Monday, 19 March 2012

Rozelle: A quaint little Railway Station

A Quaint Little Railway Station in Sri Lanka

Rozelle railway station, Sri Lanka
 Gyan C A Fernando
with a cartoon by N Senthilkumaran
Thanks to Station Master Hemalal Vidyaratne for the cup of tea

Amongst the railway stations on the Up Country Line of the Sri Lankan Government Railway are a number of little known Colonial-built and Colonial-style quaint railway stations. 
The romantic sounding Rozelle is one of them.

Very little is known of how this station came to be, although one assumes it had to do with the tea plantations.
Rozelle railway station, Sri Lanka

The Name Rozelle

Even the English spelling of the name is not established as far as this station goes, and varies between Rozell e and Rozell a
The latter reflects the present day pronunciation of the name.

Most English speakers would pronounce Rozelle as “Ro-zell” (two syllables) but the Sinhalese characters spell it out as “Ro-sall-a” (three syllables).

Rozelle is a Scottish name associated with Ayrshire. (There is also a Rozelle in New South Wales in Australia.)

Rail ticket to Rozelle, Sri LankaIn Sinhala, which is a phonetic language, the spelling and the pronunciation of “Ro sall er” are clear and consistent but one cannot help thinking that, over time, the original pronunciation (and therefore the Sinhala spelling) has been “Sinhalicised”.

Officially, the station sign and the railway tickets use the first spelling but the rather recent official SLGR website lists it as Rosella, further confusing the issue!

There is no town by that name in Sri Lanka and the name seems to come from the tea plantation which is, confusingly, named Rozella.( link below)

6° 56' 6.00" N 80° 33' 30.12" E
Situated between Watawala and Hatton at an elevation of 1130m, 168 Km from Colombo and 124Km from Badulla, the station is in an exposed and wind-swept situation facing a deep valley. A picturesque cascade falls into the valley below from a point close to the station, and this powers the hydro electric generator for the station. 
Incidentally, this area has the highest rainfall figure of Sri Lanka.

The main access to Rozelle station is by train although the Station Road does connect with the main Colombo-Hatton road. Buses from nearby Hatton are infrequent. 
There is no town or even a proper settlement apart from the tea plantations. Apart from a tea shack next to the Goods Shed, there are no other facilities for the infrequent visitor.

Track work and Gradients
The single railway track approaches the station in the “Up” direction through a very tight 51/2 chains radius double or S curve with a gradient of 1:44.
Gradient marker near Rozelle, Sri Lanka
The maximum gradient on the present day Sri Lankan railway is 1:44. The gradient marker (above) is close to the outer Home Signal in the Up direction and on the S curve.

The curve is prone to earth slips and the track has had to be modified many times in the past. (The author remembers seeing earth slip damage and construction work going on circa 1977 whilst traveling on the Night Mail train)

At one time, following an earth slip, the curvature of the track had to be reduced to 41/2 chains. This was later corrected by reconstructing the earthworks (David Hyatt in RSL supplements).
Satellite image: Rozelle railway station, Sri LankaSattelite image: Rozelle railway station, Sri Lanka

Although now dismantled, the course of the old track is still visible on the first curve. 
The overgrown grass does not allow a good photo at ground level. The Google Earth maps show the layout, the curves and the course of the old curve.

Rozelle, Sri Lanka
There is a short passing loop which is not long enough to allow two Night Mail trains to cross. 
Although there are two platforms now, as such, there is no connecting bridge.

A small siding leads back from the “Up” side of the station to the old Goods Shed but both the siding and the shed are rarely used these days. 
As is normal on the Up Country Line, there are catch points at the downgrade end of the station.

Until recently there was no mains electricity but now a small hydro electric generator, situated in the valley below, provides power. 
The hydro generator was built by the railway engineering department using scrap material.
The old platform lamp hooks can still be seen.

Train Operations

Tyer tablet machine at Rozelle, Sri Lanka
Tablet from Tyer tablet machine at Rozelle, Sri LankaAs is the norm on this stretch of the line, signals are of the mechanical, semaphore type and single line working is achieved by means of the Tyer token or “tablet” system.

A curious feature, not seen anywhere else on the Sri Lankan railway, is the “Train Indicator Bars”.
Train Indicator Bars at Rozelle, Sri Lanka
Train Indicator Bars at Rozelle, Sri Lanka 
These are bars running parallel to the rails in a short section of the track in the station. 

When a train occupies this section of the track the bars cannot be moved and, as a result of an interlocking system, the signal levers cannot be operated, thereby preventing  another train getting on to the same track. 

Rozelle railway station, Sri Lanka
Rozelle railway station, Sri Lanka A number of short local “Baby Trains” ply this stretch of the railway and it goes without saying that very short trains need to make sure that they stop in this section of track. (To be continued)

Rozelle railway station, Sri Lanka
There are a lot of curves at Rozella!

 Copyright: Gyan C A Fernando


  1. Nicely written article. Really enjoyed. Hope to have a visit there soon.

  2. Brilliant! Thanks for shining a light on this legacy.


  3. ...thank you for valuable facts.

  4. Nicely written.. can we publish the article on our travel magazine colombo things to do with credits to you.. cc mail to