FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Quick thinking

Posted in Sri Lanka by folkestonejack on February 2, 2018

An early start saw us arrive at Diya Talawa at 7 o’clock, just beating our train by ten minutes. Our loco, class B2b no. 213, looked splendid in the early morning light but before we could start our day in earnest we needed to let a service train overtake us. The intended plan unraveled rather quickly when the service train developed a problem, blocking the line.

Some splendid quick thinking saw the plan turned on its head. Instead of climbing uphill towards the summit we would head in the opposite direction and give them time to sort out the faulty diesel multiple unit.

Some early morning sun on the return to Diya Talawa

After rolling back a short distance we started our climb back to Diya Talawa, attempting three wonderfully atmospheric shots as the sun made short work of the morning mist. I lined up a lovely shot of a local family, sitting on a rock to watch proceedings, but the patience of my foreground was shorter than mine and they disappeared before our train returned. Some you win, some you lose!

The frustration of missed opportunities dogged us through the morning. After passing back through Diya Talawa (8:40) we walked along the track to a grand curve. It was one of those spots that would reward a little effort to get the most panoramic vista.

I followed a few others along a path up the hillside, on stepping stones over a little stream and then made the scramble up the rocks to gain some height. The view was splendid but three attempts to match the passage of the train with the breaks in the cloud (9:00-10:00) failed miserably. The best we got was the diesel running in isolation in sun – not the shot that many had hoped for. Still, at least I wasn’t one of the poor souls who tried an alternative route through boggy ground… soggy feet for a shot in shade must have seemed like a poor exchange!

Diesel in the sun at Diya Talawa

On our arrival at Haputale (10:13) we found the platforms packed with school children. At first we assumed that they were waiting for the service train scheduled to overtake us here but they were still on the platform when it departed. It dawned on us that they had come to see the steam loco – clearly a relatively rare event.

The loco needed to take on water here but it looked as though the water crane could no longer be turned. The solution was ingenious – the crew procured a piece of guttering that some locals took off a house under construction. The makeshift watering facilities did the job and were on our way just over an hour later (11.22).

Improvised watering facilities at Haputale

The afternoon took us from the sun of Haputale to the mists of Pattipola, with the usual back and forth between stations to get out of the way of service trains crossing or overtaking us. There were plenty of memorable moments along the way – a school sports day taking place next to the track at Idalgashinna, a shot that required standing on a stack of sleepers covered in ants and a photospot above a tunnel mouth abandoned after the discovery of a large nest of bees.

The cloud had closed right in as we reached Pattipola (17:02) and left us scratching our heads for a moment as we tried to work out which direction we needed to walk through the mist to find our buses. Overall, I think we have been quite lucky again. Although we didn’t have much luck getting our train in sun it could have been an awful lot worse. At one point it hammered down when the train set back but our photo spot didn’t see a drop of water!

In the clouds on the line between Haputale and Idalgashinna

Once we reached our hotel there was a discussion about alternatives to the planned schedule and near unanimous approval for the scrapping of night shots in favour of an early start to take advantage of the best conditions of the day (according to the forecasts). Let’s hope this pays off…


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