Explore the legendary Eritrea Railway – a fascinating historical journey
Embark on a train excursion aboard the legendary “Littorina” or “Mallet” steam locomotives from colonial times and experience the rare opportunity to travel on one of the world’s most daring railways. Construction of this remarkable railway began in 1897, and today you can still enjoy the efficient running of the old trains, a testament to their meticulous care and maintenance.
A century ago, Italians built a futuristic railway in Eritrea. Today, amid the scars of recent wars, steam locomotives have returned to the tracks of the former Italian colony. This extraordinary project was initiated by the government in Asmara and carried out by seventy-year-old railway workers. The railway, which connects the cities of Asmara and Massawa at an altitude of almost 2,400 metres, is unanimously regarded as a masterpiece of Italian engineering. When it was inaugurated in November 1912, the international press, even the most critical and hostile, hailed it as an “amazing feat”.
The 117-kilometre route winds through gorges, cliffs and rugged mountains, with 29 tunnels, 13 stations, 5 water tanks and 45 bridges and viaducts.
The journey is exhilarating, with the main locomotives being of the Mallet steam type. Asmara’s railway station may appear weathered on the outside, with faded signs and worn glass at the ticket office. Crossing its threshold, however, is like stepping into an extraordinary time machine that takes you back a hundred years to a history steeped in magic and charm. The railway line, which runs parallel to the road in places, is steep and spectacular, hugging the sides of mountains covered with lush prickly pear plantations and offering breathtaking scenery.