Eritrea 2018 - 5: Downhill to Nefasit (50 p.)

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Proud Earthling

To the previous part of the series:
Eritrea 2018 - 4: Mallets in the Mist (50 p.)

Video for this series:

October 23 2018

On Tuesday morning, we arrived at Asmara station before seven o'clock.

Our engine was one of the bigger, superheated 0-4+4-0T Mallets delivered in 1938 by Ansaldo from Genova. Locomotives like 442.54 (Ansaldo #1364) had been the main workhorses of the mountain line, we will see three of this class in action.

The 442 is supposed to be able to pull a passenger carriage over the steep grades - so, we tried this one built in 1913 by Officine Meccaniche Milano, denoted as third class. However, 1st/2nd class and a Governor's coach also had been part of the same delivery, some of which still are serviceable and all converted to 3rd class.

As soon as we steamed out of the station, wheelslip started. So: Plan B - walking to a first morning light photo spot.

A goat/sheep herd, the railway workshops are visible in the background behind the pond.

442.54 passing the otherwise closed and guarded gate of the depot and station yard, to the left the campanile of the Catholic cathedral - of course we will visit everything later in detail.

A panorama of the religious multitude in Asmara: the Eritrean Orthodox church on the hill to the left, the Catholic cathedral in the city centre, a mosque to the right.

In the background the Eritrean Orthodox cathedral.

A mountain panda at 7700 ft above the sea.

We walked along the line...

... to the pond-reflection-spot. Shortly after a flydubai 737 had taken off back to its home-base above our heads, the class 442 also made it up the hill at decent speed!

Due to economy of scarcity and authoritarian government the landscape mostly is unspoiled by plastic garbage.

Finally, we could board the train and soon rolled downhill. We had a decent ride ahead of us, as the plan consisted of testing how far down the line we could make it. A Christian holiday was being celebrated near Shegerini - some impromptu stalls had cropped up along railway and road. Like this open air butcher - for the faint of heart I have only linked to the picture showing the remains of the cow:

In any case - nothing is being wasted.

We stopped again below Shegerini.

We walked to a panorama with church view.


Arrival at Arbaroba - the steam loco is loud!

Once more the impossible water crane construction.

The factory plate is mismatched: this one belongs to the last of the class, 442.60.

Looking out of the passenger carriage towards the row of tunnels near the two-tunnel-view. Behind the mountain ridge lies Lessa passing loop, further on we will continue to Nefasit station.

One more hike through tunnels.

The curious tunnels #16, two of which exist, one has been added later.

After passing Lessa, we stopped shortly for a track maintenance crew. Through a few more tunnels you reach the valley above Nefasit. The railway meets the main road Massawa - Asmara again. At the station you can spot Ural loco #1. Nefasit - already quite a bit warmer at 5600 ft - owes its existence entirely to the railway. The town includes mosques, a church (to the right out of frame) and the important monastery Debre Bizen nearby.

Kids ran to the station in droves.

Where they were kept in check by the adult railwaymen.

Others looked on peacefully from the distance.

The train shunted away.

The engine returned alone...

... just like the consist rolling downhill.

The last wagon barely made it far enough across the point.

442.54 in front of a freight car delivered by Krupp around the same time as the diesel locos.

Pungent smoke.

Steam action under a parted sky.

In the meantime, the Ural loco departed towards Lessa hauling a track maintenance train. You can spot an open air barber in the background of the left image.
In the right image, to the left, the concrete foundations of a pillar of the Asmara-Massawa Cableway can be seen. This 4th longest cableway ever built - about 46 miles in total - was being operated parallel to the railway. More about it:

Some had been successful at the "You! Pencil!"-sport.

Subsequently, the train pushed back for the first run-past. Another one followed at the mosque, then we continued as far down the line as it would let us - next time!


Proud Earthling

Thanks a lot, guys! :)

Yes, you do get a little out of breath when climbing hillside, just like at the Nevada Northern, for example. The key is to keep drinking water to avoid altitude sickness. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.