The International Steam Pages

The Eritrean Railway, October 1997

Mike Cunningham reports on his recent visit:

"Service on the 950mm gauge Eritrean Railway ceased over 20 years ago, due to political conflicts and Eritrea's fight for independence from Ethiopia. Since independence was gained in 1991, the Eritrean Government has set up a 'Railways Rehabilitation Project' with the aim of re-introducing a rail service between the port of Massawa on the Red Sea and the capital Asmara, which is 117.6km inland and 2342 metres above sea level.

The 29km section between Massawa and Mai Atal is now largely re-laid and work on the 40km section from here to Ghinda is expected to be completed by April next year. When this is done it is intended to introduce a railcar service on these sections. To this end, 4 or 5 railcars will be bought. (The two remaining pre-war Fiat Railcars (Littorinas) will be reserved for Tourist Specials.) Work will then continue to rehabilitate the 48km long Ghinda-Asmara section. There are no plans at present for the189km long Asmara-Agordat line.

The railway workshops in Asmara have repaired two 0-4-4-0T Mallets and an 0-4-0T. In addition two Krupp Bo-Bo diesels, a Drewry 0-6-0DM and one of the Fiat railcars are said to be in operable condition. Other locomotives are under repair.

Mai Atal is the base for the civil engineering works. The two workable Mallets and one of the Krupp diesels are kept in the open here. In addition to these engines, the railway has adapted two 4-wheel Russian Lorries ("Orlons") for permanent way duties. These are stated to be able to pull two loaded trucks.

The few surviving railway coaches are presently occupied by squatters. There are well over 100 freight vans and wagons extant, of which about 20 have been refurbished.

A commuter service over the causeway at Massawa was introduced, using two converted low sided wagons and the Drewry 0-4-0DM. However, this engine proved unreliable and the service is now suspended. 

442 54 at Mai Atal

202 008, 202 011, 202 009 at Asmara

Engine No. Wheel
Maker Worksplate
Present State Location
442-54 0-4-4-0T Ansaldo
1363/1938 Working order Mai Atal
442-55 0-4-4-0T Ansaldo
1370/1938 Repairs almost completed Asmara
442-56 0-4-4-0T Ansaldo
1367/1938 Stored Asmara
442-59 0-4-4-0T Ansaldo
1369/1938 Working order Mai Atal
440-008 0-4-4-0T Ansaldo
None Stored Asmara
202-002 0-4-0T Breda
2169/1927 Stored Asmara
202-004 0-4-0T Breda
2454/1937 Under repair Asmara
202-008 0-4-0T Breda
2272/1929 Working order Asmara
202-009 0-4-0T Breda
None Stored Asmara
202-010 0-4-0T Breda
2456/1937 Stored Asmara
202-011 0-4-0T Breda
2457/1937 Stored Asmara

Diesel Locomotives

2 x Krupp BoBo of 1967, both in working order

2 x Drewry 0-6-0 of 1936 and 1937, one in working order

1 x Drewry 0-4-0 of 1937, under repair

3 x Fiat railcars (2 large, 1 small), one large in working order

1 x Brown Boveri Bo of 1935, abandoned at Mai Atal

2 x "Orlon" rail lorries for permanent way duties

Rob Dickinson