Thursday, July 26, 2007

Riding the Rails

Ever since I was a little kid I loved trains and riding the rails. I know… I know it’s one of those boys and their toys stories, but what the heck! And no, I’m not a train fanatic either. It’s just that traveling by train is more fun than traveling by roads, especially in a bus. There’s something about those big diesel engines that is cool. The power generated is impressive, more than enough to tow several rail cars full of passengers through all kinds of terrain.

An average diesel engine weighs about 270, 000 pounds or 122, 470 kg. It can generate about 3,200 horsepower and the generator in turn converts this into about 4,700 amps of electricity. This electricity is used by the four drive motors to generate about 64,000 pounds of thrust, which can take a locomotive into speeds of up to 177 kph.

More on how diesels engine work

More on SL Railways

I guess trains are in my blood too. My grandfather was a station master and some of his relatives were engine drivers. So my father and uncle practically grew up on the tracks with the trains. During his career, my grandfather was posted in various stations all over the country and the family too traveled as the job took him. The best thing about that is that they got to experience a lot of wonderful things during these stints, traveling all across the country. My dad still talks about the stuff they used to do in the good old days. That’s probably where I get my love for traveling too.

Anyway I too recently became a member of the Train Gang. No they are not a bunch of train robbers. They are the people who commute to and from work in trains. It happened because we changed houses. We were living closer to Colombo and the new place is bit further, but I love the new place coz I grew up there and it’s a great neighborhood. A lot of people are commenting why we want to move further away from Colombo when all the other people are trying to get closer to Colombo and blah blah blah. That is the EXACT reason I want to get away from Colombo. I HATE COLOMBO!!! It’s crowded, noisy and dirty. Unfortunately all the jobs, especially in the IT sector are concentrated here. The day the whole islands get a high bandwidth, reliable broadband network, I’m going to pack up my things and set up home somewhere in the hill country and find a stay at home job. Ok that’s for another story…

As I was saying, since we moved, the only downside I can see is that I can’t walk to office anymore. I’ve had to join the ranks of the commuters. The problem is traveling on the roads in the morning is an absolute nightmare. Get caught to rush hour traffic and you spend more time idling than moving ahead. Add to that overcrowded buses, without any breathing space and you just feel like quitting your job and staying at home. One solution to all of that is to catch a train.

Now everybody can’t do this coz the rail network is not wide spread. If there’s no train station near to the start of your journey or end, your better off going by bus or private vehicle. Luckily for me, our new place and the office is closer to their respective train stations, so there’s no extra traveling involved, just a bit of walking.

The SL railways has always has a bad reputation as inefficient, always late and so on. However, at least the morning trains come and go on schedule. Whatever said about the state of the railway department, there are some plus points to consider.

• It’s Cheap – Ticket prices are about 40 – 50 % of bus fares
• Fast – Takes about half the time it takes to travel by bus (this is for short journeys. It goes the other way around for long journeys, especially the upcountry routes. )
• More spacious – Even if you have to travel standing, you can at least travel in comfort, without suffering like in busses.
• It’s a smooth ride – You have to stick to the rail tracks, so no need to worry about death defying antics of drivers, no sudden breaks to send you flying, and no high speed chases with other trains
• And the best thing is, as my friend Harshadewa puts it "No Traffic on Rail Road"!!!

Well here’s hoping for the expansion and development of the SL railways, so that we don’t’ have to suffer in the hands of the private bus operators.

"when the pistons keep on turning and go round and round
and the steel reels are cold and hard and the moutain ain t no down"

(Long Train Running – Doobie Brothers)


Harshadewa said...

Nice post!
yes true about all the advantages of railway.
But today morning my train stopped at several places between stations due to BAD signaling system. Hope that would be one more thing to the fix list.

After all, it's my best option next to personal vehicle in Sri Lanka.

Java Jones said...

Trains are cool. I remember traveling cross country as a kid - and we were entitled to sleeping berths in first class, which was just great, as you had your privacy and attached toilet. Dinner would be served by the car attendent in the compartment, with cutlery, serviettes, etc., antique fan whizzing away just by your head if you were in the upper berth. No more, I'm afraid - and that's too bad.


Leiselb said...

PLUS you can get stuff done whilst your commuting on a train...something you can't really do on a bus or in a car. And I too, am a fan of the romanticism of trains...and how big my nephew smiles when he is on one...

Lady divine said...

Hmmm... to be frank, i've hardly travelled in a train. I think i would've gotten into a train only about twice in my whole life.. I took like it... I like to see the passing view... and feel the air... and see the world go round..:-)