Constructing the first railroad track in Sudan

Gordon, Charles G., known as "Chinese Gordon", "Gordon Pasha", and "Gordon of Khartoum", British Army officer and administrator (1833-1885). 10 autograph letters signed.

Khartoum, Korosko, Cairo and Shaka, 1878 and 1879.

Mostly 8vo. Altogether 17½ pp. on 16 ff.


Ten letters to J. H. Gooding in Wadi Halfa, who was employed on the construction of the railway. The letters show with great clarity the problems of building the railway. The first letter, dated 1 February, informs the recipient that his position was, reluctantly, going to become redundant due to lack of funds and large budget deficit: "We have no money to carry on the Railway to which the Sudan has contributed 75000£ this year, and for which we require still 18000£ to pay outstanding debts. Under these circumstances I would be glad to dispense with your services paying up all arrears and whatever may be due to you in your contract for your return passage, but I do not like to do so unless Mr Jansen consents […]" (July 1, 1878).

The third letter dated 23 March begins, "The works on the Sudan Railway must come to a close" and goes on to detail the reduction of staff and all other matters of saving costs. The fifth letter, dated 18 September, concludes, "The slave trade is giving me a lot of trouble". The sixth letter, dated 15th October, he is seeking to have the river mapped for a possible steamer service (being much cheaper than the railway). The postscript reads: "Directly I have money, I will see to your pay". The seventh letter, dated 15th November is very long, with a plan map of the river, he is seeking the possibility of passing some of the rapids and more questions with regard to the state of the railway. The other letter, dated 16 November concerns developing the project to run steamers along the stretch of river between Khartoum and Amara. The tenth letter concludes defeat of the railway project which was to be replaced by Haddens railway from Wadi Halfa to Amara and then use steamers on to Khartoum. The final letter includes the comment: "We are now dealing the death blow to the slave trade [...]".

Most letters were sent from Khartoum and there are three envelopes (2 stampless and one with stamp removed). A fascinating insight into this ill fated project due to lack of financial support from both Sudan and Egypt.

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