Model Railroading in Sri Lanka
Model Railroading had been a very acceptable hobby in the 40s and 50s. An association of hobbyists led by Elroy Lourenz was about to form a Club when the 1961 import restrictions and ban dissuaded this group from progressing.
The hobby was supported by Cargills who had Hornby/Mecanno, Chands who imported Triang, and Colombo Apothecaries with Trix. The Japanese toy shop Ono & Co (closed 1942) had a wide range of tin train sets. Whiteaways & Laidlaw (now Fort CWE) had a mixed range.
With the restrictions there was an import quota system, the next stage being a ban on imports which led to hundreds being retrenched from the firms they worked for. Cargills, Millers and Apothecaries had halved their staff, Whiteaways, Simes etc., ceased operations, more unemployment, Ceylonisation, Land Reforms, food shortages - hardly the climate for hobby time! The reputed shops ended up with balls and things to squeeze! (they went squeak). The fortunate few who travelled overseas were able to bring in something, the rest had to be content with purchases of "used and abused" items from auction sales, etc. This situation prevailed till about 1977/78.
With the liberalisation of imports in 1977, some adventurous souls (without any knowledge of the hobby) imported train sets without the continuously needed accessories. These appear to be once only attempts. A & P Enterprises imported Hornby which were sold through Crest Agencies and Richard Pieris & Co, Dianas and Jaysons had Bachmann, JimGems had Mehanotehnika, Nastars had Hornby and Lucksuns Duty Free had Fleischmann. All these were in set form. If someone needed a wagon or some extra track, it was not available.
In 1983 December, the situation changed with the formation of our Club. The Italian Lima range imported by Sunil Chandraratne was available at Apothecaries and later at Don Willies, Bambalapitiya. (The supply situation has been somewhat patchy since 1988). Currently a mixed range is available at Don Willies.
Sri Lanka had a brief spell as manufacturer of model trains during the period 1989 - 1991, Gustav Adams of Germany along with a Sri Lankan Company set up Alliance Precision Crafts (Pvt.) Ltd. with a sophisticated work shop at Polgasowita, 15 miles south-east of Colombo, These HO products were for export-markets under the Brand name, APC. These brass locomotives were semi hand-built models of Swiss, German and Austrian protoytpes, specially the E110, E11 and a BLS8/8. APC also made German signalling systems in HO and rail ambulance coaches under contract to Roco and trees to Faller.Somehow the project ceased operations early in 1992, but the products are now built in an East European country.