Shaebia NEWS

A new book highlighting the historical account of Eritrean Railways has been published. This book, written by a British woman, Mrs. Jennie Street, who long involved with Eritrean affairs, wrote it in collaboration with Mr. Amanuel Ghebresillasie, Project Coordinator at the Eritrean Railways.

As cited by Sheffield Telegraph, a weekly British newspaper, Mrs. Street decided to write the history of Eritrean Railways not because she is a railway enthusiast but because she was inspired by how the country managed to get the steam engine locomotives back into operation after a devastating war with Ethiopia for independence.

Red Sea Railway details the coming into being of Eritrean Railways which was started in 1887 and getting finalized 41 years later in 1928. Yet, the very first rail lines, for the purpose of military expedition, were constructed by the British in 1867, twenty years before the Italians. The lines that begun in Zula, 55 km south of Massawa to Magdala 610 km away in the interior of Ethiopia, were constructed as a result of Emperor Tewodros taking hostage of a number of Europeans.

The extensive research in archives conducted in various cities of the world, interviews with elderly Eritreans led the book to seeing the light of day. Included in the book is the account of the then World’s longest cableways, i.e. the Eritrean Ropeway, which was built in the 1930s. The work, which took 10 years to accomplish comprises of 374 pages, 385 photographs, 71 illustrations and 19 maps.

“The historical scope of the book means that the earliest photos date from 1868,” the writer explains

A writer and development worker, Jennie Street has been interested in Eritrea since 1985 and visited the liberated areas during the armed struggle for independence. Apart from living and working in Eritrea in 1995-6, she wrote the first article in regard to the rehabilitation of the Eritrean Railways in New African, a pan African magazine, in May 1995.

Mr. Amanuel Ghebresillasie, the co-author and Project Coordinator of the Eritrean Railways, on his part says, such a comprehensive book is a significant milestone in documenting the under researched history of the more than century-old Eritrean Railways.

The total length of the Eritrean Railways running from the port city of Massawa to Agordat via Asmara and Keren was 306.4 km. Its route ascends from sea level -Massawa- to an altitude of 2,394 meters in Asmara and descends to an altitude of 606 meters in Agordat town.

The Eritrean Railways has become a favorite destination for steam engine enthusiasts, the latest ones comprising citizens of Australia, Canada, Sudan and nine European Union countries.