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Development of railways in Sri Lanka

Fact File

* The first sod was cut on August 3, 1858, by Governor, Sir Henry Ward.

* The first train conveyed H.R.H. the Duke of Brabant, to Ambepussa from Colombo and back, on December 27, 1864.

* The line up to Ambepussa was officially opened for traffic on October 2, 1865.

* In 1866, Mahara (Ragama), Heneratgoda (Gampaha) and Veyangoda stations were completed.

* The line up to Polgahawela was opened for traffic on November 1, 1866.

* The first service train steamed up the incline to Kadugannawa on March 20, 1867.

*The first train from Colombo to Kandy ran on April 26, 1867.

* The line up to Gampola was opened for traffic on January 15, 1873.

* The line up to Nawalapitiya was completed on December 1, 1874 and was next extended up to Talawakelle in 1884, and to Nanu Oya in 1885.

* The branch line from Nanu Oya to Ragala (which was known as the Uda Pussellawa Railway) was completed in 1904.

* The construction of the line up to Bandarawela was completed and opened for traffic in September, 1894.

* The Badulla extension was completed and opened by Sir William Manning on February 5, 1924, which completed the construction of the Main Line.

* The Matale line extension was started on June 28, 1877, and was opened for traffic on October 4 1880.

* On the Coast Line, the line was extended from Colombo to Moratuwa in the first instance and opened for traffic on March 1, 1877.

* The line was next extended up to Panadura and opened for traffic on September 1, 1877. The line was then extended to Kalutara, on September 22, 1879, Alutgama in 1890 and Ambalangoda in 1893. The extension of the Coast Line was also made in stages, and finally the Railway line to Matara was opened to the Public on December 17, 1895.

* The survey on the Kelani Valley Railway was carried out in 1896, and construction was completed and traffic commenced up to Ratnapura on April 18, 1912, and to Opanayake in 1919.

* On the Northern Line, the Polgahawela - Anuradhapura line was completed on November 1, 1903, and later on the line was linked to Kankesanturai by 1905.

* The Talaimannar Line was surveyed in 1908, and the construction work was completed and the line was opened for traffic on February 24, 1914.

* The duplication of the Main Line up to Rambukkana was completed in October, 1926, and Coast Line duplication was completed up to the Panadura Bridge in September 1933.

* The Puttalam Line was opened up to Negombo in 1909, and then to Chilaw in 1916 and finally extended to Puttalam in May, 1926.

* Surveys on the Maho - Batticaloa - Trincomalee railways was carried out in March, 1920. This track was laid with light rails and was known in the department as the BTLR.

* The track up to Gal Oya Junction was completed by 1926 and reached Trincomalee by 1927. The branch line to Batticaloa reached Polonnaruwa in 1926, and finally to Batticaloa by 1928. This line has now been relaid with heavy rails.

* A number of Branch Lines and major sidings have also been laid to serve factories and installations in keeping with the development projects in the Island.

* Surveys too had been conducted between Bandarawela and Passara, and for branch line from Dehiwala to Horana. However, both these lines have not been opened. Also the trail to Hambantota through Tangalle had been surveyed in 1922, and estimates submitted to the then Government. However, the construction did not take place due to lack of funds.

(Information obtained from the Centenary Year Book), 1964.

-Lionel Leanage, JP, Retired AO, Railway Headquaters.

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