The aim of this page is to list every railway line I can find of 2'6" (762mm) gauge, or the closely related gauges of 750mm and 760mm. The list is far from complete. I am aware of many lines not listed and will continue to add them as I have time. If you have any corrections, additions, or further information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why do this? Basically to inspire model railroaders. By chance, "N" gauge track scales out very close to 30" in HO scale. Likewise, HO gauge track scales out very close to 30" in O scale. Thus these two scale/gauge combinations are obvious choices for anyone wishing to model narrow gauge railways. Many modellers, particularly from the United States or Britain, are only familiar with 2' or 3' gauge prototypes. Hopefully they can use this page to either find a prototype to model, or inspiration for a freelanced model.
I've tried to keep this page simple, and to keep loading time down, have not included many images. Never fear, there are plenty on the links! I've classified railways as Public, Industrial, or Preserved. Public means you or I could have purchased a ticket or dispatched freight on this line at some time in its life. Industrial means that it served one industry. A line carrying visitors around an amusement park, for instance, is classed as industrial.
I've tried to include basic information about each line, its length, when it opened and closed (if it has closed), and the basic loco roster. I've listed them by country, based on present boundaries - there are over 90 last count. This can be a little difficult, as boundaries were often very different when the lines were built. Some countries keep changing their names, too.
Countries are listed alphabetically. Follow the links below, the countries are divided between four lists. Please enjoy, and let me know what you think.
Much information comes from various websites, which are acknowledged by hyperlinks to the sites concerned. Some photos from books and websites have been added, by way of review of the book or website. Full details of the book or website are available via the attached hyperlink.
I am now adding written references, which are highlighted in green
. For books I've given the author, date of publication, title and publisher, when known. For magazines I've given the initials of the magazine, with a hyperlink to the magazine's web site, and the relevent issue of the magazine. Most of the references come from my own library. Additional references are appreciated.
References directly below a railway normally relate to that railway, references seperated by a line from the railways above usually apply to all the railways in that section.
These historical notes are provided to help the reader put the development of 30" railways in a political and economic context. They also help explain how railways ended up in the counties they did, why an Austrian railway using German locos ended up in Italy, for instance.
The closing decades of the 19th Century, and the first of the 20th, was known as the Age of Empires. A small number of European powers, their monarchs taking titles originating in the ancient Roman empire, ruled a vast proportion of the worlds population. To further their imperial ambitions, they constructed narrow gauge railways. More often as not, these railways were built for military or other reasons, rather than purely economic reasons.
Central Europe was dominated by three empires. The German empire stretched across northern Poland to East Prussia, on the Baltic coast. The Russian empire included central Poland, the Baltic states, and Finland, and extended across Siberia to the Pacific, and south into central Asia. Austria had southern Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Croatia, and extended to the Mediterranean at Trieste. Austria had recently gained Bosnia from the Ottoman Empire, which was in decline. The Ottoman Empire had also lost Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Greece, all of which had recently become independant kingdoms.
The British empire circled the globe, and territories were found on every continent. The British empire at this point ruled one quarter of the worlds population. However because of British political, industrial and financial leadership, British influence was felt far beyond the borders of territories actually ruled from London. In Asia, the Japanese Empire was expanding, firstly into Korea, and then at the expense of China into Taiwan and Manchuria.
All these empires adopted narrow gauge railways, the British and the Japanese promoted 2'6", the Germans and Russians used 750mm, while the Austrians used 760mm in their territories.
The British dominated the Indian sub-continent from the late 18th Century untill 1947. British India included the modern states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. British India was divided between territories directly under the administration of the British, and a large number of "princely states", ruled by Indian princes. The Indian princes swore allegiance to the British crown, and could be removed from power by the British if they were judged to be misruling their territories. Many of the 2'6" lines were built by these princely states.
Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) were also part of the British empire, but were not regarded as part of British India proper. Netherless, in many administrative matters, including railways, Burma and Ceylon responded to the British Indian government. Nepal was never part of the British empire, however was under British influence.
While many 2'6" lines were constructed for economic development, others were constructed for more unusual reasons. Some had military objectives in mind, particularly on the North-West Frontier, where the British seemed to be constantly at war with Afgani tribesmen (has anything changed?). Others were constructed for famine relief, so food could be quickly and easily brought in to relive the famines that struck India periodically. Some were associated with Hindu pilgrimage sites, and during festivals, the capacity of the railways was often stretched to the limit transporting pilgrims.
Perhaps the most unusual 2'6" railways were the temporary railways constructed for the 1904 and 1911 Durbars. The Durbar was a ceremony where the British king was crowned Emperor of India, and the Indian princes swore allegiance to him. Temporary railways were laid to transport notables to various venues around New Delliei. These ceremonies would offer a great opportunity to the modeler who is also interested in military modeling, as there were large numbers of troops clad in the glorious dress uniforms of the period.
World events have significantly altered the political face of Central and Eastern Europe. The result is that many railways, constructed in one country, ended up 100 years later in an entirely different country.
The 19th Century
A series of wars, the most important being in 1878, resulted in the decline of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, by the time of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire had lost Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Austrian empire, Britain had gained Cyprus, and Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Greece had all achieved their independence.
1918 - the end of the First World War.
The end of World War 1 saw the break-up of three great Empires, the Austrian, German, and Russian. In the north, Finland and the three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, gained their independence from Russia. Poland was created from the territories of Germany, Russia and Austria. Germany retained East Prussia, but it was isolated from the main part of Germany by Polish territory. The rest of the former Russian empire became the constituent parts of the Soviet Union.
In the center, Czechoslovakia gained its independence from Austria, while Austria and Hungary were also split up. Bulgaria, on the wrong side of this war, lost some of it's territory. Romania gained territory at the expense of Russia, Austria and Hungary. In the south, Yugoslavia was created by combining Serbia with the former Austrian provinces of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and the formally independent principality of Montenegro under the Serbian king. Italy also gained some of Austria's former territories around Trieste and in the Dolomite mountains. The Ottoman empire also collapsed entirely resulting in the modern state of Turkey.
1945 - the end of the Second World War
The Soviet Union expanded westwards, absorbing the three Baltic states and Eastern Prussia, and taking territory from Finland, Poland, and Romania. Poland was compensated with German territory. Germany was split into eastern and western spheres, and the "Iron Curtain" dropped over eastern Europe. What were by and large royalist or right-wing dictatorships in Eastern Europe were replaced by communist dictatorships.
C1990 - the fall of Communism
Few border changes followed the fall of communism. Germany was re-united, however Czechoslovakia split into the Czech republic and Slovakia. After a series of bloody civil wars, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina achieved their independence from Yugoslavia, which now consisted only of Serbia and Montenegro. The Soviet Union broke up with the three Baltic states achieving full independence, and most of the other republics (of which Russia is the largest) continuing in a very loose association.
The fall of communism opened up the narrow gauge railways of eastern Europe to railfans, who delighted in the many steam-powered lines still in operation. However the railways are now subject to market forces, and many have closed or are threatened with closure.
The contents of these web pages are all derived from secondary sources. That is I have not gone out and checked the gauge of any of these railways, nor have I researched official reports, company records or other primary documents to check their accuracy. I rely on my sources to have done this for me. Also from time to time I may have misunderstood something that someone else has written, and interpreted it in an incorrect manner. Therefore this site should be used for fun, and as a basis for further research. It should not be quoted as an authoritative source.