I don't drive, my father doesn't drive - trains have been my travelling mainstay and I love it.  The ability to sit there, work, talk, observe and enjoy the freedom of movement.  Sri Lanka was a world away for me - but a chance visit a few years ago meant I learnt that discovered the survival and maintenance of a railway network established in the 1860's by a colonial power. 

But more than the trains, the tracks, the routes and the rolling stock - my takeaway memory that I still treasure at home was my ticket of a journey from Aluthguma to Kaluthara South.  That journey was made with work colleague Ivor Wells - he will giggle more than most at this.

Several close friends, even my Mother and Father, have said they liked my stories from Sri Lanka.  At first I took the compliment, but then I realised for myself that these read as stories - but they are precise reports of what I saw and did and lived over the course of a extended work trip to Colombo in 2015.

What I saw inspired and triggered me to ride trains and write of the journeys. My grandfather, who passed away when I was 13, loved trains from an era when steam was real - he worked for world leading modal railway engineers Bassett Lowke in Holborn.  That work in turn mean he met and knew Walt Disney who visited for commercial purchases and advice.

Thanks for this are due to the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) for their confidence in me - without Carl, Lucy, Claire, Hemanthi, Shan and Ramsi this would not have happened.  I have enjoyed it - it's been a long, slow and fascinating blast.

Anyway, I've taken the notes I wrote and posted on Facebook and done everyone the courtesy of editing them, correcting most errors and hopefully just making it tighter to read.  Enjoy... Ed xx

6.50am Okay, I got to the station, bought my ticket, am in a train, and I have a seat. 2nd class. Hopefully the right ticket.  Hopefully the right train.  Let's see what happens.

I'm surrounded by a range of men, all men. Let me introduce them to you - I think we are here together for some time. First, opposite me we have Leg Shaker: 40s, tired, he has children I assume. He smiles, but nothing else.  To be fair he has headphones so maybe it's to the beat or the rhythm. Then we have Bag Clutcher. Bag Clutcher is younger, maybe 20, 21. More engaged and interested. In the far corner to me we have Regular Smart Commuter Man: also children I think, but determined and ambitious. He doesn't respond to anything anyone does - briefcase in hand, shoes unfeasibly shiny. And next to him we have Mr Matara. "Yes, thank you I know this goes to Matara but does it stop first at Galle?" - "Matara, Matara", he shouts back at me - helpfulness incarnate except he refuses all other English and can't confirm what I need to know. I produce my ticket from my pocket - I show him. Bag Clutcher leans forward and looks - Bag Clutcher, in perfect English, says "you are on the right train." "Ah Galle, Galle", shouts Mr Matara.

8.20am we are later in our journey now (Colombo to Galle) and the cast of characters has changed. Well, that’s not entirely true it's still Sleeper and Me, but we have a new set of people.

We have late twenties, confident, still choosing a wife I suspect (he has a fussy manner). I introduce to you the man I call Nut Muncher and somewhat implausibly we have Occassional Drum Player - he see me and stops, I look away, he plays louder. I ignore, he taps me with drum. I ignore. He nudges again and then starts to, well, I guess sing. At this point Newspaper Seller (Sinhala), virtually sold out by the morning rush, intervenes and chases off Occasional Drum Player.

The carriage is more empty now, but something I did not expect, and indeed assumed otherwise, has happened. The sun has, for now, lost its battle and the rain has colluded with the clouds to drench our journey.

2:30pm Galle. All aboard the shambling express to Colombo - this is a very different ride to those trains which were leaving early this morning. For a starter on this train we have women and children in quite considerable numbers and secondly, because we are leaving the tourist south we have backpackers and therefore luggage.

This luggage is not an issue for me - but for the man in the checked black and white suit selling devilled prawns - let's call him Fish Seller - to him the suitcases and the rucksacks are a massive issue. These are not just small rucksacks however, there are tent-carrying kitchen-serving mothers of rucksacks. But his anger, or rather noise is a tactic - he huffs, puffs, explodes, fakes anger, talks about regulations and freight in an attempt to catch the attention of the owners. It's not long that the Low Country Three (3 young women) in the corner break their private Dutch conversation to admit to owning them - they start to apologise and this they are trapped. In no time at all money is changing hands, it is smiles all round.  The girls sit down slightly shocked and nervous to eat the three bags of devilled fish that they find they have purchased, as Fish Seller goes on to the next carriage happy. The Low Countries Three become even more private and insular to the rest of us.