Eritrea 2018 - 11: Asmara Parade IV (50 p.) is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.


Proud Earthling

To the previous part of the series:
Eritrea 2018 - 10: Religions of Asmara III (50 p.)

Video for this series:

First, a few excerpts of Eritrean (railway) history:

The current region of Eritrea appears in history as part of the Kingdom of Aksum, the name-giving capital Axum nowadays is situated in Ethiopia close to the Eritrean border and is supposed to house the Ark of the Covenant:

Later, Eritrea was occupied by the Ottomans:

1867-1868, the British expedition to Abyssinia against Emperor Téwodros (Theodor) II keeping British hostages took place:

The first railway on the territory of modern Eritrea from the port of Zula - 30 miles south of the current terminal Massawa - 12 miles to the foot of the mountain range at Kumaile was constructed for the campaign. Second hand rails and rolling stock were shipped from Mumbai, from the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (now part of the Central Railway) and the Bombay, Baroda (Vadodara today) and Central India Railway (part of the Western Railway). The engineers built the tracks in Indian broad gauge, highly unusual on the African continent dominated by narrow gauges.

An Italian explorer procured the Bay of Assab in 1869/70, the joint conquered territories around Asmara and Massawa were declared Italian colony in 1890:

The name Eritrea is derived from the Red Sea (Greek "erythros" - red).

1 ft 11 5/8 in (600 mm) Decauville tracks were laid throughout Massawa port in 1885. The first 17 miles of the 3 ft 1 3/8 in (950 mm) mainline from Massawa to the fortress Sa'ati were completed in 1888 after only 5 months construction. They served the campaign against Ethiopia which culminated in an Italian defeat – also due to the fact no rail link to the highland plateau existed yet:

During the mid-1890s, several routes were considered from Massawa via Ghinda and Keren to Kassala in eastern Sudan. As Ferdinando Martini - a railway-friendly civilian governor (1897-1906) - came to power and the capital was relocated to the until then insignificant village of Asmara, the construction of the mountain line finally began and reached Asmara in 1911. The railway was gradually extended until 1932, but the connection to the Sudanese Cape gauge network never completed:

By the end of the 1930s, one of the longest cableways in the world was added parallel to the railway:

Mussolini started his campaign against Ethiopia in 1935. The Italian troops were beaten at the Battle of Keren in 1941 and Eritrea fell under British control, one of the first Allied gains in WWII:

The British administration considered abandoning the deficient railway. But they were obligated to maintain state property, so operations continued. The UN decided in 1952 to make Eritrea an autonomous province of the Ethiopian Empire.
Already in decades before the railway suffered bandit attacks. But as the Eritrean autonomy was gradually undermined, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) formed in 1960 and an open armed independence struggle broke out. Later, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) split off the ELF and came out on top. Both groups are Marxist, the EPLF more Christian-dominated. The railway was hit by several acts of sabotage. The most spectacular was carried out in 1970 as rebels drove a Henschel diesel and two Littorina railcars down a gorge without passengers. Ultimately, rail operations stopped in 1975. In 1974, the Communist Derg overthrew the Ethiopian monarchy and stayed in power under Mengistu until 1991. The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front and the EPLF defeated the regime, Eritrean independence was declared in 1993. The People's Front for Democracy and Justice emerged from the EPLF and still is in charge under president Isayas Afewerki during the "change to democracy" – already lasting more than 25 years. The ELF still exists as opposition in exile.

Eritrea and Ethiopia again led war 1998 - 2000 due to border disagreements, the 2002 peace treaty only was accepted recently in July 2018.–Ethiopian_War

After independence, the government soon decided to rebuild the entirely unusable railway. Regular suburban traffic around Massawa even was put into service the next year temporarily during a try-out phase. Consciously, they did not seek outside help but collected all materials available throughout the country. Only the Massawa - Asmara section could be rebuilt and was completed in 2004. Sadly, portions of the line have been destroyed during rainy seasons in recent years, including a large river bridge. The drive and spirit of independence soon was lost due to repressive dictatorial measures like forced labour, military service and a restricted economy - the railway future currently does not look very bright for Eritrea.

October 28 2018

We return to the square in front of the Eritrean Orthodox cathedral in Asmara.

A market had formed along the mosque.

Wide range of available goods.


Painted chair frames? No problem!

Only few items are available in abundance.

The modern standard city bus type.

Fashion is valued, down to the AC/DC undies.

An early decorated house in a city only founded during the 1880s. Someone is proud of his German second-hand Golf...

Cars sporting the lightning badge of Opel are popular, too.

Proper arcs of lightning could emerge here... a black-out hit our hotel practically every day around 6 p.m. - if you were unlucky, while standing under the shower. The hotel owned a backup generator but it took a while to kick in.

One of the Art Deco mansions.

Not sure if this statement is correct... ;-)


In front of "Red Sea Building" and propaganda: who is it? Pushkin, of course, who had African ancestors:


An old Fiat 625.

We visited the opera, sadly could not enter the theatre:'s_Opera



Cinema Capitol (built as Cinema Augustus in 1938) opposite the government compound is designed to resemble a roll of film.

Another monumental cinema of the same era.

A typical coffee ceremony is a must in the original coffee region - the plant Coffea arabica can be naturally found in Kaffa province of south-west Ethiopia. First, the beans are constantly flipped inside a pan and the aroma presented to the guests. Subsequently, the roasted beans are ground by hand and cooked mixed with spices like ginger. The result remotely reminded me of Indian chai without milk.

The sign to the left puzzled us, a slight change in the Arabic text could explain the mistranslation. In Arabic, it says something like "palace police".
To the right: finally one of the vehicles I had spotted several times during the week: Eritrean driving schools only use small old Fiats.

Cinema Croce Rossa in the background.

Slightly modified.

The Ethiopian embassy had reopened in September 2018, also an Art Deco villa. A soldier - by coincidence an acquaintance of our guide - warned us not to walk around the corner towards the US embassy.

A wedding convoy was preparing for departure in a side street, bride and groom of course again inside a Mercedes.


The little ones followed Luwi and Alie on a pick-up load bed.



Last point of visit before the rest of the group departed towards Keren: remains of the railway line there.

Sadly, a part of the city has been built over it. That's why a reactivation of the line seems even more improbable than it does anyway.

October 25 2018

We return to the depot Thursday afternoon.

440.008 was shunting...

... 202.008 and 010.

A miracle happened: the workers managed to unblock the turntable.

That way the class 440 could also get 442.56 in the back.

It managed to cross the turntable.

The parade was complete - the inscription on the column of the water crane said: "F.S. 1908".

From left to right: 440.008, 202.008 and 442.56.




We were lucky with the light around 4:30 p.m., a few minutes later thunderstorm clouds started to gather.
Krupp engine 27D (built in 1957) approached from the diesel shed. The campanile in the background.

The locomotive provided insight into its innards.

It coupled to an auxiliary train wagon also constructed by Krupp, then loudly dieseled up the grade, still audible for some time:

Hopefully this will bode well for next morning... I skipped the night photo session to get some sleep - I am not too fond of artificially lit static pictures anyway.

October 26 2018

Next day, we drove to the hotel during sunset - opportunity to capture evening impressions of city life.



We will continue full steam ahead next time! :0)
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