People often ask: «Does Cyprus have railroad?» Now there is not now … And there is in no need in the island with length a little bit more than 200 kilometers, where the distance between major cities is about 70-80 km.
But before the railway existed in Cyprus and one can learn about its history in the Cyprus Railway Museum, which is located in Evrichou village. So we delve into the past ….
The history of railway in Cyprus
Cyprus Governmental Railway was officially launched in 1905 and continued its activities until 1951, when the road was closed because of financial difficulties and the need for reconstruction. Why small Mediterranean island was equipped with railroad? As we remember, the island was ruled by the British in this period, who was considered railway as a mandatory element as in their own country, and in the former colonies of Great Britain.
The official opening of the railway in Cyprus took place on the October 21st, 1905. The inauguration ceremony took place at the station Ammochostos (Famagusta), where High Commissioner Sir Charles Anthony King-Harman arrived from Nicosia on the first train and where he was met by a crowd of people who want to witness the first train voyage in Cyprus.
The first railway line ran from Ammochostos station to Nicosia across Messaoriya plain, its length was 57 kilometers. By December 1907 the further 38 km was added to the road from Nicosia to Morphou village in the west of the island. By June 1915 the construction of the railway was completed with extension of additional 23 kilometers from Morphou village to the final destination in Evrichou, where Railway Musuem is currently located. By this time the length of the railway in Cyprus amounted as 122 km, and the number of stations was 39.
In those days of airmail, as we know, did not exist, the railroad was an important transporter-mail between cities and ships line Khedival Ammochostos in the harbor, and delivered mail around the world. Also, the railway was used for the transmportation of mail to nearly all stations — Angastina, Trachoni, Kalochorio, and others who had served the post office or postal agency.
Of course, in the period of the railway in Cyprus there were special types of services, such as, «VIP» service, which was provided during public holidays and events, such as the arrival of the new High Commissioner. Special decorated trains also went to the famous annual Orange Festival, held in Ammochostos until 1974.
Interesting was the fact that the reason for the delay of trains in a way, as a rule, were not technical problems or machinist fault, but a flock of sheep or goats, filled the railroad tracks. They were not frightened with whistles of locomotives or with clouds of steam, and the driver was forced to stop the train and wait for the herd slowly crosses the road.
As fuel on the railway they used coal supplied to the docks of Famagusta from the UK. In those days the journey from Nicosia to Ammochostos (Famagusta) with all the stops took about two hours and cost around 3-6 pence. Some of the passengers complained about the slowness of the train, and the most impatient could even walk briskly beside the wagons, and when tired, to sit down on the train again.
Passenger trains in Cyprus went twice a day. For example, morning train started at 8.35 in Ammochostos and arrived in the capital at 10.37. On Sunday there was an extra train on which the people from Nicosia could drive to the beaches of Famagusta.
The main problem for the Cyprus railroad was because of the rivers: in summer they dry or shoaling, but in winter, the rainy season, the rivers became raging currents that washed away everything in its path.
An extremely important road had during the Second World War, when with its help ferried troops, food and ammunition was moving from the Ammochostos harbor to the location of the base of the Royal air forces in Nicosia.
After the war, it was found that the worn road in need of renovation, and to update it requires considerable financial resources. The government has long been considered the various options and assess the need for the restoration of the railway. However, the decision has not been found, and the railway was made to close.
On November 10the, 1951 The British government made an official statement that the operation of the railway in Cyprus will be until the end of the year. The last train left on schedule on December 31st, 1951 from a station in Nicosia at 14.55. It was the locomotive number 12, the one on which during the opening ceremony of the railroad the High Commissioner arrived at the station.
Transportation of goods by Cyprus rail
In addition to the Cyprus Governmental Railway there were other railways, which are mainly used for transportation of minerals. For example, in 1915, the Cyprus Mine Corporation built a rail connection between the copper mines in Skouriotissa and Karavostasi harbor in Morphou bay. At the junction Kargotis River, this road connects with Cyprus Governmental Railway. Two section of the railway for the transport of minerals combined copper mine Kalavasos and Drapia with a production factory in Vasiliko. These roads operated until 1977.
For transportation of goods in Cyprus there existed railway lines connecting the island city to the harbor in Kyrenia, Limassol, Paphos and Larnaca. In these areas there were no locomotives, trolley were moved by humans or animals. Railway stations in the 50s-60s were also used during archaeological excavations carried out at Salamis, Kourion and Paphos.
Well, that’s the end of our story about the history of the railroad in Cyprus, there were ups and downs. Restovrated and all trains are still located in several cities of Cyprus: in Famagusta, Morphou and Nicosia, you will be able to look at the old locomotives, well, those who want to learn more about the rail the museum in Evrichou is waiting for! Good luck!