Photograph of view of a tunnel west of Kadugannawa, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka

View of a railway tunnel west of Kadugannawa, Sri Lanka
View of a railway tunnel west of Kadugannawa, Sri Lanka

Custodian: University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Reference: Dougan 96, item 150

The railway line connecting Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) on the island's west coast, to second city Kandy, in the forested hills of Central Province, was completed in 1867. Over 100km/60 miles east of Colombo the railway line ascends around 425m/1,400ft in just 21km/13 miles. Here, in what appears to be known as the Balana Pass, the line was built on a narrow ledge overlooking a deep valley and numerous tunnels were excavated, including the one pictured, a short distance west of the town of Kadugannawa.

Photographer: Colin Murray for Bourne & Shepherd

Material: albumen print photograph

Dimensions: 234 x 288mm

Condition: The print will have been toned but there is very slight fading to the edges.

Collection information: Dougan 96 comprises a large album containing 175 photographs (albumen prints produced from wet collodion negatives) of South Asia, taken c. 1860–70. Most of the photographs are the work of Samuel Bourne, considered among the finest 19th-century landscape photographers. The majority of the images feature urban and rural scenes in India; others were taken in Pakistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Burma.

Samuel Bourne worked in India in 1863–70 in partnership with Charles Shepherd. Many of Bourne's images have an almost pastoral appearance reflecting the influence of his English background. Bourne used the wet collodion process, which required that the glass negative plate be coated and sensitised, before being exposed in the camera while still moist and developed immediately afterwards. This made it essential that the photographer had a portable darkroom, in Bourne’s case a tent. His extensive equipment also included hundreds of glass plates up to 300 x 375mm; cameras; chemicals; and all the domestic provisions to survive in remote locations. At times he needed an entourage of sixty people to help him, and had to in inhospitable conditions which ranged from sweltering heat to freezing cold.

Photographs numbered above 2080 were probably taken after Bourne left India and have been attributed to Colin Murray (1840–84) who took Bourne's place at Bourne and Shepherd. There is little information for dating the Murray prints but they are probably from the early 1870s. Bourne produced over 2000 images in seven years; the numbers on prints photographed by Murray rise only a few hundred more.

The Dougan collection documents the development of photography from the 1840s to the early 20th century. It was purchased in 1953 from Robert O. Dougan, at the time the deputy librarian of Trinity College, Dublin.