Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cyprus – Railways

The Cyprus Government Railway was a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway network that operated in Cyprus from October 1905 to December 1951. With a total length of 76 miles (122 km), there were 39 stations, stops and halts, the most prominent of which served Famagusta, Prastio Mesaoria, Angastina, Trachoni, Nicosia, Kokkinotrimithia, Morphou, Kalo Chorio and Evrychou. The CGR was closed down due to financial reasons. An extension of the railway which was built to serve the Cyprus Mines Corporation operated until 1974. By the time the total 76 miles (122 km) of the CGR had been completed, running costs had spiralled to £199,367, which remained constant throughout the operation period of the line. During the 46 years of its operation, the CGR witnessed various interesting events that marked the modern history of Cyprus, among which were:

  • During the Enosis riots in October 1931, 120 yards (110 m) of line were torn up, as the railway was regarded as a symbol of British colonial rule.
  • the transportation of Allied troops to and from Famagusta, Nicosia Airport and Xeros during both World Wars.
  • It was targeted by the Axis powers during World War II.

The railway was used for the transportation of a large number of the 50,000 Jewish refugees to Karaolos internment camps, between 1946-1949. The Cyprus Government Railway was used in a number of ways and served both the colonial authorities and the local population. Principle operations were as follows:

  • It served the port of Famagusta, as a freight transfer system.
  • It transferred timber from the Troodos Mountains to towns and cities across Cyprus.
  • It carried freight, ore and minerals on behalf of the Cyprus Mines Corporation.
  • The local railway stations functioned as a place of exchange of goods and services, while some also operated as telephone centres, telegram offices and/or postal offices.
  • CGR trains carried mail, which arrived in Famagusta via the Khedivial Mail Line (1912–1939).
The existence of a railway in Cyprus brought many benefits to the population of Cyprus. However, during the first years of its operation, many viewed the Railway more like a spectacle, instead of a means of transportation, which is why they crowded under the bridges to admire it. Overall, the CGR carried 3,199,934 tons of commercial goods and freight and 7,348,643 passengers. The various stations were designated by large trilingual (Greek, Turkish and English) white signs, while the CGR owned a total of 12 locomotives, 17 coaches and about 100 multi-purpose wagons, 50 of which were purchased from Egypt and Palestine. The CGR employed around 200 people in total. Thank you Merja for these lovely covers.

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