‘Viceroy Special’

Thursday, 27 January 2011 00:54 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Passes 25th milestone as a unique tourism product

A special day for Sri Lanka Tourism will be marked on 2 February when the Viceroy Luxury Steam Train celebrates its 25th anniversary with a journey from Colombo Fort to Rambukkana.

The Government recognises the contribution of the ‘Viceroy Special’ to Sri Lanka Tourism with the Postal authorities issuing five stamps to mark this day.

The Sri Lankan Railway came into operation during the British Era in the 19th century with the main purpose of transporting commodities, especially tea from the up country plantations.

It then expanded to many points in Sri Lanka and to also include passenger transportation.

The railway continues to be the main transportation mode to date.

Of the journeys to many parts of the island, passengers experience panoramic picturesque views during the 290 kilometre journey to Badulla. The steam engine ‘Viceroy Special’ was introduced as a unique tourism product 25 years ago to offer visitors and especially tourists a true experience of a journey of colonial times with modern and relaxing comfort.

The ‘Viceroy Special’ is the only steam train still in operation with two air-conditioned observation saloons and 64 plush reclining seats and individual adjustable tables.

Throughout the journey, a trained qualified guide describes the features of the journey backed by suitable music.

The restaurant car is elegantly furnished with Edwardian ribbed fans and teak-trimmed wood panelling, which has a fully equipped kitchen and bar.

The ‘Viceroy Special’ has come a long way making a tremendous contribution to Sri Lanka tourism with popular trips to Pinnawala, Kandy, Hill country as well as the west coast to the beach resorts.

The steam-hauled train is passenger friendly to stop on request for guests to photograph scenic spots. Some even opt to take a ride in the engine drivers cabin.

This product celebrates at a time Sri Lanka tourism has recorded highest arrivals after the Government eradicated terrorism in the country permanently and authorities are focusing the marketing efforts to attract high end clients into the country.

‘Viceroy Special’ is one product that will entice the up market tourists into the country in the coming years.

The ‘Viceroy Special’ operates on a charter basis and during a good period may do 10 to 12 journeys a month, said Chairman, JF Tours Hemasiri Fernando.

The locomotives and carriages had been abandoned, but were recovered and done up to be able to run on the track today. It was also a hurdle to find spare parts and the right expertise to operate the steam trains, as many of these railway employees had retired or are no more.

The ‘Viceroy Special’ is Fernando’s brainchild and is owned and operated by Sri Lanka Railways.

Biggest stamp issued

The Postal Department will issue five new stamps on 2 February, to mark the ‘Viceroy Special’.

Of the total five stamps, four of them will be Rs. 5 and the other one will cost Rs. 45.

The Rs. 45 stamp is the biggest stamp ever made by the department and issued in Sri Lanka’s postal history.

This stamp, with a picture of a train, will be 123 ml in length and 30 ml wide.

This new stamp will be made public at Rambukkana on 4 February after the ceremonial ‘Viceroy Special’ train ride.