March 2017 BLNI Extra No. 20 – Railway relics in Singapore and Sudan
[C1] Singapore - A member visits again
A member recently returned from a visit to Singapore where he lived in the 1960s and took the
opportunity to revisit some of the now defunct railways. He observed that Tanjong Pagar (Singapura
Station) has had all of the track removed. The station buildings, platforms and signal box are still extant
and contractors have taken over the site as per BLN1260/276. At Bukit Timah the station building together
with the lever frame from the platform level signal box are in place together with a short stretch of track
representing the former yard.
The bridges at Bukit Timah and at Fu Yong are both still intact with the track extending across each bridge
and continuing for a few metres either side.
The trackbed is walkable for most of the former KTM route with some minor diversions (e.g. overbridge at
Hillview is missing).
At Jurong the former freight line has largely been built over but some interesting photographs are
displayed outside the shopping centre adjacent to the bus station.
To visit Tanjong Pagar there are numerous bus routes that call at "former railway station" and for Bukit
Timah it is a short walk from King Albert Park MRT station.
Former main signal box controlling Tanjong Pagar
Platforms at Tanjong Pagar viewed from the road looking west
Former Parcels Office now disused
Tanjong Pagar station frontage in good condition with the Agriculture, Commerce, Industry & Transport marble reliefs clearly visible.
Opened in 1932 by Federated Malay States Railways, built in Art Deco style and closed in 2011 when Keretapi Tanah Melayu
(Malaysian Railways) services were truncated at Woodlands just on the Singapore side of the first causeway.
3632 - Bukit Timah looking north towards Kranji and Johore.
Token collection and delivery equipment at Bukit Timah still in place.
Bridge over the Bukit Timah Road, an iconic sight, the second almost identical bridge crossing the same road is a few miles north at Fu
Yong. The railway originally followed a different route with multiple level crossings obviated by the bridges.
[C2] Sudan - Railway Map
The only railway map of Sudan showing both historical and present days lines known to the author is maps
33-38 of Neil Robinson’s World Railway Atlas and historical summary, Volume 7 North, East and Central
Africa, published 2009, ISBN-13: 978-954-92184-3-5. Page 33 covers the area of interest for the following
items and is reproduced, with permission, below.
After a gap of several years now Neil hopes to publish volume 5 (south east Europe), a mini volume for
Central America and a mini volume for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka later this year. Enquiries to:
[C3] Sudan – The Sudan Military Railway – Wadi Halfa to Kerma
Railways in the Sudan were initially constructed as an adjunct to military operations, although the first line,
started by the Khedive Isma'il Pasha in 1874 from Wadi Halfa to Sarras about 54 km upstream on the East
bank of the Nile River, was initially a commercial undertaking. It was not long enough to economically
challenge the Nile steamers and was stopped by Governor-General Gordon in 1878 to save money. It was
extended by the Nile Expedition in 1884 to Akasha.
In 1896 when the reconquest of Sudan was ordered by the British government, Lord Kitchener decided to
extend the line to the head of the Third Cataract. It was found that the original line had been badly laid,
that the Dervishes had torn up 55 miles of it and burnt the sleepers and twisted the rails, and only two
engines were capable of moving. Obviously the entire line would need to be rebuilt. This took 13 months
under the direction of Edouard Percy Cranwill Girouard, a Canadian officer in the Royal Engineers who had
a background as a railway builder with the Canadian Pacific Railways prior to his joining the British army,
after which he took charge of the Woolwich Arsenal Railway in Britain. He was the perfect man for the job
and Kitchener had sought him out personally.
There were formidable obstacles, chief amongst which was the poor quality of the workers at his disposal,
most being unenthusiastic criminals. There were also challenges such as attacks from the Mahdist
insurgents, the occasional heavy rain that washed away the track, the need to import everything, and a
cholera epidemic which killed off most of the workers in August 1896. Girouard had to establish two
technical schools to train his Sudanese workers about how to work as station masters, yard shunters and
signalmen. Nevertheless by 4 August 1896 Girouard reported to Kitchener the railway now extended from
Wali Halfa to Kosheh, covering some 116 miles of arid desert. By 4 May 1897 the railway reached Kerma
and contributed greatly to the recapturing of the Dongola province. The hasty rebuilding meant that the
line was poorly constructed and was also of little other use so it was abandoned on 31 December 1904 .
Although the original line of the railway was not investigated (our member being on a ‘normal’ tourist
holiday) it seems likely that two sections of rail used to support the wall of a well by the archaeological site
of Soleb, about 95km north of Kerma, are part of the original railway.
[C4] Sudan – The Sudan Military Railway – Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamed and Khartoum
The first section of the present-day Sudan Railways, from Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamed on the Nile, was the
second line constructed as part of the Sudan Military Railway. It was built in the late 1890s by the British in
order to supply the Anglo-Egyptian army under General Herbert Kitchener prosecuting the Mahdist War.
Kitchener decided to build a railway from Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamed, 235 miles directly across the Nubian
Desert, which eliminated 500 miles of navigation up the Nile River. Lieutenant Edward Cator of the Royal
Engineers conducted a survey along the intended route, and, to Kitchener’s delight, the terrain was found
to be more suitable for the laying of track than had been previously believed. Also, the remoteness and
inaccessibility of the area would make it difficult for the Mahdists to mount a large-scale attack on the
The contours at two localities, 124 and 203 km respectively from Wadi Halfa, suggested the possibility of
water below. The engineers dug down and found water at both places which became stations No. 4 and
No. 6. This was a stroke of luck which made the project possible.
The line was to be built to 1067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge track specifications, the result it is said of Kitchener's
pragmatic use of the rolling stock and rails of that gauge from the Wadi Halfa to Kerma railway, though it
should also be noted that Kitchener had met Cecil Rhodes only a few weeks before, when Rhodes stopped
in Cairo to obtain some donkeys for use in Rhodesia. Rhodes dream was a Cape to Cairo railway which
would be 1067mm gauge. This gauge was used in all later Sudanese mainline construction.
Kitchener knew that this line would be a major engineering challenge and had the perfect man for the job
in Percy Cranwill Girouard. Work on the new line commenced on 15 May 1897, the surveyors marking out
the route, after which the bankmakers (about 1500 men) followed, building embankments or otherwise
cutting their way along the route. Next came the platelayers (about 1000 men), who installed the wooden
sleepers upon which the tracks were laid, followed by the spiking gangs, who would spike the tracks into
place to ensure they did not move. Finally, the locomotives and the wagons could move along the line
carrying their precious cargoes of men, supplies and equipment.
Construction reached Abu Hamed on 31 October the same year. The 232 miles had been laid at an average
rate of 1.75 miles a day, but 3.25 miles were made on one day in early October. Besides troops and
supplies the railway even carried a number of gunboats, which were broken down into sections then
reassembled further up the Nile. Due to the cataracts and other obstacles, these vessels may not have
been able to play the part they did in the campaign, but the railway allowed them to bypass the blockages.
Every 20-25 miles (range 17.5 to 32 miles) a station was constructed with a loop siding. Each station had a
station master, two pointsmen and telephone clerk. Nine stations were built and numbered from 1-9 from
north to south. Number 4 and 6 stations had wells and Numbers 2, 4, 6 and 9 were coaling stations. Coal
had to come all the way from Alexandria on the Mediterranean.
The line was pushed to Atbara on the Nile in 1897 during the campaign and after the defeat of the
Mahdiyah in 1898 was continued to Khartoum, which it reached on the last day of 1899.
In 1900 the Military authorities handed over the Wadi Halfa to Khartoum railway to the new Sudanese
government. Sudan Government Railways was created.
The Sudan Military Railway is of historical interest to our member Geoff Blyth, whose grandfather was in
the Sudan during the period of the railways construction. Although in an Infantry Regiment, the Royal
Warwickshire’s, he had previously been involved with construction of railways in Burma. It seems highly
likely that he was involved in the construction of the railway or at the very least travelled on it for the
campaign to regain Khartoum from the forces of the Mahdi.
[C5] – Station 6
Station 6 is in the middle of the Wadi Halfa to Abu Hamed section and in the middle of the Nubian Desert.
It is a bleak place but has a surprising amount of human activity still.
The wells which made the railways construction possible are still present and in use. No less than three
water towers crowd the station area. The stations importance as a watering and coaling station in steam
days is reflected in the presence of a turning triangle and a number of conically roofed railway workers
houses. Trains still call, though the scheduled passenger service only runs fortnightly. Apparently freights
are a little more common. The station is, as would be expected, unmanned. The loop remains useable, but
all the sidings and other tracks are not used. There is a delightful signal box with dangerous rotting steps
preventing safe access, but the semaphore signals, while still present, are disconnected and no longer
used. Abandoned axles, trolleys and wagons litter the site. Two Egyptian Vultures watched proceedings
with interest as the tour group explored the site. The line is formed of 75lb/yard rails from Atbara to
station No.8 (337km) and the remainder of the line to Wadi Halfa is formed of 50lb/yard rails (257km). No
major improvements have been made on the line since its establishment except the partial change of rails
in the early 1960s. Almost all the remaining infrastructure was British built.
Station No. 6 from the air. The railway runs north to south (top to bottom of the page) and the turning triangle on the western side is
clearly visible with the signal box just inside it by the main line. Former railway workers houses are clustered at the south end of the
station. East of the main cluster of station buildings are the wells and the tents and buildings occupied by the present day inhabitants.
The course of the light railway to Umm Nabari cannot be seen.
Water towers and station buildings at Station No. 6. The headworks of one of the wells can be seen on the far left.
The south end of the station with abandoned axles, frame, semaphore and railway workers houses.
The former signal box at Station No. 6
Station name board. Passenger trains still call, but only every two weeks.
The base of the ground frame was made by Dorman Long and Co. Ltd of Middlesbrough. The rest was supplied by WB &S Co Ltd
(Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company Ltd.), London and Chippenham. Behind the frame the single track runs north to Wadi Halfa,
faithfully followed by the now disused telegraph poles
Made by Saxby and Farmer Ltd, London NW in 1905. Wagon built by Metro-Cammell in 1963
Inspection of one exposed rail revealed it to be 50 lb rail supplied by BV and Co. (Bolckow, Vaughan & Co) of Middlesbrough and
Astonishing as it may seem, a light railway started at station 6 and ran 48 km east even deeper into the
Nubian desert. The reason for this was gold. This has been prospected for in central Sudan since the days
of the Pharaohs, mainly from alluvial deposits. The underground seams were an obvious source of interest
to Victorian entrepreneurs and in 1901 Sudan Goldfields Ltd., a mining company registered in London,
began prospecting in the area. Encouraged, they built the first privately owned railway in the Sudan from
Station No. 6 eastwards to the Umm Nabari gold mine. The mine was situated 18km north-west of Murrat
Wells which are halfway along the historic camel road from Korosko to Berber. In 1905 the company
constructed a 2-foot gauge light railway to carry plant, equipment and stores to the mine as well as
passengers, most of whom were obviously personnel working at the mine. Trains were drawn by small
steam engines. The value of gold extracted was a disappointment, the mine was abandoned and the
railway closed and dismantled in 1921. The remains of a small loading platform at Station No. 6 are all that
remains, though apparently the former course of the railway may still be observed at a few points. The
‘small loading platform’ proved difficult to identify in the time available.
Small scale prospecting for gold is widespread, and the buildings by Station 6 act as a watering and
provisioning point for the area to the east. A large tent acts as both a café and shop. The inside looks
rather like Aladdin’s Cave.
[C6] - The Karima branch
The 221.8 km branch from Station 10 to Karima was built in 1905/6. Karima was an important port on the
Nile, and the branch allowed transhipment of goods and passengers. The railway may still be in use - a
freight service was confirmed in August 2013 as running from Atbara on the second or third Saturday of
the month, and certainly the track is still present as it was crossed several times on the overland drive from
Station 6 to Karima. A fair proportion of the tracks were covered by windblown sand.
About 50km north of Karima is the disused station of Umm Rahau (sometimes anglicised to Amraho), close
to the recently created Lake Merowe which flooded the Nile’s fourth cataract after construction of the
Merowe High Dam in 2009.
Derelict station buildings at Umm Rahau. The station name board is not very helpful.
A hand powered inspection trolley sits in the loop at Umm Rahau. The conical roofed railway workers houses are the same as at
Station 6 and probably of the same age. Members whose pulses quicken at the sight of a potential grice should be aware that it is
170.6km to No. 10 Junction and that a shovel will be essential.
A track obviously once went to the large cylindrical tank, which presumably held either water or fuel. Beyond the loading ramp the
single track curves away right. The line is far from straight.
[C7]- The Sudan Railways museum
Atbara is a railway town, sited at the most important junction in the country and home to both the main
workshops and main diesel depot. The area covered by railway buildings is very extensive, but much is now
disused. To the northwest of the site in the former English quarter is an old Anglican church. This has been
turned into the Sudan Railways Museum, and there are exhibits inside as well as out in the grounds.
Former logos of Sudan Railways are seen above the entrance
1885 Leeds built Hunslet 4-4-OT. The buffer beam bears the running number SGR (Sudan Government Railways) No. 4, which
suggests it may be works no. 333, originally named SPHINX and one of six such locomotives delivered to the Sudan Military Railway.
The information board says ‘The steam locomotive of the Anglo-Egyptian campaign that guided by Lord Kitchener on Sudan in 1897’.
The Queen Victoria Gate which was the entrance to Khartoum railway station. It was made in 1902.
English Electric shunting loco no. 404, works number 1765 built in 1951 at the Dick Kerr works in Preston. Withdrawn in 1965. It is
ironic that Hunslet 0-6-0T SR No. 40 works number 3740, which is a few metres away, was also built in 1951 but lasted until 1985.
Apparently similar locos were exported to Malaya where they were class 15. PLEG will struggle to get this one for haulage.