The Eritrean Railway

October 11, 2012
Eritrea's railway is a remarkable story of achievement and ingenuity. Although it's widely believed Eritrean railways began with the Italians arriving, a closer examination shows it was the British who first constructed railways inside Eritrea. In 1867, the British built Eritrea's first rail-lines for the purpose of a rapid military expedition to dislodge Tewodros who had taken British citizens hostage in a village called Magdala (, Apr 8, 2010, by Mansour Nouredin). The lines started from the Eritrean coast of Adulis (Zula), which is located 34 miles south of Massawa, to Magdala, which is located 379 miles (610 kilometers) deep into what is now known as Ethiopia (, Apr 8, 2010, by Mansour Nouredin). Dating to 1867, the British snapped the earliest known photos of Eritreans (See Photos below article)

When the Italians arrived in the late 19th century AD, they were motivated to build rail-lines that supplied their advancing armies with war material.The railways reached the town of Ghinda by 1904 and Nefasit by 1910 (2007, Denison, Paice, p. 65). From the town of Nefasit to Asmara, the Italian engineers built impressive arrays of structures; including 20 tunnels, 65 bridges and viaducts and a breathtaking 1:30 slope descend (2007, Denison, Paice, p. 65). By 1911, the railways finally reached Asmara and by 1922 and 1928, the railways had reached Keren and Agordat respectfully (2007, Denison, Paice, p. 65).

As the years passed on, the usage of the lines expanded to include the supply materials to construction sites and military units, in addition to that, they provided passengers with transportation from the coast to the capital of Asmara (2007, Denison, Paice, p. 65). After WWII, the rail-lines became less important and its role declined to moving passengers from the capital to the coast (2007, Denison, Paice, p. 65). During the Eritrean revolution for independence, it was neglected by the Ethiopian government and ceased operating in 1962 (2007, Denison, Paice, p. 65). When Eritrea won its independence in 1991, nearly all of the rail-lines were destroyed or dismantled. Using no aid money, the Eritrean people made a regourous and successful effort to bring back the steam engine locomotives into operation. After being shut down for many decades, the Asmara-Massawa railway network was open for operation in February 2003. As a result of this, hundreds of railway enthusiasts visit Eritrea annually. Plans to fix the Asmara-Keren railway are already in store. Here's an empowering documentary showing the rebuilding of Eritrean railways.
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