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Trolleybuses of Old Colombo

Ceylon Trolley Buses

If you haven’t read the previous article on Tramcars of Colombo, I encourage you to read it first as Trolleybuses of Ceylon is an extension of the previous article.

It was the utter folly of the governments existed in Sri Lanka in the 50’s and 60’s to scrap the Trolleybus Service run by the Colombo MC and the Tram Car Service. Had the services been not scrapped, it would have added colour and glamour to the city of Colombo.

The advent of personal motor vehicles and improvements in motorized buses caused the rapid disappearance of the tramcar from most Western and Asian countries by the end of the 1950s. Trolley systems also were introduced to the world in the 20th century. Tramcars disappeared from many countries in the middle of the 20th century. Likewise, in Ceylon, tramcars stopped running somewhere in the 1950s. The tram service was stopped completely after the trolleybus service was introduced in 1953.

Trolleybuses were also operated by the Colombo Municipal Council. Trolleybuses were operated in the past as part of the public transport system.There were single decker and double decker trolleybuses.


Built by British United Traction (BUT), body by Weymann Electric equipment by English Electric Supplied to Colombo Municipal Council in 1953

A total of 35 double-deck trolleybuses were supplied to Ceylon in 1953-54 Fleet Nos. 1-20 were BUT 9611T type, with bodies by Weymann (supplied in 1953) Fleet Nos. 21-35 were BUT 9611T type, with bodies by East Lancashire (supplied in 1954)


Built by Sunbeam, body by East Lancashire Electric equipment by English Electric Total length: 35ft (10.7m) Supplied to Colombo Municipal Council in 1957

A total of 26 single-deck trolleybuses were supplied to Ceylon in 1957. All (fleet nos. 36-61) were Sunbeam MF2B type, with bodies by East Lancashire Fleet nos. 36-55 were 30ft (9.14m) in length (body type B26D) Fleet nos. 56-61 (including no. 59 illustrated) were 35ft (10.7m) in length (body type B34D)

At that time there were a large number of bus companies in the island. In 1957, the government led by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike decided on the nationalization of bus services. To provide a better service to the people, he established the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) on January 1 1958.

The nationalization of private bus companies in 1958 led to the origin of the CTB. There was a trolleybus strike in 1964. The trolleybus service was stopped in 1964 due to the Trolleybus strike, maintenance costs and also the government policy decisions.

The rest is known history for losing both purpose and quality of the public transport system to the sorry status of today. Let this brief piece be a requiem for a charming mode of transport

Credit – Sunday Observer, Bokhans, The Island, Victor Melder Sri Lanka Library, Rare Videos

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Manel Illangakoon

Manel Illangakoon

Kandy Esala Perahera