Reconstruction of two Uda Pussellawa Carriages for the National Railway Museum, Colombo
In its heyday, the Uda Pussellawa Railway (UPR) rolling stock consisted of four-wheel and bogie carriages and wagons. There was more four-wheel stock than bogie stock. Due to the sharp curves, UPR carriages and wagons were shorter in length. Upon the closure of the Uda Pussellawa Railway for passenger traffic in 1942 and total closure in 1948, most of these wagons and carriages were transported to Maradana and assigned to the Kelani Valley Railway (KVR) stock. Specifically, four-wheel wagons were not assigned as they are not suitable for the comparatively high speeds of KVR trains. Additionally, by 1948, due to the decrease in passenger demand, there was no short supply of KV passenger carriages and other rolling stock. Due to these two reasons, most of the UPR carriages and wagons were abandoned in yards and later scrapped.
As of now, only two Uda Pussellawa wagons survive. One is half a body of a Bogie Covered Goods Steel (BCGSU) at the Dematagoda facility, which has been used as a storage unit (Refer Plate 1). The other is a Bogie Liquid Fuel Tank (Diesel) Wagon (BDTU) which was converted to run on Keleni Valley Railway as a Water Tank Wagon (WTK). This wagon is preserved at the National Railway Museum (Refer Plate 2). None of the UPR passenger carriages survived. Specifically, there is no surviving four-wheel stock.
Plate 1: Disused BCGSU at the Dematagoda Facility, March 2023
Plate 2: Bogie Liquid Fuel Tank (Diesel) Wagon (BDTU) of Uda Pussellawa Railway, which was converted to run on Kelani Valley as a Water Tank Wagon (WTK) preserved at National Railway Museum, May 2023
In 2019 and 2020, the author was in the process of drafting the book ‘Narrow Gauge Railways of Ceylon’. It was necessary to find and include at least some of the UPR wagon and carriage drawings in the book. As of 2020, there were no drawings of any other Uda Pussellawa carriages or wagons available for reference except for one drawing of a Bogie Goods Brake Van (BGBVU). However, there were pictures of some of the carriages in the supplement to the book ‘Railways of Sri Lanka’ by Dr. David Hyatt. All these pictures were in black and white and of low to moderate quality. These images give an idea of a certain level of their physical appearance, but it was difficult to conceptualize a drawing without the knowledge of the dimension or passenger capacity of them.
This piece of crucial information was found in an old railway magazine (Railroad Stories, December 1936), which reads “Passenger and Freight stock is of two types, bogie and four-wheel. The bogie passenger coaches measure sixteen by sixteen feet and seat twenty four passengers, while the four-wheel type is five feet shorter and seats only sixteen. Hauling six of these coaches up the Nanu-oya pass, the little engines can climb the steepest grades at a speed of ten miles per hour” (Refer Plate 3).
Based on this information and the available photographic evidence, the author and Akila Ariyapperuma, an ardent Sri Lankan Railway enthusiast living in Australia, worked out a schematic of Four Wheel First Class Passenger Carriage of Uda Pussellawa Railway (FCU) to be included in the book. ‘Narrow Gauge Railways of Ceylon’ was published in August 2021 (Refer Plate 4). Akila and the author, who are members of the National Railway Museum Committee, proposed the idea of recreating a replica of the above carriage to be displayed at the Museum, to the Chairman of the National Railway Museum Committee, Mr. Hemasiri Fernando.
Plate 3: Cover of the Railroad Stories, December 1936
Plate 4: Four-Wheel First Class Passenger Carriage UPR, page 263, Narrow Gauge Railways of Ceylon
Approval and fabrication of the first carriage
Approval for the fabrication of FCU carriage was granted in December 2021. In the beginning, it was intended to fabricate the body of the carriage and place it on a makeshift underframe, with makeshift fiberglass wheels. With the capacity assurance of the implementing agency; Sri Lanka Navy, it was then decided to fabricate a fully functional life-size replica.
Underframe: underframe of the FCU was built with 5” thick C channels. These C channels were recycled from old discarded KV carriage underframes which were transported to the National Railway Museum all the way from Avissawella. This ensured a considerable cost saving (steel prices in the local market was high during the period) and maximum utilisation of materials. The thickness of the C channel was too much for a four-wheel carriage underframe as it was 10” thick and the thickness was reduced by means of splitting the C channels into two and removing a metal strip from the middle and rewelding to the appropriate size of 5”. Even though some of the buffers of original UPR four-wheel carriages were out of solid timber, the buffers of the FCU at the railway museum are all metal KV buffers, again recycled from old KV carriages. Wheels were newly fabricated from 15mm thick plate steel. Axle boxes were newly fabricated and axle rods were made of discarded brake shafts of Broad Gauge Carriages. The wheel size of four-wheel wagons is slightly greater than that of the bogie wheels. The size was determined by the underframe height. The wheel diameter of this carriage is 1’-7”.
Brakes: UPR four-wheel carriages and wagons were occupied with external hand brakes. WTK wagon at the museum had these brakes and the work team replicated these brakes for the new carriage effectively. Brake levers and blocks were casted, and they are fully functional.
Coupling: UPR carriages and wagons had link and pin coupling, with two safety chains. These couplings were refabricated (Refer Plate 5).
Body Work: Firstly, the prepared drawing had two gangways with four doors and four rows of seats, with a full passenger capacity of 12 people. As advised by the Chairman of the Railway Museum Committee, later it was decided to fabricate a first class saloon with a single gangway with two doors at the centre and four seats at the corners. Even though there were images of first and third class four-wheel carriages with two gangways, there were no such images of a single gangway carriage, except for a 1/5 visual of a presumably similar carriage in a photograph taken near Nuwara Eliya in the 1930s. A new drawing was prepared based on a lot of assumptions (Refer Plates 6 and 7). UPR and KV passenger carriages were fabricated using weather resistant woods like teak. However, considering cost saving aspect and as this carriage is a static indoor display unit, cheaper mahogany wood has been used.
During the fabrication of this carriage, Akila was able to find a lot of drawings of Uda Pussellawa carriages and wagons. These drawings proved that the assumptions are accurate. All these drawings were redrawn and issued in the first supplement of the ‘Narrow Gauge Railways of Ceylon’. (This supplement is freely available on the author’s website)
Interior: Narrow Gauge First Class saloons and Governor’s saloons presumably had Deep Royal Blue or pure white fabric interiors. The fabric was used for the curtains, panel paddings, and cushion covers. There had been individual reading lights as well. All efforts will be taken to fabricate the interior to replicate the original condition. (Refer Plate 8)
Plate 5: Complete underframe of FCU displaying the underframe, wheels, safety chains for coupling, axle boxes and hand brakes. April 2022
Plate 7: Revised Drawing of the FCU, which was fabricated at the National Railway Museum
Plate 8: Completed First Class Saloon of Uda Pussellawa Railway, February 2023.
Fabrication of the Second Carriage: UPR Brake Van (BGBVU)
On good progress and assurance of capability, the National Railway Museum Committee's chairman authorised the fabrication of the second carriage. The selected carriage type was Bogie Goods Brake Van. Unlike the FCU, this carriage had ample drawings and some good quality photographic visuals. The reasons to select the carriage were,
- · Pre-fabricated FCU was a four-wheeled one. BGBVU is a bogie type carriage. It is intended to display such a carriage.
- · FCU has external Brake levers and BGBVU has an internal brake column.
- · Once the BGBVU is completed, arranging a full UPR train set for display with the L1B 203 locomotive is possible. (Formation of train: L1B 203+BDTU+FCU+BGBVU)
Highlights: similar to FCU, the underframe of this carriage was also fabricated from discarded KV carriage underframes. As this is a bogie carriage, it was necessary to fabricate bogies from scratch. UPR bogies are different from KV bogies in many ways, mainly from the size of the wheels. Two replica bogies were fabricated using a bogie of BDTU as an example. BDTU was jacked up to remove one of the bogies. It was found that the bogie is very similar to the ‘arch Bar Caboose Truck’ as advised by an ardent railway enthusiast. Bogie frames, axle boxes, etc. were newly fabricated and wheels were made from old KV wheels. The tyres of the wheels were removed, sizes reduced and newly fabricated tyres were fixed. Axle rods were adjusted KV rod and two bogies were fully functional. It is necessary to highlight the exceptional workmanship displayed by Sri Lanka Navy personnel in both steel and wood works (Refer Plates 9 and 10).
Both carriages are awaiting paintwork and interior finishing. (Refer Plates 11 and 12)
Plate 9: Bogie Goods Brake Van (BGBVU) UPR, page 263, Narrow Gauge Railways of Ceylon
Plate 11: Completed BGBVU, Exterior
Plate 12: Completed FCU and BGBVU awaiting paint and interior works at National Railway Museum, May 2023
Special thanks: Mr. Hemasiri Fernando (Chairman, National Railway Museum Committee), Dr. David Hyatt, Mr. Akila Ariyapperuma (Member, National Railway Museum Committee), Mrs. Anoma Salgado (Secretary to the Chairman), Mr. Paul Henry (Works Supervisor), Sri Lanka Railway, Sri Lanka Navy.
27 July 2023
About the author: Rasika is the Author of ‘Narrow Gauge Railways of Ceylon’, and a member of the National Railway Museum Committee, Sri Lanka. He is a Chartered Architect by profession. (www.rasikawick.lk)