Living Childhood Dreams at 70+



If our colleague Ranjith Thambirajah’s youth was made memorable by travelling frequently in upcountry trains with his father, my childhood was enlivened by ‘playing ’ trains. https://www.retiredunited.com/post/four-of-the-best-train-journeys-to-take-through-sri-lanka

I grew up at Ragama, the first railway junction on the mainline. The 50’s were still the golden era of ‘steam’, ‘Anguru kaka watura bibi colomba duvana yakada yaka’. Our home was not far from the railway station and trains just fascinated me from early years.


As children we were fortunate to have had large home gardens to run around in the rented houses. I made semaphore signals with wooden planks and nailed them to coconut trees operating them with strings. Three relatives of my age, my brother and I ‘played’ trains. I would run like a steam engine chugging and whistling and another would operate the signal. I ran and ran, we played and played until there was no sap left. Then we fetched water from a well, washed, had supper and retired to bed to dream - often of trains.


As we grew up we travelled by train to school and got excitingly close to the locomotives and sometimes were even lucky enough to get cab rides. Diesel- electric locomotives were introduce d to Ceylon Government Railway (CGR) in 1953 with the import of bright red ‘Gentle greyhounds’ the M1’s from England, and the noisy Canadian ‘Prairie beasts’ the M2’s a year later, and writings were on the wall for ‘steam’. By 1965, ‘steam’ had been relegate d to history.


Fig 1. My steam trio. All are HO scale. Roco is of class18 1 4-6-2 of the German Federal Railways. This is an exact replica and so appreciate details of the traction mechanism as compare d to the two Lima locos. CGR owned tank engines of the type in extreme right and they were used for shunting.


Every railway enthusiast knows that this is a lifelong love. Some continue to read books on the subject; others subscribe to journals & magazines, yet another collect and watch DVD’s and a few take to ‘Model Railroading’ also called ‘Railway Modelling’. I have ended up as a simple model railroader.



Fig. 2 My layout as at 10 th April 2021. It is constantly in a state of flux, with frequent additions and improvements


The introduction of scale models by many manufacturers in America, Europe and Asia led enthusiasts to model railroading. Some well-known brands are; Fleischmann, Roco & Märklin (Germany), Atlas, Athearn, Lionel & Walthers (USA), Hornby, Peco, Bachmann-Branchline & Dapol (UK). The models are of many scales but the popular ones are N (1:160), HO (1:87) and O (1:45), OO (1:76); HO and OO share the same gauge of 16.5mm between tracks. HO is described as the universal scale because it is the most popular among modellers. Locomotives have come a long way from those that worked with clockwork spring mechanisms to Digital Command Controls (DCCs) which are electronically operated with remote control devices.


In the 80’s Lima (Italy) was a brand which was widely available and affordable for many entry level enthusiasts like me. My first purchase was a HO scale South African Blue Train. Thereafter the model bug bit me, and I stuck with Lima. Unfortunately, the company went into bankruptcy in 2004, and later was bought over by Hornby.


Fig.3. Residential zone. Industrial area is at the opposite end where the Mercedes- Benz Warehouse and the oil tank area are the prominent features.



Model train layouts are; continuous loop, point to point, out and back or shunting. Most eye catching are the landscape ones. Mine is a continuous loop landscape layout built using common household materials and Styrofoam. The street lamps & colour light signals were designed and installed by me but they are not to scale. Working with LEDs was a new experience I burnt a few before learning that they are polarity specific and each colour had a different forward voltage. Thus the current passing through them have to be controlled with suitable resistors, the values of which are calculated applying Ohm’s law (A/L Physics). Aren’t we lifelong learners?


This is one project that will follow me to the grave. Isn’t that what childhood dreams are all about, kicking the bucket with those dreams realised?


Disclaimer: I have read the terms and conditions of the website retired.united and agree with them. The thoughts expressed are those of the author and the information quoted has been verified. Photograph s are in JPG format and from the author’s collection.


GEORGE RUPESINGHE