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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

The Franco-Ethiopian Railway — Djibouti to Addis-Ababa

page 31

The Franco-Ethiopian Railway
Djibouti to Addis-Ababa.

The little known country of Abyssinia is so much in the limelight at present that it is opportune to give a few details of its railway system. There is only one railway as yet, that which is operated by the Compagnie du Chemin de fer FrancoEthiopien, the offices being in Paris.

The railway is of the metre gauge and the distance from the coast to Addis Ababa (7,875 feet above sea level) is 495 miles. As far as Dire Daoua, the permanent way consists of rails weighing 40 lb. per yard, limiting the axle load of the rolling stock to about 8 tons. This section is being relaid with heavier rails. Beyond Dire Daoua, 50 lb. rails are laid, permitting the use of more powerful engines.

The locomotive and carriage shops are located at Dire Daoua and, although it is many miles from the frontier, the Customs offices are situated here.

Amongst the important engineering works may be mentioned the steel viaducts at Chabele, 72 feet high and 511 feet long, and at Holl Holl 92 feet high and 466 feet long: many other bridges over deep ravines are met with, that of Laga Bora being 269 feet long. There is a long tunnel through the mountains at Har and a bridge over the river at Aouache, of 495 feet.

“My after-breakfast pipe is the best of the day,” declared Tennyson, and plenty of smokers will agree with him. The poet, it's well-known, always smoked a “churchwarden,” otherwise “a yard of clay,” and never used the same pipe twice. Many old smokers hold that the tobacco counts for more than the pipe, whatever the latter is made of. So it does. So long as it's pure, sweet, soothing, comforting and fragrant — and the genuine toasted brands are all like that—any pipe will do provided it will draw.” “Toasted” owes its fame to its superb quality and also its harmlessness. The five famous brands, Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead), Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Cavendish, Riverhead Gold and Desert Gold are as near perfection as tobacco can possibly be. Practically without nicotine (eliminated by toasting), they can be indulged in not only with keen enjoyment but absolute safety. The toasting process (the manufacturers’ secret), is complicated, necessitating the employment of special machinery and skilled labour. Attempts to imitate these brands have all failed. They are “imitation-proof!”*

The usual train service is four goods trains each way per day and a passenger service throughout twice weekly. The overall journey takes about three days, as night travelling is not usual, the actual running time being 33 hours for the 495 miles, except on special occasions, notably at the time of the coronation of the Emperor when a train made the run in 25 hours. Steps are being taken to accelerate the services by fitting electric headlights to the locomotives, etc.

By reason of the long distance between the fuel and water stations all the main line locomotives are provided with large bogie tenders.

There are 56 locomotives in service, made up as follows:—

8 0-6-0 shunting tanks.

9 2-6-0 tender engines, of which 4 are superheated and 3 are fitted with turbo-dynamos.

13 2-8-0 compounds (4 cyl.) weighing 35 tons.

8 2-8-0 simple expansion, 36 tons each.

8 2-8-0 superheaters with turbodynamos, 38 tons each.

10 2-8-0 superheaters weighing 46 tons each.

Illustrated is one of the latest superheated 2-8-0 engines, built by the Societe Alsacienne of Grafenstaden in 1929. This has cylinders 18 ½in. diameter by 21 5/8in. stroke; driving wheels, 3ft. 5 5/8in. diam., and pony truck wheels
(W. W. Stewart Collection.) One of the latest super-heated locomotives (2-8-0 type) employed on the Franco-Ethiopian Railway.

(W. W. Stewart Collection.)
One of the latest super-heated locomotives (2-8-0 type) employed on the Franco-Ethiopian Railway.

2ft. 4in. diam. The coupled wheelbase is 14ft. 1 ¼in. Working pressure, 180lb. per square inch.

There are 46 carriages, of which eight saloons with sleeping berths and lavatories are fitted with electric light. Of the 445 goods vehicles, 229 are bogie wagons each carrying a load of 20 tons. Owing to the heavy and sudden rains which prevail at certain seasons of the year, a large proportion of covered wagons are in service. All wheels have centre couplers and the locomotives and carriages are fitted with the air brake and many wagons have the pipe and couplings for use on the mixed trains.

The terminus of the railway at Addis-Ababa, of ornate architecture, was inaugurated by the Emperor Taffari and the Empress of Abyssinia on December 3, 1929, as a memorial to the late Emperor Menelik Ii, who granted the concession for the railway.