500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Photos of motive and rolling stock, stations, signals and anything else train related in the Sudan! Photos should be 800x600 pixels, maximum size 130K. Very good ones will be moved to the Online Gallery, the rest will be pruned away after 14 days to conserve space.
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John Ashworth
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500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by John Ashworth »

500 km from the nearest railhead, but here in Malakal, southern Sudan, is a steel sleeper being used to mark a property boundary. The writing on it is too rusted to be readable.

In fact there was a small narrow gauge railway here in the middle of the 20th century linking the quays alongside the Nile with the warehouse area during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium period. Rails and sleepers can still be seen incorporated into fences, buildings, culverts, etc. I know very little else about this railway and any information would be much appreciated.
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Photo by John Ashworth November 2008
Photo by John Ashworth November 2008
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Simon Fraser
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Simon Fraser »

Hi John,

I stayed in Malakal a few times in 1999 and during one of these stays I was able to have a good walk around the dock area. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take any photos, although I wish I had tried now! Anyway, I saw various remnants of the dock railway, which I guessed as being 60cm or 2' gauge. Of particular interest there were quite a number of bogie flat wagons in storage beside an old building there, right by the docks. They were at right-angles to the river, if I remember correctly. The gate to the yard was securely locked, naturally! I wonder if that old building is still there, I remember it as being stone, but it may not have been. If there was still any motive power on-site it would have been in that building.

One other thing I remember is that along the docks where the tracks would have been was a point lever still embedded in the ground. Cast into it was some writing- the makers name- which at the time I figured was Dutch- not German, French or English definitely. Again, I wish I'd written it down.

I also visited the old Engineering Compound just upstream, where they had a large Cat generator providing limited power. But there were many old remains of former generators, including all the old switching gear, and pumping engines there. I was able to take photos there, but I don't have access to them at the moment.

On a slightly different subject, on eBay recently there was a photo for sale of a former Egyptian Railways shunting loco and several bogie wagons being unloaded from a barge right by Malakal aerodrome. No date, but my guess would be wartime, or slightly post-war. These were standard gauge, of course. I wonder what they were used for?

Good luck with the search there!!

Cheers, Simon
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John Ashworth
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by John Ashworth »

Simon, thanks for this information. I did manage to get some photos of the narrow gauge line recently (see http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/ ... 147&t=3854) but I haven't managed to find any wagons yet, so I'll have another look.

I lived in Malakal for a few years in the 1980s when it was impossible to do any ferreting around due to security, have been in and out on and off over the years, and have been based there again now for a few months in what was supposed to be a peaceful environment. However I got caught up in the fighting there at the end of February and am currently taking a short break in Nairobi. I'm going back next week and it will be interesting to see whether wandering around the dockyard with a camera is still encouraged!

I've no idea what the Egyptian stuff was doing on a barge at Malakal. Was it Standard Gauge or Cape Gauge? African 3' 6" and metre-gauge stock often has a loading gauge larger than UK Standard Gauge stock. The only railway in southern Sudan is the line to Wau via Aweil, and it's unlikely that stock would go by river via Malakal to get to Wau, although I believe at certain times of year the Bahr al Arab river used to be navigable by barge as far as Wau, via Lake No and Bentiu. Interesting.

And welcome to the FOTR forum - I believe this is your first post. May there be many more!

Cheers!
John
Last edited by John Ashworth on 08 Apr 2009, 06:36, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: edited to add para about Egyptian stock
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Simon Fraser
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Simon Fraser »

Hi John,

Thanks for the quick reply, and the welcome!

I should have had another look at that photo before mentioning it, you're quite right, it is 3'6" gauge. The Egyptian State Railways name threw me, as I wasn't aware of any 3'6" in Egypt. Anyway, the picture is on eBay at 220388638229. There's not really enough of the surrounding area shown to identify the location. I guess there is a chance that it's still there somewhere?

Cheers, Simon
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John Ashworth
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by John Ashworth »

I have attached the photo from eBay. I've no idea whether one is allowed to do this, but we've cited the source, so hopefully it's OK. We'll remove it if the copyright holder objects.

The description reads:
This 5 ¼" x 2 ¾" black and white glossy photograph shows a railroad engine on a grassy plain beside water (Nile River?). Most of the men around the train are dressed in loose fitting white clothing and wearing white turbans. The information typed on the strip of paper below the photo is "Eng. ‘Sheb.’ Built in Leeds, Eng. 1909. Gauge 42 in. This is at the Malakal Aerodrome, Upper Nile Province, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan". The back is marked "Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Loading ‘Sheb’ a 0-6-0T 3’6" gauge ex Egyptian State Railway Loco. Onto a flat decked barge. Two 30 tons capacity Ex E.S.R. Trucks loaded on a barge in foreground. She’s built in Leeds, England 1909". The photo appears to have been removed from an album and has both glue and some paper page residue on the back. The top of the photo has been trimmed/cut. No tears, marks or stains on the front.
Interesting that it says it is "loading" rather than "unloading". Maybe it was there temporarily for some construction work or something? The location could be Malakal - flat and grassy - but then it could also be anywhere.
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Eng. ‘Sheb.’ Built in Leeds, Eng. 1909. Gauge 42 in. This is at the Malakal Aerodrome, Upper Nile Province, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Eng. ‘Sheb.’ Built in Leeds, Eng. 1909. Gauge 42 in. This is at the Malakal Aerodrome, Upper Nile Province, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
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Steve Appleton
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Steve Appleton »

Interesting pic. I love old photos such as this because they usually provide an interesting encapsulation of life at the time in addition to the intended subject matter. I just wonder how they loaded/unloaded that loco without any crane or lifting gear -- I can't see any? I am certain that the 8 or so people standing around could not have simply lifted it aboard! Also if it was run onto the barge on rails, how did they turn it on that narrow concrete(?) pier through the almost 90 degrees needed to align it with the barge?
If the pier was concrete, I would presume it is unlikely to have been demolished and that it may still be there.
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Steve Appleton
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Steve Appleton »

On second glance, it seems possible that it is being loaded directly onto a pontoon togther with the wagon, rather than onto the barge in the foreground.
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John Ashworth
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by John Ashworth »

I don't think it's a concrete pier, Steve - I think it's a small pontoon. The location is probably at the western end of the airstrip, where the flying boats used to tie up. There was a small guest house there, but that no longer exists. As far as I know there isn't any concrete pier. It's a difficult place to check up on now due to its proximity to a barracks.
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Steve Appleton
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Steve Appleton »

I can sure understand why you don't want to get close to the barracks! You were almost too close where you live!
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John Ashworth
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by John Ashworth »

Yes, that is in fact the very barracks where the fighting broke out at the end of February and I was definitely too close for comfort!

Google Earth shows the airport very clearly and you can see how close it is to the Nile at the western end. When landing you come in very low over the water.
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Simon Fraser
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Simon Fraser »

I've had a look at Google Earth (what a great tool that is!!) and have come up with some Lat/Longs for where I think I saw the bogie wagons, and where I think the Engineering Compound is. Sorry I don't know how to post them as placemarks. Anyway, the shed adjacent to where I saw the bogie wagons is 9 deg 31' 46.90"N, 31deg 38' 58.65" E, just north of a small creek. The Engineering Compound is 9deg 31' 11.36"N, 31deg 39' 14.93"E. I'm pretty sure that's it, it was quite a while ago, but I remember a couple of very nice old British engines, Ruston Hornsby's I think.

They seem to be extending the runway at Malakal??
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Nathan Berelowitz
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by Nathan Berelowitz »

Really interesting stuff and true Railway Archeologists. Lets find out more.
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John Ashworth
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Re: 500 km from the nearest railhead, but...

Post by John Ashworth »

Thanks, Simon. I've had a look at Google Earth and I know where both those compounds are. The first is the compound where I photographed the 2' gauge track, but I think the shed you refer to is different to the one I looked at so I'll see if I can get in again when I go back next week (I'm in Nairobi at the moment).
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