The name ‘Idalgashinna’ will only ring a bell to those who have navigated through the upcountry railway. Situated in between the towns of Haputale and Ohiya, approximately 190km from Colombo, Idalgashinna is a small village with magnificent views – at a height of 5300 feet above sea level.
The charming railway station of this village is perched on top of a jutting ridgeline, offering stunning views of pine trees and rolling hills and valleys. From here, railway explorers can do a rail hike to the Ohiya station. Between these two stations, there are 14 tunnels – holding the record for highest number of tunnels between two railway stations in Sri Lanka.
If you are up for the rail hike, have a very accurate record of train timings so that you are sure to not have any trains passing while you are entering a tunnel or bridge. Apart from trains, there are also some rail cars that travel on the track so be aware of the train timetable as well as the sound of oncoming trains.
The best way to get to Idalgashinna is a magical experience by train – hop on to the early morning hill country trains from Colombo Fort railway station and you can reach Idalgashinna by about 2.00 pm. The best of sceneries are spotted from Nanu Oya and Ella (if coming from Colombo). Technically Idalgashinna is the 68th station on the main upcountry railway line and is in between Haputale and Ohiya railway stations. The picterusque views here with miles of wilderness and hardly any human presence around, endowing a sense of wonder and nostalgia, makes Idalgashinna railway station one of the most exquisite train stops in the country.
During your railroad hike, don’t be surprised to be walking in complete isolation, with nothing but acres of pine trees and eucalyptus forests around you. If you have the need to sip on a hot cup of tea, look out for the small petti-kadey (road side shop), which is a small walk off but serves a good tea along with some everyday biscuits and bites. About a hundred feet from the station, passing a spur ridge is the entrance of the Tangamale wildlife reserve. A nature lover’s eye can spot some rare species of flora and fauna as you walk around.
Just like train is the best way into Idalgashinna, same goes for departing this scenic village. The last train from Idalgashinna towards Badulla comes in at 5.00pm and if going back to Colombo, the last train leaves at about 8.00pm. It is always best to check in advance about train timings with the station staff.
The station itself is a remnant of the colonial era – a charming building constructed with thick stonework, surrounded by well-maintained flowers and vegetable fields and lovingly looked after by the station staff. Legend has it that the placement of the station results in rainwater falling on one side of the station roof going all the way to the catchment area of the Mahaweli River while the other side of the roof takes rainwater to the Walawe River.
Close to the railway station is the Idalgashinna Mountain which trekkers would love to climb and experience heavenly sceneries from up above. The best views at the station and the mountain top can be experienced at day break because the mist takes over most hill country scenes in the afternoon, unless you are lucky to be out on a clear day.