Between 1944 and 1992 Albania was cut off from the rest of the world; the North Korea of its day. The oppressive and secretive communist regime took power after World War II, lead by dictator Enver Hoxha. Though this regime was brutal and controlling, it did lead to many developments in the country, including its railway network.
Read more about the effects of communism and isolation in the country in our blog about the 750,000 bunkers built in the country during this time of extreme paranoia.
The railway’s construction began after WWII, making it Europe’s most recent network. By the 1970s all major cities were connected, extending to 667km by the 1980s.. After Hoxha’s death and the eventual fall of communism the country underwent drastic changes. Cars became accessible to the general public and maintenance budgets for infrastructure were cut. This led to the demise and eventual abandonment of the railway system, leaving miles of railway, tunnels, bridges and stations to decay.
We followed the line between Durrës and Pogradec, which was only fully abandoned in 2012, but is now in a state of total disrepair, with plants creeping through the tracks and bridges crumbling. According to locals there has been some talk of restoring the line, however the tracks are built for a different sized train to those in modern production, and the longer the infrastructure is left to crumble, the more expensive any restoration work will be. The line itself in an impressive piece of engineering, cutting through the many hills and crossing deep valleys. In a few spots we saw locals using the decaying line as a footpath, using its connections to travel between the remote small towns and villages.
Last Updated on 3 November 2022 by Michael