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Believe or not, Cyprus used to operate a railway

Believe or not, Cyprus used to operate a railway which spanned pretty much the entire island from east to west. However, as it closed more that 70 years ago, few remember it, even fewer travelled on it.

The network was born when the first British High Commissioner, Sir Garnet Wolseley, arrived in Cyprus in 1878. Like many Victorians, he was keen to construct a railway on the island, but the project did not come to fruition for a long time, due to the uncertainty of the length of the British mandate in Cyprus.

However, when it finally opened in 1905, the Cyprus Government Railway was a 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge network, which is smaller than lines used in Britain.  Remarkably, residents of Larnaca protested about a planned extension of the line to their town in 1910, so the idea was abandoned.

But despite not reaching the south coast, the old network operated a pull passenger and goods service until 1951.

Trains could be seen several times a day chugging along the vast plains between Famagusta and Nicosia, packed with passengers, livestock and farm produce.

With a total length of 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 line was closed due to financial reasons. An extension of the railway which was built to serve the Cyprus Mines Corporation operated until 1974.

Four new Nasmyth Wilson locomotives on the bridge near Mia Milia

The existence of a railway in Cyprus brought many benefits to the population.

However, during the first years of its operation, many reportedly viewed the railway as a spectacle to be viewed rather than a means of transportation. Overall, the CGR carried 3,199,934 tons of commercial goods and freight and 7,348,643 passengers during its history.

Famagusta Gazette