Inside Track

All aboard to Demodara
by Marjorie Socha

It was a miserable grey March day and I was on the 16:08 from Edinburgh. If it wasn't bad enough that the rain was blowing sideways, the train pulled to a stop on the Forth Bridge – there was a signal failure ahead and only one train at a time was to be allowed on the stretch of track between the stations.

The hold-up gave me time to think back on another, quite different, train journey I had taken a year before, on a sunny afternoon in Sri Lanka with Tell Tale Travel.

"From the off it
was like a journey
to a different time."

From the off it was like a journey to a different time. Cattle grazed on the tracks. Tuk Tuks and motorbikes crossed them without hesitation. Ladies dressed in their Saturday finery used them as a pathway for their afternoon stroll.

The ubiquitous Sri Lankan dog lazed on the station platform as families waited excitedly for the train to arrive. We were issued with real train tickets, the kind I remember as a child, by a handsome station master in a sparkling white uniform.

As we could hear the train approaching, he was keen to get out on the platform. He was carrying a loop with a token on it. The stretch of line here is single track. The train driver is not permitted to proceed without this token/tablet. When he gets to the next station the driver will pass the tablet to the next station master. He will then insert the tablet into a device that will signal that the track is now clear.

The Tyer's electric train tablet system is an old, but safe procedure, as only one tablet can ever be out of the device at one time. The station master handed the tablet to the driver as the engine quickly passed. (Earlier, we'd been lucky enough to get a personal demonstration of how the system works by the station master himself, a little bit of Tell Tale serendipity.)

Sri Lanka train station

"The 16:08 [from Edinburgh]... will always be missing one essential ingredient – the handsome man in his sparkling white uniform."

The old railway compartments were busy with local people, although some preferred to stand on the carriage steps outside, clutching onto brass rails. The train passed through some beautiful scenery as it progressed to Demodara, providing a glimpse into local life.

As we got closer to Demodara Station, our fellow passengers excitedly pointed out of the windows making sure we knew we were approaching the Demodara Loop, a fantastic piece of railway engineering. The incline is so steep at this point that they built a loop in the track to reduce the gradient that the diesel engines had to pull the trains up. The station itself sits atop the loop.

While the 16:08 can offer some similarities, with its mobile phone 'tablet system' and the wonderful Forth Bridge, it will always be missing one essential ingredient – the handsome man (station master) in his sparkling white uniform. I wonder if he is still there?

Tell Tale tip Marjorie took this train journey on our small group adventure, Hoppers and Spice. You can also take this or a similar train journey on our private tours Wildlife and Culture and Family Adventure: Forts and Monkeys.

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