-4T class J1 steam locos (220 and 292) are preserved for specials, while a number of others languish condemned in varying states of disrepair at Dematagoda. A 1928-built Sentinel V2 steam railcar (331) has been splendidly restored for special use and a second (332) awaits restoration.

BLN 701.04][LK] Sri Lanka: On the broad gauge the triangular layout at Peradeniya Junction is of interest. Here the main line from Colombo to Kandy is joined by the line from Badulla with the junction facing Kandy, and the station is at the Kandy apex of the triangle. The third side of the triangle - a single track allowing through running between Colombo and Badulla - has no platform so the daylight through Udarata Menike trains #15 and #16 do not call. However the Overnight Mail trains #45 and #46 also run via the chord before backing into Peradeniya for station purposes and attaching/detaching a Kandy portion at the rear. They can then leave locomotive-first for their destination.

This material appeared in issues of the Rinbad newsletter earlier. Permission to reproduce this article on IRFCA generously granted by Brian Philp, editor of Rinbad).
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