Boat Mail: Train & Steamer From India To Ceylon, 1890 

boat train

A rare 1890 photo of a Boat Mail or Indo-Ceylon Train approaching Tuticorin Port. This was an unusual but feasible setup of rail and steamer service to reach Ceylon from Madras. Passengers could buy a single ticket for the whole journey. Although a bit tedious but served the purpose for the fortune seekers at that time.

The boat train was introduced in the Madras to Tuticorin Port route in 1880 by the British. Departing from Madras it took 21 hours to reach Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) Port (by the same Indo-Ceylon train shown in this photo). British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was a land of job and business opportunities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To cater to the ever-increasing global demand for tea, the British set up tea plantations on the island.

But the country just did not have the labour to handle the work in the plantations and factories. To fill this gap the British encouraged people from India to crossover to the island for jobs. Many grabbed the opportunity. So to convey the movement of people and goods the ‘Boat Mail’ a combination of train and steamer ship travel from India To Ceylon was established in the 1880s. By 1914 after the Pamban Bridge was built, the train route changed from Madras to Dhanushkodi instead of Tuticorin, resulting in a much shorter ferry ride.

Did you know – that there were boat trains from Ballard Pier Mole Station to Karachi., and for a short period from Colaba Station to Peshawar

Past posts – 1964 M. Suriyamoorthy Charcoal On Paper (#2)., View of Elphinstone College & Kala Ghoda, Bombay, 1890 Photo., 1894 Kottayam Travancore Postcard Experimental P.O. Cancellation., Unveiling Dominion Columns New Delhi, 1931.