The Malta Railway closed down 90 years ago today, ending a unique chapter in the history of local transport.
The train started operating on February 28, 1883 on a single route between Valletta and Rabat, the line later being extended to the valley below Mtarfa.
But the service, operated first by a private company and later the government, folded on March 31, 1931 having succumbed to competition from the tramway service’s three lines and then the introduction of buses.
The train used to have first, second and third class carriages, The trip took 35 minutes from Valletta to Rabat and five minutes less on the journey back to Valletta because it was mostly downhill.
There were several stations along the route. The Valletta station was underground below the present-day parliament building, with the ticketing booths at street level opposite the side of the then Royal Opera House.
The biggest station was at Hamrun which included several maintenance garages. The station building is now used by the scouts. Birkirkara station now features the only surviving third-class carriage, restored by the Malta Railway Foundation. The Mtarfa station survives as a restaurant while a station at Attard is now a playground, although the station building is no more. The Notabile station below Saqqajja hill still exists.
Other surviving remnants of the railway include the tunnel from Valletta under Floriana to Portes des Bombes, used as a shelter during the war, and the tunnel under Rabat, used for growing mushrooms. The embankments for the train in Attard also survive.
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