Above: Readers cannot have failed to notice that our regular photographic contributor Michael Chapman has just returned from a March visit to India and in particular the Darjeeling line. While views of Darjeeling trains running through the streets are these days familiar, they still amaze – the gent riding on the front bufferbeam in order to sand the rails is almost kicking the vegetables laid out in front of the shop!
Left: Also from the travels of Michael Chapman, this is the surviving stock of the unique Patiala State Monorail system, which was rescued by British railway personality Mike Satow and is now preserved at the National Railway Museum in New Delhi. How does it prevent from overbalancing? Virtually hidden on the other side of the loco is the wheel which runs along the concrete track at left. A (not too serious) question for Narrow Gauge World readers – how narrow is too narrow for these pages?
No 69 – NARROW GAUGE WORLD Narrow gauge archaeology...OnavisittoLibyaCliveHardyuncoversrailway remains – amongst much older remains...
During a visit to Libya in November 2009 I was surprised to come across the remains of no less than eight separate narrow gauge systems laid down between the wars by the Italian colonial authorities in the ruined coastal cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Ptolemias and Cyrene. All four cities were damaged during the earthquake of 365AD, which also destroyed the pharos and great library at Alexandria.
All the lines are 600mm gauge and appear to have been used at various times between 1920 and 1943. The use of track panels – straights, curves, pointwork, wagon turntables, etc – gave the archaeologists flexibility when it came to excavation and removing items for conservation or restoration.
The World Heritage site of Leptis Magna is the location of three separate systems. The largest runs along the northern and eastern edges of the ruined city and at its greatest extent may have been a ‘main line’ over two kilometres in length. The surviving section through the Old
Forum (main picture) is even visible on Google Earth! The columns on the left are the remains of the Curia or municipal council house.
This O&K petrol locomotive (above) is one of two that survive close to the Hadrianic Baths. This area was flooded in the late 1980s when the Wadi Lebda burst its banks and caused a partial collapse of the Nymphaeum. It is possible that the loco is sitting on track buried under the silt.
Located 79 kilometres east of Tripoli, Sabratha was at its height in the reigns of Antonius Pius through to Septimus Severus and eventually received the coveted title of colonia. Excavation work by the Italians began in 1920 and a 600mm line was used from the very beginning.
It is now almost impossible to produce a track plan as, unlike Leptis Magna, the site does not appear to have had a ‘main line’. World War II reconnaissance photographs are slowly being released on the web and it is possible that those taken by 60 Squadron South African Air Force
“The loco might be sitting on track buried underneath the silt...”
might provide some answers.
There are abandoned tipper wagons (below right), and what might be a couple of petrol locos are in a shallow quarry to one side of the magnificent 2nd Century theatre.
There are also three separate systems at Cyrene. The shortest is around the Temple of Zeus, where tipper wagons were probably moved around by hand. Pointwork is still in situ (left), and tipper trucks, track panels and wagon turntables lie abandoned. Track is also still in place across the temple precinct at the Sanctuary of Apollo (below left). Apart from one short section that existed near the Greek Propylea, this system runs on the level and could have been operated without the need for locos.
Little remains at Ptolemias save for a couple of tipper wagon chassis and the odd fishplate, although a line once ran from what is now the museum area up to the Hellenistic agora (Roman Forum), a distance of about 800 metres. l
NARROW GAUGE WORLD – No 69