The single day journey from Matara to Badulla, the many expresses, and signalling system were among the few that stand to his credit
It is he who came up with the nomenclature of express services as Ruhunu Kumari, Udarata Menike, Yal Devi, Uttara Devi, Udaya Devi, Mutu Kumari, Samudra Devi, and Podi Menike
The name of the Ceylon Government Railways (CGR) and the name of former GMR B.D. Rampala are interwoven and the people who talk about the glorious days of the GCR still remember him as an unmatched personality.
He has gone down in the annals of history of the Railways Department as a towering figure. With his rugged personality, he commanded high recognition in the public service and his name is indelible in the history of the Railways Department. His 107th Birthday fell yesterday November 14.
Born at Rukmale in Pannipitiya on November 14, 1910 as the eldest in the family of a government school teacher, he had his secondary education at the Ananda and Nalanda Colleges before he entered the Colombo University College and graduated as an engineer.
Dr. N.M. Perera who founded the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and one time Minister of Finance was among his colleagues in Ananda College.
Large stocks of old rails piled on either side of railway line, railway compartments, and goods-wagons left to decay in railway yards today would have been a taboo during his time
After passing out as an engineer, Mr. Rampala joined the Mechanical Department of the CGR at Ratmalana in 1934 and after a successful career as a brilliant engineer, he was destined to be the successor to the first Sri Lankan GMR Mr. Kanagasabai who retired.
The single day journey from Matara to Badulla was one of his revolutionary measures that stand to his credit.
The passengers travelling by train from Matara to Badulla had to break journey in Colombo and take the night mail train or the Badulla Express the following morning.
However, the GMR Rampala launched the Ruhunu Kumari express as the connection train to Udarata Menike providing the facility of one day trip from Matara to Badulla.
Brush Bagnall did not object to his effort to change their design for he had commanded international recognition as an unmatched railway engineer, who was well versed in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering both and was called Mr. Railway even by the British Locomotive Engineers
It is he who came up with the nomenclature of express services as Ruhunu Kumari, Udarata Menike, Yal Devi, Uttara Devi, Udaya Devi, Mutu Kumari, Samudra Devi, and Podi Menike.
It is sad that the cherished names of these Express trains are no longer used much to the anxiety of the passenger public.
However, they are indelible from the minds of the people, who still call these trains so. The passenger public accuses the authorities of neglecting the need to display the names of these trains as in the past.
Another special anecdote about the CGR during his time was the way he settled a dispute over the naming of a train halt.
When a new train-halt, between Wadduwa and Kalutara North, was named as Waskaduwa, the people in Potupitiya disputed it and it led to a clash between the residents of the two villages.
The train halt was located on the boundary of the two villages. Mr. Rampala resolved the issue by naming the train-halt as Train Halt No.1.
It is the only train-halt in Sri Lanka identified by a number.
He in his capacity as a senior public servant considered it as his duty to look into the difficulties facing the people in the North, who took more than 12 hours for a journey from Colombo to Jaffna
When he commissioned the Ruhunu Kumari express on the southern coastal railway in 1955, he was in the cab of the locomotive in its inaugural trip from Maradana to Matara.
An official of administrative acumen, he upheld the British Traditions of the Department if and when required, to ensure the efficiency of the train service.
Trains ran on time and the coaches were dust and grime-free during his time.
Mr. Rampala as a senior government official of a high calibre never misused his office for personal gain nor he allowed any of his subordinates to resort to official grafting.
If anyone in the department was found committing an offence he would be liable to punishment on the spot.
This brought repute to the Railways Department as a government institution free of corruption during his time.
Mr. Rampala was a teetotaller, but he did not restrict the right of others to be moderate in habits and enjoy.
He in his capacity as a senior public servant considered it as his duty to look into the difficulties facing the people in the North, who took more than 12 hours for a journey from Colombo to Jaffna.
He added Yal Devi express to the Northern line train service and successfully cut down the time taken by the journey to the barest minimum of seven hours. The people in Jaffna hailed this facility and held Mr. Rampala in high esteem.
Replacing the outdated semaphore signal system with the colour signal system was his brainchild.
He found the semaphore signal system maintained at a colossal expenditure an obstacle to the efficiency of the train service.
It was a special feat that he could successfully convert eight garret steam locomotives to be fuelled with furnace oil according to a design of his own. The garret locomotives worked trains in the narrow gauge KV line and in the mainline. However, one of these engines that worked a slow train from Galboda to Nawalapitiya was destroyed by fire due to a technical defect.
A brilliant engineer, Mr. Rampala rectified faults in M1 engines procured from Brush Bagnall Company of the UK.
The manufacturers did not object to his effort to change their design for he had commanded international recognition as an unmatched railway engineer, who was well versed in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering both and was called Mr. Railway even by the British Locomotive Engineers
Large stocks of old rails piled on either side of a railway line, railway compartments, and goods-wagons left to decay in railway yards today would have been a taboo during his time.
During his time, the Railways Department also received donations of locomotives from Canada under the Colombo Plan to help desalination of the train service.
More than 50 years old Canadian engines are still in service and are used to work the main express trains.
People still remember the CGR under Mr. Rampala as the Golden Era of Sri Lanka Railway.
His retirement created a vacuum not only in the Railways Department but also in the public service and it is in doubt whether it could be filled.
The 107th birth anniversary of the late GMR B.D. Rampala fell yesterday. This article pays tribute to that exemplary Public Servant who will be ever remembered
by the people.
Amarekone Mudiyanse Wednesday, 15 November 2017 08:00
Mr Bamunusinghearatchige Don Rampala was a nephew of the Highlevel Bus Magnate Semaneris Mudalali. Mr BDR's trusted deputy for many years was BRP Goonewardena (Berty ) as the boss used to call him. BRP was later the Chief Inspector of Factories and the first Chairman, Standards Bureau.When the Queen came to Ceylon in 1954, GMR Rampala was to accompany her to Nuwara Eliya via Pattipola. He fell sick and DGMR Berty Goonewardena accompanied the queen.
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