Malta Railway

Brief History

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History of The Malta Railway.by N Azzopardi

1870 to 1890

A railway was first proposed in 1870 by J S Tucker. So was the desire to reduce the journey time from Valletta to Mdina from 3 hours to less than half an hour. This was the start of a long and protracted design and construction period. Proposals to use the J B Fell patented narrow gauge railway system were dropped and in 1879 Wells-Owen & Elwes consulting engineers, Westminster, London were engaged to design the railway. The Malta Standard Wednesday December 8 1880 announced that there are unmistakable signs that in a short space of time, the inhabitants of these Islands may be able to boast of possessing a railway. Aquisition of the land took longer than expected so it was not until 3 pm on Wednesday, 28th February 1883 that the first official train left Valletta Station for Notabile. The journey took about 25 minutes and an account of the opening appeared in The Malta Standard Thursday March 1 1883. A Time Table was advertised in The Malta Times and United Service Gazette on 3rd March 1883. A more technical report was featured in The Engineer April 13 1883. Figs 1, 2, 3, & 4 .Figs 6, 7 & 8 The opening was almost 60 years after Locomotion No1 carried the first passengers on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, 27th September 1825.

Money was always a problem. In 1890 it became clear that the Malta Railway Company Ltd. was bankrupt. The line was closed on 1st April 1890 by the Supervision Board and the Government. The railway had operated for only seven years.

1892 to 1931

The Government of Malta aquired the railway and reopened the line on 25th January 1892. During the time that the line was closed several improvement were undertaken including the replacement of the timber viaduct at Porta Reale. In 1895 plans were made to extend the line to service the new Mtarfa Barracks. The extension was opened in 1900 at a cost of £20,000. Some years later in 1912 The Railway Magazine ran an article on the railway.

In 1903 a Tramway Company was formed to run services between Valletta and the Three Cities and Zebbug and Hamrun. The competition had an immediate effect on the finances of the railway. Further competition from the Malta bus service was too much for the railway to compete with. The line closed on 31st March 1931. The Railway Magazine in July 1934 recorded The Closing of the Malta Railway.

1931 to 2002

Even before the railway was closed there was talk of converting the line into a highway and so it came to pass for much of the route has been surfaced with Tar Macadam making it still possible to walk most of the route from Valletta to Mtarfa. Roads built on or almost on the line include: Triq Mile End, Triq Kappilan Mifsud, Triq il Ferrovija, Triq Salvu psaila, Triq il Ferrovija L Qadima, Triq il Linja.

 
For further more detailed information:
 The Malta Railway by B L Rigby Oakwood Press 1970.
The Malta Railway by Joseph Bonnici & Michael Cassar 1987 & 1992.