70th Anniversary of Parliamentary Democracy
150 Years of Ceylon Tea
Ceylon Tea, that most famous brand and well-known ‘cuppa’, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. It has been a rich and rewarding history and its importance and relevance to Sri Lanka remains very much so to this day. It has of course been a colossal journey with many peaks and troughs along the way, not dissimilar to the landscape of the tea fields of Sri Lanka. Scotsman James Taylor is the acknowledged pioneer of Ceylon Tea. Arriving in Ceylon in 1852 as a 17-year-old, he was sent to Loolecondera Estate, a coffee plantation in the Kandy District. Taylor was made its manager within five-years as Ceylon went on to become the world’s largest coffee producer by 1860.
Despite the successes of coffee, the owners of Loolecondera suggested to Taylor that he experiment with tea. Having initially planted seedlings along the roadside of Loolecondera in 1866, Taylor cleared and planted a 21-acre plot of tea the following year – Field No 7. It was fortuitous timing as the coffee rust disease first made an appearance two years later, and within the ensuing two decades, coffee was all but wiped out. From an initial export of a mere 23 pounds in 1872, tea production expanded rapidly and by the turn of the century, exports had risen to 151,000,000 pounds. So too, did the glowing reputation of Ceylon Tea, as the industry continued to grow and flourish moving into the 20th century.
Colombo Fort Railway Station Centenary
After the first sod of earth was cut at the auspicious time by Governor Sir Henry Ward for the construction of the railway line, the first railway journey took place in 1864 from Colombo to Ambepussa for the purpose of transporting plantation crops to Colombo. From then onwards the railway road network expanded gradually and with the opening of the coastal railway line in 1887, two railway stations were established at Fort and Pettah on either side of the present Fort Railway Station.
The small railway station which was known as the Fort Railway Station was shifted to a more convenient place in 1883. That place was where Lotus Road, at which the Lotus siding was situated at that time, met Olcott Mawatha. Thus, the present Colombo Fort Railway was established on a block of land where the then Beira Lake was situated opposite that siding. Although its construction work was commenced in 1905 and completed in 1911, as the work on the line between Maradana and Fort had not been completed and since it was used as a food store during the First World War, it was not able to open it until 1917. Subsequently it was opened in 1917 by the then Governor of Ceylon, John Anderson and Mr G.P. Grin who was the General Manager of Railways at that time. Its first Station Master was Mr A.F. Gunawardane.
Today the Fort Railway Station is the main railway station in Sri Lanka functioning with 90 Station Masters and other staff of 180 employees.
Colombo Fort Railway Station consists of eleven platforms with several other offices such as the Operations Room, Booking Office, Parcel Section, Administrative Office and the Ticketing Office. By now it is equipped with other facilities such as Passenger Rest Rooms, Restaurants and Cloak Rooms etc.
The Fort Railway Station is prepared for a journey of yet another hundred years in future by contributing to an economical and efficient as well as a safe and reliable passenger and goods transport service to the public running a service of around 360 journeys up and down a day providing services and facilities to nearly two hundred thousand passengers.