After Buddha enlightened me yesterday, today was the turn for Sri Lankan railways to enlighten me further. Fortunately the train was scheduled to leave Kandy at a decent time of 8:47am and actually left closer to 9am. It had departed Colombo sometime before 6am. The train was a newish Chinese built S21 diesel engine. I had secured a seat in the air conditioned first class carriage, although many prefer the 2nd class reserved carriage as the windows open and its better for photos.
The biggest issue about seat 23 was that it was an aisle seat and in the window seat was a Sri Lankan man who just wanted to sleep and wouldn’t swap seats. Fortunately there were a few spare seats around and the doorway to take photos out of. Then at a stop the driver wandered past and asked if I wanted to take photos front the front. I jumped at the opportunity knowing full well he’d expect money.
I got a few photos, but had dragged a few others with me as well. The driver said he’d come and get me at Hatton, as its very scenic from there. Wandering back through the engine again, the guard was not pleased and told us it was dangerous. Of course it was and absolutely idiotic if the train was moving.
The train passed through some lower hills and smallish towns. Sure enough at Hatton (from December to February, all those making a pilgrimage to climb Adam’s peak get off the train here) the driver came to get me. I mentioned the guard and we simply jumped off the train onto the platform and walked up to the doors to the engine. I rode up front for a while and even got to sound the air horn which was more exciting than it sounds. The driver explained the token system that ensures trains only pass at the stations as its single lane track the whole way. Basically at each station the drivers assistant hand a larger leather loop with a metal token attached with the section number engraved. If the driver doesn’t have the token he is not clear to leave as an oncoming train has it. This of course relies on an equal number of trains departing from each end to make it work.
After a few stations I thanked the driver, gave him 1000 rupees and went back to my seat. The next stop was Nanu Oya, which is the closest station to Nuwara Eliya which is the main city for all the tea plantations. Many people got off and many got on here, but the net result was the first class cabin was much emptier, which meant it made it easier to get photos from both sides of the train!
I arrived in Ella at 4pm. the 7 hr journey far more enjoyable than the one I took the other day and the scenery is just stunning. I’ll leave you with a few more photos to enjoy.