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Author:  highflyer [ Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:05 am ]


By Bill Morgan
Copyright © 2000 - 2006 -HMS Highflyer Association

As we boarded the packed train in Colombo, it was late afternoon, and it was obvious that a seat was going to be a privilege. However, we found a reserved coach for service personnel and two vacant seats of wooden slats, and no windows. The seats faced forward, a fact that presented us with severe problems when we reached the hilly parts of the journey and the locomotive, steam, of course, opened the regulator. Sparks erupted from the funnel and we were soon spotted with black smuts, we then realised why these seats were vacant.

At Maho we had a one and a half hour wait. So my oppo and I left the train and walked through the main street, it was now late, probably 11 pm. All the shops were open for business lit by blazing lights. A few cents for a hand of small bananas would be a welcome addition to our K rations, not yet opened. We felt quite safe and wandered back to the station to continue our journey.

Having settled down in our compartment with three members of the Singhalese Army, our companions produced a leaf wrapped portion of rise and a jam jar full of cubes of dark brown ‘something’, which turned out to be curried fish.

It was now time for us to open our K rations, the contents of which caused great amusement, particularly the toilet paper and sweets. Neither of us smoked so we passed over the cigarettes and matches, in return we were offered a cube of fish, the first bite sent a red hot flush through our heads, causing us to sweat profusely and gasp for breath in an effort to quench the fire. Our exhibition produced peels of laughter from our fellow travellers. How glad we were to have bought those bananas, they saved us from boiling over.

The railway track resembled a switchback, the locomotive full out down the hills but labouring down to walking speed up the gradients, belching out showers of sparks. On one or two occasions it drew to a hissing halt in order to get up steam for a last effort to get to the top.

The temperature, like the railway, went up and down, at one point we appeared to be in the clouds and everyone on the stations wrapped up in shoes and blankets. The cold lasted for a short time and we were soon in the rising sun and sweltering temperatures for another day.

We were pleased and relieved to be met by R.N. transport, taken to a bhanda in the transit area of HMS Highflyer and a chance to crash out.

Published by the HMS Highflyer Association, all copyrights reserved. No articles or photographs maybe reproduced without the written permission of the Editor.

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