FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Selam Eritrea

Posted in Eritrea by folkestonejack on October 20, 2018

Eritrea may not seem the obvious place to choose for a holiday, nor the easiest, given the well known difficulties of arranging visas. However, there was one pretty compelling reason for making the effort to get into the country – the opportunity to once again experience and photograph steam on one of the most spectacular railway lines in the world.

Welcome to Asmara

The railway line between the port of Massawa and the capital of Asmara was completed in 1911, with further extensions over the next couple of decades taking it on to Keren, Agordat and Biscia. The stretch between Massawa and Asmara offers some spectacular running through the mountains, looping back and forth with gradients of up to 3.5% to gain 2400m in height over a distance of 118km.

It is probably fair to say that the railway has not had the smoothest of histories. It was destroyed by the Derg in 1975, partially rebuilt over the decade following independence and repaired on many occasions since then. In a further setback, flooding and land slides severed the line between Massawa and Asmara a few years ago.

Our expedition will be the first in a few years to attempt to run a week long series of photo-charters on the repaired track. Ahead of our trip the line had been cleared between Asmara and Ghinda, while the section on to Massawa remains out of use following a major washout. Unfortunately some unseasonable storms and heavy rain in the last week caused some further damage, creating some uncertainty about just how far we would be able to get.

As the internet connection in Eritrea is exceedingly slow I will be adding the posts for this trip retrospectively, taking a little time to write up an account of the trip from the notes I take along the way.

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2 Responses

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  1. butlertalks said, on July 15, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    I would love to know which tour operator organized this trip to Eritrea.

    • folkestonejack said, on July 24, 2019 at 7:49 am

      I booked my trip with FarRail tours at, which specialises in photographic tours to some of the world’s last surviving steam railways. The tour of Asmara and Keren was an extension to this.

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