1974 – Ohiya
Pattipola is the highest point – 6200+ feet and from there it comes down to Ohiya. So this was a goods train – carrying fuel and food items – dhal & rice items. At Ohiya he started going, and due to some technical fault he could not control the speed. He started to apply the brakes – and the metal brake shoe touching the metal wheel – it started to get red hot and if you further apply, the red hot thing becomes molten and it becomes a lubricant. So the train started going out of control. Just before Idalgashinna the carriages got derailed and the villages were flocking to take the food items and diesel. The lone engine with the 2 drivers was hammering down. Station masters have these methods of sending messages through Morse code so at Haputale they shifted the track – coz every railway station has a siding where a runaway train can be sided and it goes and hits a ram. But due to the speed this engine jumped and went straight. Now the message went to Diyathalawa, Bandarawela. Bandarawela the Uda Rata Menike was about to leave – on the same line. So the station master had stopped the train and got 7 other wagons in front of the Uda Rata Menike and shunted them to take the impact. Diyathalawa guy did the same thing of switching the tracks and this time, the engine went to the side, hit the ramp and tilted. The engine was still running. There was a staff officer – Capt. P. A. Karunathilake – he retired as a Major General. He was a kingpin – coz he used to travel in the train every weekend coz his girlfriend was at Ambewala. So he used to go during the weekend. So he knew all the engine drivers and guards and he knew how to knock it off. He’s the one who switched it off. There is a method of switching off – there is no key or anything like that.
I met a very senior retired engine driver and he said, driver’s fault. Coz the diesel engines have a thing called retard. Even buses have it. A retard is where you knock the diesel off. So the engine starts slowing down. This fellow in his excitement was just trying to apply breaks.
A tale related by Retd. Brig. Vipul Botejue which took place when he was Platoon Commander in the Sri Lanka Army.