Sudan Railways - riding roof class

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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Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by John Ashworth »

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The Nile Valley Express: Riding Roof Class.
The Nile Valley Express: Riding Roof Class.
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The Nile Valley Express: Riding Roof Class.
The Nile Valley Express: Riding Roof Class.
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John Ashworth
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Post by John Ashworth »

Michael Palin, star of a famous ground-breaking BBC TV comedy series, who later filmed a number of travel documentaries
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Michael Palin on the roof
Michael Palin on the roof
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stuartrayner
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Re: Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by stuartrayner »

Palin's TV account of his trip through the north of Sudan was perhaps the best part of the whole 'North to South' series. Certainly for me - I travelled by motor cycle deside this track in the eighties and even with sand drifts we still left the train far behind! Riding the roof would be a far better alternative to the stifling heat inside - until the sandstorms come.

But this line was built by Kitchener of course. A fascinating account of the stategic importance of this line and the challenges of building it is detailed in Michael Asher's book 'Khartoum'.

But is this line still as laid back in 1898? I cannot imagine it ever being relaid.
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John Ashworth
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Re: Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by John Ashworth »

Stuart, did you take any photos during that trip that you could share with us? I lived in Sudan in the '80s but never carried a camera as we church personnel were constantly under suspicion by the security forces, so I never got any railway photos.

Edited to add: I don't suppose it was October or November 1984 that you did that motorbike trip? I was in the British Consul's office in Khartoum one day taking delivery of a bottle of whisky which he had obtained for me when he excused himself and told me he had to go and persuade a motorcyclist who had just ridden in from the north that it was not safe to continue riding southwards into the southern war zone. Since I had just been released after being held hostage in the south for 6 weeks I offered to accompany him to reinforce the message, but he declined and left me with my whisky. Wasn't you, was it?!
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stuartrayner
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Re: Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by stuartrayner »

Not a lot. We went through in May/June 1982 when the South was open (but Ethiopia was not). I've got shots of riding the tracks across the Nubian desert but all rather dark as it was very early in the morning to avoid the heat. Also buying petrol from the friendly signalman (asked me to taste it!) at the junction north of Abu Hamed - not the busiest guy in the world. Also visiting a few light aircraft wrecks. We were warned about travel to the South when in Khartoum but we were more concerned that officially the border with Uganda was closed.

The general fuel situation saw us putting our bikes on the boat at Kosti where we spent a week waiting for the ferry to pitch...tomorrow..tomorrow. In the yard at Kosti oil burning steam loco's were operating and I spent some time on the (very sticky) foot plate of one of them. The loco was slipping constantly the track being so bad. But as you indicate taking photo's was a definite no no, much to my annoyance today.
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Re: Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by John Ashworth »

Yes, I too have memories of the locos shunting at Kosti in 1983 or '84. I also remember waiting for a boat from Kosti to Malakal, although in this case it was our own boat (belonging to the Sudan Council of Churches) so we didn't have to wait quite as long as we would for a public one. Fuel was a major problem - at one point we were rationed to 2 gallons of petrol per week per car. There was a story doing the rounds that President Nimeiri had invented a new form of birth control - the men sleep in their cars all night in petrol queues. Diesel was always more readily available on the black market as lorry drivers would just syphon it off and sell it. I saw avgas being syphoned out of the wing tanks of light aircraft to be sold as petrol.
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stuartrayner
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Re: Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by stuartrayner »

Dug out my old diary. The passenger boat from Kosti was very new with two large diesel engines, didn't carry vehicles but they accepted two motorbikes though we had to manhandle them ourselves across a number of barges to get them on the rear deck. The boat was overloaded with 'roof class' but no sooner had we left and negotiated the swing bridge than the boat headed for the bank where the promptly crew evicted them all. Despite the speed of the vessel the trip still took six days to Juba visiting Malakal and Bor. This was the fast service, the slow one we caught up with one night and collided with it - I can still clearly remember the screams of the suddenly woken passenger as the boat lurched as if it was going to roll- only to eventually right itself. To have had to possibly swim into the sud papyrus swamp at night gives me the shivers to this day!
The boat was forever running aground or hitting the muddy banks. A story went around that we would not make Juba as the Nile was too low. We would be left as near as the boat could get.
But we got there and managed to get the bikes ashore. We had a contact for accomodation - a church leader who used to reside in Petersfield, Hampshire (no, I don't). We found him only to find the family in mourning after a vehicle accident. We then effectively had no choice but to check in to the infamous Africa Hotel - which translated into sleeping on the ground under the bike and negotiating the lepers who resided across the road to answer natures ever more frequent calls. That was a better option than using the hotels notorious 'living loo'!

But as you know the people are just so incredibly friendly and helpful which makes up for everything. An amazing country.
ian cliff
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Re: Sudan Railways - riding roof class

Post by ian cliff »

To answer the original question the line from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum North has not been relaid since 1898, although bits have been upgraded from time to time. The section from Atbara to Wadi Halfa is allegedly being refurbished at present which is why the passenger train has been suspended,
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