View of the wonderful railway from Colombo to Kandy, Ceylon
Photographer: Skeen and Company, William Henry Louis
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the railway from Colombo to Kandy in Sri Lanka, taken by William Henry Louis Skeen & Co. in the 1870s. Photography was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 1840s and by the end of the 19th century was practised extensively, both local and foreign artists recording the many facets of the beautiful island. Skeen's firm, set up in Colombo in the1860s, comprised the most famous photographers of the 19th century in Sri Lanka, extensively documenting industry, landscape and racial types and exhibiting at major international exhibitions between 1870-1900. It also recorded the construction of the Ceylon Railways between the 1860s and 1890s. This view shows a locomotive on the line, with a steep drop on the right. British rule in Sri Lanka began in 1815 when the last bastion of the Sinhalese kings, the central hill region of Kandy, caved in after resisting colonial rule for 300 years after the fall of the coastal regions. In 1842 English coffee planters clamoured for a railway from Kandy to Colombo, to transport their estate produce for shipment quickly and regularly, as they had by then opened up virgin lands in the hill country to grow coffee, a viable commercial crop. The construction of the Ceylon Railways was a feat of engineering accomplished over difficult terrain with steep inclines, involving tunnelling, cutting through solid rock formations, building steep embankments over valleys and ravines and constructing bridges and culverts.