Train to Kandy

by Bob Utber

Forget about the cricket, the train trip from Colombo Fort to Kandy was worth its weight in chocolates.

The British (as the locals call them) built the railway in the 1860’s as their route to the tea plantations that they were establishing.  The engineering skills of the Brits can still be seen.

Being able to get a reserved seat (second class) was a bonus as the departure was very orderly compared to our trip to Galle. The 7am from Colombo was a book only in 1st and 2nd class and trust your luck in 3rd. 1st Class A$3.60, 2nd class A$2.20 and this for two and a half hours of  a sheer delight.  Stick that up your Mike Card!

Made even better in the fact that I had control of the air conditioning switch . An electric fan circa 1960 attached to the ceiling of the carriage.  There were three in carriage F. The way to go.  I can’t say the seating was fantastic as you had to sit bolt upright for the whole journey.

The first part of the journey was through the slums of Colombo.  The inhabitants live in sheds (my words) made up of any materials that they can lay their hands on.  These “houses” abut the railway line.  When I say abut I mean as close as Wayne Harmes’ boundary line.

Washing billows on every conceivable area where they might get a breeze and it certainly takes away from the squalid areas in which they flutter.

My host in Kandy Dudley tells me that some 10 years ago the government tried to reclaim some of these areas and move residents in to purpose built housing stock.  To their (the government’s) dismay it was not long before the people who had been moved into these homes were found to rolling up their mattresses and taking them outside to sleep on and also cooking outside.  Sounds familiar?

The train rattled on through the townships and tropical country side at a surprising rate seeing that the loco would have been built in the late fifties and the carriages ten years earlier.  I will not mention the conveniences on the train other than to say you would have to be an Indian rubber man to use them and even then it would be horrendous.

Some 40 kilometres outside Kandy we started to rise and the scenery was breath taking.  The lush green forests acting as foreground to the mountains which are all shapes and sizes.  Not what you see in Australia there were many rocky outcrops jutting out amongst the greenery of the plant life.

Talking of rock many of the tunnels were dug through the rock which must have been some undertaking in the 1860’s.

Kandy the last kingdom and last capital before Colombo is a beautiful city when you compare it with other Sri Lankan towns.  There are some poor areas but there is not the squalor as far as I could see. A population of some 500,000 of all denominations make it a very liveable city according to Dudley whose home town was Galle.  The saffron robes of the monks stand out and know doubt there are many retreats in this sublime area.

And so to tomorrow when both teams will have their final hit out before the game commences on Thursday. 

We are all at least thirty minutes from the new ground at Pallekele which we here is something to behold.  I will reserve my judgement until  after training.

Given what I have witnessed today there is no doubt that the ball will swing appreciably and I wonder whether the Australians will make any changes other than Marsh for Ponting with Kharwaja moving up to 3.

The win in Galle was sound but if the Lions get going the attack could be in trouble.

Watson needs to make runs to atone for his two inning in Galle while Hughes still needs to convince all and sundry. His first movement back and away from the ball makes him vulnerable to away movement outside his off stump . 

No doubt there will be talk amongst the bowling fraternity.  Johnson is our strike bowler but will the conditions be in his favour?

He can always bowl the unplayable but if batsmen concentrate instead of being 20/20 geeks then he could go for a big score with little success.

Being an unabashed Peter Siddle fan will they go for him instead of Copeland?  Copes bowled well in Galle and can contain. Can Sid Vicious contain?

 Many questions to be answered.

On Thursday the second test will commence and we are all looking forward  to another game of entertaining cricket as we saw in Galle


About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. Bob,

    I enjoyed your ride. I’m envious.

    Enjoy sweet Kandy and don’t do your lolly.


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