On the rails again

After 20 years, the Bradby Express was back complete with papare band and more
By Megara Tegal

“It was a wonderful experience for me, I was so happy that the age-old tradition has been revived and I enjoyed the trip to Kandy in the train with all the singing and dancing Royalists,” was how Dr. Dilanjan Soysa, CEO of Commercial Leasing Company PLC felt about the Bradby Express.

It was by all accounts, a ‘carnival on wheels’, as after a lapse of many years, the Bradby Express headed from Colombo to Kandy for the biggest annual rugby match in the country. Complete with the ever-essential paparé band, refreshments and adorned in blue and gold- the colours of Royal College, the train ride was a mammoth success.

The dynamic team of Royalists who organised the Bradby Express in just two months was the batch of 2007. Wanting to give something back to the school and students, they decided to revive an old tradition.
“The tradition of practically buying out the Fort to Kandy train, on the morning of the Bradby was started about 20 years ago. The students would stick a flag in front of the train and then take over the passenger coaches and party all the way to Kandy while travelling with regular commuters,” says Ayesh Rajapakse, Chairman of the Bradby Express 2010 committee.

Arshad Ahamed, a committee member, says the real challenge was making it happen in a short span of time. Having charted a special train they had to work with the Ministry of Transport, the railway authorities, to ensure the safety of the passengers, provide refreshments and create an energetic Royalist atmosphere aboard the train. The Ministry of Transport was very supportive in authorizing the event and reducing the price of the tickets, he says.

Next came the sleepless night on the eve of the Bradby, as the team was busy decorating and preparing for the Bradby Express. As day broke over the Fort Railway Station on June 26 the last few tickets were snapped up, but more Bradby fans were still streaming in. “We had only 520 seats but sold 680 tickets, and the crowd in the train was about 700,” recalls Ayesh.

“We wanted to accommodate everyone and some even suggested that they’d stand throughout the ride. Surprisingly the passengers weren’t all Royalists. There were the old boys and some brought their wives, teachers and schoolboys, as well as girls and others who aren’t connected to Royal or Trinity. There were also some Trinitians who wanted to join and we were more than happy to accommodate them.”

In fact Trinity College supported them all the way. “When we got there, they gave us a red carpet welcome. The principal of Trinity and the president of the Old Boys Association were very helpful,” elaborates Arshad.

The Royal College Principal was also aboard the Bradby Express. “It was a very nice journey for all the stakeholders of Royal College. I am very happy that the Group of 2007 has taken a forward step to organise a dedicated train for all the Royalists travelling for the Bradby Shield encounter,” Principal of Royal College Upali Gunesekera said.

The Group was also encouraged by the passengers from old boys to the rest. “It was a great experience for me with refreshing old memories and we were very relaxed throughout the journey. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful experience,”- old Royalist Ashrof Omar, CEO of Brandix Lanka Ltd said.

Some even went as far as to attribute Royal’s success to the Bradby Express, saying that Royal’s performance was boosted by the large number of Royalist supporters at the match. “That was the icing on the cake,” says Arshad “it’s that kind of appreciation that drives us.”

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