Saturday, 26 October 2013 09:23
Here is yet another idea for our Philatelic Bureau to follow up. Australia Post has just released a set of stamps on Historic Railway Stations. We too have a long history dating back to the 1860s. It’s virtually the same time that Australia too had started the railway. Possibly, this is a good theme to work on with the railway in Sri Lanka completing 150 years in 2014.
Introducing the stamps of historic railway stations, Australia Post says that in the late 19th and 20th centuries, railways played an important role in transforming Australia into a nation by establishing a network of communications and trade throughout the continent. In Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) the British administration conceived the railway as an instrument to develop and unify the country. It was originally meant for the transportation first of coffee and then tea from the hill country to Colombo for shipment abroad.
Maryborough in the state of Victoria, Australia is considered one of the oldest railway stations in the country. American writer Mark Twain on a visit to the place in 1895 had described it as a “railway station with a town attached”. The station had been built in 1890 of red brick with stucco trimming. It is still being used for freight and passenger services.
Australia Post has selected four stations from four different states for the stamps. Maryborough station is seen in the far left.
Second from left is the station at Quorn, South Australia constructed in 1916 of stone and brick. It served as a junction for rail traffic travelling north-south and east-west. One is reminded of Polgahawela which is one of the earliest and busiest railway junctions in the Main Line. It is the junction station for the Northern line.
The station at Hay in New South Wales dates back to 1882. It is described as an Italianate building constructed of bonded brick with a corrugated iron roof. It has been restored recently obviously because of its importance as a historic site although it no longer functions as a railway station.
The Normanton railway station in Queensland, built around 1889, is historically important as a unique building in an isolated inland railway system.
Looking around there should be interesting locations in Sri Lanka where the old railway stations are in existence. In fact, even closer to Colombo most stations - if not all – still bear a typical British style in their construction. After all, with a history going back to one and a half centuries, there should be many an interesting tale about the ‘Ceylon Government Railways’ (CGR), as it was originally known. (It’s now the Sri Lanka Railway).
Talking of the CGR, the service started in 1864 from Colombo to Ambepussa covering a distance of 54 kilometres. The first train ran in December 1864 and a stamp was released on 21 December 1964 to mark the Centenary.
The Main Line was extended in stages with service to Kandy in 1867, to Nawalapitiya in 1874, to Nanu Oya in 1885, to Bandarawela in 1894 and to Badulla in 1924. Several other lines were completed as the years passed – the Matale Line (1880), Coast Line (1895), Northern Line (1905), Mannar Line (1914), Kelani Valley Line (1919), Puttalam Line (1926) and Batticaloa and Trincomalee Lines (1928).
Writing in his book ‘The Ceylon Government Railway’ (1910), H.W. Cave mentioned that the total mileage at the time was 576 miles of which 509 were on broad gauge (5½ feet) and 67 on the narrow gauge (2½ feet). The Kelani Valley and Udapussellawa lines were narrow gauge.
Cave’s book (reprinted as ‘Ceylon Along the Rail Track’ by Visidunu Prakashakayo in 2002) gives a full list of stations in all the lines in 1910.