On the 31st of December 1951 the train from Famagusta to Nicosia set on its last journey. Since that time Cyprus has been living without railway already for 70 years. Also almost nothing is left from old colonial infrastructure. However, it could be interesting to know how everything worked back then and what you can see nowadays. This is what we are going to talk about today.
Cyprus railway was built on the island in the historical period that had almost nothing to do with it. The island at that time had other problems to deal with and thought very less about key cities or geopolitics. Nowadays all these things are outdated even more but there was period in the history of the country when it was vital.
As you might know, the island turned into a British colony in the end of XIX century. There was no proper highways or efficient public transport so the railway was the main source for development of infrastructure, economy and logistics back then. That’s why Brits decided to build railroads. The very first railway line was complete in two years and started to operate in 1905. It was Famagusta — Nicosia line. Famagusta wasn’t the main port of the island at that time, but they decided to choose it anyway.
So now port had railway connection with the capital what had a great impact on the development of both cities. This line was the most advanced and important. It would take only 2 hours to get from one end to another.
Unprecedented speed for those times especially since the only alternative to it was old broken-down dirt road.
Almost all the route ran on the contemporary occupied territories. It included 15 stations. Railway helped not only economy but also ordinary citizens who quickly adapted to it and began to organize market stalls on the stations and get a good profit from them.
In 1907 another line was finished: Nicosia — Morphou. Morphou is another significant port in the north coast of the island. So it was possible to get from Famagusta to another part of the island in 4 hours. The second line turned out to be as important and demanded as the first one in its time.
The third and last line was built in 1915 and connected Morphou with Evrychou. This was the only route that headed not from east to west but from north to south. However it existed not for long — only 16 years and was closed afterwards.
Two other lines survived World War II and were shut down in the second half of the XX century.
The main reason for that was oncoming progress. At the time the railroad began to be built it considered to be the main element of infrastructure development. But at the time the lines were ready auto transport system began to grow at a rapid pace, which negated the relevance of economic profit in the context of short distances between settlements in Cyprus.
What is more the lines themselves have suffered from some decay over the years. So the choice was between urgent modernization and closing down. The decision was made in favour of the second option. The railway was deconstructed pretty quickly — in a couple of years. Railway station buildings were refurbished. Trains and cars — sold. The remained things were picked off by the locals.
So what is left nowadays?
There is very little information about objects that were part of railway infrastructure of Cyprus. Right on the Nicosia — Famagusta line Turkish-Cypriot built a modern highway and from 39 stations only 3-4 remained up to the present day, all in very bad condition by the way. The majority of the trains were scrapped long time ago. But something is still could be found.
1. The main historical monument is restored in 2012 — a railway station in Evrychou. You can read more about this place here.
The building was completely renovated and turned into a museum. By the way it’s free for visitors.
Except the station itself you can also see there a mail van, a train, a handcar and a short piece of a railway track. Alas, sitting on this station you will wait for your train forever.
2. Steam locomotive in Famagusta. It’s the first locomotive 0-6-0T of the state railroad of Cyprus. Now is used as a monument.
3. Another steam train near Nicosia. Model 0-8-2T No. 4. Now is used as a monument.
4. Steam locomotive in Morphou. Model 2-8-2ST No. 3. Now used as a monument.
5. Kaimakli railway station. Located in Nicosia. There is a linear park organized there on the place where the railway track was built back then. It’s called exactly like that: Kaimaki Railway Station Linear Park.
Well, actually this is everything I could find while searching through Internet and my memory. But I also recall something like I saw several trains somewhere in the mountain region. Despite the main route was never going through those places. Later it turned out to be true, except the remains of the main railroad you really can see trains in many other places far from Nicosia, Morphou or Evrychou. For instance there is a steam locomotive-monument in Kalavasos village not far from Limassol. What is it doing there? Except main railway tracks there were also several short ones for technical needs. They by the way were used longer — until 70es of the last century.
It’s interesting that progress often takes a sharp turn and something that considered outdated becomes popular again. Back then railroads were the most important traffic arteries of the countries and they sought to build them more and more. The new time brought another modern vehicles people use as means of transport and logistics, which edged out their railway competitors. In Cyprus they even “killed” them. Time passes and now progress sweeps the dust off of old projects and says: let’s bring everything back. Railway today becomes important because of another reason: it reduces highway traffic and improves ecology of the region.
That’s why the project of building new railroads is got out of the drawers again. Aside from intercity railway tracks for modern locomotives it is also planned to develop tram traffic, which never happened in Cyprus before.
Of course new railway lines won’t repeat the same routes of their ancestors. Cyprus is occupied now and influence of Evrychou or Famagusta is not comparable to one they had a hundred years ago.
Contemporary railway will connect the most significant cities of the island in the first place: Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaka and Pafos. However, don’t hope to buy a train ticket in the near future. Because as Russian poet Nekrasov wrote in his poem “Railroad”: “Onlyalas — liveinthatbeautifulera I shallnomore, andneithershallyou”. Well, of course it’s just a poetical metaphor, in reality some of us will live to see that day. But not everyone.Because the project will be finished only in 2050.
Until then… what until then? You can come to Evrychou village, sit on a bench with a cup of coffee imagine that railway track in front of you is still leading somewhere and maybe…just maybe one day you will hear long awaited train whistle coming out of the horizon.