Madagascar

Discover the World by train

By train between Fianarantsoa and Manakara...

 

The Fianarantsoa-Côte Est railway connects the high plateau city of Fianarantsoa, the second largest city in Madagascar to Manakara, a port town on the Indian Ocean. Built by the French between 1926 and 1936, the train chugs along the 163 kilometer colonial railway route in around 8 to 12 hours – sometimes more. The scenery on the route is spectacular with waterfalls and plantations drifting by the open windows whilst the train passes through 48 tunnels and over 67 bridges whilst continuously dropping in elevation towards sea level. 

Without roads passing through the isolated rural villages, the railway is an economic lifeline to the local Malagasy people. They use the train to transport their produce; bananas and coffee to Fianarantsoa and Manakara where it is then sold at local markets or exported internationally. At each station stop the villages spring into life, with barefooted women and children swarming the train and and hoisting their locally produced delicacies and spices towards the open train windows. The vibrant station atmosphere makes the journey a colourful and delightful experience.

The charming Fianarantsoa station is the starting point of this rail journey. Sitting at 1200 meters above sea level, the train is scheduled to begin its downhill decent to Manakara at 7am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s the start of the journey so one would naturally expect the train to depart on time, but this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. The train is known to be unreliable with breakdowns frequently occurring but armed with a  hammer, a few stones and a spare rail there's not much the train crew can't fix to get you to your destination (eventually). Just remember though, this is a slow train in Africa, meant for the local Malagsy people so keeping a close check on your expectations will make the journey an unforgettable and enjoyable, not to be missed experience. If time allows, it is worth trying to get a quick glimpse of the La Micheline rubber tyre experimental railcar 'Fandrasa' parked up in the shed at Fianarantsoa. 

Journal: Read about my travel experience from Fianarantsoa to Manakara on Tuesday 21st April 2015

Discover: Learn more about the train traveling on the Fianarantsoa-Côte Est railway (2015)

  • Tickets: One -way 1st class fare is 10 US$

  • Fianarantsoa departures: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

  • Manakara departures: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

Travel information last updated on 1st January 2017. No known websites are available for up to date travel information.

 

 

By train between Antananarivo and Andasibe or Antsirabe...

 

Claimed to be a train like no other, the ‘La Micheline’ railcar was a revolutionary invention of the 1930’s. The railcar (Carel-et-Fouché) was one of a limited number of experimental trains built in France in 1952 by the Michelin tyre company. Their aim was to provide a smoother journey to their passengers by using rubber tyres instead of conventional steel wheels. Unfortunately the concept never really took off, partly because of regular punctures but also due to their inability to handle heavy loads. Nonetheless, several remained in service in Madagascar until the 1990’s when they finally retired from regular passenger service.

In 2010, railcar No. 517 was restored and brought back into service – primarily for tourists. It is painted in a striking pure white livery and was nicknamed ‘Viko-Viko’, the name of a Malagasy bird. The railcar glides along the tracks at 50 km /h from Antananarivo to Andasibe in the east or Antsirabe in the south on a few days every month. Inside the cabin, you will find nineteen white washed wicker armchairs, a floor made of bamboo and a small bar at the back. La Micheline is piece of Madagascar’s history; a travelling museum and should you be lucky enough for it to be in service, you will be able to enjoy spectacular Madagascan scenery from the comfort of a uniquely designed, rubber tyre rail vehicle.

Journal: Read about my visit to Antananarivo sheds on Friday 24th April 2015

  • Tickets: unknown

  • Antananarivo departures to Andasibe: unknown

  • Antananarivo departures to Antsirabe: unknown

Travel information last updated on 1st January 2017. For up to date information visit www.madarail.mg.

 

 

By train between Moramanga and Toamasina or Ambatondrazaka...

 

The northern rail system connects Antananarivo with the coast at Toamasina, however passenger services do not currently operate between Antananarivo and Moramanga. The section does however have occasional touristic 'special' passenger services using the restored La Micheline 'Viko Viko' rail car (see section: By train between Antananarivo and Andasibe or Antsirabe... At Moramanga the line divides, with services either heading towards Toamasina on the coast or inland to Ambatondrazaka. A journey on the Madarail train is described as a journey like no other, travelling along the edge of forests and streams passengers can discover Madagascar's remote and magnificent scenery. 

Notes: Train 1 (Monday), Train 2 (Wednesday & Saturday), Train 3 (Thursday)

Notes: Train 4 (Tuesday), Train 5 (Thursday & Sunday), Train 6 (Friday)

Travel information last updated on 1st January 2017. For up to date information visit www.madarail.mg.