Sahara Railway Is Most Extreme in World

At more than 430 miles long, the has been transporting across the blistering heat of the Desert since 1963.

Source: National Geographic

The Railway is the national railway of . Opened in 1963, it consists of a single, 704-kilometre (437 mi) railway line linking the iron centre of Zouerate with the port of Nouadhibou, via Fderik and Choum. The state agency Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière (National and Industrial Company, SNIM) controls the railway line.

Since the closure of the Choum Tunnel, a 5 km (3.1 mi) section of the railway cuts through the Polisario Front-controlled part of the Western Sahara (21.354867°N 13.012644°W).

Trains on the railway are up to 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) in length, making them among the longest and heaviest in the world. They consist of 3 or 4 diesel-electric EMD locomotives, 200 to 210 cars each carrying up to 84 tons of iron ore, and 2-3 service cars. The total traffic averages 16.6 million tons per year.

Passengers are also occasionally transported by train; these services are managed by an SNIM subsidiary, the société d’Assainissement, de Travaux, de Transport et de Maintenance (abb. ATTM). Passenger cars are sometimes attached to freight trains, but more often passengers simply ride atop the ore hopper cars.


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