The International Steam Pages

Surviving Steam in the Eastern Rif (Morocco)

Since this report was written, it seems likely that all the locomotives listed below have been scrapped.

The following observations have been provided by Richard Bowen who was a member of a group of 12 who made a visit to the area around Melilla (but not the enclave itself) on Sunday 20th October 2002 to see what the railway position was.

The chartered bus from Nador (the Moroccan port outside Melilla) was being driven by the owner, with a friend as guide. The latter was never properly introduced, but certainly had a great deal of railway knowledge, sometimes not in the form required by enthusiasts. We would not have got far had we been in the hands of more tourist minded operators. We were introduced to various guides en route. The information sometimes came in Arabic and was translated to Spanish or directly in Spanish, then translated to French and finally passed out in German. Errors in translation are inevitable. Luckily Joan Alberich González and José Manuel Vidal Pérez are developing an Internet site and most of the historical data, which follows, has either been extracted from that or checked against it, see (this link is dead). They hope to produce a further book on this under-recorded area of railway interest.

Later still Tomas Meyer-Eppler produced a map that probably came from Lartilleux's book on railways in the Maghreb.

melilla.gif (7764 bytes)

On the way there by Selouane we passed several tile works, no railway items seen.

We asked about the line shown on several maps between Taourirt and Melillla. In reply we were told a little about the metre gauge "Estado", Nador-Tistutin (Tiztoutine)-EI Batel (1912) and ZeIuan-Tisturin (1917) both of which closed in 1940. We were shown some formation near Segangane (Zeghangmane on the kilometre posts) which I believe to have been this line.

We were told that there was a "centre sidérugique" to the west, but we did not sec that. No doubt it was rail served in the past.

Next we were taken to a site just below the remains of a bunker, probably at Coto Minero de AFRA. We could see the formation of a triangle, one frame of a 600mm gauge skip and many bogies from 600mm gauge stock. Then to Societe d'Exploitation des Mines du Rif (SEFERIF), Segangane (Zeghangmane on the kilometre posts). The site is near San Juan de las Minas. Note that initials SEFERIF make a longer title than that given, perhaps a Fer/France/Ferrocarril has been omitted. However that form of the title is used in legal documents of 1996.

Although the current lease runs from 5th July 1993 to 4th July 2005 production has ceased and a great deal of recovery is in process. The two locomotives are stored in the workshops and in a separate building is a spare engine (never fitted) surrounded by a mountain of documentation. Despite the demolishing going on we were told that more than one company is interested in the site. The product would appear to be pellitised iron ore, we got a ball each to keep.

At the bottom of the site (which is a long way up a hill) there is what appears to be the remains of a sector house, above this is an opencast area where underground mining has come through to daylight. The workshops and pellitisation plant are above this.


1 CoCoDE GM 0-6-6-0 3836411/1971
2 CoCoDE GM 0-6-6-0 3836511/1971

Below this is a large mining area with track formations crossing, tunnelling and reversing as required. Two bridges are still in place, but we could see no wagons in the area shown on an Internet site as having some.

Skirting this area to the west and descending brought us to the site of a station and weighbridge. Within the station was a small shed, in which a locomotive could have lived. Also present were some buckets from a cableway.

From there we followed the formation almost to the enclave border. Although more than 99% lifted there are a few sections of rails left on various bridges, or in the tarmac at level crossings. The crossing-keepers' shelters and barriers are a more substantial remnant.

As we progressed we became aware of the formation of the 600mm gauge line generally a little more seaward than the metre gauge line. Our guides referred to this as the "French line". The various Internet sites indicate that this meant Setolazar (SAMS = Sociedad Anónima Mineira Setolazar). The name "Setolazar" comes from the surnames of the three owners: Setuáin, Olavarriaga and Zárate) and was founded in Bilbao. The 600mm gauge line started in 1913. Also existing was the Compañia del Norte Africano (CNA, set up in Madrid in 1907 using French money and arriving here in 1910). It later became the Compañia European North African Mines Lid. and part of the Compañia Española de Minas del Rif (CEMR) in 1918, SAMS joined in 1946. Nationalisation took place in 1968 and SEFERIF look over from 10 February 1968. Closure was on 30 August 1972.

On this route a tram service Nador-Zeluán was established in 1912, and second followed. The line was originally metre gauge and became 600-mm gauge later. The furthest penetration into the territory is Baiei reached in 1917. The service lasted till 1932.

We noted a triangular layout, one arm going east to a transhipment point on the Mediterranean shore. The other arm ran parallel to the metre gauge line to a station and bunker (both still standing - El Hipódromo?) in Beni Enzar. There are five roads under the bunker, but they were not explored in detail. Behind that is a small 9-stall sector house and in that on the roads in the main section were 8 locomotives, the other two roads were separated by a wall from the main area and empty. The turntable access has been removed, but the locomotives are presented for display - as if a museum project had started and got no further.

Waiting for a knight in shining armour?

There is a preservation society (Asociación Melillense de Amigos del Ferrocarril = AMAF). Most of the rodding has been removed, all plates have gone; the locomotives are covered in rust. Needed was some sandpaper, suitable spectacles and lots of time - and no photographers wanting access. None of these were forthcoming. My interpretation of what we saw is:

  Identification Identity Comments
Ct Central buffer
A first impression is of a Borsig product
Might be
Borsig 7701/1912
Other candidate is OK 13109/(1938?)
Bt Oblong plate
Central buffer
Might be
Borsig 7787/1912
Other candidates are OK 3546/190, 6219+23/1913, 9005/1920. Murray says "the Bt doesn't look like OK, cylinders and rear windows are definitely not OK style"
1D SAMS initials
Round plate on cabside
Automatic coupler
  La Meuse 3341-3344 were not allocated, it has been suggested to me that it might be one of these. La Meuse 3105/1924 has also been suggested, it was built as a D
1D SAMS initials
Round plate on cabside
Automatic coupler
  As above
1D Round plate on cabside
Automatic coupler
Might be La Meuse 3340/1929  
Dt Right-hand nameplate on the cabside
Irregular marks on the right-hand side tank, high up
Rivets of right-hand side tank in shape of a V
Roll bars fore and aft
Central buffer

Which in its turn is almost certainly Henschel 21236/1928

Other candidates are
Henschel 21235/1928
Henschel 19228/1922
Henschel 19229/1922
Henschel 19230/1922
The YOUKSEN type appears in an OK catalogue, but this does not prove they built it.
See note (1)
D Oblong plate on cabside
Cab windows shut
Long vertical handles on can front corners
Automatic coupler

Which in turn is almost certainly OK 2643/1912

The two locomotives were ordered for Massenet in Argentina. The works numbers correspond to a building date of 1907 or 1908.
A possibility is that an order was cancelled and the locomotives diverted to Morocco in 1912.
See note (2)
D Oblong plate on cabside
Cab windows open
Short vertical handles on cab front corners
Automatic coupler

Which in turn is almost certainly OK 2642/1912

See OK book (Murray & Bude), photos 263 + 264
As above
An internet site allocates 208 to this one but that appears to be an error.
See note (2)

Note (1): YOUKSEN I and II

  1966 (photographs: Wiseman)
YOUKSEN I Right hand nameplate on the side tank forward and high up
Rivets of right-hand side tank in the shape of an A
Roll bar fore, but none aft
YOUKSEN II Right-hand nameplate on the cabside
Irregular marks on the tank in the same place as YOUKSEN I has its nameplate
Rivets of right-hand side lank in shape of a V
Roll bars fore and aft

Note (2) AFRA I and II

  1966 (photographs: Wiseman)
AFRA I Cab windows
Short vertical handles on cab front corners
AFRA II Cab windows sheeted over
Long vertical handles on cab front corners

Afterwards the gentlemen mentioned above have told me that two further locomotives are in a scrap yard at Segangan.

This is Afra I:

Afra I

Further links were but all arrakis links dead by March 2012.: (La historia de la CEMR) (La historia del Tractocarril) (La historia de la Socidad Anómina Minera Setolázar) (Ferrocarriles Espanoles durante el Protectadoro) (Compañía Española de Minas del Rif) (Compañía Norte Africano) (Tractocarril) (Estaciones de la CEMR) (Estaciones de la Compañía Setolázar) (Material Rodante de la C.E.M.R.) (Material rodante de la Compañía Setolázar) (AMAF) (preserved Orenstein and Koppel Steam locomotives)

Rob Dickinson