Katukurunda Railway Accident – First head-on collision in Sri Lanka

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We at Travel Kalutara strive you to bring not only about travel related topics but also historically significant events that took place in the region.

One such event is the Katukurunda Railway Accident that happened in 1928. It is significant for two reasons

  • The first head-on train collision
  • The train accident with the highest death toll
train accidents in sri lanka
Photo Credit: Divaina | source

Where?

The accident happened between Kalutara South and Katukurunda railway stations. The specific location is now known as Wettumakada, some 2.2 km away from Kalutara town.

When

This unfortunate incident took place some 90 years before in 1928 March 12 at 8.06 pm.

Collided Trains

The two trains that collided were two passenger trains which were hauled by steam engines.

🚂 No: 547 Colombo – Aluthgama

Cabins: 08 Passenger cabins + A Fish transport cabin

The train was running 18 minutes late and had reached Kalutara South station at a few minutes shy of 08.00 pm.

🚂 No: 250 Matara – Maradana

Cabins: 07 Passenger cabins + 03 Goods cabins + A Fish transport cabin

The Situation

The trains ran on a single line in those days and one has to wait for other incoming trains in a station with two tracks. The two trains in question usually crossed at Payagala station but due to the delay of Aluthgama train, it was decided to cross two trains in Kalutara south station.

Aluthgama train reached the station at 08.00 pm and was signaled to stop at a side track but due to some miscommunication between the station master and the driver, the train proceeded towards Aluthgama towards the impending disaster.

Colombo bound train passed Payagala obtaining instruction that the crossing would happen in Kalutara south.

The Collision

The two trains collided at 58 post bend in Wettumakada, Katukurunda. A mere 02 km from the Kalutara south station. The trains were traveling at the speed of 20 mph and 35 mph and the sound of the collision is said to have been heard in Dodangoda (some 10km away) as well.

The Matara train’s engine was completely derailed and turned upside down while the other one stayed on the track being fully damaged.

karukurunda train accident
The accident took place on this culvert | Photo Copyright (Megaā Hike)

Both drivers died of injuries sustained and the total death toll was 28 including the staff and passengers. Had this happened today the death toll could have been much worse due to a large number of people who travel on trains. To date, this accident retains the record of highest death toll incurred in a rail accident in Sri Lanka.

katukurunda railway accident
The location where the accident took place today. Another track is being constructed till Aluthgama. Photo Copyright (Megaā Hike)

Aftermath

An investigation spearheaded by Lt. Col. F.R.H. Eustace of Indian Railway was conducted after a failed government investigation. The exact cause of the accident was, however, never uncovered because the railway staff from both trains were dead. Various speculations still circulate over the drinks as to what could’ve happened in those old time where no means of communication existed.

References

  • CGR-SLR — great trains, greater tragedies | Island.lk ( source )
  • දුම්රිය දෙකක්‌ මුහුණට මුහුණ ගැටී සිදුවූ ලංකාවේ මුල්ම දුම්රිය අනතුර | Divaina.com | (source)
  • 1928 කටුකුරුන්ද දුම්රිය අනතුර | Wikipedia | (source)

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