The development of Railways in Sri Lanka

The first sod was cut on 3rd August, 1858, by Governor, Sir Henry Ward. The first train conveyed H.R.H. the Duke of Brabant to Ambepussa from Colombo and back on the 27th December, 1864. The line up to Ambepussa was officially opened for on the 2nd October, 1865.

In the year 1866, the Mahara (Ragama), Heneratgoda (Gampaha) and Veyangoda stations were completed. The line up to Polgahawela was opened for traffic on the 1st November, 1866.

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

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

The line up to Gampola was opened on 15th January, 1873.

The line up to Nawalapitiya was completed on the 1st December, 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 the 5th February, 1924, which completed the construction of the Main Line.

The Matale line extension was started on the 28th June, 1877, and was opened on the 4th October, 1880.

On the Coast Line, the line was extended from Colombo to Moratuwa in the first instance, and opened for traffic on the 1st March, 1877. The line was next extended up to Panadura and opened for traffic on the 1st September, 1877. The line was next extended up to Panadura and opened for traffic on the 1st September, 1877. The Line was then extended to Kalutara on the 22nd September, 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 the 18th April, 1912 and to Opanayake in 1919.

On the Northern Line, the Polgahawela - Anuradhapura line was completed on the 1st November, 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 24th. February, 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 Puttlam 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 the Gal Oya junction was completed by 1926 and reached Trincomalee by 1927. The branch line to Batticaloa reached Polonnaruwa in 1926, and finally Batticaloa by 1928. This line has now been re-laid 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 a branch line from Dehiwala to Horana. However, both these Lines have not been opened. Also, the trace to Hambantota through Tangalla had been surveyed in 1922, and estimates submitted to the then Government. However, the construction did not commence due to the lack of funds.

(Information obtained from the Centenary Year Book - 1964)

Lionel Leanage - J. P.

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