A previous pictorial feature focused on the short-lived train service in Malta, which terminated operations in 1931. But some permanent structures survived the bankruptcy of the company that ran the railways.
Not long ago, I came across an incomplete album of over 50 photographs taken in 1967 that meticulously documented a number of structural relics of the railway era. The photographer, obviously knowledgeable and passionate about train lore, did not record his or her name.
I thank any reader who helps me identify the camera artist.
Most of the images in the present feature come from this monographic collection.
To build a railway from scratch involved considerable architectural and engineering investment, some of it aspiring to permanence. Enemy action damaged the Valletta terminus, eventually demolished to make way for one of the earlier Kingsgate projects and today, included, in the footprint of the Piano parliament building. But tunnels, embankments, bridges, cuttings and stations survive to this day in varying degrees of disrepair.
"Some railway structures acquired new lives and identities"
The original metal tracks over wooden sleepers have, as far as I know, disappeared almost entirely. So have all the coal-fired locomotives.
Some railway structures acquired new lives and identities, like the Mtarfa Museum station, now morphed into a restaurant, advertising itself through bright red windows and nostalgic promotion cards.
Other leftovers of the railway era remain but less eye-catching, such as the large stone troughs with identifying monograms commissioned for greening up stations, display boards for timetables and routes, even a train wagon demoted to serve as a ticketing booth.
Others, more ephemeral – company uniforms, signalling devices, tickets, advertising posters, stop signs – now survive as sought-after collectors’ items.
Two railway museums enrich Malta, one in Attard and another in Birkirkara.
All images from the author's collections.