Apr 10, 2015

Island by Rail

In his book, 'Fifty Years of Ceylon', Thomas Skinner spoke of his efforts in convincing the then British colonial government to invest money in the setting up of railway lines, bridges and aqueducts.

The railway network that stands today offers one of the most scenic routes when travelling throughout the island and a nostalgic journey to be remembered which is safe, cheap and one of the best ways to travel around Sri Lanka. With the island's tropical climate, the journey is warm, and the roof fans will provide you with a bit of respite. Having said that, slide open your windows and drink in the scenery. The heat wouldn't matter a bit as you watch Sri Lanka's landscape change from the commercial metropolis of Colombo. 

All train travel information including train times are easily accessible on the Sri Lankan Government Railway website and you will not have any problem finding your way around. Go back in time at the Colombo Fort railway station which is a charming mix of teak stairs and corrugated iron structures. You can opt for the traditional old carriages that date back to the 1930s and 1940s or the 'Rajadhani Express' or 'Expo-rail', two privately operated services. The upside in the older trains is that you get to meet the locals and eat some of the traditional and native foods that are offered by the many vendors aboard the train - the pickled mango, pineapple, and fried manioc chips - yum! 

The Colombo to Kandy journey is beautiful as you climb in to the hills. The weather gets cooler, the scenery greener and calmer. Although you can feel the rattling of the carriages, it adds to the experience while going through tunnels, passing numerous paddy fields, rubber estates, forests, and mountainous terrain. Extend your journey to Ella, a higher climb and one of the more scenic journeys in the world. Travelers from 'Adam's peak' or 'Kithulgala' can board the train at Hatton. A more recent route goes all the way to the North in Jaffna. 

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the first train run in Sri Lanka, a train museum was opened in 'Kadugannawa' which showcases old carriages, locomotives, and machinery that was used once upon a time - a worthwhile visit. So next time you holiday to this part of the world travel by train - a wonderful experience on wheels.