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Ceylon’s First Diesel Rail Cars

Ceylon Government Railway Class T1

Since the success of the first diesel passenger trains (S1) of the Ceylon Government Railway, the manufacturer of S1, English Electric Company was given an order to manufacture 23 diesel rail cars for the Ceylon Government Railway. The rail cars were bought between 1947-1948 and were categorised under T1 class and numbered 504 to 526.

Powered by an English Electric 6HT engine, these rail cars were similar to the technology of S1 Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). S1 DMUs were powered by dual 180 horsepower engines while the rail cars were powered by single 200 horsepower engines. According to records, the traction motors were interchangeable with S1 DMU’s traction motors.

The rail cars were 64 feet long, 9 feet 10 inches wide and weighed 36 tonnes. Main fuel tank and the emergency fuel tank were respectively 80 gallons and 21 gallons. The axle setup has been Bo-2 with one powered axle pair followed by a free axle pair.

The rail cars were made in a way that allowed to take off the engine, gearbox and main electrical components through the roof to make it easy for maintenance.

A deadman pedal was connected mechanically to the master controller to make it possible to operate without an assistant (helper). The driver could easily exchange the tablet while leaving the master controller idle and rail car running by having pressed down the deadman pedal.

Rail cars were limited only to third class and all seats were made out of spring filled cushions. 82 passengers were able to sit in one rail car. Initially the rail cars were painted the same as S1 DMUs in aluminium grey with a green coloured stripe. According to photographic evidence, a dark red was used to repaint rail cars.

The rail car number 515 was locally modified as a Diesel deluxe (luxury rail car) for charter services in 1950. It was designed to accommodate 30-35 passengers with extra comfort. This rail car was renovated and currently used by JF Tours for special charter services.

These rail cars had been popular on the coastal line, mostly operated between Aluthgama and Matara. There is no specific date of withdrawal recorded. However, it is believed that the rail cars were taken out of service somewhere between 1967 and 1983. A photograph dated 1974 proves that some of its fleet existed in service at least for 30 odd years.

Credit – Ceylon Railway Archive by D, Duran Nanayakkara

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Geoffrey Bawa

Geoffrey Bawa

Lady Ridgeway Hospital