Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Magic of Class M2 Locomotives

The Magic of Class M2 Locomotives


GM EMD Class M2 G12 locomotive of the Sri Lankan Railway

When I see Kumaran's M2 drawings it brings me nostalgia.

In fact I had started drawing the Canadian Engines when I was only seven years old. I continued drawing during my tenure at a school in Jaffna. My class mates did not quite understand about my interest towards M2s at that time but were stunned to see a real replica of a Canadian loco on the black board.

Once, I forgot to erase the drawing on the black board prior to my teacher's entry into the class room and was terrified about the consequences. On the contrary my teacher appreciated my drawing and encouraged me to become an engineer having known my interests in the locomotives.

Ever since I started drawing the M2 locos my class mates gave me a nick name as "Canadian". I still believe that due to my mates chanting my nick name "Canadian' I have finally become a real Canadian after all.

As my interest grew I started to recreate "clakety-clak" on the bench during free periods at school.

This really made me popular in the class was everyone got amused by the sound I created. They started to share my interests as it was sort of an entertainment for them.

My mates were lining up at times as they wanted to listen to the clakety-clak which in a way kind of a free train journey for them. They were able to distinguish features such as bridges, stations, turn outs, deceleration, acceleration etc. when the rhythm was changed. I usually ask them to place their ears on the bench while performing the clakety-clak.

As my class mates interest grew in trains I started to amuse them by telling them the road number of the loco without even looking at it. I was able to master the triple horn sounds of each and every M2 and would call out the road number ahead of time without looking at the loco. 

This was a thrill of a life time for some of my contemporaries and at one point they believed that it was kind of a magic that I was trying to perform.

End of a true story!

Illustration by N. Senthilkumaran, copyright


  1. Hi Gyan,
    Kumaran's drawings are fantastic, so very accurate indeed! I would suggest that you consider publishing a collection of his drawings, not just of the M2s but of other locos as well.

    A quick question for you, one that has been troubling me for decades!! Do you know if the first batch of M2s, 569 - 573, were painted in orange and maroon when they arrived from Canada? I still remember, around 1954 or so (I was knee high to a grasshopper then!), seeing either 569 or 570 in maroon/orange livery. A b/w photo in the Rampala Felicitation Volume suggests this. So also a builders photo (b/w again) of 573 taken in London, Ontario at GM's plant. Would much appreciate if you could let me know on this.

  2. I have never seen them in any colour other than the standard blue/silver scheme. There are fake photos doing the rounds on the web.

  3. Many thanks Gyan for the reply.

    It may be worthwhile if there ia way of ascertaining (or disproving) this belief, if possible, through 'official' records. Kodikara in his blog on the M2s states that "It is speculated that these locomotives were painted with green and red livery", referring to the first batch of M2s, 569 - 573. As I indicated, the black & white photos of 573 & 569 show them in a distinctive two tone livery, not the silver/blue/dark blue three tone with which the M2s have always been associated with. Could it be that they were in orange/maroon when they first came??

    I thought of checking with EMD, Ontario, but unfortunately Cat have closed that plant down!!

    Do you think past records with SLGR may provide some clues??

    With renewed thanks.

    1. This is a complex subject!
      I know the original author of the statement "these locomotives were painted with green and red livery". He was actually referring to the original Henschels but his statement appeared ambiguously on a railway forum and since then has been quoted and misquoted! He has never seen an M2 in any colour scheme other than the present.

      There is a pic of 573 supposed to be on the test track at Ontario. The colurs seemed to have been manipulated but the colour scheme is different in that there are only two colours. Then there is a pic of 595 which shows three colours.

      EMD never replied our queries anyway and as you observed, Caterpillar shut down the Ontario facility!
      The problem is that some Sri Lankans of the small-brain type, have decided it is "fun" to post fake pictures, and this together with the rapid distribution of mis-information, has complicated the issue.
      There is a GM advertisement in an old railway magazine which shows an artist's impression (not a photo) of an M2 in Red and the background shows a Burmese Buddhist/Hindu type temple!

  4. Hi Gyan,
    I agree, it is very complex indeed!!

    There is a black & white photo on page 37 of the Rampala Felicitation Volume published by IESL in 1991, of 571, in two tone livery. Also, I still have a paper cutting of a b&w photo of 569 dating back to the mid 1950s. Again, it shows a two tone paint scheme. If you check Kodikara's blogg of the M2s, the photo of 571 being loaded on board a ship, depicts it in two tone. But the other photo of a different loco on board shows the standard three tone scheme. I suspect it was only the original batch, 569 to 573, that came in two tone. Then there is always my memory of more than 55 years of an M2 in maroon/orange!!

    I suppose this is the great mystery of the M2 that may never get solved!! (may I respectfully add, possibly like a 'forensic case' from your past experience??).

    All the best & Cheers.