North African railroads

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Roger_Grund
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Roger_Grund » 03 Mar 2011 17:09

Find below a map and a picture of the old Benghazi railway station. It was demolished in 1960s, and presently the Tibesti hotel occupies it old site. In Benghazi there are no traces left of the railway, but in the surrounding area the stations have generally survived, as noted also by namestain. With careful observation parts of the track can still be distinguished, also on Google Earth.

During the Second World War it appears as if there was frantic narrow gauge (Italian 99 cm) railway building activity, both in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but the fast moving action and unique gauge meant that virtually nothing except some stations and trackbeds were completed. The sources on this are quite vague, but it clear that there are stations east of Tripoli in an area where there was never a commercial railway service. It also is reported that between Tripoli and the border of Tunesia (Ras Jdir) the railway was converted from the Italian 99 cm gauge to 1m gauge, before it was either reconverted and partially demolished shortly after the war. Again the information on this point is vague and conflicting.

Various articles has been published on the railways in Libya, of which I would like to quote 'Sahara's Lost Railroads'' by Stefano Maggi et al., in Railroad History, V. 183, 2000, pp. 83-95.
Benghazi_map_edited.jpg
Benghazi_main_station_1928_ed.jpg
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Dili
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Dili » 04 Mar 2011 02:12

Some Info: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storia_del ... e_in_Libia

So in 10Dec42 18km were done from Tripoli to Bengasi plus 7km being in construction. It is unclear if accounting is made from Tagiura - the east head of Tripolitania rail- or from Tripoli. Probably from the later.
For Tunisia 60km were prepared, unclear if finished.
From Barce 40km were done to Derna.


Italian:
http://www.gips.unisi.it/files/wp18.pdf

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categoria: ... e_in_Libia

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_Bengasi-Soluch

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_Bengasi-Barce

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_Tripoli-Zuara

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_T ... Vertice_31

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_Tripoli-Tagiura

Jon G.
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Jon G. » 05 Mar 2011 10:48

Roger_Grund wrote:...
During the Second World War it appears as if there was frantic narrow gauge (Italian 99 cm) railway building activity, both in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but the fast moving action and unique gauge meant that virtually nothing except some stations and trackbeds were completed. The sources on this are quite vague, but it clear that there are stations east of Tripoli in an area where there was never a commercial railway service. It also is reported that between Tripoli and the border of Tunesia (Ras Jdir) the railway was converted from the Italian 99 cm gauge to 1m gauge, before it was either reconverted and partially demolished shortly after the war. Again the information on this point is vague and conflicting.
Odds are that the original line was done in Italian 95 cm gauge because that corresponds with the gauge used by Italian railroads in Sardinia and Sicily - note however that the Italians apparently measured gauge from track-center to track-center rather than from inside track to inside track, so Italian 95 cm gauge corresponded roughly with other countries' 90 cm gauge.

99 cm gauge would be an odd choice because there would then be no rolling stock on hand, and the rail system wouldn't correspond with the rest of the Libyan 95 cm network, nor with the Tunisian rail net, which was mostly meter-gauged.

The British had more than enough difficulties finding rolling stock for the 95 cm network they took over because this gauge wasn't in widespread use in British colonies. Some rolling stock captured in Eritrea was sent to Libya to help the situation, but in the end the whole Tripoli-Zuara line was converted to meter-gauge - a most un-imperial track width - and the Eritrean stock presumably sent to Cyrenaica. The conversion to meter-gauge was presumably done to make the network compatible with Tunisian lines, from whence rolling stock could also be acquired.

You're right that the Tripolitanian network was re-converted to Italian gauge (that is, to 95 cm) but apparently that was done under the British civilian administration already in 1944, when there was no more fighting in North Africa.

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Re: North African railroads

Post by Roger_Grund » 05 Mar 2011 13:07

You're right 99 cm was a typo, I should have written 95 cm. BTW it has always surprised me that at the onset of the war the Italians build stations, hardly what you need most urgently for warfare, but it is a few of these stations (Zelten, Psida and Cippo di Confine) beyond the end of the former passenger service to Zuara that survived (at least a few years ago). According to Italian sources these stations and infrastructure (except rails) were built between July 1941 and December 1941. Rails may not have been available, as noted earlier shortage of rails is a recurring issue in railway construction in Libya.

Jon G.
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Jon G. » 05 Mar 2011 13:39

Well, it has been stated often enough that Italy wasn't prepared for war, and that Mussolini's declaration of war in 1940 was really just a political move because he didn't think the war would last very long, and he needed to be on the winning side. I guess that the continued construction of railroad infrastructure is just another sign of that unpreparedness.

The Italians, specifically Balbo, spent some effort colonizing Libya, but it appears that they mainly focussed on thinly-populated Cyrenaica, rather than slightly less thinly populated Tripolitania.

I made a thread about that here http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 5&t=116389

If I understand you correctly, you mean that it is the stations that survived until recently, not the rail service? As far as I know, the last Tripolitania railroad closed down in 1962, and the last Cyrenaican line (Benghazi-Barce) closed for traffic in 1965.

You can wonder whether it would have saved some of Libya's railroads if the Tripoli-Zuara line had been expanded to Zelten, where the big oil field is.

Dili
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Dili » 06 Mar 2011 21:31

BTW it has always surprised me that at the onset of the war the Italians build stations, hardly what you need most urgently for warfare
Mussolini's declaration of war in 1940 was really just a political move because he didn't think the war would last very long, and he needed to be on the winning side.
Quite so.

It is said that in July 1940 they were promoting the Rex and Conte Di Savoia ocean liners for next year 1941 Atlantic trips...

After the declaration of war against France the order to the troops was to be in defensive posture, like it happened in North Africa. Only 10 days later in 20 June when Germans were getting near an hastily general advance was done until 24 June when Armistice was signed, so a 4 days land warfare. In Africa Mussolini starts to make noises for attack in August. Against Malta there were dropped 296t of bombs in 1940. Which means for the roughly 150 bombers that Italians had in Sicily each made 2 bombing mission against Malta in that year. Typically 1 ton load per bomber.

Jon G.
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Jon G. » 01 Apr 2011 13:09

On the other side of the wire, the Western Desert railway was expanded from Fuka to Mersa Matruh in May 1936 as a consequence of the Abyssinian Crisis.

Additionally, in 1939
...
Wavell was concerned to develop a sound administrative base so that, if it came to war, he would be well prepared. In September 1939 a single-line railway served Mersa Matruh but in the 150 miles of desert lying beyond it to the frontier, communications were virtually non-existent. A metalled road hugged the coast from Alexandria to Sidi Barrani via Fuka and Mersa Matruh, stopping 50 miles short of the Libyan border. Nor was there a pipeline for water, which had to be brought in by rail.

That autumn Wavell ordered the railway line’s capacity enhanced and pipelines installed largely to relieve rolling stock of their burdensome water-carrying role, thereby freeing 500 tons of freight daily for other purposes. Two pipelines were constructed, featuring pumping stations and reservoirs, connecting the mains supplies at Alexandria to El Daba, whence tanked water could come a short hop via rail to Mersa Matruh, with another to emanate thence to Gerawla.

In addition, two Royal Armoured Supply Corps companies (231 and 323) were formed, augmented in April 1940 by another (234), having between them 250 three-ton lorries and 30 350-gallon tankers to provide third line transport for 7th Armoured Division. This logistical underpinning enabled sustained operations in the forward area beyond Mersa Matruh to be planned
...
From Steven Morewood: The British Defence of Egypt 1935-1940, p 140.

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Andy H
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Conversion of Egyptian State Railway to oil

Post by Andy H » 14 Apr 2011 19:26

Hope these are of some interest
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Andy H
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Andy H » 14 Apr 2011 19:32

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sallyg
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Re: North African railroads

Post by sallyg » 14 Apr 2011 20:21

Andy, this is a rhetorical question but...

where do you get this stuff?

And non-rhetorically, thank you for posting it here.

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Andy H
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Re: North African railroads

Post by Andy H » 16 Apr 2011 00:06

sallyg wrote:Andy, this is a rhetorical question but...

where do you get this stuff?

And non-rhetorically, thank you for posting it here.

Hi SallyG

No worries I've recently found a CD I lost which contained numerous files from a visit to Kew in 2008.

Presently I cannot find the File Ref for the docs I have posted, but if and when I find it, I'll add it :lol:

Regards

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Re: North African railroads

Post by Roger_Grund » 25 Apr 2011 11:50

Does anyone have any definite or anecdotal proof of the conversion (by the Allied Forces) of the railways around Tripoli to m-gauge? regards,

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Re: North African railroads

Post by houbebKhéchine » 27 May 2011 12:05

Hello from Tunisia, I am Tunisian and I am interested in the history of my country Tunisia. From November 1942 to May 1943, Tunisia was the scene of several battles on the second War world.

The German military cemetery located in Borj Cédria, a suburb of Tunis, it has an area of 13 hectares. German soldiers died in Tunisia were buried in six cemeteries in El Mdou near Gabes, Sfax, to Naâssan at Mornaguia to Mateur and Bizerte. We wanted to bring all the soldiers in one group all memorial and graves in a cemetery only.
The cemetery contains 8652 graves The cemetery was officially opened September 28, 1977.

I am writing to tell you that I am interested in World War II, but with an optical Tunisia. My country has not only been a battlefield, but more than 60,000 Tunisian civilians died under the bombs and shells of the two antagonists. Any Tunisia guard the legacy of this terrible war. Mareth, Kasserrine, Gafsa, Kairouan, Tunis, Enfidha Zaghouan Mateur Beja Bizerte, Sidi Nsir, Tahent, Cote 609, Medenine .. .. And many other places. Everyone here will tell you their pain, their anguish, they will tell you how they mourned their dead. Anonymous dead without honor, without recognition. The damage is also enormous. Who will say that the bombing of the Second World War destroyed a large part of the ramparts of the city of Kairouan, which date back over 1000 years. People do not talk about. Today, Tunisia welcomes the cemeteries of soldiers that it is Americans, Germans, French and English ... They fell in battle, they rest in our land. All these men died between November 42 and May 13, 1943, are grouped into memorials worthy, because no one can diminish a loss of life, whatever is on board. The Tunisians have died without anyone to do their homage nor any recognition. It is not their war and they won nothing. Double loser, and I recently moved to search the literature of war, some references to loss of natives.

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Re: North African railroads

Post by PMN1 » 20 Dec 2011 20:27

In 1946 GWR fitted Laidlaw-Drew oil-burners in the fireboxes of 19 coal firing freight locos in South Wales and the trials were successful leading to further trials and eventually 93 locos were converted before the Treasury became concerned at the dollar expenditure in buying oil rather than coal and all were eventually converted back to coal firing.

Is there a logistical advantage to this being done for locos on the Middle East at this time, you still need water for the boilers but will the overall bulk fuel requirement be less for oil than for coal?

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Re: North African railroads

Post by Jon G. » 21 Dec 2011 12:39

The logistical advantage will depend on what resources you can find locally. Eg. in Egypt there was oil - not much, but enough to cover immediate local needs - but no coal whatsoever. So on that score alone, it makes good sense to convert your coal-burners to oil firing.

Regarding the converted GWR engines, it sounds frankly idiotic to convert something running around in coal-rich Wales (perhaps even pulling coal trains) to oil firing when the engines could have been running just as well on plentyful and locally available coal. Conversely, a few years after 1946 British railroads were fully nationalized, so the engines could by then have been sent to less coal-rich parts of the country, meaning that converting them back to coal firing may not have been all that clever, either :|

Some German-built steam locomotives delivered to Romania during the war were 'born' oil-burners, precisely because the Romanians had far more oil than they had coal.

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