3 April 2014
Malta saw its first railway in 1883. The line opened on 28th February and was single track line connecting Valletta and Notabile (Mdina). Unfortunately finances of the railway always proved to be lacking and by the 1st April 1890, just 7 years after, the Malta Railway Company Ltd went bankrupt and the service stopped. The government took over the railway, invested in its infrastructure and reopened in January 1892. In 1895 the line was extended and opened in 1900. The railway continued to operate until 1931 until again it was closed due to economic insufficiency. The railway had fallen victim to the more convenient bus system.
The railway system may be gone however Malta still has a train tour service. The sightseeing train tour is not limited by a track and explores the areas of Mdina, Rabat and Mtarfa. Known as Melita Trains it has become established as a 'Quality Assured Visitor Attraction' and departs every hour from a terminus next to the Domus Rimana (Roman Villa) in Mdina. Commentary on board the train is available in seven languages and explains the historical, cultural and architectural importance of the areas of Mdina, Rabat and Mtarfa. (Mdina is where they make the best Pastizzi!)
The tour lasts approximately thirty minutes and explores an 8km route that passes adjacent to Mdina Main Gate, Old Casino Notabile, then to the heart of Rabat with its numerous archaeological places, in close proximity to St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Grotto, the catacombs of St. Paul’s and St. Agatha Complex and thereon to the suburb of Ghar Barka with picturesque views of Rabat and the surrounding countryside.
The tour proceeds into the heart of the neighbouring town of Mtarfa viewing other interesting buildings such as the Ex Royal Navy Hospital and the Clock Tower. The train at its highest point on the island proceeds from Mtarfa with breathtaking views of Mosta and most of Malta with particular emphasis on Mdina and the surrounding magnificent bastions with their captivating allure. The train passes over the same bridge transited by the Old Malta Railway Trains and close to the Old Railway Station, thereafter steaming to Mdina’s Greek Gate Tunnel and back to the terminus.
The design that Melita Trains has opted for, features an ancient style locomotive that blends well with the historical environment of the villages of Mtarfa, Rabat and the outskirts closed city of Mdina. To add a nostalgic feature to the train, the inclusion of the classical bell is a must.
The train is designed to contain four units, the first of which is the locomotive. The other three units are not powered and consist of three separate carriages which have been designed to give perfect ergonomics with extremely comfortable seating and high quality interiors.
‘You can find out more about this train tour at Melita Trains Facebook page. Reviewers on TripAdvisor seem to have enjoyed the ride too.
Author: Adam Claffey