Upgrading coastal railwaysMay 22, 2012, 6:56 pm
B P Perera
Retired Civil Engineer— SLES
The upgrading of the coast line railway from Matara to Kalutara by IRCON a company affiliated to Indian Railways is another milestone in the development of the railway network. Commuters will have a carpet ride free from bumps, sways and jerks. ABC base, 200mm of ballast, concrete sleepers and long welded rails were the basics of the upgrade. How much travelling time can be reduced will have to be assessed after trial runs with different locomotives and train sets. There are sixty seven curves with permanent speed restrictions based on the radii. Long straights, are limited. Chief Engineer, Engineers, Chief Inspectors, Track Managers who were out in the field to ensure the work was carried out according to the specifications also deserve a bouquet. Laying the coast line commenced in 1873. There were objections from the elite in society who were using Galle Face for recreation. The planning engineers had to deviate the trace and approach the coast with two reverse curves. At Kalutara they were confronted with a problem when Buddhists protested over expected cutting of the sacred Botree. Queen Victoria on an appeal made by the Buddhists ordered the track be deviated and avoid cutting of the Botree.
The track laying was completed to Galle on February 14th 1893 and to Matara on 19th December 1895. An express train with limited stops has taken 3 hrs 25 mts for the run to Matara. Commuters experienced a change in 1938 when three diesel units Silver Spray, Silver Foam and Silver Mist were introduced with a hazzle free journey sans coal dust and smoke. Steam rail cars introduced in 1927 did a yeoman service for commuters between Aluthgama and Matara. Almost every Village had a rail car halt. Guards issued the tickets. Eminent personalities such as Martin Wickremasinghe has traveled to School in these rail cars. A view through a train window of a coast line train with seagulls flying in formation, waves rolling and kissing the beach leaving the foam is fascinating. Maintenance of the coast line railway was very costly due to corrosion of rails and fastenings. Due to inadequate allocations or delay in supply of materials, Speed restrictions had to be imposed resulting in train delays. The upgrading will bring down the cost of maintenance for a number of years. Using machinery for packing and sluing will reduce the labour cost. Fuel consumption will be reduced on the upgraded track.
Thee are no long gradients and ruling gradient is 1 - 132. The tablet working system has been replaced with colour lights signaling and motorised points. There will be a reduction of times at crossing stations.
Coast line railway runs under a canopy of coconut trees. Falling of coconut trees was a common occurrence resulting from a heavy blowing or a gale. Wires that ran overhead damaged and put the tablet system out of commission. Before arranging pilot working system two employees had to walk along the track and clear any obstructions. As the cables run underground now there will be no indications at the stations. New rules will have to be introduced to avoid any crash with trees fallen in case of a heavy blowing. With a high speed expected the responsibility of the Motive Power department cannot be under estimated. Better examination of the underframes and checking of wheel profiles of Locos and coaches should be a must to avoid any untoward incident. The 160km of Rail track to Matara will be the first lap of the proposed Rail way to Kataragama. The Railway should prepare a porgramme to eliminate the speed restrictions or give a higher speed on curves by deviating or flattening them.
It is this type of development work on the rail track carried out by Mr. N. A. Vaithilingam Chief Engineer "Yaldevi" to do the journey from Colombo to Kankasenthurai in seven and half hours.
What’s Sri Lanka’s best overseas Test win?
Last Updated May 25 2013 | 03:45 pm