North Cyprus  

Cyprus Government Railways
  Industrial Archaeology

The engine no.1 of the last train from Nicosia to Famagusta on 31st December 1951 now rests for display in Polat Pasha Boulevard in Famagusta

Photo by David A. Pritchard © 2003

The engine no.1 of the last train from Nicosia to Famagusta on 31st December 1951 now rests for display in Polat Paşa Boulevard in Famagusta 

   In the figure above is a sketch of an old railway engine resting on a plinth, and placed here as a memorial to the Cyprus Government Railways (C.G.R.), which ran trains from Famagusta to Nicosia, and beyond to Güzelyurt (Morphou). The building behind the engine is the old Famagusta station which was the terminus of the C.G.R. There are many railway enthusiasts in Britain who worship these old engines as symbols of the past industrial revolution. There is now a division of antiquarians who study old engines, old mills, and the old machinery used one hundred years ago, the subject is Industrial Archeology.

In 1904, the railway construction depot was inside the old walls, opposite the Othello Tower, and now occupied by Desdemona Gardens. In order to give access to the docks three archways were driven into the old Venetian curtain walls and the traces can be seen today. Great care was shown not to use stone for the railway construction from the walls and the ancient buildings although there were rumours that stone was going to be taken from Bellapais Abbey

Cyprus Rail ticket for travel from Famagusta to Nicosia - 3rd Class.

Rail ticket for travel
from Famagusta to
Nicosia, 3rd class.

The railway was 37½ miles long, and there were stations at two mile intervals, the names being written in three languages, English, Greek, and Turkish. Speed was from 20 to 30 m.p.h. and the journey to Nicosia took about two hours.

Two trains per day; the morning train left at 8:35 a.m. arriving at Nicosia at 10:37 a.m. If you wanted to continue to Güzelyurt (Morphou) that would be another two hours for the extra 24 miles. 

Coal was the fuel, which came from England to the Famagusta docks; some even came from the Admiralty yards at Port Said in Egypt, 284 miles distant. Water had to be softened chemically so as not to damage the engine boilers and all lighting was with acetylene lamps. It was a standard railway gauge, the sleepers were of local timber but the main problem was bridge maintenance. Rivers in Cyprus are harmless dry beds in summer, but in winter torrents would sometimes damage the bridges. 

Photos of the engine no.1 of the last train from Nicosia to Famagusta, in Polat Pasha Boulevard in Famagusta 

We tend to think that railways were built for the benefit of passengers but this is not so. For the C.G.R. and for all railways, freight was the economic drive. The Cyprus Mines Corporation used the C.G.R. for the transport of copper and chrome ore and asbestos to the Famagusta docks until port facilities elsewhere in the island were developed. During the Enosis troubles of 1931, some futile attempts were made to tear up the track as it was regarded as a symbol of British Colonial Rule

Passengers waiting for a train 
at the railway station

In 1945, the railway trains were still running to time, but then, new 6 ton diesel lorries appeared, against which the C.G.R. could not compete. Road haulage meant the end of the railway, and at that time the railway was faced with the problem of new engines, new tracks and carriages, because the whole system was already 40 years old. In 1935, there was much gossip that the railway was quite inefficient and that the Ford Motor Company wanted the railway to close down in order to boost their sales of motor vehicles. Very difficult to prove, but who knows, it may have been the major reason for the closure of C.G.R. 

The last train left Nicosia for Famagusta on 31st December 1951 and it was then that the engine no.1 (in the picture) was lifted to its final resting place, by the Army engineers from Dhekelia using a 20 ton crane. It marked the end of a marvellous episode in the history of Cyprus and what a fine exercise it would be for secondary school students to find out the course of the old railway in Nicosia or Famagusta. They could find out where the old bridges and cuttings were made and there's even a tunnel, which the train used, just by the mound outside the Land Gate, in Famagusta. All those interested in the history of Cyprus Railway should read Lt. Col. Turner's book on the Cyprus Government Railway; it is a masterpiece of historical research:   


The Story of the Cyprus Government Railway
by B. S. Turner Mechanical Engineering Publications, London, 1979.

The writer of this article showed this book to an old Cypriot now 80 years of age and he waxed enthusiastic about the excellent photographs in the book, which he said brought back in him memories of the times when he went by train from Famagusta to Nicosia and only for a few pence.
Turkish-Cypriot stamps commemorating 
the Cyprus Government Railways 
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