INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1258 4 JUNE 2016
BRANCH LINE NEWS
This newsletter covers the World outside the British Isles from information
supplied by members.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Compilers or of the Society.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS TEAM:-
International Editor (to whom all email and postal contributions should be sent):
Paul Griffin, 7 School Bell Mews, Church Lane, Stoneleigh, COVENTRY, CV8 3ZZ
Email: [email protected]
Deputy International Editor: Derek Woodward, 68 Church Street, Matlock, DERBY, DE4 3BY
Regrettably the Extremadura Explorer had to be cancelled, but if it had run then this would have been where the tour
participants would have alighted. Jerez de los Caballeros station is today abandoned and its crumbling condition means it
has had to be fenced off as unsafe. The sign on the platform gives the station name and the km post in front of it is 46.6
BLNI 1257.213 Despite what it says in this item, InterRails ARE valid on Koleje Mazowiecki services.
BLNI 1257.214 The final sentence should read: The target is now for this line to open in early 2017,
whereupon the Sondika - Lutxana line will lose its passenger service.
 Belgium - Short freight branch closes in Genk
Infrabel has recently closed line 232 (Y Kaatsbeek (L21C) – Genk-Zuid (Eikelaarstraat)). One of the last users
of this short freight branch line was Walon who import BMWs from Germany but unfortunately chose road
transport over rail transport a few years ago.
 Belgium – Josaphat tunnel griced
The new Schuman-Josaphat tunnel in Bruxelles, part of new line 161A which opened on 4 April (see BLNI
1255.166) was travelled by a member later in the month. It is currently used by Bruxelles RER services S5
(Mechelen - Brussels-Luxembourg - Etterbeek - Halle - Enghien (- Geraardsbergen)) and S9 (Leuven –
Bruxelles Luxembourg - Etterbeek - Braine-l'Alleud).
The station at Schuman has been extensively remodelled as an intermodal hub, with two extra (very long)
platforms and an improved interchange with east-west metro Line 1, which is between the two sets of
platforms. As part of the work, Line 161 has been expanded to four tracks between Schuman, Bruxelles
Luxembourg and Watermael. Since the junction is south of Bruxelles Schumann, our member started from
Bruxelles Luxembourg on a service bound for Mechelen. The tunnel starts almost at the end of the
platform at Schumann and joins the 2331 metre Tunnel du Cinquantenaire before emerging just before
Meiser station. The wait for a return service here can be quite long, so a visit to the café over the road on
the left at the north end of the station is recommended, especially if it is raining!
 France – Le Mont Dore line run-down
The sole remaining station staff at Le Mont Dore station has now retired and the signalling on the branch
has been decommissioned, so the remaining freight traffic (bottled water) from La Bourboule will be
subject to one train operation. With the official closure of Le Mont Dore and La Bourboule stations, and
the line beyond La Bourboule closed, it seems a sad end for a line which was completely renewed only
three years ago.
 Germany – Sachsen possible closure list announced
A Sachsen local newspaper has reported that because of budget cuts the Sachsen Ministry of Economic
Affairs has prepared a closure list. There is no suggestion that these are imminent, and indeed, may never
happen, but the list does indicate which lines are vulnerable and should be given gricing priority. The lines
are: Pirna - Neustadt (Sachs) - Sebnitz (Sachs), Adorf (Vogtl) - Bad Brambach, Falkenstein - Klingenthal,
Hoyerswerda - Niesky - Abzw Mückenhain (currently no service), Aue (Sachs) - Thalheim, Mittelherwigsdorf
(Sachs) - Großschönau (except Czech corridor traffic), Varnsdorf - Zittau – Liberec, Seifhennersdorf -
Seifhennersdorf Grenze (the frontier, currently no service), Bischofswerda - Zittau, St. Egidien - Stollberg
(Sachs), (Chemnitz -) Mittweida - Döbeln - Riesa - Gröditz - Elsterwerda.
 Germany – Some notes from Germany
Kassel to Naumburg
The Museumsbahn service over this line starts from Kassel Hessencourrierbahnhof, which consists of what
are best described as two Dutch barns with a small office attached. These provide covered accommodation
for locos and stock. This station is about 10 minutes walk from Wilhelmshöhe DB station. Originally trains
on this line started from Kassel Wilhelmshöhe West, but that station has been demolished for some time
and the approaches built over. Leaving Hessencourrierbahnhof, a connection from Cantus Rail (who hold
franchises for some local services here) trails in from the left, followed by a connection from DB itself. The
line then parallels the DB main lines for some distance gradually climbing above their level before turning
west and bridging a tram route. At Baunatal, there are extensive and well used sidings on the east of the
line serving the VW plant. There is also a small signal box and a siding on the west side. Shortly after
Baunatal, the tram route joins and there is a section of shared track until just before Grossenritte Bahnhof
where the tram route diverges to the west and its turning circle. There is also a workshop belonging to
Hessische Landesbahn (HLB) plus two sidings for trams. HLB also operate local trains in the Kassel area.
Beyond Grossenritte, there appears to be no regular traffic at all apart from the Museumsbahn services
operated by Hessencourrier eV, a preservation society. The line runs through some pleasant scenery and
has a number of steep gradients. There is a small railway museum in the station building at Naumburg. For
those in a hurry there is a bus service from Naumburg back to Kassel. The steam-hauled train on 1 May
was well filled in both directions.
Some German tunnels
On the Koblenz - Trier route the new single track Kaiser Wilhelm Tunnel finally opened in late 2015. All
trains are currently using the new tunnel whilst the old one is refurbished and converted to single line
running. There are a number of other locations where DB have constructed new single line tunnels with
the old double track tunnels being converted to single line. Examples include Bebenroth (just south of
Eichenberg) and Schlüchtern near Fulda.
On the Korbach to Kassel route, a replacement tunnel is being constructed at Zierenberg. Work started in
October 2015. As a result of geological problems, blasting has to take place whilst trains in the existing
parallel tunnel are suspended.
Frankenberg (Eder) - Battenberg Auhammer
This route was due to be traversed by a DGEG railtour at the end of February this year, but the trip was
postponed instead to the end of April. In past years there has been goods traffic from factories owned by
the firm of Viessmann at Allendorf (Eder) and Battenberg itself. The line also had regular timetabled
summer excursion trains until relatively recently. Most of the former stations boast relatively new
nameboards installed in connection with those trains. However apart from a LPG terminal at Allendorf,
there was no evidence of any recent traffic on 30 April. The siding leading to Viessmann at Allendorf was
rusted, and the timber loading point at Battenberg was also rusty. Logs stacked there appeared to have be
there for some time and were well weathered. The DGEG tour had to terminate next to the timber loading
point beyond Battenberg station and was not able to proceed to Battenberg Auhammer as the station area
there has been recently bought by Viessmann.
This branch from Heimbach (Nahe) was opened in 1912 with passenger traffic being withdrawn in 1981.
Reopening finally took place in early 2015 having been delayed from the originally planned date of
December 2014. Infrastructure is owned not by DB, but by RP Eisenbahn GmbH. A visit was made in
February 2016 on a Saturday. Trains run to and from Idar Oberstein on the Saarbrücken - Bad Kreuznach -
Mainz main line. They do not call at the junction station of Heimbach (Nahe) but stop at Heimbach Ort
(better situated for the village itself) on the branch. There were just 5 people on the train leaving Idar
Oberstein. One person got off at an intermediate station on the main line, and one got on at one of the
branch stations leaving 5 to get off at Baumholder. On the return journey, there was just the writer from
Baumholder although one person got on at an intermediate station on the main line.
There are extensive military sidings on both sides of the line at Baumholder and a number of
barracks/military buildings. Most of the sidings were rusty. There are two passenger platform tracks at
Baumholder, both well polished.
The original Baumholder station building still exists, but seems unoccupied. The goods shed is occupied by
an English speaking church with the somewhat limited mission of "World Outreach". The station is poorly
signposted and there is very little to suggest to a visitor that this is still an operational railway station.
Whilst progress is being made on the Einbeck Mitte and Neuenhaus - Nordhorn - Bad Bentheim
reopenings, there has been no recent news on the Salzgitter Lebenstedt to Salzgitter Fredenberg line
(according to Bahn Report). The extension from the current terminus at Lebenstedt requires track to be
relaid to a new station at John F Kennedy Strasse in Fredenberg.
Kiel to Schönberger Strand
Reopening to regular passenger services has now slipped to 2018
 Germany – Stuttgart light rail extends
A new section of the Stuttgart light rail network was inaugurated on 13 May, when Line U12 was extended
from Wallgraben to Dürrlewang in the southwest of the city. Construction of the 1.1 km branch started in
April 2013. There is an intermediate stop at Lapp Kabel, and services run every 10 minutes.
 Netherlands – NVBS Kings Day Railtour breaks new ground
In recent years Dutch railway society NVBS (Nederlandse Vereniging vab Belangstellenden in het Spoor)
have run a railtour on the reigning monarchs birthday,
which from 2014 has been Koningsdagrit (King’s Day)
and is a national holiday falling on 27 April.
The 2016 tour was eagerly anticipated as it offered two
freight lines which had (according to the NVBS
literature) never seen a passenger train. The train was
formed of a short rake of coaches and a Mitropa
restaurant car, hauled by NS heritage diesel loco 2225.
Working out the timings from the brochure supplied on
the day (in Dutch) was interesting as the NS 1 to 6 letter
location code system was used. Ut for Utrecht was
straightforward enough, but Mbtwan was more
challenging. The train left Rotterdam CS at a very
sociable 09:54 with a strong British presence as
bookings had been taken for the tour by Mercia
Charters. Picking up at Dordrecht the train proceeded to
the sidings by the station at Lage Zwaluwe where the
loco ran round to access the freight branch to Moerdijk
where it reversed about halfway up one of the many
north facing branches before stopping for photographs.
The onward journey was via Breda and Tilburg then to
s’Hertogenbosch. North of the station there are three
railway bridges over the river Deize, and, as the map
shows (e-BLNI only), the westernmost one is a flyover
onto the Nijmegen line, opened in April 2013. The tour took the flyover line, which was new track for many
of the Brits. About halfway between s’Hertogenbosch and Nijmegen is the city of Oss, and the tour passed
through the station to diverge north onto the branch to Oss Elzenberg. After 2 km a branch trailed in on
the left, and after reversal this was duly traversed for another kilometre to a point where the loco could
run round, which was about 450 metres from the end of the branch, this being a canal dockside. This was
the first passenger train to travel over the branch.
Ex-NS diesel 2225 has run round and is ready to depart Oss Elzenburg. The yellow end visible in the distance is a former
NS 600 class shunter now in industrial use. This class was built by English Electric in the UK and is very similar to the BR
Oss Elzenburg Utrecht Lage Weide
It was necessary to go all the way back to Tilburg before the train could reverse and return to
s’Hertogenbosch, this time to take the line to Utrecht, and through the station onto the line to Breukelen
and Amsterdam. After about 6km the train reversed at Maarssen and took the freight line to Utrecht Lage
Weide. Street names in this industrial area have a distinctly ‘radioactive’ flavour. The train initially runs
alongside Plutoniumweg before curving round to follow Uraniumweg. The train got as far as a street called
Protonweg before stopping so the loco could run round. A little further long a short stub ran into a dock
(would you believe it’s called Protonhaven?) on the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal, and this was presumably the
source of traffic. The tour covered 2km of the line – another line apparently never done by a railtour. And
so back to Amsterdam via Gouda after a successful days gricing.
 Poland – Poland to Lithuania services to start in June
Polish operator Regional Railways (PR) and Lithuanian Railways (LG) carried out the first test run on 5 May
for a new service connecting Białystok in eastern Poland with the Lithuanian city of Kaunas via the new
standard-gauge link between the two countries, which opened last October.
The service is expected to begin operating on 17 June, with two trains per day initially running only at
weekends. The journey time for the 250km trip will be 4h 40min with a one-way fare of €11.
A Warszawa - Białystok PKP Intercity service is also due to be extended to Kaunas from June.
 Poland – Investment plans in south east Poland 2016-2023
Apparently nearly 1.2 billion zł is allocated for railway investment in this area. The Kraków – Rzeszów
railway has already had large amounts spent on it, and journey times are set reduce by an hour from the
December timetable change. The Ropczyce – Sędziszów section should be upgraded by some time in 2017.
Beyond Rzeszów the Przeworsk- Ukraine border section is planned for upgrading by 2023.
Most of line 25 (Dębica – Ocice – Tarnobrzeg) between Dębica and Padew is to be ‘revitalised’ from 2017-
2020 and the Rzeszów – Ocice railway (line 71) is to be electrified by 2020. Two sections of line 108 (Jasło
– Zagórz) and one section of line 106 (Jasło - Rzeszów) are also being renewed.
PKP is already tendering for modernisation and electrification of Stalowa Wola - Tarnobrzeg /Sandomierz/
Ocice/ Padew and the entire Stalowa Wola to Lublin line is to be electrified. Rzeszów is a major beneficiary
of the investment plans. Not only is the station to be rebuilt, and a new Rzeszów Zachodni station
constructed but a new 5km branch off the Rzeszów to Ocice line is to be built to serve Rzeszów-Jasionka
airport. This is apparently at the design stage at present.
And finally the little used and partially closed eastern end of line 108 between Nowy Zagórz and
Krościenko has been identified for reconstruction. This seems the most dubious of the projects, especially
since the line is not to be reopened over the border into Ukraine.
 Poland - Warszawa suburban railway to change voltage
Following a successful test in the early hours of 1 May, the power supply of the WKD suburban line in
Warszawa is to be permanently converted from 600 V to 3 kV DC. The switchover is due to take place
overnight on May 27-28, and would align the voltage of the route with that of the national network.
It is expected that the increased voltage will reduce energy losses and enable more trains to operate. The
line has until now been fed through seven substations. Two of these have been modernised to
accommodate both voltages, and after conversion a third section will be fed from the PKP Energetyka
substation in Warszawa Zachodnia station. Some rolling stock will be withdrawn, some converted to 3kV,
and some newer stock is dual voltage.
 Russia (European) - Crimea bridge opening goes back a year
The construction of the 19km bridge connecting mainland Russia with the Crimea over the Kerch Strait is
running late and completion is now expected one year later than anticipated – in 2019. The bridge will
carry a motorway and a double track railway.
 Spain - Not the Extremadura Explorer
Just to let you know that your correspondent, despite the unfortunate absence of a railtour, was
nevertheless exploring the site of Jerez de Los Caballeros station early on the morning of 6 May. The line
curves along the south side of the hill on which the town is built and has a panoramic view of the Moorish
castle and five church towers, some of them spectacularly elaborate.
The view over the town from the station at Jerez de los Caballeros
The same view is possible from the bypass road that runs along the same side of town. The station site is
down a track at the western edge of the town. The building is derelict and fenced off. The two tracks
through the station area showed some signs of recent use – the single track leading past the town
appeared shiny. A siding leading to a shed labelled “www.jerezpadel10.es” (“padel” is a racquet sport) had
not been used at all recently. There is also a loop on the southern side and a siding serving a former freight
shed on the northern side. Two distance posts along the former island platform show 46.6 and 46.7km,
presumably from the junction near Zafra (later passed on board the 3-times weekly (Madrid-) Zafra-Huelva
train which was another objective of this trip – it has taken a while (since 1993!) to cover all three
passenger lines to/from Zafra.
The Zafra-Huelva line is an extraordinary piece of engineering that has benefited from some serious
investment but still suffers from some severe speed restrictions (long sections at 30km/h). Strangely the
condition of the track was worst on the final section approaching Huelva which is largely flat and straight
and has a more intensive passenger service (one Mon-Sat train pair between Huelva and Jabugo-Galaroza
plus the Madrid-Huelva pair on Fri/Sat/Sun). Along this section there were many ready assembled sections
of track apparently awaiting installation. The train left Zafra some 10 minutes late but despite the many
slowdowns arrived in Huelva on time.
 Spain – Mallorca electrification to be completed
On 5 May the regional government of the Balearic Islands announced that it had begun to prepare tender
documentation for the electrification of the remaining diesel-worked sections of the 1000 mm gauge SFM
network on Mallorca. Electrification of the routes from Enllaç to Manacor and Sa Pobla at 1.5 kV DC is now
expected to be completed by the start of 2018, a year earlier than originally planned.
A budget of €32.6m has been set for electrification of the 31 km of single track between Enllaç and
Manacor, including the construction of four traction substations and a power feed from the island’s
electricity grid. Work to electrify the 12 km of single track between Enllaç and Sa Pobla has been set a
budget of €14.5m, including two substations. Work on both routes is expected to begin at the start of 2017
and take 12 months to complete. No additional rolling stock will be required, as SFM already has sufficient
EMUs to operate both routes. Through services will run to and from Palma, meaning through passengers
will no longer have to change trains at Enllaç.
REST OF THE WORLD
 Dubai – A visit to the Dubai Tram and Metro system
Dubai Trams - Originally planned to be called the Al Sufouh Tram, this system serves the Dubai Marina
Area and will, when complete, extend to the Mall of the Emirates shopping complex in Al Barsha. This is
around 17 miles from the centre of Dubai. The system is operated by the third rail APS system throughout,
making it fairly unusual. At the Dubai Marina end the line runs in a single track loop with stops at Jumeirah
Beach Residences 1 and Jumeirah Beach Residences 2, before rejoining the double track at Jumeirah Lakes
Towers where there is an interchange with the Metro. Also on the loop section is the Dubai Marina stop,
which forms another Metro interchange. The end of the loop is a triangular single line junction. The ‘main’
line then heads towards the Al Sufouh temporary terminus, on reserved track other than road crossings.
According to maps, there is a service operating around the 5 stops on the loop as well as the Al Sufouh – Al
Sufouh service via the loop, but the circular service was not operating on the day of our members visit
although this could be because it was a Friday which is the local equivalent of a Sunday in the UK. All stops
feature air conditioned waiting areas with platform doors opening directly onto the tram. Payment is by
the local “Nol Card” only, and users must touch in and out. Unusually, the trams feature three distinct
passenger areas with a women only area (which is standard on all public transport in Dubai) and a “Gold
Class” area. Our member made the mistake of sitting in the former of these on his first journey and only
later figured out what two young women found so amusing when they boarded the tram!
Dubai Metro - The Dubai Metro is an automated (driverless) system of two lines (Red and Green), and is
fully air conditioned with enclosed platforms at all stops. The Green line runs from Creek to Etisalat close
to the city, but the Red line runs from Al Rashidiya, near the airport, to Jafza, at Jebel Ali which is 24 miles
from the city centre. Beyond Jafza/Jebel Ali the line continues for over a mile to the depot. Although
underground in the centre of Dubai, the majority of both routes are on elevated concrete viaducts, with
the Red line alongside the Sheik Zayed Road, a multi lane highway/motorway. A strange aspect is that
naming rights have been sold for many of the stations on the Metro and therefore do not give any
indication of their geographical location as with two of those named above. Where the adjoining shopping
complex has the naming rights it isn’t much of a problem, but DAMAC Properties is the name of what was
Dubai Marina and Sharaf DG is the name of a chain of electrical goods stores across the UAE. Since our
members previous visit a little under 4 years ago a number of stations have had name changes, apparently
resulting from both sales and disputes over the value of the rights. As with the trams, all of the 5-car trains
have both women only and Gold Class sections as well as larger areas for general use.
 Japan - Visit to Japan, October 2015 Part 4 Tokyo and further notes
Our two intrepid travellers left Takayama on a local train going north through a very scenic valley. Again
they had a driver's view. The driver not only drove, opened and closed the doors at stations but also issued
tickets and checked them when people alighted. This took them to Toyama. The Shinkansen reached here
in 2015 and continued onwards to Kanasawa. An onward train was caught from here to Tokyo. It was
disappointing in that it did not exceed 162 mph, the line limit. Considerable sections have been built in
tunnels, presumably for environmental reasons. Perhaps for the same reason they did a long section at 70
mph through Karuizawa and even slower for the last 25 minutes into Tokyo. Subsequently it was
discovered that the noise must be less than 70 dB in residential areas. Needless to say they arrived spot on
time. After checking into their hotel a route was worked out to walk through the central park in Tokyo to
reach the Chou line to go to Ryogoku on a busy commuter train. The JR pass is valid on this line as it is a JR
A compromise was needed the next day as they were staying near the Ginja, the main shopping area and
the lady of the party wanted to visit a shop that did not open until 11:00. In true Japanese fashion it
opened to the second with a young lady bowing to them as they entered. Following this they went to
Tokyo station to travel on JR's ring line, again standing behind the driver to observe, alighting at an old
Japanese general market with not a Western tourist in sight. Since this place was connected by JR train to
Ryogoku they went back to a bar they had previously visited but it was closed until 17:00. (They did get on
the wrong train and as a consequence had their only ride on a metro in Japan!). Back to Tokyo Station
they reserved their seats on the Airport train. But, after picking up their cases at the hotel, they passed a
craft beer bar so had to sample it of course. Back at the station they simply made a reservation on the next
train. Very comfy seats of course but arrived two minutes late.
The Shinkansen (new trunk line) is a network of high speed railway lines in Japan. The nickname Bullet
Train is often used in English for the high-speed trains. The first was the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (320 miles)
opened in 1964. There are now three main routes, from Tokyo to Hakata, the original line extended (731
miles fastest train averages 150mph including ten intermediate stops on route), from Tokyo to Kanazawa
(281 miles fastest train averages 112 mph including four stops) and Tokyo to Aomori (445 miles fastest
train averages 149mph including three intermediate stops on route. The Kanazawa line opened its full
length in 2015. There are three other “branches” to Akita, to Niigata and a line on the island of Kyushu.
The average lateness of all Shinkansen trains is under a minute. The Hokkaido Shinkansen will open in
March 2016 from Aomori to Hakodate with two stations, and two sets of platforms in the Seikan Tunnel
for emergency. Distance will be 93 miles. Our correspondent guesses this will take about 40 minutes
compared with the existing service of just under two hours. He could see parts of the new line from his
train. It appears this line has been built with retaining walls to the level of the top of the train that will
completely obstruct the view but will reduce the noise levels.
The original Tōkaidō Shinkansen, connecting the largest cities of Tokyo and Osaka, is the world's busiest
high-speed rail line. At peak times, the line carries up to thirteen trains per hour in each direction with up
to sixteen cars each (1,323-seat capacity and occasionally additional standing passengers) with a minimum
headway of three minutes between trains. This also allows for two trains an hour to call at all intermediate
stations. A new class of trains, N700A was introduced in 2013. Earlier this year the line speed was
increased from 168 to 178 mph, still slower than the line to the north. These units, which have a small
amount of tilt, were modified in several ways including improved brakes to enable this. Cab signalling is
digital and this enables reduced headways and braking distances.
The Seikan Tunnel is twin track with dual gauge, the normal Japanese 1067mm gauge and standard
Shinkansen gauge of 1435mm. The first standard gauge test train arrived in Hokkaido in May 2015. The
train approached the tunnel at about 80 mph, not bad for a narrow gauge train. The Bullet Trains to be
used on this service will connect Tokyo and Hakodate in four hours ten minutes, at a maximum speed of
85 mph within the tunnel and 200 mph outside it. It is reported that the 85mph is to prevent freight
wagons being blown off the track. It is suggested paths may be kept for Shinkansen to run at high speed
during which no freight trains will be allowed to operate. Powerful 8 axle electric locomotives dual voltage
and 1067mm gauge have been built so freight trains can continue to use the tunnel when its voltage is
permanently uprated to 25 kV.
The Chūō Line, is one of the major trunk railway lines in Japan of 1067mm gauge. It connects
Tokyo and Nagoya but the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the fastest rail link between the cities since the latter was
opened. It passes through the mountainous centre of Honshu and its highest point (near Fujimi Station) is
about 3,000 feet above sea level with gradients of 1 in 40. Modern trains glide effortlessly up the gradients
and around the bends at around 65 mph.
The Fujikyuko Line is a Japanese mountain private railway line in Yamanashi Prefecture between Otsuki
(about 1,200 ft above sea level) and Kawaguchiko (about 2,800 ft above sea level). It is the only railway
line operated by Fuji Kyuko. The line can be traced back to the Tsuru Horse-drawn Tramway which began
operation in 1900. Mount Fuji (12,388 feet) can be seen from the train as it can from Kawaguchiko. In
1926, the Fuji Electric Railway was founded, and in 1929, it starting operating a new 1067 mm line from
Otsuki to Fuji-yoshida, electrified at 1500 V DC overhead and is still. The line was extended from Fuji-
yoshida to Kawaguchiko, opening in 1950. The operating company was renamed Fujikyuko from 1960.
The Takayama Main Line is a Japanese railway line between Gifu and Toyama. 140 miles in length it passes
through the scenic areas of Hida, a mountainous region. The whole line was completed in 1934 and is not
Greater Tokyo Transportation is dominated by the world's most extensive urban rail network with nearly
3,000 miles of track and 2,210 stations. 37 million people travel on it daily. By way of comparison London is
about 5million. Japanese Railways operates Tokyo's largest commuter railway network. This network
includes the Yamanote line which encircles the centre of Tokyo. It is a surface line and a good way to see a
lot of Tokyo in a short time. It is possible to stand in the front coach and have a view forward of course.
 Saudi Arabia – Haramain Railway opening delayed
The completion date for the Haramain High Speed Rail line has been put back by a further 14 months from
January 2017 to the first quarter of 2018. Railway systems and rolling stock for the 450 km Makkah –
Jeddah – Madinah line are being supplied under a €6.7bn contract which was awarded in October 2011.
Opening had been envisaged for 2014 when the railway systems contract was signed in January 2012.
However, the project has faced difficulties including allegations of delays to the completion of the civil
works which are being undertaken under separate contracts, windblown sand in the inhospitable climate
and disputes within the consortium.
 USA – Los Angeles Metro Expo Line extension opens
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) opened phase II of the Expo Line in
Palms and Santa Monica on 20 May. The Expo Line is the first rail transit line to the far west side of Los
Angeles since Pacific Electric streetcars stopped running to Santa Monica in 1953. The 6.6-mile light rail
project features seven new stations at Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 26th
Street/Bergamot, 17th Street/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. The Phase II completes
the 15-mile Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, where the final station is close
to the beach, the Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Place, Third Street Promenade and Tongva Park. The
first phase of the Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City opened in 2012.
 USA - Line to close as part of Point Defiance Bypass Project?
The Point Defiance Bypass Project will reroute passenger trains from the coastal route to an inland route
through South Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont. Sound Transit currently uses a portion of this route
for Sounder commuter rail services from Seattle to Lakewood. Once upgrading work is complete, the new
line will open to service in 2017. It seems therefore that the coastal route will lose its passenger service.
Part of the upgrading work is a new station in Tacoma, and a contract has just been awarded for its
construction, which should be complete in autumn 2017. The $10.3 million station is a key component of
the Cascades High-Speed Rail Program, which is a federally funded initiative designed to improve
passenger-rail throughout the Amtrak Cascades corridor in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
Located in Tacoma's Freighthouse Square, the station was designed in consultation with a citizens advisory
committee and city officials. It features large glass windows, wood columns and ceiling, terrazzo flooring,
and sliding and vertical lift doors. The station will serve Amtrak trains running on the Cascades and Coast
 USA - Kansas city light rail opens
6 May saw a new light rail line open in Kansas City, Missouri. The line runs along Main Street for most of its
two-mile length, from the River Market to Union Station. Streetcars share the roadway with other vehicles.
The route has 16 stops, spaced roughly two blocks apart. Services start at 06:00 Monday to Friday and
07:00 Saturday and Sunday until Midnight Monday to Thursday, 02:00 Friday and Saturday and 22:00 on
Sundays. The line is standard gauge and 750V overhead electric. There are 4 CAF Urbos-3 vehicles, each of
which can accommodate up to148 people and is equipped with free wi-fi. All rides are free! It is 59 years
since Streetcars last operated on the streets of Kansas City.
 USA – Denver International Airport gets trains
The 'A Line' between Denver Union station and Denver International Airport opened on the 22 April. The
opening was marked by 2 days of free travel courtesy of operator Denver Regional Transportation District.
The 25kV AC overhead electric line is standard gauge and cost 1.2bn dollars to build. It is 23 miles long with
7 new stations. Services run every 15 minutes and the journey takes 37 minutes one way.
 USA - New Metrolink service in Los Angeles
Starting 6 June, Metrolink will begin Monday-Friday service over the former Santa Fe San Jacinto branch
from LAUPT & Riverside to South Perris (between Perris & Ethanac). Metrolink built their own connection
from the BNSF in Highgrove as the Santa Fe only has a westward connection. The distance from Highgrove
to South Perris's twenty one (21) miles. Also Metrolink train nos. 632, 633, 634, 635, 640, 641, 642, 643,
644 & 645 cover a mile of the former UP Anaheim branch from Fullerton east.
June 2016 BLNI Extra No. 13 – Africa 2
[B30] Egypt - Egyptian National Railways (ENR)
General comments and a focus on some of the more unusual sections based on travels around 2007 (with
an update where available) illustrated by photographs taken on associated visits.
In general rail travel in Egypt is not particularly difficult, nor are there any sections of the network from
which foreigners are forbidden to go, although plenty they are not expected to go! However there are
some particular conditions to consider; Timetables and related information are shown at main stations
(and at smaller ones not at all) in Arabic and no other language, nor is it available on the internet (with the
exception of a few overnight sleeper trains clearly aimed at foreigners). The (ENR site
enr.gov.eg/ticketing/public/smartSearch.jsf is still pretty hopeless for a few mainline services and useless
elsewhere, and do not expect local railway men to steer you right as they will speak no or practically no
English. The tourist information places do have people speaking English but will almost invariably advise
you to take a “Superjet” air conditioned bus wherever you want to go and be clueless about much else!
Consequently anybody intent on a trip must arm themselves with what is believed to be the ONLY
translation of the ENR timetable into English from www.hassounmedia.co.uk (this site has changed out of
all recognition and makes no reference to this publication but contacting them might solicit something?)
which is based on the July 2004 timetable; further to gain much of an insight into past and current
operations the book Steel in the Sand by Gary Goldfinch from the same source is again singularly pivotal,
(see the web site, it is still mentioned!). All references to past and current practice as well as historical
notes below are benchmarked against these publications. Experience is that to date with some notable
exceptions all addressed below the timetables still hold pretty much to those translated in 2004. (Things
have certainly changed on some peripheral lines as commented below. It is believed not so much in the
lines in the Delta and up the Valley to Aswan, but reports from Egypt are sparse, especially off the “tourist
routes” and given the tumultuous upheavals the country has gone through subsequently travelling
conditions and such aspects as photography may be a lot worse than before.)
Ticketing does not present a major issue, since as long as you can find your train you can always buy the
ticket on the train, and particularly in 3rd class the fares are practically nothing by western standards; even
in the air-con classes they rarely exceed a few pounds sterling even for very long runs. The sleeper
services up the Nile and to Mersa Matruh in summer need pre-booking (although trying to do this from UK
by fax, email or phone is practically impossible) and must be paid for in US dollars or Euros, not Egyptian
pounds! A single cabin from Mersa Matruh to Cairo, offering a western standard compartment covering
some 500km and evening meal/breakfast cost $72 (in 2007) which is still remarkably good value. However
if you have the chance to buy tickets from ticket offices, and can actually convince the clerk as to where
you want to go, you should be rewarded by Edmondson style tickets often in Arabic and English!
Photography is technically illegal, subject to fines and confiscation, as all public utilities are considered
military installations. However a little common sense and indeed craftiness about where and when you
take photos usually means there is no problem, although be prepared for the odd officious railway
policeman or railway employee who will emerge from nowhere bellowing “no photo, no photo”;
conversely your correspondent has been given cab rides and taken photos quite openly even of crews
themselves at their insistence! It all really boils down to where you are and who’s around. (As noted above
the security situation in Egypt and recent history is unlikely to have relaxed the official posture on
Whilst on this subject, more generally there are two Egypt’s, “tourist Egypt” inside which you are expected
to spend money on whatever facilities or goods are provided and outside this bubble where you are
probably the only westerner ever seen, certainly the subject of curiosity (“where you go” is the standard
question) and where you can be regarded with deep suspicion.
To put ENR into context, it is certainly the most complex and densely trafficked system in Africa; services
are generally quite frequent and run with the exceptions below on a daily almost unchanging basis;
similarly trafficked systems in north Africa are all much smaller while the larger systems like South African
Railways have typically only 1 train a day on a few principal routes. All of ENR is standard gauge, the
narrow gauge systems having largely disappeared by the 1960s or earlier. Passenger routes amount to
about 3500 km; the only other significant passenger operations are trams and metro in Cairo (Sketchy
reports indicate a lot of damage to Cairo tramway infrastructure during the assorted riots punctuating
transition from one administration to another with trams burnt out and wires torn down and stolen, also
the Helwan tramway system, south of Cairo, has been reported as out of operation due to stolen wiring
but whether this is still the case is not known) and trams in Alexandria. The bulk of the system lies in the
delta bounded by Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said; beyond these rough bounds are routes along the
northern coast to Mersa Matruh and up the Nile Valley all the way to High Dam south of Aswan some 900
km south of Cairo. To operate the system ENR has nominally about 700 diesel locomotives split roughly
between GM of USA and Henschel of Germany. None of ENR is electrified and the main lines are colour
light signalled with British pattern lower quadrants everywhere else.
To focus on a few more interesting sections; taken roughly north to south;
Alexandria avoiding line; Abis-Murharram Bey c.2km; this is the only seasonally operated line on ENR in
that it only sees the summer only (mid June - mid September) direct daily daytime trains Cairo-Mersa
Matruh and v.v as well as the thrice weekly summer only sleeper, although the latter traverses the curve
around 03:00! (there is no reason to believe that these do not run as before)
Mersa Matruh to Sollum; this is the Western Desert Extension actually built from just outside Mersa at
Simla to the present day border town of Sollum; although in 1942 the line reached well into Tripolitania
(Libya) reaching Belhamed over 260km from Simla.
According to the July 2004 timetable this had a weekly train out at 07:40 on Mondays and back on
Tuesdays at 07:05 taking about 10 hours! In contrast the Superjet bus does it 3 times a day at least taking
only 4 hours!! This service has ceased (the train failed to run either way on the occasion of a visit in 2007)
and all “enquiries” as to whether the train ran, or on different days all seemed to meet with complete
denials as to its existence however the question was phrased (mimed!) or whoever was asked!
Ishmailiya to Bir el Abd; perhaps the most bizarre service in Egypt is the daily “Sinai Peace train” (NOTE!
This service from a brief correspondence through Flikr with an Egyptian who had been looking and
commenting on the associated photos has ceased to run probably around 2011 which is hardly surprising
as it was completely pointless and the security situation in Sinai is now very poor, in fact for westerners
downright lethal!) that runs from Ishmailiya on the main Cairo-Port Said route. The train is formed of two
typically clapped out 3rd class coaches sandwiched top and tail fashion between a couple of GMs and runs
from a platform so far behind the main station it is not even formally linked by subway. All attempts to
establish when or if this train runs were met with denials and it was only by loitering and awaiting “events”
before the timetabled 09:30 departure it became clear this odd formation was indeed the train! The locals
were astonished anyone let alone a westerner wanted to travel on it especially as it turned out not even to
go where he thought or, indeed, was indicated in the current timetable…..but your correspondent got on
and went. The train veers off the Port Said line just 13km north at Ferdan and turns away quickly towards
the $110m fully retractable bridge over the Suez Canal. It was possible to watch the two opposing sections
swinging over a period of about 20 minutes across the canal to eventually open the way to northern Sinai.
It also became apparent that your correspondent was the only passenger possibly in months!?. There were
3 crew on the loco and a party of about 10 sand shovellers….more anon…….and an ENR engineer doing the
rounds. It was necessary to confront the “border officials” before crossing the bridge and show ones
passport then explain your intended movements. The official seemed really only interested in whether you
were going to, had visited before, or might at some point want to visit Israel. Upon responding “no, no and
er…no” and there was no trace of an Israeli stamp in his passport our member was apparently free to look
at the sand of Sinai!!
Ferdan just north of Ishmailiya, looking forward from the daily train as the swing bridge
over the Suez Canal locks into place to provide access to the line to Rumella in Sinai
beyond. Opened in 2001 the services on this line appear to have lasted only about 11
years as after a period or retrenchment all attempts to operate the line have ceased.
The line was opened for just under 100km from Ferdan to Bir el Abt by Mubarak himself in 2001 and was
the notional first stage in restoring the original route across Sinai to Haifa and then gain access to the
whole west Asian system. However events have not worked out, (and of course gone positively backwards
since!) as the route runs through Gaza and the political situation has made advancing the project or even
diverting it untenable, so now it has in fact retrenched back to a total middle of nowhere spot called
Rumella, 63 km out from Ferdan. Once away from the canal the crew relaxed and provided a cab ride,
indicating that the line beyond Rumella had been out of use for possibly two years (since 2005) and after a
trundle through empty desert stopping to occasionally clear sand (and take photos!) and passing though a
couple of totally isolated intermediate stations they arrived in Rumella, beyond which the track looked
collapsed and even weedy.
Rumella. End of the line, viewed from the cab on arrival. Note the tracks in the
distance become semi-derelict beyond this station. The line originally opened
to Bir el Abt 100km from Ferdan, but by 2007 had already been cut back to this
anonymous spot in the Sinai desert 63km out. From "conversations" with the
crew it is quite possible the line only operated its full extent for about 4 years!
Rumella. 3645 now stands on the head of the train at Rumella for the return to
Quantara East. The crew were very keen to get away as it was now over 40oC
and their shift was nearing its end! The train could not return over the Canal
until late at night, so it would be left at Rumella. The crew escaped by an ad
hoc staff bus and ferry back to Quantara West, as did the photographer!
The train returned to Quantara East almost immediately where the crew left the train. The timetable has
two return trips shown between here and Bir el Abt (in reality Rumella) but the utter futility of running
these is too much even for them as Quantara East is itself 5km from the canal with nothing but scorching
desert between. The train cannot return until nearly midnight as the bridge only opens for rail traffic twice
a day and shipping is naturally the priority, so the whole exercise occupies a crew of fifteen, two locos and
a couple of coaches every day to no purpose whatsoever! Your rail based Sinai tourist escaped on the bus
the staff whistled up from Quantara East and crossed the canal on the free ferry which happily docks just
below Quantara West station, from whence the train to Cairo just happened to be leaving 10 minutes
Tanta avoiding line; this is essentially a long curve running direct from the line approaching from Muhallet
Ruh onto the Cairo main line. Tanta is a very important traffic centre and all other trains reverse here on
this route but daily one train runs southbound around the curve, it is the 05:10 ex Kafr el Sheikh, but it can
be picked up at Muhallet Ruh at 06:15 off the first local out of Tanta at 05:00 (arr. Muhallet Ruh 05:21),
running then to Cairo. There is no reciprocal northbound working.
Tanta avoiding line. The only train to take this curve is the 05:10 Kafr el Sheik to Cairo, seen here taking the east to
Cairo termini; Cairo’s main terminus and indeed through station, is Ramses. This would become familiar
almost immediately to any traveller in Egypt but there are some complications. Services operating on the
route to Etay el Barud well north of Cairo initially set off south and share the Nile bridge then veer off at
Imbaba and run along the west bank of the western branch of the Nile. The two platforms are well out of
sight and accessed from the west side of Ramses. They are positioned south of the overbridge and it’s
quite possible not to find your train and miss it if you don’t realise that these platforms exist!
Cairo Furu’a terminus is very close to but separate from Ramses situated just to its north east. It is served
by services to/from Minuf and most readily accessed by the subways part way down the platforms and
walking up the side of the station; it enjoys a separate route from Shibra el Kheima about 5 km out, most
notably running around the carriage sidings away from Ramses. Opposite this and again close to Ramses is
Limun station which was once apparently Italianate in style but now has a gloomy interior and an exterior
like a bomb shelter. It takes traffic from Zaqazig and is accessed via a wholly different route from south of
Shubra el-Kheima. It can theoretically be accessed via a gate at the top end of Ramses platform 1, but if
they have locked this it’s a 5-10 minute walk around the block.
South of Cairo the 2004 timetable had trains serving a very obscure branch off the main Luxor route to 6th
October once a day and from Beni Suef to Lahun twice a day (once on Fridays). However attempts to find
these trains and enquiries locally and back in Cairo all seemed to indicate that services on these routes
Aswan to Aswan High Dam is the very southern end of ENR, but it terminates in two separate places. A
handful of longer distance trains, some associated with boats to the Sudan (Wadi Halfa), run to the large
terminus with marbled floor at El-Sadd-el-Aali nominally 896.9km from Cairo. However many more trains
operating local services as far as Aswan veer right as they approach the northern periphery of this station
and call at a rather anonymous halt where the service nominally ends. However it was clear by “local
watching” this was not the ultimate destination and indeed the train drew forward about 500 metres to a
run round loop, so all trains have to continue there. The halt, is nowhere in particular but has a much
larger traffic base than the official terminus and the locals bailed off straight onto the ballast and similarly
scaled up the sides without the aid of a platform while the locomotive ran around with no concern as to
their comings and goings, although a westerner on the ballast taking photos attracted a long stare.... but
nothing more. This spur undoubtedly supplied materials during construction of the Aswan High Dam under
Soviet sponsorship 1960-70, the whole area previously being criss-crossed by narrow gauge construction
railways. This dam eventually led to the creation of Lake Nasser which covering over 2000 sq. miles is
arguably the largest man made body of water in the world stretching over 300 miles to the Sudan.
Luxor-Qena-Paris Junc.-Paris Oasis/Al Kharga: the 07:00 ThO Luxor-Al Kharga, (was!) the WEEKLY train! It
was only after having actually sat in the sleeping car reservation office in 2004 chatting to the manager
that the existence and times of this train were confirmed.
After the sun came up and the station come to life, tickets (pink sheets) were obtained from the ticket
office with little difficulty for the princely sum of LE11.50 each (that’s a 460km trip for a little over £1
sterling!!). The stock, three dilapidated 3rd class coaches, the middle one refurbished, was sat in the
platform but 1980s vintage Co-Co Henschel 3076 did not arrive light engine until 07:00, so the train left a
little late. Rocketing along the well fettled main line, the Henschel made light of its puny trailing load; the
train actually making an unscheduled (public) stop to fill some water cans but still arriving in Qena early. At
this point the “you are not on Cairo train syndrome” kicked in…a soldier type said, “where you go”? ..Al
Kharga…..look of bewilderment….”this only train”! Yes we know….much babbling on walkie talkie.
“Ticket”? Yes here…..”why you go”? To travel on the train…..retreats bewildered. Leaving Qena on time at
08:00 soon provided a small surprise as unlike the previous 750mm line to Al Kharga which veered off
further north at Nag al Hamadi (believed to have ended in 1965) the train almost immediately veered right
and started heading towards Safaga. The crew swapped tokens and headed onwards when a line trailing in
from the left was noted, this being the route to Al Kharga. The train actually pulled up adjacent to an oil
siding where the loco ran round while a squad of workers piled on with spades and pickaxes and spare bits
of track, e.g. fishplates. At this point whilst standing on the adjacent bank observing and photographing
proceedings it was realised there was another westerner on board. Subsequent investigation revealed he
was a German from Hamburg and had actually worked in Egypt but was now taking a long break before
returning to Germany. He had found out about the train the previous Friday and waited all week to travel
on it. That’s keen! The train set off past the zero post, veered right and commenced the ascent of the
bridge over the Nile – the climb making the engine actually do some real work. The bridge is actually the
highest over the Nile and travelling it qualifies you for the ‘Nile High Club’. It was possible to sit looking out
of the back coach with the rear door wedged open. This did mean however that the coach interior was
prone to occasional sandstorms as few windows had glass and none of the doors shut properly. They didn’t
stay open either, so were wedged open with small stones. As all the local normals travelled in the middle
“beautiful coach” as they referred to it, this didn’t bother them.
After half an hour travelling at 120km/h (timed from the posts) the last traces of vegetation were left
behind and it was emptiness until Paris (Baris) junction at 368km. The train passed through a series of
ghost stations, all the same, with station house, frameless signal box, semaphores standing still and silent,
with not so much as a tent in sight. The trains rapid progress was not to last however. There were periods
of slow running and eventually the speed was down to a crawl....
It became apparent that rumbling sounds were coming from beneath the train at low speeds, and
observations from the rear sun deck correlated this with grey/white patches around the rails. Eventually
the train stopped, the crack team of sand shovellers detrained and walked forward. As the train was clearly
going nowhere some passengers leapt out, followed by the German, and photographed the train and
general proceedings from the adjacent hillock of shale-like sand. It became clear the checks and stops
were due to something like a natural concrete forming from sand and a limestone like material against the
rails. If the train ran over these at speed, or if they built up too high they could simply lift the wheels off
the track, so they took clearing this seriously!
Henschel/GM 3076, one of 240 such machines on ENR where all built between 1976-81 weighing 122t with
2450hp and a top speed of 120km/h stands watching the attendant sand clearance party. The train is the
07:10 Thursday Only Luxor to al Kharga (Oasis) via a reversal on the Safaga line north or Quena. The train
would make many such stops in the desert. Luckily it was winter. In summer it would be like a furnace.
After about 10 minutes or so the train was off again but slowing frequently and stopping several more
times. It was clear time was being lost. The loco and three motley coaches traversed sandy desert, rocky
desert, small hills and flat plains and the km posts rolled by. By the time the train was due at Paris Junction
it was still 100km away, the sun was sinking and there was a connection to make.
At 16:15, just over two hours behind schedule, a line trailed in from the left, then an operational
semaphore was seen and leaning out the door, it was observed that, still sat in the station, was the ex Al
Kharga – Paris Oasis working. This train runs daily FX and on ThO runs 90 minutes earlier (somewhat
ironically) to connect at the junction with the main line train. As it turned out most of the staff bailed onto
this train, so it wasn’t going anywhere without them. It was locomotive 3126 on ONE coach and after
watching the Al Kharga service depart from the rear glassless window the minimal consist duly shot off
south on the last rail based leg of the day’s journey via stops at Baghdad, Jeddah and Palestine, stations in
the middle of nowhere serving practically no-one. It was obvious certain fittings like toilets had been
installed but subsequently smashed or stolen leaving useless shells, enough to keep the sun off perhaps.
And so finally after more concretion chipping by a two man team and watching the orange ball finally boil
over the horizon, the shortest train in Egypt arrived in Paris. There were no other ‘real’ passengers on the
train. Only there were the blocks, the station and…. the station. Where was Paris? It turned out Paris was
still 5km distant because it was learnt later the local catholic church refused to let the line cross their land
and the necessary detour of 10km was longer than the authorities were prepared to build. So this is it, taxi
This actually turned out to be more of a passing covered pick-up truck full of smiling locals that arrived in
the throbbing heart of this oasis town in minutes. In fact things were very quiet here but a minibus was
found heading back past the station and 90km up the parallel road to Al Kharga, with rucksacks on top and
setting off into the night watching the oncoming cars flicker their headlights on approach. Why not just
turn them on? Passing through a couple of checkpoints en route the driver just said something like
Britannia and Holland to the guards, presumably because our intrepid travellers had told him they were
from Britain and Poland!
Paralleling the railway the alternate day’s phosphate train was passed en route. Not a very long train, so
no wonder there were no operational loops on the line. The phosphate empties come back from Safaga on
the Red Sea on the other days. It could just be seen against the last of the western light, originating from a
60km branch further into the desert from a junction just 7km south of Al Kharga. The last checkpoint was
about 7km outside Al Kharga, just 90 minutes travelling time from Paris, and here the westerner’s
presence caused much excitement. In fact the police escorted the vehicle to the centre of Al Kharga, then
arranged a taxi to the wrong hotel and finally followed as the final 20 minute walk saw the Al Kharga Oasis
gained in the early evening. Whilst booking in the police asked if this was where they were staying. As
they intended to eat at the better Pioneers hotel just 200m down the road, to avoid complications, they
said we would stay at the hotel, and, apparently satisfied, the police went away. After de-sanding and duly
picking up passports a point was made of telling the receptionist where they were going, and sure enough
as they left he was on the phone and craning to see them as they turned the corner…..
As it happened there were two guests at Pioneers so the kitchen had shut, so they settled for a bottle of
wine and lots of complimentary crisps; only to be told 40 minutes later the kitchen was now open, so the
chef had been recalled to cope with the rush. He made a huge plate of rolls which were still being eaten on
the train back the following day but a second bottle of Obelisk was purchased on the strength of the food
service, so this probably paid the kitchen wages.
The station at Al Kharga is well outside the town, because construction was not permitted on the irrigated
land between the station site and the town centre. Our member arrived here thirty minutes before
departure time and ascended the stairs to enter a cavernous booking hall with 4 booking windows and one
ticket seller, who did sell two nice all Arabic Edmondson’s tickets back to Luxor. The train was the same
rake as yesterday, but now with locomotive 3031 up front. The loco from yesterday sat on the breakdown
train and in another platform a solitary coach sat with creepers extending from the roof across its whole
The train departed at 08:00 and fifty minutes later arrived at Paris Junction, completing both the passenger
routes in the desert. This time they travelled in the “beautiful coach” as it had more windows with glass
and the sandblasting was far less; in fact the journey seemed to go very quickly no doubt helped by the
previous days railhead chipping. . Our member noticed a track gang in the open desert (in summer in 50C+
this must be a hellish job) shouting and waving, and suspected that the train passed through their work
site going much too fast.
Of course this line was founded on the phosphate mines, but it was supposed to have another destiny. The
ghost stations passed at regular intervals might just be the notional sites of new towns and cities.
View out of the rear carriage sliding door (jammed open with some small stones) of one of the several "ghost
stations" on the line to Al Kharga. These stations all look as if they were poured from the same mould. Many had
derelict passing loops. The stations were supposed to provide transport to the millions who would inhabit a new
irrigated paradise carved from the raw desert. Only this never happened and now almost certainly for financial,
ecological and above all political reasons never will.
They might be a facet of the New Valley Project, which essentially looks to create a second Nile Valley
using water pumped at vast rates from Lake Nasser along canals between the existing Oases irrigating vast
swathes of desert and providing homes for 3 million Egyptians by 2020. So assuming all the water doesn’t
evaporate as suggested by some detractors or wreak some ecological cataclysm as suggested by others it
was intended that one day the ticket seller at Al Kharga might have slightly more to do and it will be “all
stops to Al Kharga”, but that day is now very unlikely to come. Today the line is closed, hundreds of
kilometres of the track have been stolen, the desert is reclaiming the line and its structures, and that coach
covered in creepers at Al Kharga has had to be “rescued” back to Cairo on a low loader!
Coach at Al Kharga with vines growing over it from the station canopy
[B31] Ethiopia – The Addis Ababa light rail system
Previously reported in BLNI 1242.370 and 1250.063, the text of these two items is reproduced below to
assist with viewing two pictures of the Addis Ababa light rail line sent in by a member.
The new 17km north – south light rail line in Addis Ababa commenced services on 20 September 2015.
Fares are collected by an electromagnetic card which must be swiped before joining and after leaving the
train. There will be 39 stations, equipped with 22 lifts and escalators.
The second light rail line in Addis Ababa opened on 9 November 2015. The 17.4 km Green Line has 22
stops and runs east from Ayat to Tor Hailoch, sharing tracks with the north-south Blue Line on a 2.7 km,
five-stop stretch between Lideta and Meskel Square. The north-south Blue Line began revenue service on
20 September, after a period of test running that started on 1 February. The 16.9 km route links Menelik
Square with Kaliti, serving 23 stops.
The new light rail is seen to be double track, electrified, and running at this point between the
lanes of a dual carriageway.
The network is operated by a fleet of 41 three-section 70% low-floor trams supplied by
[B32] Ghana – A ride on the Accra to Nsawam train
In early April a trip was made on the remaining operational section of the former main line from Accra to
Kumasi. Ghana railways currently operates a ‘commuter’ train on the 3 foot 6 inch gauge line between
Accra and Nsawam, 30km or so north of Accra, which runs a couple of times a day. Our member also
wanted to sample the new Chinese built DMU service from Accra to Tema, a major port on the coast near
Accra, but the train only runs Monday to Friday to enable people to come in to Accra for work and return
in the evening (plus accompanying positioning moves very early in the morning!). Unfortunately he only
had the Saturday available to explore, so this ride will have to be undertaken another time. The third
remaining service in the country is the Kumasi to Takoradi service on the Western line, though this runs
overnight and was therefore not so appealing for the effort required.
Finding information on the train services in Accra is very difficult. All the Ghanaians questioned simply
laughed when he expressed an interest in riding the train and no one could work out how to find out
service information (even the straightforward expedient of ringing the station seemed impossible). So
taking pot luck he jumped in a taxi and headed downtown to the site of the station on Saturday morning,
armed with a 2014 indication of times, but not knowing whether this had any reflection of reality – which
it did not as it turned out! Getting to the station involved driving through a sea of humanity and pavement
enterprises as it is based in the main central market area of Accra. Suddenly a hole in a wall was found and
the taxi drove through and deposited him in a muddy car park by a shabby building. Some coaches were
visible at the platform so that was a good sign.
ABB-Henschel loco 1679 at Accra railway station shortly before departure for Nsawam
The station area is part of the market and the tracks are covered with peddlers, food stalls, clothes and
cloth sellers so that not much rail infrastructure can be seen. There was no locomotive in sight. Wandering
around as the only Ogoni (white man) in the area he was the object of much attention and amusement. A
man in an office was approached and asked if a train was leaving today. He turned out to be the station
master and said that ‘yes, indeed a train was going to leave, and it would leave at 11:00.’ Looking at the
state of the train and readiness this did not look too likely, but this was good progress.
‘There is one problem however’, the station master continued. ‘Today, the train does not come back. The
railway staff go to church on Sunday in Nsawam and so stay the weekend up country as well as
undertaking some maintenance on the locomotive’. This was a nuisance but our member decided to head
to Nsawam anyway and see what happened when he got there. There should be some Tro-tro’s – the local
deathtrap minibuses which ply the route back to Accra - and hopefully he could find one and jump in to get
back somewhere in Accra at some stage. The station master was hopeful that more investment may be
forthcoming to reinstate a service through to Kumasi. The line, he said is all intact, but in a bad state. From
later observations this was something of an optimistic understatement. He was pleased that an Ogoni
visitor had turned up so he was escorted to first class after buying a bottle of water for the journey from a
seller on the platform. The condition of the stock is better than that in the Egyptian delta with minimal
holes in the floors and it was cleaner than expected with no urine (and worse) spilling out from satanic
lavatories and washing around on the floors. With an hour to wait he sat back in his first class seat, and
opened his Spectator and New Statesman magazines to catch up on politics and culture back in the UK. At
10:45 the distinctive noise of a locomotive horn sounded somewhere from within the mass of market
stalls, so he moved up to the front to watch as a class 1670 ABB-Henschel GM diesel (one of three
operational at the moment), number 1679 coupled on to the coaches. At exactly 11:00 (!!) the locomotive
sounded its horn and they were off!
Achimoto Junction signal box where the line to Tema branches off the ‘main line’ to Kumasi
The line passes through the back areas of Accra hitting more open country after Achimota Junction where
the line for Tema branches off.
First class was not very crowded and all along the route as soon as children saw an Ogoni on the train as it
passed they all started screaming and waving with delight at this strange sight. The train is staffed with a
number of conductors who are pretty vigilant on tracking down fares and potential miscreants along the
way. They issue Edmondson type tickets to passengers, and notices in the carriages state that fare dodgers
‘will be taken to jail’. Not an appealing prospect, so he made sure that he had obtained the correct ticket.
The journey to Nsawam takes 2 hours, stopping at a number of official and unofficial stations. Nsawam
station itself is just a short platform with a canopy, and a loop for the locomotive to run around the train.
One of the conductors helpfully went with him to the main road in Nsawam in order to find a Tro-tro which
was heading back to Accra. One was found which was an old van, and so had a bit more headroom than
the usual Tata junk and was emblazoned with the slogan ‘Jesus Big Man’ on the sides – so divine
protection hopefully guaranteed for the journey. This 7 seater vehicle was then rammed with 24
customers (he kept count of loading factors en route), plus their luggage and off they went, hot and smelly
with our member hoping he was going in the right direction and that he would intuitively know when to
get out. (And despite the fact that his account ends with those words, our member obviously did make it
back to Accra. Ed.).
The colour and vibrancy of an African market is seen on a station platform
The end of the journey at Nsawam
[B33] Kenya - Riding the Lunatic line
The construction of the metre gauge Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Nairobi and Kampala was meant
to further British control of East Africa, but there was considerable controversy about the justification and
expense of the railway. So much so that a leading politician of the day was moved to criticise the project in
What it will cost no one can express,
Where it will start from, no one can guess.
Where it is going, nobody knows,
What is the use of it, none can conjecture,
What it will carry, there’s none can define
And in spite of the George Curzon’s superior lecture
It clearly is naught but a lunatic line
Henry Labouchere on the Uganda Railway.
Construction of the original line began in Mombasa in 1895 and the railway reached Nairobi in 1899, finally
reaching the shore of Lake Victoria in December 1901. During the difficult and often dangerous work at
least 2,000 workers lost their lives - many of them Indian labourers imported to East Africa to build the
railway. (Actually 2,498 according to the meticulous records of the railway company – Ed.). Man eating
Lions took a terrible toll in what is now Tsavo National Park. In the last few decades the railway has been
run-down and starved of investment, but freight trains are still running and passenger trains still run from
Nairobi to Mombasa and back three times a week.
The Port Florence Express runs from Nairobi to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, but, like the Kisumu
to Butere service, is ‘temporarily withdrawn’, though prone to sporadic reopening and closure.
All this is set to change with the construction, with Chinese finance (90%) and supervision, of a new
Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) between Mombasa (the largest port in East Africa) and Nairobi. It will
shorten the passenger travel time from Mombasa to Nairobi from more than ten hours (on a good day!) to
a little more than four hours. Freight trains will complete the journey in less than eight hours. This is only
phase 1 of a much more ambitious project. The SGR project is proposed to connect Mombasa to Malaba
on the border with Uganda and continue onward to Kampala, Uganda's capital city. It will further run to
Kigali in Rwanda with a branch line to Juba in South Sudan. Branch lines along the route will extend to
Kisumu, Kasese and Pakwach. In Kenya, construction of the single track line began in October 2013 and is
scheduled to be completed by December 2017. It will have a route length of 472km. The Ugandan section
of the SGR line was launched in October 2014.
The new line will run parallel to the existing metre gauge railway for much of the way, deviating at certain
points to attain the desired gradients and curvature. State-of-the-art passenger stations are to be built at
Mombasa and Nairobi as well as five other intermediate stations at Mariakani, Voi, Mtito Andei, Sultan
Hamud and Athi River. A total of 40 stations are planned to be built along the line, of which 33 will be
ready when the railway becomes operational. 23 crossing stations are to be provided and freight terminals
will be located at the Mombasa port and the Inland Container Depots at Embakasi in Nairobi. The railway
line is designed to carry 22 million tonnes a year of cargo or a projected 40% of Mombasa Port throughput
by 2035. The challenges posed by the steep incline and rugged terrain of the Miritini to Mazeras section
will be overcome by constructing long viaducts, deep cuttings and high embankments. Fencing will be
provided throughout the Tsavo National Park along the route and underpasses will be built for wild
animals at short intervals. Eight crossing corridors for Elephants are provided and each is over 7 metres
high, and at least 56 metres long.
In September 2015 it was announced that the SGR was to be extended by 120 km from Nairobi to serve a
new economic zone at Naivasha, which is in the Rift Valley. Paralleling the existing metre-gauge Kenya-
Uganda Railway, the extension forms part 2A of the 2937 km ‘MoKaKi’ standard-gauge route linking
Mombasa with Kampala in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda.
For our member, the opportunity of travelling on the ‘Lunatic line’ before the commissioning of the SGR
was too good to miss. Rift Valley Railways run a train from Nairobi to Mombasa on Mondays, Wednesdays
and Fridays, and from Mombasa to Nairobi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The journey of 530km
supposedly takes 15 hours. The train is marketed as the Jumbo Kenya Deluxe.
At Nairobi station all bags are checked by security. When consulted, the first class ticket office advised that
boarding cards for the train could be obtained at 19:00. This was a surprise as your correspondent had
been advised by everybody that 19:00 was departure time. Apparently not. For almost a year now the
Mombasa train has been leaving at 20:00 hours and travel agents and the internet (including the Rift Valley
Railways website) have yet to catch up. That left plenty of time to sit at one of the first class passenger
tables in the restaurant area and enjoy a few Tusker beers. The boarding card, when collected, was for
coach 1224 compartment F, but the stock did not arrive until 30 minutes before the scheduled departure
time. Coach 1224 (allegedly built in Britain) was a First Class Sleeper, and Compartment F proved to be a
two berth compartment with washbasin and a small wardrobe. Obtaining the ticket cost US$60, the ticket
being obtained by the internet before arrival by East Africa Shuttles and Safaris and delivered to the hotel
a day before departure. Though clean, the compartment was decidedly ‘tired’ and had no louvres to cover
the windows, and also a slot at the base of the door the size of a couple of catflaps. Of more concern was
no external locking mechanism, so valuables had to be taken when visiting the adjacent restaurant car.
There was a bolt on the inside however. Only half the compartments were occupied, all by young people,
mainly American and Asian. There are first and second class sleepers and third class seating.
The train failed to leave at 20:00, and at 21:00 there was a call for the restaurant car – evening meal and
breakfast being included in the ticket price. The power went off for ten minutes whilst waiting to be
served, but the meal was good and, as dessert was served, the train finally departed, one and a half hours
late. A poor night’s sleep ensued, not helped by occasional sharp jolts.
Waking from a fitful sleep at six, our member finds the train stationary at Mtito Andei. After another hour
a train of containers rumbles past and eastward progress is soon resumed. Soon breakfast is announced in
the restaurant car and is found to be fruit juice, fruit salad, toast and sausage egg and beans followed by
coffee. Quite palatable. The train is travelling through the Tsavo National Park, home to many wild
animals, though they are conspicuous by their absence near the railway. The metre gauge railway runs
alongside the SGR, which is on an embankment. Teams of workers toil constructing drainage channels in
nice geometric shapes on the sides of the embankment. A huge station building is seen under
construction. It seems a very grandiose structure especially since no town is visible, though the main
Nairobi to Mombasa road is always close to the railway.
Station building under construction on the new Standard Gauge Railway. The formation of the SGR is
always on embankment.
Soon the SGR diverges away for a short while. In fact there are some long sections of the SGR which are
well away, sometimes several km, from the metre gauge line. On this occasion when it returns it rises on
pillars so the metre gauge line can go underneath it. This happens several times on the journey.
The Standard Gauge Railway crosses the original metre gauge line by flyovers several times
The SGR now is just a formation awaiting ballast and track laying. Bridges are missing. By 09:45 the train is
passing the disused station at Ndi. Once it was obviously quite a smart, attractive little station with a small
signal box. All these little stations are now closed and no longer maintained. The next little station is Irima,
but after this is a more important station with a name in railway history. This is Voi, and it is the junction
for the line from Tanzania. Alas, a moment’s inattention meant that our member missed observing the
junction itself, but it is believed that there is no traffic between the two countries at the moment. The train
stops at Voi, which has a well maintained station building. The station is actually in the southern outskirts
of Voi and, perhaps as a consequence, the SGR bypasses the town.
Voi station is quite modern and bears signs indicating that it is the junction for the Tanzania line
The journey settles into a pattern as the train passes through the African bush. Watch the comings and
goings of the SGR and observe run-down, disused stations at Ndara, Maungu, Wangala, Buchuma,
Muranatibu and Mackinnon Road. Mackinnon Road is actually a sizeable town of 8000 people. It was
probably named because it was a junction of the Uganda Railway and the Mackinnon ox cart road.
Between 1947 and 1950 Mackinnon Road was the site of a large British engineering and Ordnance Depot
designed to hold 200,000 tons of military stores in anticipation of the loss of military bases in Egypt due to
a rise in nationalism in that country. Nothing can be seen of this today, at least from the railway, and
further stations follow at Taru, Samburu, Maji na Chumvi and Mariahani. The train is many hours late and
the restaurant car is closed, but luckily our member had invested in some ‘ships stores’ in anticipation of
late running, and was not discommoded. Three freight trains were passed in loops, one with a Magadi
Soda train. The train calls at Mazeres, departing at 15:23 and soon the train reaches the Mazeras Spiral,
one of the original four built on the railway to navigate steep inclines. The spiral is approximately 350
metres in diameter and allows a gradual descent from the African plateau. This was by far the most scenic
part of the journey. The SGR is nowhere in sight, taking a route much further to the north. The train soon
enters the sprawling outskirts of Mombasa, and slows down, sometimes to only 10 km/h, as it passes
through shanty towns with colourful markets which don’t quite encroach onto the tracks.
There are extensive yards, mainly dealing with containers, as Mombasa is approached and the final station,
with a fine signal box, is at Changamwe. There are two tracks out of here, one diverging right to the docks,
the other continuing over the Makupa causeway to reach Mombasa station. On the right coming into the
station an old building with Mombasa over the door seemed likely to have been the old station building.
An old, and rather neglected building on the right coming into Mombasa station looks like it may have been the original
Mombasa station building.
The present station is no architectural masterpiece, being a curiously anonymous end to a great railway
journey. The time of arrival was 16:42 – so the best part of six hours late. Tickets had to be given up before
leaving the station. For those interested in the history of the Uganda Railway the following website has
some fascinating pictures.
[B34] Kenya - The Konza to Magadi branch
Local soda ash producer Tata Chemicals Magadi (TCM), previously known as the Magadi Soda Company,
has embarked on ambitious plans to scale up operations at the lake Magadi plant that has been in
existence for over 100 years. In May 1998 high charges from Kenya Railways caused the company to take
over and reconstruct the 146km branch from Magadi to Konza, where it joins the Nairobi to Mombasa
Railway. The railway also offers transport to Magadi township’s 5,000 residents, who are heavily reliant on
the TCM for essentials such as water. Over 95 percent of the company product is exported to its principal
markets of South East Asia, Indian sub-continent, Africa and the Middle East through the Portof Mombasa.
TCM own eight mainline locomotives and in February 2016 these were observed from the Nairobi to
Mombasa overnight passenger train working eastbound soda trains. Unfortunately the junction at Konza
could not be viewed as it was passed in the hours of darkness.
[B35] Kenya - Railway interest in Nairobi
Turn left outside Nairobi station, follow a heavily potholed road to a guarded gate, and you can gain access
to the Nairobi Railway museum at the end of a long drive. Opened in 1971, the exhibits date to the days of
the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation. It is today operated by Kenya Railways and comprises
an indoor museum, with preserved rolling stock in a compound opposite. The three operational steam
engines are in secure storage at the Railway Works and cannot normally be viewed without permission.
The museum itself has seen better days, and needs a refresh badly, but the exhibits are fascinating. Your
correspondent was particularly impressed with the wooden bench seating three people which was
positioned at the front of the locomotive so important travellers could admire the scenery in front.
Apparently US President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed it so much that when the train was in motion he only
left it to have meals. In the compound are a variety of steam and diesel locomotives, with Garrats (as you
might expect) being well represented. Track goes through a locked gate to allow a continuing main line
connection. All in all a couple of hours can easily be filled before returning the station. One of the few
local train services is a commuter service on weekdays from Nairobi to Syokimau. This uses the Mombasa
line for 16km until diverging a few hundred metres to a brand new state of the art terminus station at
Syokimau, opened in November 2012. Close to the busy Mombasa Road, the new station has electronic
ticketing and huge car parking areas to attract commuters away from some of the worst traffic jams in the
world. It is the first of 28 stations planned to ease congestion in Nairobi. It is planned to extend from
Syokimau to Nairobi airport, but the project is far behind schedule, and it is not clear when the network of
other stations will be completed, and until then the train service’s impact remains limited to the one
suburb with a station.
A Permanent Way Inspector’s bicycle trolley in the Nairobi railway museum. The thought occurs that this also acts a
gauge measurement device, and if the rails spread the bicycle trolley falls off, alerting the Inspector to the problem
hopefully without injury.
[B36] Namibia – Changes at Swakopmund
There is a new layout at Swakopmund. The old station has no tracks to it although the ticket office is still
on one of the 2 platforms. When our member visited the morning [Windhoek] - Swakopmund - Walvis Bay
train was only 45 minutes late when it called at a new platform. This was just long enough for the single
passenger coach (second in the consist) of the lengthy mixed train, and was on a tight new curve which
was oriented roughly north to south.
[B37] South Africa – The Outeniqa Choo Tjoe may ride again
The 67 km railway from George to Kynsna was a very scenic line hugging the rugged coast of the famous
Garden Route before ending by crossing a bridge over the lagoon in the tourist town of Knysna. The service
was steam operated and a major tourist draw, branded as the “Outeniqa Choo Tjoe”. In August 2006 part
of the line between Mossel Bay and Knysna was severely damaged by landslides caused by torrential rain,
and from November 2006 it was rescheduled to run between George and Mossel Bay. In 2007, the train's
owners, Transnet Limited, announced that the train was not regarded as part of its core business. Transnet
initiated a tender process to dispose of the train to a new owner/operator. However, on 19 August 2010
Transnet announced that, following unsuccessful attempts to find such a new operator, the train would
cease operating, and indeed it did. The line was viewed during a tour of the Garden Route in February
2016. One of the biggest problems facing reopening is where landslips have impacted on properties above
the railway. The example viewed was just before the Kaimaans River bridge just west of the town of
Wilderness. The picture (next page) shows the debris, now greening over, on the tracks before the bridge,
and above a very expensive property (now To Let) in a more precarious position than before the landslip. It
is fear of further disturbing this property and being faced with a law suit that deters remedial works at this
The railway station at Knysna, which was the end of the branch, was also visited, and found to be in
something of a time warp. Indeed, the unwary visitor would be fooled into thinking the train was still
running. The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe ticket office signs are still present, the station building still present
(though now used by a bus company) and the tracks and platform seemingly unchanged from our
members previous visit, when he was fortunate enough to do the train throughout.
Attempts to restore the line have come to naught so far, but the good
news is that a consortium has been formed to reinstate the line.
Left: Visitors could be forgiven for thinking the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe still runs
Two views of Knysna station. The good condition of the site is probably attributable to the presence of a security guard.
The carriages are not useable and seem to be used for storage.
[B38] South Africa – Riding the Gautrain
The Gautrain (pronounced How-train) system serves Johannesburg and Pretoria in the state of Gauteng,
and is unusually (for South Africa) built to standard gauge and electrified at 25kV AC overhead. Although
planned to open in time for the 2010 football World Cup, this event was not the reason for its construction
which was in the planning stages before the World Cup was awarded to South Africa. Only the branch line
from OR Tambo International Airport to Sandton was operational in time, opening in June 2010. The ‘main’
line between Park (the main station in Johannesburg for the Metrorail and longer distance services) and
Hatfield, via a reversal at Pretoria opened in 2011 (Rosebank to Hatfield) and 2012 (Rosebank to Park). The
line and stations are in tunnel between Park and just short of Marlboro, the latter being the junction
station for the airport branch and provided with 4 platforms. The airport branch actually runs through to
Sandton where it terminates in a ‘bay’ platform at a lower level than the through platforms. From
Marlboro the airport branch is mainly elevated and after an interchange station with the Metrorail
suburban network at Rhodesfield it continues the short distance to OR Tambo International Airport. The
station is immediately outside the airport terminal and elevated on a viaduct but is surprisingly difficult to
find from within the terminal due to poor signage. The line to Pretoria and Hatfield continues north from
Marlboro passing the maintenance facility and depot at Midrand and passing through Centurion on some
lengthy sweeping viaducts before arriving at Pretoria station in platforms to the north side of the suburban
station. After a reversal, the service continues to Hatfield running alongside the Metrorail line, although
clearly separated, terminating in a two platform station with a scissor crossing shortly before the station.
Hatfield Gautrain station is located midway between Rissik and Hartbeesspruit Metrorail stations, so does
not provide an interchange. The services are operated by Bombardier Electrostar trains built in the UK at
Derby and operating in 4-car formations with one fleet of trains for the main line and a separate fleet for
the airport line with more comfortable seating arrangements and luggage space. The line is operated with
left hand running except for the section between Pretoria and Hatfield where right hand running is
employed, presumably because this is operationally more convenient at Pretoria station where trains
bound for Park use the southern platform and those bound for Hatfield use the northern platform. With
advantageous exchange rates fares are very cheap by UK standards. Unfortunately travelling on Metrorail
services around the Gauteng region is not recommended as they are not considered safe.
[B39] Zambia – Passing through Kapiri Mposhi
Described in travel guides as a transit town, Kapiri Mposhi is an important railway junction in central
Zambia. The Tazara Railway (TAnzania ZAmbia Railway Authority) arrives from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania,
some 1860km to the North. This line was built with Chinese aid between 1970 and 1975 as a means of
exporting copper from the Zambian copperbelt without passing through white controlled territories. To
the south is the Zambian Railways line to Lusaka and Livingstone and to the west, the Zambian Railways
line to Kitwe and onwards as the Katanga Railway through Congo to join the rebuilt Benguela railway in
Angola. Zambian Railways (ZR) run a service from Lusaka to Kitwe via Kapiri Mposhi. The ZR station in
Kapiri Mposhi is quite a small affair in the southern part of the city.
Tazara trains start and terminate at a much more grandiose station called New Kapiri Mposhi, which is two
km away from the ZR station. So, there is a section from New Kapiri Mposhi station to the junction with
the Lusaka – Kitwe line which does not see scheduled passenger services. There are, however, several
privately run trains each year which do the two non-passenger sides of the triangle, and these are luxury
trains operated by South African operator Rovos Rail. On its journey from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, the
northbound train travelled between Kapiri Mposhi (ZR) and New Kapiri Mposhi (Tazara). Once at Dar es
Salaam however, the stock was obviously in reverse formation for the return journey. This is important
when you want the balcony of the observation car to offer a view of the track behind the train, rather than
the fuel tank behind the locomotives. With nowhere to turn the stock in Tanzania, it must be turned on the
return journey at Kapiri Mposhi. Our member, travelling on the return journey from Dar es Salaam to Cape
Town, had worked out what was likely to happen and planned accordingly.
The two locos and the fuel tank needed to be turned through 180 degrees and moved to the back of the
train. Discussion with the drivers revealed that they could only drive from the leading loco. That meant the
locos would need to go round the triangle. Clearly our member needed to be in the cab, and he
successfully talked his way into making the round trip. After that the stock was watered, a lengthy process,
and finally the train was propelled onto the Kitwe line before proceeding forwards, in the correct
formation, towards Kapiri Mposhi (ZR) and Lusaka. A rake of new carriages, split into several sections, was
present in the sidings in and around New Kapiri Mposhi station. Local railway workers advised that these
were for a new service commencing shortly, and indeed a new timetable between Kapiri Mposhi and Dar
es Salaam commenced on 16 February 2016.
The booking hall and waiting area at the Tazara station of New Kapiri Mposhi
Built to impress. The New Kapiri Mposhi station is grossly oversized for the required duty