The International Steam Pages

The Railways of Madagascar, 2012

Thomas Kautzor reports on his visit between January 17th and February 3rd 2012. A map of the metre gauge railways on the island described below is available on

With the introduction of the illustrations, the original report has been divided into two. This report covers MADARAIL, click here for the report on FCE.

He has also produced reports on the sugar mills and other minor railways and a small distillery with preserved stationary steam..

MADARAIL - Click the thumbnails for a larger picture.

The northern network of the Réseau National des Chemins de Fer Malagasy (RNCFM) was concessioned to MADARAIL in 2002. At first COMAZAR, part of the French Bolloré group, was the majority shareholder in the company, but in 2008 it was replaced by Belgian-owned VECTURIS. The network comprises three lines:

  • Tananarive-Côte Est (TCE), from the capital Antananarivo (“Tana”) via Moramanga (km 122.1) and Brickaville (km 270.8) to Toamasina-Manguiers (ex Tamatave, km 371.4), including the 3.3 km branch from Manangareza (km 369.7) to the port

  • Moramanga-Lac Alaotra (MLA), from Moramanga to Ambatondrazaka (km 142.2), including the 18.6 km mineral branch from Vohidiala (km 122.6) to Morarano Chrome;

  • Tananarive-Antsirabe (TA), from Antananarivo to Antsirabé (km 153.7), including a branch into the Antsirabé industrial area.

In Tana, the station has been turned into a shopping mall with a restaurant, boutiques, an art gallery and tourist information desks. The section from here to Soanierana is common to the TCE and the TA and used to be double-track, however the second track has been lifted. A short line 4.3 km north to Alarobia was the only part of the capital’s tram system that was actually built prior to WWI, of which 2 km are still in use to serve various industrial sidings, including a fuel depot.

MADARAIL has implemented a vast program of track replacement and rehabilitation.

Passenger service has gradually been reintroduced under the “Dia Soa” brand and in February 2012 operated to the following schedule:
Mo. 131 Moramanga 07.00 – Tamatave 16.52
Tu. 132 Tamatave 08.52 – Moramanga 18.54
We. 221 Moramanga 10.30 – Ambatondrazaka 16.52
Th. 222 Ambatondrazaka 08.00 – Moramanga 12.30
133 Moramanga 14.00 – Brickaville 20.18
Fr. 134 Brickaville 08.00 – Moramanga 18.00
Sa. 221 Moramanga 10.30 – Ambatondrazaka 16.00
Su. 222 Ambatondrazaka 06.45 – Moramanga 14.00

Fares are Ar. 8,000 Moramanga to Brickaville, Ar. 10,000 to Tamatave, Ar. 9,000 to Ambatondrazaka, while non-residents are charged a Ar. 20,000 (EUR 7.00) flat rate.

The coaches are kept clean and each one has one or two attendants. They are well used (104,639 passengers in 2011) as they go through areas with poor road access and allow the transportation of goods (mainly bananas and rice). The train is made up of two or three covered vans and three 2nd class passenger coaches on the main line, while on the flatter MLA a 1st class coach is added (when not in use in the TRANS LEMURIE EXPRESS).

Regular weekend excursions with the Micheline “Viko-Viko” are operated from Tana to both Andasibe (km 148.3), close to Mantadia National Park, and to Antsirabe, famous for its mild climate. They usually operate to the following schedule:
Sa. Tana 08.00 – Andasibe 13.00
Su. Andasibe 14.00 – Tana 19.00
Sa. Tana 08.00 – Antsirabe 13.30
Su. Antsirabe 14.00 – Tana 19.30

These are limited to 19 passengers, fares for 2012 are Ar. 100,000 one way and Ar. 130,000 return, and can be booked with MADARAIL’s Tourism Department (tourisme at The following trips are still planned for 2012:
Andasibe: April 07/09, 28/29, May 12/13, June 16/17, June 30/July 01, 28/29, Aug. 11/12, 25/26, Sep. 08/09, 22/23, Oct. 06/07, 27/28, Nov. 10/11, 24/25, Dec. 15/16;
Antsirabe: May 26/28, July 14/15, Oct. 20/21.

A three-coach tourist train, the TRANS LEMURIE EXPRESS, is available for charters. It comprises two 52-seat 1st class coaches (“Classe Palissandre”) and a van to transport supplies and a diesel generator for lighting.

Freight train frequencies are:
3-6 trains/day on the main line between Tana and Tamatave;
1 train/day between the chromium mine at Morarano Chrome and Tamatave;
1-2 trains/day between Tana and Antsirabe.

In 2011, 421,884 tonnes of goods were transported by rail, representing a share of 21% of the market. Main commodities transported are containers, petroleum products, building materials (cement and metal products), dry goods (rice and flour) and chromium ore. 260 wagons are available for this traffic: 76 mineral hoppers, 63 tank wagons, 67 covered wagons, 48 container flats, and 6 open wagons. Some of the goods trains are split at Ambila-Lemaitso (km 284.7), before the steep sections to Moramanga and Tana.

At Tamatave, the section between the port and a newly-built nickel smelter owned by Dynatec Mining Corporation 10 km away has been double-tracked recently to allow non-stop operations to supply the smelter with coal, limestone and sulfur from unloading ships. The ore is brought from the mine near Moramanga to the smelter in a pipeline as slurry. At the time of our visit there had been trial runs, with the first ship expected a couple of days after our departure. U.S.-built high-capacity bottom-discharge hopper wagons (19.5 t., 52 t. load, 44.5 m3 capacity) are used.

The main workshops and motive power depot is at Tana, while there are smaller depots at Moramanga and Manangareza. The depot at Antsirabe is disused, as is a small wagon repair facility at Fanasana (km 226.2) on the steep section between Brickaville and Moramanga.

Antsirabe Antananarivo

Tana Shed Roster

Andasibe Tamatave

Diesel Locomotives:

Road/rail tractors:

  • RR 101 (Zephir Lok 4.90) Tana depot;

  • RR 0102 (Zephir Lok 4.90) Tana works; (seen below)

  • RR 103 (Mercedes-Benz Tenec 700S) Manangareza (without its guiding wheels).

Alsthom AD12B BB 221 – BB 238 (Bo-Bo DE, single cab, built 1973-82, V12 1050 h.p. engine):

  • BB.0221 in use;

  • BB.0222 in use;

  • BB 223 dumped Tana yard (CFM livery and number);

  • BB 225 dumped Tana yard (CFM livery and number);

  • BB.0229 Tana works (awaiting parts);

  • BB.0231 in use; (shown below)

  • BB 233 dumped Tana yard (CFM livery and number).

Alsthom AD16B BB 254 – BB 256 (Bo-Bo DE, double cabs, built 1989, SACM V16 1600 h.p. engine):

  • BB 255 dumped Tana works (CFM livery);

  • BB.0256 stored Tana depot (withdrawn).

Whitcomb 3-DM-13 B 301 – B 303 (4wDM, c/n 40417-9/1947):

  • B.303 stored out-of-use Tana depot.

Fauvet-Girel BB 401 – BB 404 (Bo-Bo DE, single cab, built 1982, Poyaud A6150 435 h.p. engine, possibly renumbered from BB 405-8):

  • BB.404 in use Tamatave shunter (on Alsthom bogies).

GE/Motive Power & Equipment Solutions, Inc. (MP&ES) BB.1001 – BB.1005 (Bo-Bo DE, centre-cab, rebuilt from GEs, Class 160/160, blt. date 05-2010, length 11.774 m., 72 t., 1000 h.p., 45 km/h.). These locos are owned by Dynatec and based Manangareza depot, where they are maintained and operated by MADARAIL for use between the port and the nickel smelter.

  • BB.1001 “Voromahery” (Ser. N°. CMCSCS0901181SP150);

  • BB.1002 “Papango” (Ser. N°. CMCSCS0901181SP130);

  • BB.1003 “Firasabe” (Ser. N°. CMCSCS0901181SP110);

  • BB.1004 “Ankoay” (Ser. N°. CMCSCS0901181SP140);

  • BB.1005 “Hitsikisika” (Ser. N°. CMCSCS0901181SP120); (shown below)

Alsthom AD12B BB.1201 – BB.1207 (Bo-Bo DE, single cab, built 1976/78, V12 1050 h.p. engine):
These were bought from CP Portugal and are BB.1201-4 2003 ex CP 9022/6/8/9 and BB.1205-7 ex CP 9021/3/30 order not known (CP 9021-6 built 1976 and 9027-31 built 1978).

  • BB.1201 dismantled Tana depot (withdrawn 25.10.2011);

  • BB.1202 in use;

  • BB.1203 (ex CP 9026) in use Tana shunter;

  • BB.1204 under repair Tana depot (turbo replacement);

  • BB.1205 in use;

  • BB.1206 in use;

  • BB.1207 Tana works (awaiting parts).


1203 1206

CSR Sifang SDD9 AD.1801 – AD.1805 (Bo-Bo DE, double cabs, 2007, 72 tonnes, MTU 12V4000R41 engine):
These were acquired through a World Bank loan and MADARAIL is trying to raise funds to acquire four more.

  • AD.1801 in use;

  • AD.1802 in use;

  • AD.1803 in use;

  • AD.1804 chassis Tana works (wrecked in an accident, withdrawn 14.07.2011);

  • AD.1805 Tana works (awaiting reprofiling).

1802 and 1803

Diesel Railcars:

Carel-et-Fouché ‘Micheline’ railcars ZM 514 – ZM 517 (1B-3 DMR, 1952/53, Mercedes 120 h.p. engine, 19 chairs + bar):

  • ZM 515 dismantled Tana works;

  • ZM 517 “Viko-Viko” operational (restored 2000-10).

ZM 514 “Vintsy” was taken to France in 1996 where it operated on a number of tourist railways before being put on display in the “L’Aventure Michelin” museum in Clermont-Ferrand (see below), while ZM 516 “Tsikirity” was transferred to the FCE in 2002 as the main network was concessioned (see separate FCE page).

ZM 514 ZM 514 ZM 514
ZM 517 ZM 517 ZM 515
ZM 517 ZM 517 ZM 517
ZM 517 ZM 517

FramaFer bogie crane railcar TG 802 / TG 80-4/400 (1984/N°. 14, Mercedes V8 engine):

  • TG 802 / TG 80-4/400 operational Tana works (crane out-of-use, used for shunting).

Motor Draisines and work equipment:

  • YI.044 inspection car (Billard D45E1 N°. 14/1956, Renault 668 43 h.p. engine) operational;

  • YC.054 works car (Geismar VMT640 N°. 515/1988) in use Andasibé;

  • (PYC.061) (SOCOFER SCF1316.3 N°. 550/1986) in use – this orange draisine with an hydraulic crane is privately-owned by power company JIRAMA to transport workers and equipment between Tana, Andasibe and their private siding at Km. 206, near the Andekaleka hydroelectric dam;

  • YG.101 inspection car (Geismar VMT300 N°. 322-01/2004) body only Tana works;

  • YG.102 inspection car (Geismar VMT300 N°. 322-02/2004) in use Manangareza;

  • YG.103 inspection car (Geismar VMT300 N°. 322-03/2004) operational Tana depot;

  • YL.021 motolorry, in use Moramanga;

  • YL.088 motolorry, operational Tana garage;

  • un-numbered motolorry, stored off-track Tana garage;

  • tamper (NEWAG-RECON Typ BEAVER 4/73W, 2005/Nr. 151) operational Marangareza;

  • road-rail excavator (Geismar KGT-V01) operational Vohidiala.

YI.044 YI.044 YC.054 PYC.061 YL.088 YG.102

Passenger Train Coaches:

  • Presidential coach (ex ZR, two 2-berths compartments) Tana depot;

  • ZR 717 “Trans Lémurie Express” (Soulé 1977, 18.850 m., 50 seats, bar) in use (RG 6-07);

  • ZR 724 “Dia Soa” (Soulé 1977, 18.850 m., 21.5 t., 102 seats) in use (RG 4-11);

  • ZR 725 “Dia Soa” (Soulé 1977, 18.850 m., 21.5 t., 102 seats) in use (RG 5-06);

  • ZR 726 “Dia Soa” (Soulé 1977, 18.850 m., 21.5 t., 102 seats) in use (RG 12-11);

  • ZR 727 “Dia Soa” (Soulé 1977, 18.850 m., 21.5 t., 102 seats) Tana wagon works;

  • ZR 728 “Trans Lemurie Express” (Soulé 1977, 18.850 m., 21.5 t., 50 seats, bar) in use (RG 4-08);

  • D05001 “Trans Lemurie Express” van (SWS 1980, 15.20 m., 16.5 t., 5.5 t. load, ex TUT, 2005 ex Furka-Oberalp (Switzerland) DZ 4354, 1980 built on frame of Wynental- und Suhrental-Bahnen (WSB) DZ 56 from 1953/54) in use (RG 5-08);

  • D05002 van (SWS 1978, 19.0 t., 5.0 t. load, ex TUT, 2005 ex-PTT/Furka-Oberalp (Switzerland) Z 100, 1983 ex-PTT/RhB Z 100, 1978 built on frame of ex-PTT/WSB Z 54 from 1966) in use with track gang Manangareza.

A number of old wooden coaches are still in use in departmental service. At Tana station wooden bogie special coach Skytf1 10109 (Decauville) has been transformed into the restrooms of the ‘Café de la Gare’. At Ambohimanga, 21 km north of Tana, on our way to the fortified royal palace, we found the bodies of two Decauville wooden coaches used as workers’ accommodation in a brick works. At Moramanga, Decauville railcar trailer ZR 822 (1959) stands on a disconnected track next to the depot.



Rail cranes:

An old four-wheel hand crane is based at Manangareza depot, while two 25-tonnes Applevage diesel-electric cranes (4+4WDECR) are based at Moramanga and Antsirabé. The one at Moramanga was seen in use to replace a wagon wheelset, while the one at Antsirabé was said to be operational but had not been used in a long time. Both are not mobile anymore, however.

Moramanga Antsirabé

Train Urbain de Tananarive (TUT):

In 2004/05 a number of Swiss private railway companies donated passenger equipment to Antananarivo municipality as part of a project to reopen the Alarobia line as a commuter railway. The electric motor coaches were to have diesel engines installed in the baggage compartments. However, nothing came of this and most of the stock is stored at Tana station (the two ex-FO baggage/postal vans were sold to MADARAIL):

  • Trognerbahn motor car BDe 4/4 6 (SWP/MFO 1952) shipped in 2005;

  • Forchbahn motor car BDe 4/4 11 – 14 (SWS/MFO 1959) shipped in 2005;

  • Forchbahn motor car BDe 4/4 15 – 16 (SWS/MFO 1966) shipped in 2004;

  • Forchbahn driving trailer Bt 101 (SWS/MFO 1959) shipped in 2004;

  • Forchbahn driving trailers Bt 102 – 106 (SWS/SWP/MFO 1967, new bodies 1975/76) shipped 2004/05.

Rob Dickinson