RAILWAYS WITH ZIG ZAGS WORLDWIDE
Aliwal North - Lady Grey - to Barkly East, 157km, there are 8 reversing stations on the line.
This branch railway, crosses spectacular scenery through Southern Cape Drakensberg. For many years trains negotiated steep grades across mountains and valleys. Grades of 1 in 35 or 36 were quite common, and some as steep as 1 in 30. Begun in 1902 it was finished in 1930. A bridge was planned over a valley between Melk and Motkop but traffic never warranted the expense. The tunnel built to connect with the bridge was never used. In 1964 there were seven Garratts on the line; but at the time of this article the line was closed.
From SA Rail June 1977 - an article titled "The Phantom Passenger and the Porcupine" by Dick Whittington:
"Casual examination of maps will not give a clue to the very interesting features on the railway line between Aliwal North and Barkly East. Now an attraction to overseas enthusiasts the line was completed to Lady Grey in 1902. Passing through magnificent scenery and reaching altitude of 1989 metres at Drizzly the line only reached Barkly East in 1925. Thereby hangs a tale! Near Melk siding 53 km from Barkly East a high level bridge and tunnel were planned to cross the gorge of Karnmelk Spruit. The tunnel was completed in 1911 but, alas, the steelwork for the bridge was lost when the ship bringing it from the UK sank. In the meantime a series of six reversing stations enabled the railway to zig-zag down to a low-level crossing of the Karnmelk Spruit - and up again on the East bank. Between New England, reached in 1913, and Barkly East the train traverses two more reversing stations. On the 156km journey from Aliwal North the train reverses direction no less than eight times - really a case of not knowing whether you are coming or going".
From Trevor Staats:
The reverses near Tierkrans (numbers 7 & 8) are only some 13km from Barkly East and, since no alternative plans have been unearthed, it would appear that they were to be the preferred route across the Kraai River after a fairly straightforward 35km section from the crossing of the Karnmelk Spruit, through New England - the one time terminus. However, it is the length of the spur on 8th Reverse that places the strictest limitation on train lengths. It cannot be extended since the stop block is located close to the rock face, supported by concrete pillars, that carries the line to New England overhead - at right angles to 8th Reverse.
In November 2001 Trevor Staats sent this report:
I took a trip on that line in May 2001 behind a 19D steam loco which was fantastic. We only covered reverses 1 through 6, not 7 and 8. It looks like this line is now closed for good unfortunately, such a spectacular line. The picture (captured from video) shows the train arriving at 5th Reverse, with the line to 6th heading towards the right. Higher up on the hill you can see the line heading away from 6th Reverse towards Barkly East.
Kenya, Kenya Uganda Railway was built
1896 - 1901 in metre gauge from Mombasa on the coast to Kisumu,
then called Port Florence, on Lake Victoria Nyanza, a total length
of 584 miles. There was an article in the Illustrated
News of 11th January 1902: 'The Completion of the Uganda Railway to the
Victoria Nyanza, Dec 19 - A Plate Laying Gang - The Terminus at the Victoria Nyanza
- Vew above the Kikuyu Viaduct - A Gorge on the Njoro River -
First July Race Meeting at Nairobi - Potential Railway Passengers natives) -
A Train 100 Miles from the Victoria Nyanza -
Reversing Station on the Descent of the Mau Escarpment, 485 miles from the Coast -
The Locomotive Shed and Yard at Nakuro' (double page).
There were several illustrations.
From Some African Highways by Caroline Kirkland, 1908 "Where the Uganda Railway crosses this (the Rift Valley) the west lip is known as the Nandi Escarpment, and as the train zigzags swiftly down the face of the east lip, the Mau Escarpment, the scene in looking across the 'Rift Valley', as it is called, is one of unforgettable splendor."
From an article by Winston Churchill for New York Times 9 May 1909 entitled 'Along the Line of Big Game in Africa' there is this comment: 'But for the ceaseless care with which the whole line is scraped and weeded it would soon become impassable. As it is the long fingers of the encroaching forest are everywhere stretching out enviously towards the bright rails. Neglect the Uganda Railway for a year and it would take an expedition to discover where it had run.
Nairobi Railway Museum
Not a Zig Zag but sometimes described as having a switchback or zigzag(s) in the sense of horseshoe/hairpin bends:
East Africa - Eritrean Railway Built 1887-1932 between
Massawa-Asmara(1911)-Keren(1922)-Agordat(1928)-Bischia(1932), in 950m gauge, by Italians.
This was the standard Italian narrow gauge.
From maps there appear to be several switchbacks/horseshoe bends. Because of WWII and the
Eritrean war of independence the railway was closed and material removed. Since independence in
1993 the Eritrean government has reinstated the Massawa-Asmara section.
International Steam's Page
Eritrean Railway site in Italian There is an English section, in which there is a detailed description of the railway in 1956, published 1965.
Trainweb's Eritrean Railway site
Gif pictures of Eritrean Railway rollingstock
Updated 8 December 2011