Sudan Railways - roads

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 - roads

Post by John Ashworth »

These random pictures, most taken by aid agencies in various parts of Sudan, show why railways could be so useful in Sudan
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UNMIS peace-keepers
UNMIS peace-keepers
unmis54.jpg (30.58 KiB) Viewed 2956 times
Stuck
Stuck
undeveloped 1-06-06 001s.jpg (65.63 KiB) Viewed 2957 times
Swimming
Swimming
sd03_08c.jpg (47.11 KiB) Viewed 2995 times
Bridge
Bridge
Makok Bridge s.jpg (53.23 KiB) Viewed 2998 times
Stuck
Stuck
Sudan3roads.JPG (78.51 KiB) Viewed 2967 times
Accident
Accident
ist2_3692847_southern_sudan.jpg (73.67 KiB) Viewed 2998 times
Photo taken by Australian peace-keepers
Photo taken by Australian peace-keepers
cjo_sudan.jpg (90.76 KiB) Viewed 2960 times
This truck has really had a sinking feeling
This truck has really had a sinking feeling
_41110686_11mudfredaileenknip.jpg (25.77 KiB) Viewed 2958 times
Stuck
Stuck
222900370_c78e0062cc_m.jpg (24.94 KiB) Viewed 2963 times
Motorbike stuck in mud
Motorbike stuck in mud
2005-02_Milward-Sudanese_mud.jpg (34.34 KiB) Viewed 3002 times
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John Ashworth
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Post by John Ashworth »

This photo is from my own collection, on a road I know well, although I'm not present on this occasion. It features vehicles and staff from Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan (CEAS), the aid agency of which I was director for a number of years, stuck in the mud in southern Blue Nile, probably some time between 2000 and 2004. This is a main road between two of the major centres in the area, during the six month rainy season

Southern Blue Nile was one of the most dangerous and isolated parts of the war zone in Sudan. The UN and other aid agencies wouldn't go there, and for many years we were the only aid agency working there. I first landed there on a clandestine flight in an elderly and overloaded DC3 (which landed on a too-short dirt airstrip and ended up with the brakes on fire) just two weeks after the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had "liberated" the area from the government in February 1997.

During the early years we had no vehicles of our own (you can't fit one into a DC3 and the more sophisticated aircraft couldn't come because they couldn't get insurance to fly into a war zone outside the UN umbrella) and relied on vehicles lent to us by the SPLA. By the time this picture was taken we did have vehicles of our own. The normal practice in the wet season was to drive in convoy with a 4WD tractor, but even the tractor would get stuck.

One of my most memorable early trips was in an elderly Austin lorry which the SPLA had captured off an Arab merchant. It had no battery or starter motor and we had to fill the brake system with cooking oil. There was no fuel tank - the secretary general of the council of churches, a distinguished Sudanese pastor, had to clasp a jerry can of diesel between his knees in the front seat, with a pipe leading to the engine. In November, some time after the rains had finished, we got bogged down in black cotton soil (black turf in South Africa). We were stuck there for 15 hours, and of course we couldn't turn the engine off as we wouldn't have been able to start it again. We worked with the SPLA soldiers who were escorting us and tried everything, but each time we dug or winched the lorry out, it would just bog down again a couple of metres further on. As dusk descended, we set up our tents in the forest, dug a hole in a dry riverbed to get water for a bath, and slept with the noise of the engine in the background. Stoked up on high energy emergency biscuits (and did my nose also detect a whiff of pot?), the SPLA soldiers finally managed to get the truck unstuck at 1 am. There was a huge roar from the engine, a huge cheer from the lads, and then a blessed silence as they parked the truck on a slight rise ready for bump-starting next morning and turned off the engine. A 90 km trip eventually took us 29 hours. What we didn't find out until the next morning was that we had got stuck in a corridor used by Oromo Liberation Front troops to get from their training camps in Sudan (set up by Osama bin Laden) to their home turf in Ethiopia. Our escort had been worried about our safety so they sent a runner to the nearest SPLA garrison, and troops from that garrison came back on foot and threw a protective screen around us for the night without our knowledge.

Other interesting trips in southern Blue Nile included the one where the two bakkies (pick up trucks to non-South Africans) lent to us by SPLA (they always dismounted the heavy machine guns from the back first!) drove into a huge bush fire. Eventually I had to get out and walk ahead to guide the drivers through the fire. Or the time after the peace agreement had been signed (2005) when I was doing a survey of landmines and an SPLA engineering platoon invited me to try a 6 km length of road they had just demined. They said they'd tested it with a donkey cart but not yet with a car - I declined that offer as graciously as I could. On that same trip my SPLA escort and I had lunch with two government army officers that we bumped into in a village market - they'd crossed the former front line for a day trip. It seemed bizarre - a few months earlier they'd have been shot dead on sight.
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Ace Kenyan logistician John Kimotho (in shorts, centre) gives directions to a convoy stuck in the mud in southern Blue Nile
Ace Kenyan logistician John Kimotho (in shorts, centre) gives directions to a convoy stuck in the mud in southern Blue Nile
sbn mud ceas s.jpg (62.71 KiB) Viewed 2948 times
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John Ashworth
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Post by John Ashworth »

This picture shows the Juba-Yei road in good condition, in September 2007 after the worst of the rains had finished. I've just been back in that area now (September 2007) and the road, which ironically has been repaired and improved following the peace agreement, is now closed due to phenomenally heavy rains which have caused floods all over Sudan. Some reports put them as the worst since 1962.

Back in September 1997 my CEAS colleague William Oyet and I were taking a British journalist to the front line between SPLA and government forces. The SPLA had captured Yei six months earlier as part of a major offensive which had seen them liberate most of southern Sudan from government control. Thousands of government soldiers were killed around Yei. Government forces maintained control of Juba, the southern Sudanese capital, and the front line was now 40 miles from Juba on the main road between Juba and Yei. SPLA wanted to show me the bodies of foreign mujahideen that they had killed in a major battle at the bridge at mile 40, and they wanted to show the journalist the nice tanks they'd captured from the government. So close to the front line we had to have an SPLA security officer to escort us.

The road wasn't all good, though. As we approached the front line we found an SPLA truck stuck in the mud, half blocking the road. The middle of the road was blocked by a half-buried tank wheel, and on the other side there was a water-filled hole which had a landmine in it. After discussing the situation with the bogged-down troops we decided the best thing was to pool our efforts, dig out the tank wheel (they are heavy, I can assure you!), squeeze our Land Cruiser through between the truck and the landmine, and then pull the truck out. This we did, after several hours hard work. One of the soldiers had been cooking a big pot of beans and maize while this was going on, and after we'd pulled them out they offered to share their meal with us. William and I tucked in - we were starving. All along the British journalist had been very fussy about her food and would hardly eat anything in case it might be "dirty". Despite my assurance that we had watched the food being boiled for several hours, which would certainly have killed anything nasty in it, and Willie's warning that we might not get any more food that day, she refused to eat anything. Sure enough we didn't get anything else to eat that day and we had to put up with her whingeing all evening, although she got no sympathy from us. She took this photo.

On that trip Willie and I covered 4,500 km in 3 weeks, almost all of it on dirt roads. The car (which was brand new when we started but not when we finIshed) held up quite well, with no major problems. For the last 1,500 km we were putting raw eggs into the radiator to block a leak. Our roof rack shook itself to pieces and had to be welded back together in northern Uganda. A typical journey in Sudan. Since I spent most of my adult life driving rather reluctantly on roads like that on a daily basis it never ceases to amaze me that in richer countries (including South Africa) people actually pay good money to destroy their 4WD vehicles for fun on special tracks. In my view being stuck in the mud in the rain in a war zone is not fun!
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L to r, an SPLA security officer with CEAS staff William Oyet  and John Ashworth, near the front line on the Juba-Yei road, September 1997.
L to r, an SPLA security officer with CEAS staff William Oyet and John Ashworth, near the front line on the Juba-Yei road, September 1997.
kubri40 sep1997.jpg (84.57 KiB) Viewed 2950 times
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John Ashworth
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Re: Sudan Railways - roads

Post by John Ashworth »

A typical day in the centre of Malakal town, southern Sudan, towards the end of the rainy season.

Photo by John Ashworth September 2008
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Town centre
Town centre
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Steve Appleton
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Re: Sudan Railways - roads

Post by Steve Appleton »

Wow, what a place. I will never complain about the potholes in Johannesburg again! Looks to me like that 80km/h speed limit sign on the rear of the bakkie is very optimistic and somewhat surplus to requirements!
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Philip Martin
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Re: Sudan Railways - roads

Post by Philip Martin »

Those stories would make a good chapter in a book, perhaps one of Capstick's.
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John Ashworth
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Re: Sudan Railways - roads

Post by John Ashworth »

Some of it appears in my own book, The Voice of the Voiceless: The Role of the Church in the Sudanese Civil War 1983-2005, published by Paulines Publications Africa in Nairobi in 2014. In Kenya and South Sudan it can be bought at the Catholic bookshops run by the St Paul's sisters, and can be ordered at some of their bookshops even in Europe. Philip, it's very difficult to get a copy in the USA but you can get an e-book version.
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