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The first line opened in 1864; it was named the North line.
The second line, the Midlands line, started functioning in 1865.
With developing urbanisation, secondary lines were gradually extended. All of these lines were 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge).
The North line covered 50 km (31 mi) and started operation on 23 May 1864. It passed through the districts of Pamplemousses, Rivière du Rempart and Flacq, to end at the station of Grand River South East.
The Midlands line covered 56 km (35 mi). It connected Port-Louis to Mahébourg, and opened on 22 October 1865. This line contributed to the development of urban agglomerations by passing through the secondary stations of Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatre Bornes, Phoenix, Vacoas, Curepipe and Rose-Belle.
As the rural areas developed, the railway network was gradually extended. There were four secondary lines:
The Moka-Flacq line, which opened on 11 December 1876. It joined the Midlands line at Rose Hill, and ran through Plaines Wilhems, Moka and Flacq to Rivière Sèche, where it formed a junction with the North line; it was 42 km (26 mi) long.
The Savanne branch joined the Midlands line at Rose-Belle and ran through the Savanne District to Souillac, measuring 18 km (11 mi).
The Black-River line, 21 km (13 mi) long, ran from Port-Louis to Tamarin; it became operational on 27 August 1904.
The Long Mountain branch, which was 6.5 km (4 mi) long, opened on 21 September 1903.
At its apogee, the Mauritius Government Railways had a fleet of 52 steam locomotives, including six Beyer-Garratts, together with nearly 200 passenger coaches and 750 goods wagons. Mauritian rail vehicles and operating practices were predominantly British in style.
Mauritius also once had a number of narrow gauge industrial railway lines, each connecting a sugar mill with nearby sugar cane plantations. Some of the steam locomotives used on these lines are now preserved, mostly at various sugar mills around Mauritius.