FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Runpast at Rambukkana

Posted in Rambukkana, Sri Lanka by folkestonejack on January 29, 2018

The leisurely start we enjoyed yesterday was long forgotten as we rose in the early morning to prepare for a 4.30am departure from Colombo on our two tour buses. In truth most of us had enjoyed little sleep on account of an all night disco somewhere in the neighbourhood and the hotel maintenance team’s unfathomable conclusion that 12.30am was a good time to start some drilling.

It might well have been an early start for us but the traffic on the road suggested that it was a part of the daily routine for many commuters trying to avoid the traffic hell of rush hour in Colombo. The service buses on their way in to the city centre already looked full to standing. In the meantime we had a cardboard-boxed breakfast from the hotel to enjoy – what delights might be in store? The groans from around the bus suggested that I might not like the answer. I was somehow still surprised to see that the hotel had outdone themselves by serving up cold chips and a pot of mayonnaise!

A run past the water tower at Rambukkana

If our early start had left us bleary eyed then we ought to have spared a thought for the crews who left the shed with our empty coaching stock at 1.30am so that we could make an early start from Rambukkana, where the main line towards Badulla really begins its climb. I’d like to say that we were brimming with confidence for the day ahead, but after seeing the loco struggle on a first run past the signalbox (at 7.40am) we wondered how on earth it would cope with the gradients ahead…

A short walk up the line brought us to the next photo spot with a lovely view of palm trees and traditional telegraph poles, but we were not the first to reach the location. A friendly cow had been tethered in farmland adjacent to the line and the rope allowed it just enough scope to reach the perfect spot for the shot. You couldn’t turn your back without suddenly discovering that you were the next source of his/her curiosity! It was no fan of steam and didn’t stick around for the run past.

B1d class steam locomotive no. 340 passes the signals outside Kadigamuwa Station

After another burst of photography we headed up the line at 9.25, reaching the next stop at Kadigamuwa fifteen minutes later. Our train had to wait here for service trains to cross but there was time enough first for a couple of runpasts at a signal just beyond the station. The conditions were beautiful – blue skies, sun and lovely semapahore signals. Once the line was clear we continued on to Ihala Kotte.

Once again a service train needed to overtake us, so we walked back on ourselves to the exit from tunnel 5a and waited for it to pass before attempting a run past. Attempt is the operative word here – as the loco emerged from the tunnel the carriages decoupled and ended up standing stationery immediately in front of us! This didn’t matter too much to the stills photographers but was less enthusiastically received by those among us recording video. After a more successful repeat we returned to Ihala Kotte and crossed with a mixed freight headed towards Colombo (11.35) before continuing on our way (11.38).

The morning really brought home the organisational challenge of arranging opportunities for photography here. The runpasts have to be deftly interwoven with the schedule and this gets an awful lot more complicated when train delays are factored in. I’m sure that we are make life incredibly difficult for everyone on the line today so I’m incredibly appreciative for what we have been able to do. In many places they wouldn’t even consider attempting this!

Gallery

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