Finarantsoa to Manakara – Tourist Train

Posted: April 8, 2013 in 2013 January to May - Madagascar, Finarantsoa to Manakara


The Fianarantsoa-Côte Est (FCE) railway is a french colonial-built railway in southeast Madagascar that connects the high plateau city of Fianarantsoa to the port-city of Manakara. It is 163 kilometers long and was built by the French between 1926 and 1936 using the forced-labor program SMOTIG. The French used rails and ties taken from Germany as World War I reparations to build the line. Many of the railways still have the date of manufacturing on them dating back to 1893.

The train chugs and clatters along the antiquated line, (no longer really up to any ‘european’ standard) stopping at a total of 18 train stations enroute. The views were, needless to say, idyllic from the onset. The train winding it’s way down through gorges, skirting round the edges of mountains and perched high above the hazy green, mist covered rain forests below.

It is in fact one of the steepest railway lines in the world – apart from Ecuador and Burma. The line runs over 67 bridges and through 48 tunnels! My trip was 14 hours from Finarantsoa to Manakara although I think without break downs and delays it is scheduled to take 10. However from reading other travel blogs journeys of up to 20 hours running through the night are not unheard of!


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