If you wish to travel by train in Madagascar, you have got to choose the CTF, promising an unforgettable journey with splendid landscapes between Fianarantsoa and the southeastern part of Madagascar. For another type of train trip, Madarail invites you to discover the east of the Big Island with the Dia Soa and Trans Lémurie Express trains as well as the Micheline Viko-Viko.
Travel on the FCE line: a stimulating and extraordinary experience
Fianarantsoa-East Coast: a line that survives
The construction of the FCE railway line was initiated by French settlers in 1926. The railway from the Manakara’s port to the city of Fianarantsoa was not completed until 1936. The line had its heyday during the First Republic, mainly thanks to freight transport. Since then, the infrastructure and the equipment have aged, including passenger cars from 1954 to 1964.
The rails are even older and very damaged. It is important to realise that they date from 1889 and that they were collected at the end of the First World War from an Alsatian railway line. However, railway workers still manage to run the machine to serve the public.
FCE: an extraordinary journey
The journey is 163 km long, but it takes about 12 to 18 hours depending on the adventures encountered along the way and the frequent stops of travellers, loading and unloading their goods (fruit bags, vegetable bags, rice bags, hens and poultry in baskets, etc.). Indeed, this train is essential for people living in remote villages and mountains. This is the only way for them to transport basic necessities and export their (agricultural) products to the city of Fianarantsoa. The load can reach 200 tonnes with about 400 passengers piling up standing up all along the way. Only those who travel first class have access to the seats!
The line sometimes passes through almost steep slopes, putting the brakes and nerves of railway workers to the test. The road can be full of obstacles in winter, forcing them to descend to remove branches and rocks blocking the road. The route includes 17 stations, 65 bridges and 48 tunnels without lighting. It is always scary for some passengers to cross the Ankarapotsy tunnel, measuring 1,074 m!
A colourful life experience
The departure is always scheduled for 7 am, whether from Manakara or Fianarantsoa. The Fianarantsoa railway station consists of a rustic and imposing colonial building. Passengers wait for hours with their goods, ready to rush to the train and load. The noise is impressive! The itinerant salesmen are never far away and are always ready to offer exotic fruits, cakes, meatballs, all kinds of snacks and drinks, coffee, etc. Some stations have their specialities: sausages, fried chicken, skewers, etc.
Once on the road, the landscapes are incomparable! The railway runs along unlikely routes, from mountainsides to rice fields, cliffsides and green valleys. Before arriving at the Manakara terminus, the line even passes through the runway of the city's airport!
The "Dia Soa": a train guaranteeing a good journey The Dia Soa train is assigned to two lines, namely Moramanga-Toamasina (TCE) and Moramanga-Ambatondrazaka (MLA). It consists of three passenger cars, each with 72 seats, as well as two baggage cars. These routes offer magnificent landscapes, passing through forest edges and along streams. The Moramanga-Lake Alaotra (MLA) line leads to the city of Ambatondrazaka and the famous lake!
The Trans Lémurie Express: a train made of rosewood
The Trans Lemuria Express offers a change of scenery and tranquility between Antananarivo and Manjakandriana, Antananarivo and Andasibe, Antananarivo and Toamasina thanks to the Tananarive-East Coast (TCE) line. The train is also assigned to the Tananarive-Antsirabe (TA) line. This is a luxurious train made of rosewood parquet, Quartz, sisal, Labradorite, etc. The two cars of the Rosewood Class each have 52 seats, providing passengers with electrical outlets, a bar equipped with a refrigerator and a sink.
The Micheline "Viko-Viko": a train that looks like a bus
The Micheline Viko-Viko dates from the 1930s and looks like a bus. It is a real Malagasy heritage with an interior composed of a bamboo floor, 19 wicker chairs, a folding seat, a bar area and a bathroom. The trip between Antananarivo and Toamasina or between Antananarivo and Antsirabe is very comfortable, thanks in part to a friendly and helpful crew.