The International Steam Pages
The Eritrean Railway 2008
Neil Edwards reports on the LCGB/Enthusiast Holidays visit, 14th to 22nd October 2008:
This tour, was the fifth group visit, and in line with previous tours, covered the whole 117 Km from the port of Massawa, to the capital, Asmara. From sea level, the 950mm gauge line rises to an altitude of 2394 metres at Km 115, then descends to KM 2342 at Asmara station. All 5 of the available steam locomotives were used, in varying combinations, along with the Fiat Littorina No.2. The steam power is now centered on Asmara, the fairly new facility built at Ghinda, is currently empty, and the turntable out of use.
Currently the only commercial traffic on Eritrean Railways, is a tourist train run which runs on Sundays, or as required, from Asmara to either Arbaroba or Nefasit, and return, together with occasional group charters of the whole line, which is quite buoyant at present with at least 5 groups (3 British and 2 German) visiting over the next few months. An occasional passenger service has operated n the Massawa area using one of the Drewry diesels, with the 3 open passenger vehicles, this was stationed at Otumlo Station.. It is still the aim of ER, to source 950mm gauge diesel power, to transport freight to and from the port of Massawa. Currently there is no infrastructure for the trans shipment of freight on the system, so these will need to be designed and built, together with a repair, maintenance and re-fuelling facilities. New rolling stock would need to be sourced, presumably with through train braking, and 30 tunnel clearances, need gauging if universal size containers are transported.. In 2003, Mai-Atal station was highlighted as a dry port extension of Massawa, but work has yet to start on this project. Compared with my first visit in 2002, heavy road traffic between Asmara and Massawa, was surprisingly light. This may of course be due to the shipping timetables, none the less, I would have expected to see more freight traffic on the roads.
It was pleasing to note that younger crews were being taught the ropes, especially as firemen, this should ensure the continuation of steam in the future, as it is an important source of hard currency. At present the senior personnel of Eritrean Railways still reign supreme.
Chris Jeffrey was in the country at the same time and says he travelled to Nefasit with 440.008 on the 'fairly regular Sunday jaunt'.
440-008 at Ghinda
440-008 at the Devil's Gate
On a non railway note, the British built Guy Arab bus has been returned to working order and completely re-painted, re-registered (ER 16414) and is available for sightseeing tours in Asmara.
Eritrean Railways current stock situation (October 2008)