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Italian-Eritrean Railway and Tramway


Born on the aspirations of colonization, the railroad and aerial tramway of Eritrea were impressive feats. Not only have the Italian and Ethiopian occupations long ended, but also the railway and the tramway have become history. The railway was a casualty of the 30-year Eritrea-Ethiopia war for Eritrean independence. The tramway was a causality of WWII when the English took the tramway's motors for their other war efforts. The Eritreans are rebuilding the railroad, but the tramway will never again be. Please, do not think I am condoning Italian occupation of Eritrea and Ethiopia, far from it. I am only praising their engineering accomplishments.

I spent two years in the late '60s at the American communications station at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia and traveled extensively in the area. I visited much of the foundations of the tramway and road the railway often.

This site presents narratives on the railroad and the aerial tramway. It also includes a reproduction of a slick Italian magazine (now translated) issued by the builders of the tramway. Though I give you some technical notes on these two routes, my aim is more to give you the flavor of the country and the places where the train and tramway traveled. For the detailed technical aspects of the tramway and railroad, you have to consult other sources. Ralph R. Reinhold's Eritrean Railway and Ropeway for one gives you a lot more technical information than I do.

The narratives reproduced here are early excerpts from Ethiopia: Travels of a Youth, a memoir and travel narrative by me. The book takes you down the highways and byways of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia in the late 1960s. Over 75,000 words and 440 pictures along with 11 videos and 11 sound tracks on a CD bring the past to life on your Internet browser.

Click on one of the following. Please be aware that these files are graphics intensive. As such, if you have a slower internet connection, it will take time to load some of them.

Asmara to Massawa
by rail

The Tramway

La Teleferica


Now translated

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Mike Metras
Writer, Traveler, Pilgrim, Wanderer

Updated contact information and links: 1/2008
Copyright © 2000-2008 Mike Metras,