« PreviousContinue »
average rate mentioned above, and the plate-laying party, 1,000 strong, came next. One section of the last party unloaded the sleepers, and another laid and spaced them, a third party adjusted them, a fourth party fixed and spiked the rails, and a fifth party levelled the line with levers. This done, the engine and train advanced, and so kept supplies of material at hand for the workers in front, whilst gangs of men behind straightened, levelled, graded, and ballasted the line. The camp moved forward about six miles every four days, and rations and water were supplied from Wâdî Halfa. Every 20 miles
Every 20 miles a loop siding was made to allow trains to pass each other, and each station had a station-master, two pointsmen, and a telephone clerk. Between Wâdî Halfa and Abû Hamed the line rises about
The stations are ten in number, and the various sections of the line may be thus described :
Wadî Halfa to No.
17 miles, up-hill the whole way. No. I to
19 with short up-gradients. 3 19
ditto 4 to 5
26 II miles level, the rest
steep and curred. 6
all down hill. 7
slight down gradient. 7 to 8
24 fairly level.
slight down gradient. 9 to Io (Junction).. 13 irregular, with curves.
10 to Abû Hamed ..... 18 At No. 4 station are three wells, two of which yield water from a depth of 90 feet, and a reservoir was made there; at No. 6 station are two wells, 84 feet deep, which join each other, and there is no reservoir. The water is pumped up by Worthington pumps. At other places in the desert small supplies of water were found, but they were too highly charged with mineral salts to be used in the engine boilers. From No. 6 a narrow gauge (2 feet) railway runs to the
gold mines in the Eastern Desert. Nos. 2, 4, 6, and 9 are coaling stations, but all coals had formerly to be brought up from Alexandria. The head shop for railway repairs was at Wâdî Halfa, where there were lathes, drilling machines, planing machines, steam hammer, lathe for turning up the 5-feet wheels of the American engines, etc. in 1899 the number of workmen was 150, of all nationalities, the heads of departments being all Royal Engineers. The locomotives and rolling stock are of all kinds and classes, but in recent years many substantial additions to both have been made ; the upkeep of engines has always been a serious matter, for it is difficult to make the native clean and oil the running parts regularly. In 1899 the Súdân Military Railway possessed about 40 locomotives, varying in weight from 30 to 70 tons. The most powerful type of locomotive on the line is that built by Neilson, of Glasgow, which is said to be able to haul 600 tons at the rate of 15 miles per hour; it was used in laying the greater part of the Wâdî Halfa-Atbara line, but it is useless on the Wâdi Halfa-Kerma line, because of the curves. The sight of one of these “steamers on wheels," as the natives call them, hauling its tender, and water tanks, and a long row of trucks piled up with 400 tons dead weight of railway material across the desert at night, and breathing forth fire and smoke like a genuine 'Afrit in the Arabian Nights, impressed the imagination of the dwellers in the desert with the idea of Lord Kitchener's “magic" far more than did the British soldier. When the first locomotive reached Berber, many of the natives hastened to touch its oily and dusty tender, believing it to possess magical powers, and some of them declared that the touch had cured their ailments ! There are no antiquities in the desert between Wâdi Halfa and Abû Hamed, and the route of the railway may be described as containing nothing but sand, rock, a few desert trees, and blazing sunshine.
The Wadi Halfa-Kerma Line (gauge 3 feet 6 inches) was begun in 1877 by the Khedive Ismâ'il, who had the line laid as far as Sarras, a distance of 33 miles, and it was continued by the British to Akashah, 55 miles further south, in 1884. In 1896, when the reconquest of the Sûdân was ordered by the British Government, Lord Kitchener determined to carry the line on to the head of the Third Cataract, a distance of 210 miles. It was found that the original piece of line had been badly laid ; that the Dervishes had torn up 55 miles of it, and burnt the sleepers and twisted the rails; that only two engines were capable of moving; and that practically an entirely new line from Wadi Halfa to Kerma would have to be built. This wonderful work was done in thirteen months by a few young Royal Engineer officers under Lieut. (now Sir) Percy Girouard, R.E. On March 21 the Sirdar ordered the advance; by June 4 the line was working to Ambukôl Wells, 68 miles from Wâdî Halfa ; on August 4 it reached Koshah, 108 miles from Wâdî Halfa; and on May 4 it reached Kerma, 201 miles from Wâdî Halfa. Of the thirteen months occupied in its construction, five had been almost wasted for want of engines and material, and in repairing the damage caused by rain storms, and meanwhile, at intervals, the Sirdar, Lord Kitchener, fought and defeated the Dervishes at Ferket (June 7) and elsewhere, and reconquered the Donķola province. The working expenses of the Kerma line were in 1903 £E. 18,000, and the receipts were only £E.11,000, of which over £E.5,000 were on account of the Government. As the line had been lightly laid, and any idea of rebuilding it was out of the question, owing to lack of funds, the Government decided to close the line to general traffic in 1904. The portion of it from Kôshah to Kerma (95 miles) had been laid by the British with new rails, and it was further decided to take these up and send them over to the Atbara, for use in the construction of the Nile-Red Sea Railway. This was accordingly done, and now the section from Halfa to Kôshah is only used for administrative purposes.
Wadi Halfa to Abû Hamed by River.-Leaving Wâdî Halfa, the train proceeds slowly past the signal box and points, and keeping to the track on the right, after a few miles enters a very rocky gorge in the mountains on the east bank of the Nile, at the foot of the Second Cataract. Every here and there glimpses are caught of little patches of cultivated ground on the banks of the river, and (in European eyes) of the miserable huts in which the natives live. At mile 7 the famous rock of Abûşir is passed; at mile 8 is Abkah, or Amkah, which was the advanced post of the Dervishes in 1886, and a few miles further on is Gamai, which was a Dervish base at that time. At mile 33 is Sarras, from which place the Dervishes raided the country round; it was taken and re-occupied by the Egyptian troops at the end of August, 1889, shortly after the crushing defeat of the Dervishes under Wâd * Nagůmi at Tushkeh (Toski) on August 4.
At mile 40 is the Semnah Road station, close to the Island of Gazirat al-Malik, where are remains of an ancient Egyptian settlement that dates from the time of the XIIth dynasty.
At mile 43 is the Cataract of Semnah, where the river is 430 yards wide. Here was found an inscription dated in the 8th year of the reign of Usertsen III., who conquered Nubia as far south as this point, and made stringent laws to regulate the entry of the Nubians into the territory newly acquired by Egypt; it seems that only traders and merchants were allowed to bring their boats north of Semnah. Of special interest also are the series of short inscriptions which mark the levels of the waters of
* Wâd=Weled, i.e., 'son of,'
DONCOUA LURGO ISLAND
the Nile during the inundations in a number of years of the
reign of Amemenḥāt III., to whom
tradition assigns the construction 2 nd Cataract WADY HALFA
of Lake Moeris. These inscrip
tions show that at that time the 3rd Cataras KERMA
river level during the inundation 4th Cataract
was about 26 feet higher than it is at the present time, and they seem to indicate that Åmen
emḥāt III. set to work in a sysOMOURMANY KHARTUM
tematic manner to endeavour to understand the effects upon the agriculture of Egypt caused by inundations of varying heights. The ruins at Semnah and Kummah are of considerable interest from many points of view, and especially because they represent buildings which were primarily fortresses of great strength. The two buildings, that of Semnah on the left bank, and that of Kummah on the east bank of the Nile, occupied posi
tions of extreme strategical FUWERA
importance, and when well garrisoned must have formed a formidable obstacle to the progress north of the raiding river tribes.
Inside the fortifications at The Course of the Nile in
Semnah are the ruins of a the Egyptian Südân. temple which was built by
Thothmes III., in honour of Usertsen III.; it consists of a single chamber measuring about 30 feet by 12 feet, with an extremely plain front.