Locomotives of Sri Lanka Railways

Locomotives and trainsets of Sri Lanka Railways consist mostly of diesel locomotives and multiple units. Steam locomotives are no longer used, except on heritage trains, such as the Viceroy Special.

The first locomotives pulled trains on the original segment of the Main Line, on 54 kilometres (34 miles) connecting Colombo and Ambepussa.[1] In 1953, Sri Lanka Railways enhanced its service to more power with diesel locomotives.[2] Since then, various types of diesel locomotives were added to the service.


Sri Lanka's first railway locomotive was Leopold, in 1864. It was one of seven 4-4-0 locomotives built that year for the Ceylon Government Railway by Robert Stephenson and Company (nos. 1–5) and Beyer, Peacock and Company (nos. 6 and 7).[3] Many more steam locomotives were added to the system, through to the 1950s. All the steam locomotives bar three were manufactured in the United Kingdom; the exceptions were three 4-4-0s built at the railway's Maradana Works near Colombo in 1900 and 1905. In 1938, locomotives were reclassified, based on wheel arrangement and gauge. Sub-classification was based on weight, modifications, heating type, boiler capacity, or other features.[4]

Throughout its history, Ceylon Government Railway had 410 steam locomotives.[5]

The Railways upgraded its service to diesel locomotives, under the leadership of B. D. Rampala in the mid 1950s.[2] In 1953, the first locomotives from British builder Brush Bagnall were imported. Since then, the Railways have imported locomotives from Canada, Japan, West Germany, India, France, and China[6][7][8]

In the 1990s, Sri Lanka Railways converted the narrow gauge (2 ft 6 in (762 mm)) Kelani Valley line into broad gauge (5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm)). This was the last narrow gauge line left in Sri Lanka, and its conversion to broad gauge put the fleet of narrow gauge locomotives out of use. All operational locomotives in the country today are broad gauge.

As of August 2011, Sri Lanka does not have commercially operational electric locomotives or train sets. Electrification has been proposed, to improve energy efficiency and sustainability.[9]


Sri Lanka's locomotives have appeared in several different liveries over the years.

The steam locomotives were mainly black.

With the introduction of diesel locomotives, coloured liveries appeared. Typical for many locomotives is a livery that has thick horizontal bands of dark blue, light blue, silver and a yellow stripe. Also common for many locomotives is a livery of horizontal bands of green, brown, and a yellow stripe. Various other liveries also exist. M6 ICE locomotives have a unique ICE livery of brown and orange.

The DMUs are painted in various liveries, unique to their classes. Typically they feature horizontal bands of colour running their entire length and a solid colour on the front and back ends.


Steam locomotives were numbered from 1 upwards, reaching 161 in 1911. Whereafter replacement locomotives were given the same number as the locomotive that they replaced with an "R" prefix; until such time as the old locomotive, now running with an "O" prefix, was finally withdrawn.[10] This system was abandoned in 1928,[10] with new locomotives being numbered from 249 upwards,[11] and reaching 336 by 1940, and 362 in 1951 when the last steam locomotive — a 4-8-0 from W. G. Bagnall — was delivered.[12]

Narrow gauge locomotives were numbered in the same list as broad gauge locomotives. Diesel locomotives and multiple unit numbering started from 500 – an Armstrong Whitworth 122 hp 0-4-0 diesel-electric shunter delivered in 1934[12] – and reached 840 in 1991.[13] and included one locomotive experimentally converted to electric traction.[4][14]

Steam locomotives

Steam locomotives were used on regular services until the 1970s.[2][4]

1–15, 24–25,
28–29, 39–40,
4-4-026R. Stephenson & Co. (5)
Beyer, Peacock & Co. (7)
Kitson & Co. (14)
1864–18805-foot driving wheels
20–23, 26–274-4-06Beyer, Peacock & Co. (4)
Kitson & Co. (2)
1868–18726-foot driving wheels; 16″×22″ cylinders
63–71, 89–924-4-013Dübs & Co.1892–18956-foot driving wheels; 17″×24″ cylinders
16–19, 41–420-6-06John Fowler & Co.1868–1878
30–310-4-0ST2R. Stephenson & Co.1868Ex Breakwater branch; absorbed in 1874; a third loco was not taken into stock
32–38, 484-4-0T8R. Stephenson & Co. (3)
Kitson & Co. (5)
1 (second)
4-4-03CGR Maradana Works1900–19055-foot driving wheels; 16″×24″ cylinders
1630-6-0CT1Hawthorn, Leslie & Co.1913Crane tank
A118–19, 41–424-8-04Kitson & Co.1913–1921
A2155–1564-8-02Kitson & Co.1911renumbered 16–17
4-8-015Hunslet Engine Co. (6)
W. G. Bagnall (9)
B14, 30,
4-6-049Beyer, Peacock & Co. (25)
Armstrong Whitworth (12)
R. Stephenson & Co. (12)
1927–47“Governor” class – many named; no. 30 Sir Thomas Maitland, runs the Viceroy Special service.[4][15]
B21, 3, 25–29,
39–40, 43–47
4-6-035Kitson & Co. (3)
R. Stephenson & Co. (11)
Vulcan Foundry (21)
1925–1925No. 213 preserved and operational
B38–11, 22,
4-6-016Kitson & Co.1913–1914
4-6-09Neilson & Co. (4)
Kitson & Co. (5)
B576–804-6-05Neilson & Co. (3)
Vulcan Foundry (2)
B649–624-6-014Kitson & Co. (10)
Vulcan Foundry (4)
B781–884-6-08Hawthorn Leslie & Co.1894
4-6-018Hunslet Engine Co. (13)
Hawthorn Leslie & Co. (2)
Nasmyth, Wilson & Co. (3)
B9140–1414-6-02Hunslet Engine Co.1908renumbered 134–135
B10109–1194-6-011Dübs & Co.1901
2-6-2+2-6-29Beyer, Peacock & Co.1927, 19451945 locos later converted to oil firing
D1270–2742-6-4T5R. Stephenson & Co.1928“College” class, most named;
D312–15, 20–21,
2-6-4T22R. Stephenson & Co. (20)
Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. (2)
1907–1914131–139 renumbered 32–37, 131–133; 150–151 renumbered 38, 40; 12 rebuilt as class D1 and numbered 298 in 1930; D3 class saturated, reclassified D2 when superheated
E123–24, 93–94,
0-6-0T15Dübs & Co. (3)
North British Loco. Co. (5)
Hunslet Engine Co. (7)
1898–1915Most rebuilt as 0-6-2T; No. 93 built in 1898 is the oldest surviving steam locomotive in the country - now at National railway museum, Kadugannawa
E1265–2690-6-2T5R. Stephenson & Co.1928
F22, 5–7,
4-4-020Vulcan Foundry (5)
North British Loco. Co. (15)
1911–1913144–151 delivered as 152–154, 157–161; F2 saturated, reclassified F2 when superheated. All scrapped
4-4-012Dübs & Co. (6)
Kitson & Co. (2)
North British Loco. Co. (4)
H12932-4-0+0-4-21Beyer, Peacock & Co.1930Narrow gauge Garratt
4-6-4T6Hunslet Engine Co.1924–1929Narrow gauge
4-6-4T15Hunslet Engine Co. (11)
North British Loco. Co. (4)
1908–1919Narrow gauge; 142–146 renumbered 136–140
K1102–1084-4-0T7Hunslet Engine Co.1900–1901Narrow gauge
0-4-2T6Sharp, Stewart & Co. (4)
Hunslet Engine Co. (2)
Narrow gauge
R1301–313Steam railcar13Sentinel1925–1927Some were later fitted with small under-floor diesel units and were reclassified T2
R2317–320Steam railcar4Sentinel1928Some were later fitted with small under-floor diesel units and were reclassified T2
R3321–327Steam railcar7Sentinel1928Some were later fitted with small under-floor diesel units and were reclassified T2
R4314–316Steam railcar3Clayton1928Some were later fitted with small under-floor diesel units and were reclassified T2
V1328–330Steam railcar3Sentinel1927Narrow gauge
V2331–333Steam railcar3Sentinel1928Narrow gauge

Diesel locomotives

MDiesel Electric Locomotives
WDiesel Hydraulic Locomotives
G & YShunters
N & PNarrow Gauge Locomotives
SDiesel Multiple Units
TDiesel Rail Cars

Class M — Diesel Electric Locomotives[16]

Diesel locomotives of Sri Lanka Railway are categorized into several classes and their sub classes.

M1539–563A1A-A1A de25Brush Bagnall Traction19521000 hpCurrently not in service
A1A-A1A de (12)
Bo-Bo (2)
14General Motors Diesel (12)
Electro-Motive Division (2)
1954–1966G121400 hpAll but one (571 Saskatchewan) still in active service
M3589–590Bo-Bo de2CGR1956–1958360 hpEngines (180 hp × 2) taken from S1 class
M4743–756Co-Co de14Montreal Locomotive Works1975MX-6201750 hp
M5767–782Bo-Bo de16Hitachi19791150 hpM5A: Re-engined locally using MTU V12 in 1991; M5B: Re-engined locally using Paxman V12 in 1997; M5C: Re-engined locally using Caterpillar 3516 DITA.
M6783–798A1A-A1A de16Thyssen-Henschel1979–1980G221650 hp
M7799–814Bo-Bo de16Brush Traction19811000 hp
M8M8 (841-848), M8A (877,878)Co-Co deM8 (8), M8A (2)Diesel Locomotive WorksM8 (1995), M8A (2001)WDM-2M8 (2600 hp), M8A (1950 hp)Sub Class M8A: Only 2 locomotives were introduced
M9864–873Co-Co de10Alstom2000AD32C1800 hpSeveral units out of service shortly after introduction due to cost of spares and repair.
M10M10 (914-916), M10A (940-945)Co-Co deM10 (3), M10A (6)Diesel Locomotive Works2012WDM3D2300 hpSub class M10A was introduced in 2013 which is a technical variant.[17]
M11M11 (949-958),Co-CoM11 (10)Diesel Locomotive Works2018WDG4D4500 hpone unit brought in december 2018 for testing and another 2 brought in march 2019

Class W — Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives[14]

W1630–674B-B dh45Rheinstahl Henschel1968–691150 hp10 rebuilt with Caterpillar engines and reclassified W3. Only 2 locomotives are in operation.
B-B dh15LEW19681500 hp729 ex demonstrator, ran as DR V150.001; imported 1970. Several re-furbished and in operation.
W3631…674B-B dh10(1997)1150 hp10 rebuilt from class W1 with Caterpillar engines. Mainly used in up country line.

Classes G and Y — Shunters [18]

G15000–4–0 de1Armstrong Whitworth1934122 hpSulzer engine. Not in use.
G2531–538Bo-Bo de8North British Loco. Co.1950625 hpPaxman V8 engine. Not in use.
Y675–7020-6-0 dh28Hunslet Engine Co.1968530 hpStill in operation.
Y1721–728D dh8Sri Lanka Railways1972–73Paxman V12 engine. Not in operation.

Classes N and P — Narrow Gauge Locomotives [14]

N1564–5681C1 dh5Krupp1952–53500 hpNot in use.
N2730–732B-B dh3Kawasaki1973600 hpGM Detroit Diesel V16 engine. Ordered by Sri Lanka Veneers & Plywood. Not in use.
P1527–5300-6-0 dm4Hunslet Engine Co.1950120 hpNot in use.

Note: One class N2 locomotive was re-classified as Class E1 after fitting with Alstom pantographs, to be run under electric power. Not to be confused with the steam locomotive E1, this electric locomotive is not in commercial use. One class P1 locomotive was at Viharamahadevi (Victoria) Amusement Park[14]

Class S - Diesel Push Pull Trains [8]

S1–S8 Diesel Hydraulic Multiple Units, S9–S13 Diesel Electric & Electro-Diesel Multiple Units

S1501–5034-car3English Electric1938400 hpNamed Silver Foam, Silver Spray, and Silver Mist. Not in operation, and power cars scrapped.
S2574–58815Schindler Carriage and Wagon1958500 hpNot in operation and the power cars were scrapped.
S3596–62025Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg, (MAN)1959880 hpNot in operation.
S4621–6245Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg, (MAN)19611000 hpOut of service.
S5717–7205-car2 setsHitachi1970880 hpHitachi Tourist excursion train. Now one is in Airport Express service, operated by Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited.
S6733–74210Hitachi19741150 hpVery similar in appearance to S7. Operated mainly on the broad gauged Kelani Valley line. Currently used as presidential train.
S7757–76610Hitachi19771000 hpVery similar in appearance to S6. Operated mainly on the broad gauged Kelani Valley line. Not in regular operations.
S8821–84020Hyundai19911150 hpCurrently in operation.
S9849–86320CSR20001150 hpCurrently in operation.
S10879-89315CSR2008Currently in operation.
S11894–91320RITES Ltd2011–20121360 hp[19] Designed with multi class accommodation.
S12917–93922CSR20122000 hpImported in two variants, one for run on commuter services and other run on long distance services.
S13959–9664 (double sets)ICF2018-20191800 hp

Class T - Diesel Rail Cars [14]

The various Railbus units that are currently operated are not listed below.

T1504–52623English Electric1947200 hpCoupled in Twin Units. Not in use.
T2(1950)Converted steam rail car in 1950. Not in use
Locally built rail busesRB1 to ..Rail BusSLR Rathmalana Works(1995)Based on Tata & Ashok Leyland BusesA total of 14 Rail Buses were built

between 1995 and 2002 with numbers RB1 to RB14.

Other Locomotives

Some other diesel locomotives (typically shunters) are available and operated in Sri Lanka other than the locomotives and shunters owned by Sri Lanka Railways. Some are the locomotives owned by Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Holcim Sri Lanka limited.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority19 (3 in operation)Andrew Barclay
Holcim Sri Lanka LimitedDeutz shunters (03), Hunslet shunter (01), Diesel Locomotive Works locomotives (02), Refurbished Beaver shunters (04), SAN locomotive (01)All are diesel hydraulic type except DLW locomotive which is diesel electric.Some are not in use. However this limited cater locomotives from SLR for some services.

Locomotives and trainsets on order

▪ Another 7 locomotives from india which are similar to the newly imported 'still on test' model, WDG4D [M11] are to be arrived.

▪ Another 2 double sets (4 individual sets) of S13 DMUs are to be arrived

▪ in February 2018, local newspapers and news websites reported that General Electric company, USA won the tender for 10 diesel electric locomotives for the use of upcountry railways.

▪ 9 DMUs (rumoured as Class S14) were ordered from china.

See also


  1. "Ceylon Railway Enthusiasts Circle (CREC)/SLRF". Sri Lanka Railway 145th Anniversary Trip. 2010-01-02.
  2. "The Island". Rampala regime in the local Railway History. 2010-07-19.
  3. Hughes 1990, p. 93.
  4. http://www.infolanka.com/org/mrail/locos1.html Steam Locomotives
  5. "Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Railways Steam Locomotive and Steam Railcar Fleet". National Railway Museum - Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  6. "Diesel Locomotives of Sri Lanka : Locomotive classification". www.srilankanlocos.com. M9. Archived from the original on 28 December 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  7. http://www.infolanka.com/org/mrail/locos2.html
  8. http://www.infolanka.com/org/mrail/locos3.html Suburban Diesel Push-Pull types
  9. "Daily News". IESL proposes railway electrification project. 2010-12-25. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08.
  10. Hughes 1990, p. 97.
  11. Hughes 1990, p. 94.
  12. Hughes 1996, p. 92.
  13. Hughes 1996, p. 95.
  14. http://www.infolanka.com/org/mrail/locos4.html Mainline Diesel Hydraulic & Narrow Gauge
  15. Viceroy Vintage Train Tours Archived 2011-08-28 at the Wayback Machine
  16. http://www.infolanka.com/org/mrail/locos2.html Mainline Diesel-Electrics
  17. http://slrailwiki.wikinet.org/wiki/Class_M10 Class M10
  18. http://www.infolanka.com/org/mrail/locos5.html Diesel Railcars & Shunters
  19. "ColomboPage". India hands over new power sets for Sri Lanka's Southern Railway Line. 2011-03-11.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1990). Indian Locomotives: Part 1 – broad Gauge 1851–1940. Harrow, Middlesex: The Continental Railway Circle. pp. 93–99. ISBN 0-9503469-8-5.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1994). Indian Locomotives: Part 3 – Narrow Gauge 1863–1940. Harrow, Middlesex: The Continental Railway Circle. p. 31. ISBN 0-9521655-0-3.
  • Hughes, Hugh (1996). Indian Locomotives: Part 4 – 1941–1990. Harrow, Middlesex: The Continental Railway Circle. pp. 92–95. ISBN 0-9521655-1-1.
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