African Railways in General
The Fahrplacenter site has a mass of links
to African railways, some of which are repeated specifically under the
countries below - see http://www.fahrplancenter.com/Afrikanische_Bahnen.html.
This includes both historical and contemporary information (3rd
December 2008). Railways Africa - http://railwaysafrica.com/index.php
- although South Africa
based/orientated, has contemporary
information on African Railway developments (3rd
The Benguela Railway was a wonderful institution but was a victim of the
civil war in the country. A CFB site - http://www.cpires.com/angola_comboios_en.html
- states that the railway (still under reconstruction) has two
operational steam locomotives reserved for an eventual museum (215 and 216).
These are described as 'Garratts' but the numbers were actually carried by two
Baldwin 4-8-0s! Further information would be very welcome (29th
June 2007). It seems that the number of surviving Cape Gauge steam locomotives
is quite considerable, Trevor Heath has sent me a
note he has had from Scott Jesser (8th November 2007)
detailing locations and their contents, a video of the locos at Huambo has now
been posted http://youtube.com/watch?v=lY8wlFHJpj8
(26th December 2007) and for a further video see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6yTFBbKHzQ
(22nd June 2008) For a huge set of images by Jamie Grieve, check out http://s208.photobucket.com/albums/bb241/jamie_grieve/interesting%20iron/?start=all
(thanks to Trevor Heath and John Raby for this, 9th April
2008). An account is also on Gavin Hamilton's site - http://www.beyergarrattlocos.co.uk/survivors.html
(link changed 31st July 2012).
There are a number of videos of the Huambo collection posted
by Jamie Grieve on http://www.youtube.com/user/jamiegrieve01
(31st December 2008). Jose da Palma is based in the country and has provided an
update and a view of the 'new' Benguela Railway (updated 16th
In addition, it seems that that many (21 at the
last count) of the steam locomotives of the CF Luanda have survived and are now
rusting away at Catete not so far east of Luanda, as reported on Gavin Hamilton's site -
(link changed 31st July 2012),
some of which are necessarily Garratts, http://www.beyergarrattlocos.co.uk/survivors.html
(link changed 31st July 2012), it's worth scrolling down
this page for more information... John Middleton has sent me some notes and
pictures (24th December 2008) of surviving
steam locomotives on the CFB and CFL. Gavin
Hamilton's site (see above) now record (14th October 2010)
that cutting up of the Catete locomotives has commenced in a scrap drive to
raise funds. The good news reported by Peter Bagshawe is the likely setting
aside of some examples for a proposed museum at Muceques (the site of the railway workshops near Luanda).
In an update to this (6th May 2011) Peter reports
that scrapping is essentially complete but that two 4-8-2 + 2-8-4 Garratts (Beyer Peacock 501
and Krupp 554) remain as well as two 4-8-0s, Henschel 156 and an unidentified Armstrong Whitworth (200
series), presumably for the museum. The scrapping is (in my opinion RD) a
mercy as the last thing this part of Africa needs is a further stock of
preserveable 3'6" (1067mm) gauge steam locomotives.
Henry Posner III (added 8th July 1999) was told by the railway management at AfricaRail
'99 Conference that "Benguela Railway: 12 steam locos are 'operational' and the
Porto Amboim system is closed, scrapping pending." Few visitors get here these days
but George Buta (24th September 2001) located a report from David M. Brown earlier this
year that indicates that the narrow gauge locomotives in the 'museum' at Catumbela
still present albeit somewhat overgrown..... Since when I believe the
preservationists from Sandstone in South Africa http://www.sandstone-estates.com/
recovered and now steamed this delightful little Decauville (317/1901) - added 24th
A visitor (22nd April 2003) to the narrow gauge railway at Porto Amboin reports:
"The rail infrastructure has disappeared, with the exception of odd lengths of rail
hidden under very derelict locos, some of which even have wheels missing, in addition to
any non ferrous fittings which have of course disappeared. There is considerable
corrosion, not surprising really given their proximity to the coast. Even if they were
worth rescuing, which is extremely doubtful, there is no loading dock or jetty capable of
taking the weight, no cranes nearer than Luanda, no heavy transport and precious little
else. There are mines, snakes and various nasty diseases awaiting the foreign
Several years ago two Indian metre gauge YPs found their way to
Togo (see that section for the full story). It is now not
impossible that they will find use in neighbouring Benin which shares a common
railway heritage and most importantly a common gauge. Thomas
Kautzor visited Benin in December 2007 and reports on the
state of the steamless railway(s) here along with some history, alas
now typical of many former colonial railways in Africa (9th
Notwithstanding what is written below
about BCL, there have been constant rumours of dieselisation for several
years and now one tour operator suggests a tender has been issued for
diesels to begin operation in October 2015, clearly steam is now living on
borrowed time (10th November 2014).
Edward Buchanan was in Botswana at the
end of March 2015 and reports that steam is still hanging on with two of
the 19Ds steamed each day although only one actually goes out on the
line. With low prices for the mine's products, there still seems no
urgency to invest in diesels. We shall see (14th
There have been (tour group) visits to BCL, Selebi Phikwe in
the last few years but no reports have come my way. Now a
report from South Africa suggests reinforcements in the shape of two 19Ds
are on their way, although some serious repairs will be needed before they can
enter service (10th January 2012). The first of these, 2689 has now entered
service according to a
report on the Railways Africa site (13th June 2012).
Geoff Warren was here to see it running and has sent
a report which includes the picture below (25th June 2012):
I suspect the
decision to stick with steam relates to the uncertainty of the life of the
operation which will be largely dependent on the international nickel price. As
of the date of the report it was well down on the 2007 spike but still well
above the long term average. There are pictures of this operation in Fabrice
Lanoue's Southern Africa Steam Picture
Parade 2012 (9th April 2012). Trevor Staats YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NslzTLHVAXo
is now 14 years old but is still relevant today, Tom Gears' video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ8g_Aj-v7s
is more recent (19th July
Trevor Staats was in Botswana in August 2000, steam is still hard at work
(report 4th September 2000). Jonathan Duvel was here in July 1999 (13th
September 1999) and steam still works here - read
his report. The previous visitor I know of was Peter-H. Patt in May 1997,
his brief report on BCL, Selebi Phikwe with their
Garratts from Zimbabwe ...... Trevor Heath was here in July 2001,
quite steamy too (27th September 2001) and
Trevor Staats was back shortly afterwards (1st
November 2001) and again
in July 2002 (pictures added 4th September 2002). Chas Rickwood was here in
May 2003 (added 22nd May 2003) "I had a 2-day visit to Selebi Phikwe where
both the active steam locos were ex RR/NRZ, ie a 19th class and a 14A."
An update to the earlier reports (20th
March 2009) is that the Garratts are for sale but the mine is still using its 19th 4-8-2's
daily, indeed I have heard that they are buying a further such locomotive from
Wankie (Hwange) Colliery in Zimbabwe, possibly for spares (16th
July 2009). Later it was reported that the Garratts will be sent to New Zealand (20th
May 2009). A brief July 2007 report (15th
August 2007) suggests that there is at least one diesel here which shares
the line work with one or more of the 19th class steam locomotives. The ex-RR
14A was serviceable but not used regularly. Although coal is expensive and of
variable quality, the limited life of the mine decreases the chances of steam's
total replacement. Jens Ingemann sent an
illustrated report of an August 2007 visit (12th
September 2007). The Rovos Railtour was here on 18th April 2008 and Colin Young sent
me this picture of Class 19 LO 804 in action - the only locomotive seen in steam
(1st June 2008).
Burkina Faso Index
Thomas Kautzor was in the country at the beginning of 2006. The railway
runs from Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to the capital, Ouagadougou; conditions appear
a little better than average for a West African railway... The only 'steam'
relic is a preserved 1944 Ransomes and Rapier steam crane - click
here for some pictures (29th May 2007). Click
here for an updated June 2009 report on the railway (itself updated 16th
I have now removed all the pre-2012
reports to a separate page as they
have been superceded by Thomas'
Kautzor's comprehensive report of his February 2012 visit
(both these 18th March 2012).
Basically, there are no longer any active narrow gauge plantations
railways active in the CDC (Cameroon Development Corporation) although
much remains by way of rolling stock including locomotives. All of which gives me a chance to plug our
Safari Steam CD-ROMs on which pictures of the Tiko system (albeit non-active)
I have uploaded Thomas's
report of his 2012 visit to CAMRAIL, but there's no steam in it at
all (12th March 2012).
Central African Republic
||The Central African Republic was never blessed with
a main line railway, like Laos it had only a short narrow gauge line
built to carry goods around a shallow part of a major river. Thomas
Kautzor and Torsten Schneider have made the journey to see
what was left (16th March 2012).
One of the three Orenstein and Koppel 600mm
gauge 0-6-2T locomotives (11781-3) delivered to Agence Générale des Colonies for the Congo
(Brazzaville) survives plinthed in front of the C.F. Congo-Océan (CFCO) headquarters in
Pointe-Noire, sister 11781 survives in the Central African Republic (see
above). Thanks to Thomas Kautzor for this one, the two pictures I linked to
are no longer available, try this
blog with this
picture in it (1st December 2014), thanks
to Chris Capewell for this.
of the Congo (formerly Zaire) Index
Thomas Kautzor told me that there is still a preserved
Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST at Lubumbashi station (Katanga) (29th
June 2007), similar to Jack Tar preserved in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. This is
Peter Bagshawe's 1972 picture of it inside the works.
Thomas has also told me that there are a number of steam
'survivors' here which have been photographed by visiting South African
loco drivers, read his survey (6th
February 2013). Peter Bagshawe has now added some comments based on
his own 1972 visit, reclick the link above (12th
March 2013). Thomas also mentions that one of the CFC's early 765mm gauge Cockerill 0-4-0Ts (thought to be either No. 1789 or 1790/1893) has been plinthed in front of Kinshasa Est station since
1948, there are only few pictures of her online:eg http://www.digitalcongo.net/article/13637
(added 31st May 2013).
Ian Martin referred me to a 2012 book "Mazungu,
Canoeing the Congo" which includes a picture taken on 16th August 2008 of a derelict steam
locomotive, said to be one of three, at Kongolo on the Lualaba River. You can
read about the trip on http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/jan/27/canoeing-the-congo-river
and its official website is http://www.canoeingthecongo.com.
It appears that this is one from the two earlier batches of 20 Tubize 2-6-0s built for the C.F. du Congo Supérieur aux Grands Lacs Africains (CFL) between 1913 and 1925.
Originally metre gauge, the railway was converted to cape gauge (1067mm) when it
became linked to the main Congo system (Chemins de Fer Bas Congo au Katanga (BCK).
Thanks to Thomas Kautzor and Peter Bagshawe for the identification (27th
May 2013). I have failed to find a
picture of these on the web, but the three volumes of "Le Rail au Congo Belge" contain over a dozen pictures of locos of the class.
(Perhaps not surprisingly these out of print books are 'scarce' and priced
accordingly when available.) Now with the assistance of the intrepid traveller
concerned, Phil Harwood, I have pictures of the locomotives. The first two are
screen shots from his video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJqTYZRQ3rg,
note that the second is a less than perfect 'Photoshop job' using two adjacent
frames and these show that the other two locomotives belong to a batch of 2-8-2s built by Haine St Pierre in 1950
May 2013).The third is a normal
digital image - as usual click on the thumbnail for a larger view.
For some time, the only confirmed residual steam
was that in the museum in Cairo. Now,
Patrick Rudin reports on an
unlikely survivor at the "Egyptian Media Production City" (28th
This did threaten to become the steam story of the 90's with long stored Mallets being
put back into service on the rehabilitated 950mm gauge railway between the port
of Massawa and the mountain top capital of Asmara, with its spectacular
operation, it just took a little
longer than originally hoped. There is a superb 1996 15 minute news clip
available on the project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpnNmkoQZfo
(added 7th January 2009).
Ralph Reinhold provided a little more information
(October 1997). Click here
for more details. Roland Beier has provided a loco list and Renato Gaudio 2 classic
old pictures. Click here for
background information on what was for a long time a railway backwater. Much
later (27th February 2008) I posted Tom
Sherriff's pictures of the railway in its reconstruction phase in 1993
including the short lived (diesel!!) local service in Massawa. This Italian
language website has a lot of material on the Railway including old photographs
(added 9th April 2009).
To help tidy up this page, I have moved the reports of the various trips here
page (latest update 27th February 2008), if you need convincing of the photographic rewards of joining one of
the regular tours here, then you can check my own report on the 'Darjeeling of Africa'
dating from late 2002 (1st December 2002). Good news for the many upcoming tour
groups (no less than six scheduled up till November 2009 including two at the
same time with different itineraries according to their website which should
challenge the railway) is the return to service of 440.008 seen here at Asmara
in January 2008 (pictures by Thomas Kautzor, added 10th
Neil Edwards was on the LCGB/Enthusiast Holidays tour in October 2008 and has
sent a brief
report on the current state of the railway (14th
November 2008). Thomas Kautzor was on
the FarRail tour in March 2009 and stayed on to explore the extension to
Keren which may one day be reinstated (6th April 2009),Thomas Kautzor was back on
another FarRail tour in January 2010 (22nd February
Paul Dorsemagen similarly in March 2011 (12th
So many tour groups have continued to visit Eritrea that operation is
considered routine and does not merit reporting. However, Mark Carter (27th
April 2005) has alerted me to news of a significant development carried
on RailPage Australia (http://www.railpage.com.au),
which in turn relates to a report in the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable : "Since 20th
March 2005 there has been the first regular service on Eritrean Railways since 1975 (table 2714).
Every Sunday there is a regular steam train from Asmara down to Nefasit on km
25. Asmara departure: 8:00 Arriving Nefasit (km 25): 9:00 Departure Nefasit: 10:00 Arriving Asmara 12:00.
Price: foreigners 50 USD Asmara-Nefasit-Asmara, locals 100 Nakfa
It is still possible to travel Asmara-Massawa (km 117) on charter service."
Graham Roberts' African Steam Survivors
reports on relics in Addis Adaba. (21st December 2002). Neil Berry tells me (25th
July 2005) that the steam locomotive pieces at Addis Adaba seem to have
been scrapped. There are several references on the web to a railway museum
in Addis Adaba but nothing with any detail, although http://www.steamlocomotive.info/search.cfm
suggests there may be a steam locomotive here (3rd
A website dedicated to the Franco-Ethiopean railway (http://www.train-franco-ethiopien.com/index_en.php)
has been established by Jean-Pierre Crozet (email@example.com)
who would welcome more information and photographs, particularly post 1980 (added
February 2008). http://membres.lycos.fr/ecolekessel/djibouti/train.htm
also has some pictures (3rd December 2008).
||Not a country that has featured on this site up
till now (7th June 2010), but Thomas Kautzor
informs me that there are two established plinthed locomotives in the country, Decauville 1775/1920 in front of the SETRAG railway station/HQs at Owendo (south of
Libreville) and a Kerr Stuart in front of the Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné.
Thomas was here in March 2012 and you can see his
pictures of both of them (March 16th 2012).
Now they have been joined by a Decauville 0-4-2T at the "Cie. Gabonaise du Bois (CBG)" timber camp in
Rabi. It was retrieved from the jungle, where there are still two others left in inaccessible places.
There are pictures of all three locomotives on
this page - http://www.lrpresse.fr/trains/viewtopic.php?t=38173&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0.
Continental Railway Journal 132 reports that all main line steam
locomotives were scrapped in the 1990s but narrow gauge steam locomotives are preserved at
Nsuta (Ghana Manganese Co. Ltd.) and Obuasi (Ashanti Goldfields Co. Ltd.), (21st December
2002). Thomas Kautzor was here in April 2007 and sent a full report on the current state of Ghana's
railways (25th May 2007). Included were pictures of the
above locomotives (added 24th May 2007).
On the left is the 0-6-0WT
locomotive at Nsuta - most likely Orenstein and Koppel 10609/1923. On the right is the 0-6-0WT locomotive at Obuasi -
- since this picture was taken, the locomotive has been donated to the Moseley
Railway Trust and repatriated to the UK (25th May 2008).
Thomas sent me a
non-steam update from his visit later in 2007 (29th
Ivory Coast Index
There has been no live steam here for very many years, but a single 0-6-0T survives in
Abidjan outside a railwayman's club (numbered 15.001). It was certainly here in 1963 and
was still there in July 2001 according to Graham Roberts (25th November 2001) . It
was well worn when it was retired. Thomas Kautzor reports it was still here in
February 2008 (29th February 2008, new pictures added 15th
Mike Clendining found this small 0-6-0 preserved in
San Pedro in November 2010, it is said to have come from the logging
industry (22nd December 2010). Thomas Kautzor suggests possibilities
include Borsig 8082/1911 600mm, OK 5693/1912 760mm, OK 11032/1925 600mm,
but there will be more candidates...
STOP PRESS At short notice 3020 will work trips
to Athi River on Friday 19th December 2014 and Naivasha on Sunday 21st December
2014. I have no further information, but if you are in the area you will
probably know how to contact John Ashworth who will know the details (15th
December 2014). In a later posting John announced that the trips had been
cancelled owing to sponsorship issues (16th
I have been given a set of EAR steam and diesel
locomotive diagrams and official photographs dating from ca 1975. I am making
these available as a free Dropbox download or on a CD for a nominal GBP 5. Click
here for more information and access to the photographs at reduced size (800
x 500 pixels) (23rd September 2012). For those interested in historic material,
Trevor Heath points out that an almost
complete set of the EAR&H magazines is available on line (11th
Steamy things are happening in Kenya again. To whet your appetite here is a
picture from 19th May 2011 (courtesy of James Waite) and by way of comparison a
classic EAR postcard of almost the same scene - necessarily with a class 29 and
not a class 30 (26th May 2011)! Like every Kenya
steam safari in the last 10 years things didn't go 100% to plan and it has been
suggested in some quarters that a more rigorous pre-tour testing regime would be
a good idea in future. A lot depends on whether your glass of beer is half empty
or half full, Thomas Kautzor has given a blow-by-blow account (2nd
June 2011) and Geoff Warren has given an insider's perspective (2nd
June 2011). Nevertheless James Waite was well satisfied by his
experience and you can now read his illustrated
report (28th May 2011). Although not strictly
in keeping with this site, Thomas has also reported that some historic diesels
have been scrapped including 7901 'Explorer', quite simply this is an
inexcusable act of pure vandalism on the part of the railway there.
As anticipated Kenya Railways initiated a
regular steam excursion (believed to be scheduled for the first Sunday of the
month) which now (2013/4) seems to have stalled. Below is John Ashworth's picture of 3020 stabled in Nairobi station on
August 6th 2011 ready to work next morning. A series of pictures of the actual
excursion are now available on the Friends
of the Rail Forum (10th August 2011). Kevin Patience tells me (8th
September 2013) that plans are afoot to run 3020 on an excursion on 26th
October 2013. The preparations can be followed here http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=319
(24th October 2013), on 22nd October 2013 3020 was
lit up for the first time in 2 years. Sadly. later news is that the trip has now
been 'postponed', reading between the lines it seems that the marketing effort
didn't match that put into getting 3020 ready (24th October 2013). 3020
travelled from Nairobi to Naivasha and back on Saturday 3rd May 2014, much of it
was 'diesel assisted' but the locomotive alone headed the train from just north
of Limuru to Naivasha, the trip being for a forthcoming UK TV series, the shots
from the accompanying helicopter should be spectacular - see http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=319
(8th May 2014).
It is now generally accepted that 5918 will need
significant repairs before it can be scheduled to operate further
railtours (for a start, its superheater tubes are at least 35 years
old); Kenyan Railways are neither willing nor able to fund these. Up to
half a dozen tour operators are said to be interested and the necessary
work will presumably have to be financed by one or more of them if it is
to run again. In the meantime it seems that the railway will concentrate
on locally promoted short haul steam trains with the smaller locos
thereby building up the necessary experience needed for sustained steam
operation in the future (24th June 2011).
The Railway Museum in Nairobi was established many years ago,
its principal exhibits have always been a selection of steam locomotives from
the (former) Kenya Uganda Railway, latterly East African Railways which became
Kenya Railways on the break up of the federation. It was not included in the
privatisation of the railways and seems to exist as part of the rump of the
original Kenya Railways. Graham Roberts went back to his old haunts in
early 2009 and he
reports on the current scene (7th March 2009).
||From 2001 to 2006 steam progressively returned to the mainline in
Kenya which now has an active fleet of 3 - 2409, 3020 Nyaturu and 5918 Mount
Gelai. However, with the privatisation of railway operation in 2006, plans to operate them
were put to one side. If you are interested in developments here consider joining the East
African Newsgroup - East_African_Steamfirstname.lastname@example.org.
These pages followed the restoration story and in view of the
current break in developments, I have moved that material to a
Pictures of the current scene in Kenya are
regularly upload to the
Friends of Rail forum Rest of Africa Photo Galleries - various sections
including diesel, steam, other rolling stock and infrastructure are offered.
This is particularly relevant at a time when 'Steam Safaris' are being revived (17th
May 2011). Should that link become inoperative then try the home page - http://www.friendsoftherail.com/.
At the time of writing 2409, 3020 and 5918 are all tested and available for
Formerly, John Ashworth reports (2nd
May 2010) that 3020 returned to action for a wedding on 1st May 2010. I have uploaded an
account of an excursion in August 2010 which appeared in the Kenya Daily
Nation (17th August 2010). 3020 was out on
the line again on 29th August 2010, Geoff
Warren was on board (19th September 2010), John
Ashworth rode a similar working on 3rd October 2010 (8th
Graham Roberts' picture (left) says it all, 2409 on a
revenue freight at Ruiru on the Thika branch in July 2006. There are so
many heroes (and a few villains who mostly seem to have lost their jobs on
KR) it would be invidious to name any.
Not a country which has seen steam for a long time, if ever, let alone many gricers
considering its recent history, but Peter Nettleship was here in
February 2007 and visited the Bong Mine Railway and the account of an out
of the way railway (27th April 2007) makes fascinating reading.
I believe all the main line steam locomotives were scrapped a long, long time
ago, but it seems that a steam locomotive (left picture by Mr. Poussnik - if you read this please
get in touch) is preserved outside the sugar mill at Djamandjar.
The status of the railway which served it on Nosy Be, an island off the north coast (30th June
2007) is unknown, it was in use with diesels into the 21st century. Mike
Clendining went to Nosy Be in February 2012 and found that the sugar mill was
derelict having closed around 2005; one effect of this is that the condition of
the loco has markedly deteriorated (26th February 2012).
Like the infamous London buses, Thomas Kautzor pitched up here at almost the
same time and had a good poke around, finding significant steam remains, on and
off the rails. Read his report which covers a number of other industrial sites
in the country (15th March 2012).
Thomas Kautzor also provided a report on the
state of the main line system - no steam at all of course (5th April 2012).
EA note from Trevor Heath informs me (9th January
2008) that Robin Taylor has reported that the two preserved steam locomotives D
Class 4-8-0 (8) and G Class 2-8-2 (49), formerly at Lilongwe have been moved to
somewhere in Kanengo (not far away on the line to Salima). As far as is known
the small saddle tanks remain as before, Thistle at Limbe station and Shamrock
at the Museum of Malawi in Blantyre.
Elmar Pfannerstill was here in August 2011 and
confirms that the D class 4-8-0 is indeed at Kanengo in northern Lilongwe, it's
clearly visible in Google Earth (13 53.47 S 33 47 56 E). However, he did not see
the G class 2-8-2 at the same location. He also found Thistle at Limbe station
(all this 22nd October 2011).
A few years back, Continental Railway Journal carried a piece about an old metre
gauge 0-6-0T in the workshops at Korofina (Bamako). Now (2nd January 2003) Thomas Kautzor
identifies it as Pinguely 143/1903 built for C.F. du Morbihan in France as their
14 (there are a couple more pictures on one of the Safari Steam CD-ROMs).
Thomas Kautzor sent this picture of it there in December 2007 (picture changed 10th
Kautzor's report on his December 2007 visit for information on the
railways here and in Senegal (29th February 2008), he has since
been back in late 2010 (4th January 2011).
After a long period of silence from here, Simon Collins
informs me that the Atlantic at Nampula is now restored and in (alleged)
operable condition. The picture below is from his friend Kevin Billing who is working
in the area and who is trying to organise a trip with it... (6th
August 2010). Andrew Jones photographed the loco in the same position in August
2012 (24th September 2012).
To my mind Mocambique was long been a 'destination-in-waiting' for an enterprising tour
operator, but somehow it never quite happened. Finally Henry Posner III
told me (25th
May 2005), "I recently spoke with one of the top people at CFM concerning their
plans for rail preservation, and their plans are quite specific:
A national rail museum is being put together in the former passenger coach workshop in Maputo.
Most surviving steam locomotives in Mozambique will be relocated to this location. This includes the Atlantic from
Nampula (still there in mid 2012); the two 2-10-2s and two Mallets from
Moatize (still there in mid 2012); the two Garratts from Beira (one
definitely still present in August 2012); two wood burners from Quelimane
(no news since 1987); and 2 from Xai-Xai (all locos now in Maputo by
CFM is conscious of the impact that this will have on steam tourism - namely, that they are foreclosing the opportunity to develop
steam tourism - but does not believe that steam tourism has sufficient economic potential to justify the effort. The main focus of the museum
will be to preserve history as opposed to promoting tourism.
There may be a few locos kept operable at Maputo for rail tours if circumstances warrant.
The above is obviously bad news for the railway tourism business, but at least represents stabilization of
Mocambique's rail history and preserves the option of, for example, steam tourism in the future."
Martin Potts was in Moatize in August 2012 and reports that some half
a dozen steam locomotives remain in the shed and its immediate surroundings
in varying condition, including the two Mallets which have been here dumped for
the best part of 50 years (27th August 2012). There
are at least 4 locomotives at Inhambane in 'better than derelict' condition and
the workshops here are an absolute treasure, http://www.flickr.com/photos/quadralectics/sets/72157631062183164/with/7780103594/,
added 25th September 2012.
Thgmas Kautzor was in the south of Mocambique in April 2011 and visited the new
museum and Xai Xai. Nothing steamy moving of course, his
report also surveys the 'modern traction scene (21st
July 2011, updated 24th September 2012).
This site has carried a number of reports on the steam
survivors and even their occasional operation, but in practice with the
exception of the Nampula Atlantic none has turned a wheel in anger for some
time. These reports have
now been summarised (latest update 25th September
2012), covering each area
of the country in turn including
the survival and export of many steam locomotives from the former Sena sugar
Many of the reports on this site over the years have been
contributed by Paul Ash (he is a self confessed Mocambique junkie) and it may
help to read his historical perspective
covering a number of trips which predate most of the other material below (March 1999).
Later he went back to Mocambique the hard way... (9th February 2004). There's no
steam at all but you'll be enthralled like I was of his account of a trip from
Malawi to Nampula in northern Mocambique and back. With steam on the way out everywhere
this kind of trip sounds the next best thing to me....
The book Railways of Southern Africa includes coverage of
surviving steam locomotives - if you are not familiar with steam here, read the Mozambique and Malawi
(added 10th June 2002).
Not working steam and not even indigenous steam, but is worthy of note that the Railway
Touring Company trip in August 2002 saw SAR Class 19D 2685 and Garratt GF 2380 hauling
what must have been the first steam-hauled train for a long time into (and out of) Maputo
(6th September 2002).
One of the casualties of the civil war was the TZR from Beira towards Moatize and
Malawi. Now it is reported (22nd August 2002) that this line is to be reopened see
Trevor Heath tipped me off on this one - steam survivors at Moatize in April
2009 including one of the Mallets which has been dumped there for as long as I
can remember - http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/detail.sfly?sid=8EaNHDJw4asKq&
(3rd May 2009).
African Steam in Action have been actively lobbying in neighbouring Mocambique
to conserve and preserve their steam survivors
(4th May 2009).
There are many pictures of historic Mocambique
steam on our Safari Steam
CD-ROM, but Geoff Cooke has posted sets of the
railway here in 1975 and even more interestingly also the
Sena Sugar Estate.with its narrow gauge system (10th
One of the most fascinating items on our Safari Steam CD
Roms was the narrow gauge steam in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, although the lines
concerned mainly ran in Morocco. Richard Bowen visited the Eastern Rif in October 2002 and
his report on the
survival (albeit near derelict) of a number of the locomotives makes fascinating reading.
(11th March 2003), later reports suggest that the steam locomotives have been
Thomas Kautzor has sent the pictures (taken on April 1,
2010 and added to this page on 2nd July 2013) of
what is assumed to be the last steam locomotive in Morocco. CFM 030-TX-1 (Henschel 26549/1942, 43.4 t) is plinthed at the ONCF headquarters just northeast of
Rabat-Agdal station (photography through the fence best in the morning). Henschel 26549-57 were built for Illies & Co. for use on the
Peking-Mukden railway in China. They could never be shipped and were found dismantled in crates in the docks of Bordeaux at the end of the war. They were put back together by SNCF and used as 030-TX-1 to 9 for shunting duties at
Paris-Sud-Ouest, Vierzon, Bordeaux, Coutras, Limoges, Brive, Périgueux et Ussel. After their withdrawal in the early 1960s, only 030-TX-1 was sold to
Steam survived more or less intact into 2013-4 at
Ebute Meta, Enugu and Port Harcourt - read an
illustrated report (25th March 2014).
In a tender document closing on
25th February 2013, Nigerian Railway Corporation is selling a steam locomotive
at Enugu for scrap, presumably the River class mentioned in the paragraph below,
thanks to Mike Clendining for this one (30th
Graham Roberts' African Steam Survivors
reported on two River 2-8-2s in Lagos. There is at least one more there and this one
was (then) a
runner... (updated 2nd November 2004). And then
there were four (12th November 2004), there is
another River in the old shed yard, albeit in less good condition than the
others. James Hefner tells me (22nd May 2003) that two of
the 0-8-0T shunters (86 and 94) were extant until at least 1999 - see http://www.topforge.co.uk/Photographs/NRC.htm
(the website states incorrectly that they are 0-6-0T).
Thomas Kautzor made a far-ranging tour of the country in
November 2007. His
report necessarily includes much information on surviving diesels but also
lists quite a few surviving steam locomotives (29th
February 2008). Don't rush to visit, no steam is serviceable, but I have now
added some very interesting pictures (15th June 2008).
Progress is being made on the new national
railway museum - see my "Railway Museums in
Africa" page (1st June 2010).
For an excellent page on the history
and remaining relics on the island (including a preserved Schneider 0-6-0T) see http://www.mi-aime-a-ou.com/histoire_chemin_de_fer.php
(link amended 26th April 2014). Thomas Kautzor visited in January 2012 and has provided a
fascinating view of what is left of the railway here (23rd
São Tomé Index
Kautzor's report on his December 2007 visit for information on the railways
here and in Mali (29th February 2008).
Sierra Leone Index
This country represents one of the great disasters of post-colonial Africa.
Its 2ft 6in narrow gauge railway closed long ago, but most of the locomotives
and rolling stock survived more or less intact. Although it once seemed (2nd
August 2004) that a significant
portion of it would eventually be relocated to the Sandstone Railway in South
Africa, instead a local museum was established and that the first steps towards this
had already been taken (18th
March 2005). Click here for a
copy of a local report on the new railway museum in Freetown (added 23rd
May 2005), the museum has its own website now - http://www.sierraleonerailwaymuseum.com/
(1st February 2011). For some old pictures see http://www.myforefathers.co.uk/html/sierra_leone.html
(3rd December 2008).
South Africa Index
At long last a list has been published which
divides up surviving SAR steam locomotives into three categories according to
their historical importance. You can read Steam in
Action's circular covering this which includes the list available as a
download in XLSX format. Also available is a similar rolling stock list although
this is not divided up (8th October 2013).
Four of the Port Shepstone 2ft gauge Garratts are
up for sale according to this report http://ngdiscussion.net/phorum/read.php?1,204348
(19th November 2011). These are all basically in
fair to good condition, but urgent action will be necessary as disposal is
required by the end of the month. No contact point is given but I am sure that
the good people at Sandstone (http://www.sandstone-estates.com/)
would be able to point interested parties in the right direction. Further to
this Trevor Heath tells me that NGG-16 127 together with a significant amount of
spare parts has been purchased by the Puffing Billy Railway in Australia and
should arrive there by March 2012 (6th February 2012).
I have never attempted to give full coverage to steam operation in South
Africa because it is certainly very different in nature from anything on the
rest of the continent. There are quite a few preservation sites which are
readily found with your favourite search engine and over the years many tour
groups have been here for special charter steam. http://railwaysafrica.com/index.php
covers the modern aspects of the railway and also has current news on heritage
operation (3rd December 2008). There is a list of plinthed preserved steam by
location available http://steam-locomotives-south-africa.blogspot.com/,
it seems to be maintained regularly (added 3rd August 2011). For historical
information about individual South African steam classes, this page is
(19th January 2012).
As you can read below, the best description of
the current (2011) state of railway preservation in the country was probably
'parlous'. Traditional preservationists and representatives of the new South
Africa stare at each other across a huge divide - just how wide can be judged
from two papers delivered at a symposium at the
University of the Western Cape in October 2010 (21st
Bad news seems to follow bad news, now Sandstone
announced they would consider disposing of their 2ft gauge railway system (23rd
June 2011), very sad - see their
perspective on the background to the decision, following on the suspension
of the 'Apple Express' from 1st January 2011, it marks a new low in the narrow
gauge scene in the country. Since when, Sandstone have held a spectacular
'Kalahari Sunrise' event, a report of which appears on their website http://www.sandstone-estates.com/index.php/home/38-general/2709-photographic-summary-kalahari-sunrise
(16th May 2012). They are planning a similar event
for 3rd to 12th May 2013 (date amended and link added 6th
June 2012), so perhaps they have found a way around their problems, see http://www.sandstone-estates.com/index.php/home/38-general/2738-steam-and-vintage-gala-sandstone-may-2013
(link dead by April 2015)
(link amended 15th February 2011), Friends
of the Rail and Sandstones
Estates have come together to create Steam
in Action which seeks to organise the conservation (and operation) of steam traction and
railway heritage in general in South Africa (31st October
2007). For a couple of years, their regular newsletter was the best way to keep up with the battle to
preserve safely the large stock of steam locomotives in the country - http://www.steam-in-action.com/index.php/newsletters,
it also contained much preservation news but it was discontinued at the end of
2010 (link and information changed, 15th February 2011). Please be advised that,
should you wish to make a donation to Steam in Action, you should not use the
normal postal service for cheques or cash as the South African postal system is
not to be trusted.
For many years, there has been a store of steam locomotives (or dump
according to your point of view) at Millsite (cape gauge) and Humewood (narrow
gauge) which contained inter alia many historical items. The scrapping of
a number of these provoked a storm in local enthusiast circles which led to much
vitriol being exchanged between individuals and HRASA on the Yahoo sar-L group.
Ultimately, some peace was restored and a statement issued by Transnet on the
future of those remaining - http://railwaysafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2750&Itemid=0
- the scrapping has stopped, temporarily, but the fact remains that many
treasures are vulnerable. (3rd June 2008).
Many years ago
SANRASM (South Africa National Railway and Steam Museum) was established to
provide a home for preserved steam locomotives and rolling stock. Grand plans
were drawn up to safeguard the large collection but in practice nothing happened
and the several sites were in practice abandoned to the elements. Inevitably in
the anarchy that is a daily fact of life in many parts of South Africa today, scrap thieves
set to work, the pictures below from Paul Ash naturally show not the actual
theft but the consequences at the Chamdor site where the damage was such that of
all 27 steam locomotives present, all that was saved was a few wheels and one
boiler. Armed guards were necessary to protect the legitimate scrappers.
This nightmare scenario is covered in a series of reports
on the Steam in Action website - http://www.steam-in-action.com.
The quantity of material available is such that the number of links is too great
to be given here. It makes very depressing reading indeed, but the very small
silver lining from this incident is that the money from the scrap will go some
way to ensuring that the SANRASM locomotives at their Randfontein site do not
suffer the same fate (23rd October 2010).
However, the Sappi Saiccor paper mill operation is the last 100% working
steam in the country although arguably at harvest time the Sandstone operation
is 'real' too. Reports of these and some other sites have now been moved to a
separate page. This picture (added 10th
June 2008) comes from Thomas Kautzor and shows Sappi Saicco 19D 4-8-2 No. 1 (ex SAR 2697, Borsig
14748/38) at Umkomaas on May 18th 2008, there are more pictures in Michael Bleckmann's
report of a May 2009 visit (17th June 2009):. There are more pictures in
Fabrice Lanoue's Southern Africa Steam
Picture Parade 2012 (9th April 2012). Locomotives International #91 reports
that the first diesel will appear in September 2014 and that No. 1 has already
been withdrawn (18th September 2014). Thomas
Kautzor has been in touch with management and has been told that in fact the
anticipated 'end of steam' will most likely be about June 2015 (2nd
October 2014). James Waite was here in December 2014 and has
produced a report which gives background information and includes some
splendid pictures (15th December 2014). While
in the area he also visited the preservation sites at Ixopo and Creighton and reports
what he found (22nd December 2014).
The chill winds of recession (not to mention
bloody mindedness in the first case) are blowing through the steam/railway scene
in South Africa (4th March 2009). On my return from
a 7 week tramp through South East Asia I found news of the effective
end of steam tours in the country, the
disintegration of the remaining branch lines, the likely demise of even the
cut back Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe and that Sandstone will no longer run passenger
trains. Transnet wants out of this financial black hole and a new operator needs
to be found which will probably be easier than finding the capital needed to
establish it as a proper business. Despite reports that it had ceased operation
at the end of June 2009 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outeniqua_Choo_Tjoe),
it seemed that this proved only to have been a maintenance break - see http://www.railwaysafrica.com/blog/2009/07/the-outeniqua-choo-tjoe/
for the news as of 17th July 2009 (27th July 2009).
As often is the case in such matters, the railway's own website contains
absolutely nothing about the ongoing saga let alone bothering to mention that the timetabled services were withdrawn for
the duration of July 2009, hardly outstanding public relations. An initial
announcement amount operation resuming in August was not fulfilled, 1st October being the next target,
(2nd September 2009).
John Hyde reported that the service restarted on 16th October 2009 and the
season ran through till March 2010, but that's as far as the good news went because he found it diesel operated with every sign that management had no
intention of making any effort to use a steam locomotive. Now it seems that
Transnet has decided to dispose of the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe altogether, I
hesitate to use the word 'sell', I cannot imagine what private business
would want to actually pay for it. Anyway 'expressions of interest in acquiring'
the service were requested by 1st December 2009. As of 1st October 2010, Transnet, having failed to
find an acceptable operator, announced they would terminate the service although
the local authority is desperate to keep the service running, see http://www.railwaysafrica.com/blog/2010/10/outeniqua-tjoe-choo-2/
(3rd October 2010).
Friends of the Rail (FOTR - see below) had recently completed
a full restoration of their 15F 3117 when it was derailed on a passenger train
on 20th June 2010, an incident caused by vandals removing some 40 sleepers near
Cullinan. Fortunately, it was travelling slowly at the time and there were no
serious injuries among the 620 passengers aboard, it could have been much, much
worse (added 27th June 2010). Below is John
Ashworth's picture (he was the FOTR guard in the train) and there are more on http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=330.
The same site has details of the appeal to cover the cost of the repairs.
The Umgeni Steam Railway is an unlikely setting
for 'real steam' but their 19D has been hired out to contractors for moving
water pipes for Durban's massive Western Aqueduct project. Thanks to John
Ashworth for this, there are links on this page - http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=109&t=11712
(17th October 2013).
Some time earlier, Trevor Heath sent me a report
on the future of steam (tourist) operations in South Africa (22nd April
2000), looking back it seems very optimistic... I have some updated
information from John Ashworth of Friends of the Rail, they now have their
own web page . Perhaps of more interest is that they now have their own
railfan forum - http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/
- check it out (link updated 9th August 2007).
A long shot, but no-one had been there for a long time.... However John Athersuch
visited and told me (16th May 2002) "No live steam, but I found the 1885 Hunslet
4-4-0T in Khartoum. This is destined for a museum I was told. I also found seventeen North
British Class 500 from 1954/55 and a single Class ?200 at Zalad (10km East of
awaiting scrapping. There were reports of Class 300 and 200 similarly dumped at
Sennar." A sad end when so much time and money were spent on these locomotives in a
blaze of publicity in the 1980s. I have now added some of John's pictures
(10th June 2002). Martin Dronkers reports that the graveyard at Atbara still
least one of the Hunslet tanks (3rd March 2004), picture left, although Derek
Welsby (23rd December 2010) tells me they
were cut up for scrap some time afterwards. Richard Gennis reports
similarly and states the Atbara museum contains Hunslet 0-6-0T 3740/1951
and the 4-4-0T reported by John Athersuch as being bound for the museum is
here in a near derelict condition pictures of these and a NBL stationary
boiler are on a separate page (30th
There are a fair number of very interesting Sudan pictures
available on the Friends of The Rail Forum http://www.friendsoftherail.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=147
(added 23rd April 2008). From pictures taken by
Robert Hayward in 2007, it seems that Atbara Museum is up and running
including at least one Hunslet tank (see above). Thanks to Thomas Kautzor and Trevor Heath for tipping me off on this.
There is a list of Sudan Railways steam locomotives on http://orion.math.iastate.edu/jdhsmith/term/slsdsgr.htm
(added 23rd April 2008).
Derek Welsby has published a book on the
country's first railway from Wadi Halfa to Kherma, this was a short lived
affair, a railway whose main use was to support the Gordon Relief Expedition of 1884-5 and Kitchener's Dongola Campaign in 1896.
More information is available thought the Sudan Archaeological Research Society.
more information (18th May 2011).
I have been given a set of EAR steam and diesel
locomotive diagrams and official photographs dating from ca 1975. I am making
these available as a free Dropbox download or on a CD for a nominal GBP 5. Click
here for more information and access to the photographs at reduced size (800
x 500 pixels) (23rd September 2012). For those interested in historic material,
Trevor Heath points out that an almost
complete set of the EAR&H magazines is available on line (11th
Tanzanian Railways is up for privatisation report the BBC (2nd December
2002), thanks to David Thornhill for this, needless to say 2927 is included in the offer
and is pictured in the story. A new appearance on the scene is an East African Newsgroup -
(29th October 2002). Latest privatisation news (15th
January 2007), yes 5 years on, it is still incomplete..
Around 1996/7 2-8-2 2927 was restored to working order and it has since
worked quite a number of excursion and charter trains, often being found
shunting at Dar. The slow moving privatisation has
stymied its operation of 2927 and since there are no longer
passenger services out of Dar, there is no stock for it to use. Consequently it
was last reported (15th
January 2007) just in use locally in Dar or Ilala as required, however Geoff
Warren reported that in early 2008 "2927 is currently resting and rusting in the
Carriage and Wagon workshops. It was last used for shunting 'about 4 months
ago', and five more YDM4 from India are imminent...." (21st
Click here for reports
on its adventures up to 2005. This picture is by Tanjiv Kapur. Richard Hay
was in Dar in March 2012 and found 2927 intact in the works but clearly it had
not moved 'for several years' (28th April 2012).
Graham Roberts has sent a
picture of 2257 in store in Togo (21st December 2002). A visitor in April 2004 found
the two YPs still in store and still in good condition (5th May 2004). Mike
Clendining has provided an update on the YPs and the indigenous steam locomotive,
a bit delayed, from his October 2006 visit (21st
the latest report on railways in Togo and the YPs in particular, I have Thomas
Kautzor's report of a December 2007 visit (29th
08). Martin Potts confirms that the 'steam' situation remains unchanged in
October 2012 (15th October 2012).
Thanks to Nick Lera and friends in India for this one (22nd September 2000). The two
Indian YPs bought by RDC will be sent here! Henry Posner III confirms "Our company
bought them through RITES in the interest of preservation and possible operation, and they
were overhauled last year at Ajmer. Shipment was delayed due to the complications involved
in arranging ocean transportation, but they are now under way to Togo, West Africa, on the
MV "Le Yi", scheduled to load on 12 September. Togo was selected because it is a
metre gauge, vacuum brake country, and because of our good relationship with the railway
there. Guatemala was the backup destination but was considered less desirable, despite our
ownership of the railway concession there, as conversion of gauge, braking systems and
fuel would have been required. At this point there are no specific plans for operation of
the locos in Togo, but in the long run there may the potential for a modest tourist
operation. Again, the main objective at this stage is preservation. We hope that by
example other groups would consider similar efforts; RITES advises that there are a few
locos still available. Realistically, however, scrapping is inevitable in the absence of
buyers in the next several months. At this moment I would like to thank RITES for the
patience and good faith they have demonstrated through this project, which has turned out
to be more complicated than any of us had contemplated. Additionally, I would like to
thank the various IRFCA members who have assisted us in with port information, contacts,
etc. helpful to the cause." RDC's website may be
relevant. A later report (3rd October 2000) states "In the week to 28th September,
the Chinese cargo ship 'Le Yi' arrived in Durban, South Africa, and was discharging and
loading cargo at berth L on Durban's T-Jetty. Standing as deck cargo on it were two
YP-class pacific steam locomotives, numbers 2257 and 2684, complete with tenders of the
Tunisia took six British War Department 0-6-0ST - there
are pictures on our
Safari Steam CD-ROMs. Two of them survive preserved in Tunis - see
this page for pictures of them in 2007 (added 22nd
November 2009) - http://www.phantasrail.com/tunisia_preserved_steam.htm.
While all the steam locomotives of the former
East African Railways were (assumed) scrapped, for some time a
small OK 610mm (2 foot) gauge 0-6-0T locomotive (13322/1938)
survived at Jinja where it formerly worked at a sugar mill. Ralf
Mandera took this picture in 2002 when it seems it had a domestic
use. No news of it has been heard in recent times, it must be
feared that it too has been scrapped (22nd
The old Zambezi Sawmills Railway out of Livingstone - featured
on our Safari
Steam CD-ROMs - now boasts a tourist service reports Thomas Kautzor (27th
October 2007). Click
here for more information.
||Richard Gennis reports (12th
June 2013): "I found 204 in steam in Livingston on 25th May
2013, it was shunting stock in preparation for the Bushtracks special which ran later that day,
156 was also there and in working order although not in steam, it is due to replace 204 in a few weeks time as 204 needs some small repairs."
Paul Ash found 204 on the train on 20th February 2014 (right hand
picture, 15th December 2014)
A June 2009 report from Ben Costa
via Trevor Heath updates what appears below namely that 12th #204 has returned
to service and is performing well, while the 10th has been stopped for some
important repairs (5th July 2009). By February 2010, according to Trevor
Heath, the position was reversed with attractive 10th class #156 on the trains
with #204 sidelined (16th February 2010). The relevant website is http://www.royal-livingstone-express.com/
(6th November 2011). There are pictures of both their locos in Fabrice Lanoue's
Southern Africa Steam Picture Parade 2012
(9th April 2012).
A visitor in early 2008 reported (25th
February 2008) - "The train commenced operation on Dec 26th 2007 and runs Wed-Sat inclusive,
leaving Livingstone at 1745hrs. the train is run principally for guests at the two Southern Sun
hotels located in Livingstone adjacent to Victoria Falls. The consist of the train which left on time was:-
10th class #156
4933/4101 - former NRZ Economy coaches
211 - Diner - ex SAR "Wembley'
4821/6049 - ex Spoornet
All coaches had been lavishly renovated by Rovos Rail in Pretoria and are in a
dark green livery, very similar to Rovos. A five course meal is served and was of a high standard with catering done
by the Sun group. Due to the state of the track on the Mulobezi line, speeds were very low and
we did not go in to Simonga siding as the track there is not considered good enough
as yet for the loco to run around. Instead we were propelled back to Livingstone
by 156, arriving back at 2120hrs. Water was taken on the outward journey from the Sindi river...this
is a temporary arrangement and it is intended to take out a road bowser in future.
12th class # 204 is on site at the Bushtracks siding (adjacent to the main road
from Livingstone to the Falls) and it is hoped to have this loco serviceable within 3 months as a back-up to 156.
At present, Bushtracks (the train operator) do not have rights to run on the main line so are not
able to operate down to Victoria Falls." Chas Rickwood and Mike Taylor
report (17th April 2008) that 12th # 204 is
expected to be back in service by the end of May. Potential visitors from the
Victoria Falls side should note that day visas are no longer available and
expensive full visas are now needed.
Peter Bagshawe was in the country
in November 2008 and has reported on the
general state of the railways (24th December 2008).
Zimbabwe has had more 'working steam' than the whole of the rest
of Africa put together for some years, although the Bulawayo shunts may have
finished - see below (8th February 2012). However, it is no longer the kind of country which
most tourists would want to visit. Updates on the current situation are
available on the Zimrail group - email@example.com.
Regular steam consisted of shunting and trip workings in the Bulawayo area (see
below) and continues with some shunting at Hwangie (formerly Wankie) colliery on the
line to Victoria Falls and Zambia. Since independent travellers stopped
visiting the country, reports on the latter tend only to come from visiting
tour groups. For the latest example from July 2007, see http://www.geoffs-trains.com/reportzimbabwe07.html
(link dead by April 2015). And, to be even handed, you can read about the
FarRail tour which followed (31st August 2007).
Robert Hall had a friend travelling independently in the country in August
2007 he reports (25th September 2007) "For the visitor, various shortages – annoying at times, but not life-ruining; and life goes on, and people in the main were found friendly and cordial, and not afraid to talk to and fraternise with foreign visitors. The picture got, is that the news media – with the axes to grind, which they tend to have – depict Zimbabwe nowadays as an utter nightmare in all possible respects, and in so doing, overstate the case. Things may not be very good there; but the independent traveller can go there, and enjoy the experience, and not feel threatened."
In other words, something which has been said many times about other
destinations including Indonesia..
One of the best railway museums in Africa is in
Geoff Cooke has created an
unofficial website to support it (19th March 2005). Tour groups come
here from time to time to charter steam and pictures of two 2005 tours are available on
Cooke's website (17th October 2005). Historic tour group activity (1999 -
2001) is covered in
I have moved the main
Bulawayo blow-by-blow reports for the last few years to a separate page
(more news moved 9th October 2010) but the most recent news I have is posted
By early 2006, it seemed that there were 6 (potentially)
active steam locomotives in Bulawayo (11th February 2006) and later additions are
14A 519; 525
15 386; 416; 424 (395)
16A 612 (611)
The amount of work they actually do varies enormously and
unpredictably. If you happen to be in the area and are patient then seeing
working Garratts in the 21st century has got to be rather special. Trevor Heath forwarded information on proposed
'football specials' and other excursion trains which have spurred a
mini steam revival (10th May 2010) although
when Ralf Mandera visited in June there was precious
little sign of it (19th June 2010).
The various updates are indented below, however
by early February 2012 there was no current 'real steam', local sources
suggested that it had, in effect, finished. I heard indirectly "the shunt crews have been told they can choose between steam v. diesel traction and so they have said 'I’d rather twiddle my thumbs in a DE9A cab all shift than maintain a fire and get grubby'."
(17th February 2012). Indeed when steam is
rostered for the West End shunt, the crews tend to turn up late for their
shift, thus ensuring a diesel has to be substituted... (16th
Trevor Heath tells me that 14A 519 will be
hired out to Hwange colliery, possibly the first time a locomotive of this
class has worked there. How many photographs will be taken of it at work? (6th
August 2014) After some wrangling over the contract, it finally
arrived in mid-October 2014 (16th October 2014),
however, it had yet to start work by early November owing to a labour dispute
(10th November 2014). The next report suggested
it had returned to Bulawayo and been replaced by 15A 414, (15th November 2014).
Hwange Colliery is now being worked by Portuguese Company Mota Engill on
behalf of the cash strapped Hwange Colliery Company. 519 had returned to
Hwange by mid-December 2014 and it was seen shunting on 18th December 2014 (22nd
December 2014). By 18th January 2015, they had swapped again (19th
January2015). Over the next few months expect to see the two Garratts
working turn and turn about returning to Bulawayo for servicing (31st
414 was undergoing some repairs in the P15 shop
in mid-January 2015 and is earmarked to go to Harare second week of February so it can work two public trains to Ruwa, plus a charter to Lochinvar
(19th January2015). Robin Taylor reports (5th
March 2015) that trains were run on 14th/15th/22nd February as planned and
that 414 performed impeccably (5th March 2015).
Chas Rickwood reports (8th
May 2014) that 15A 414 worked a test trip to FigTree and that it (or
14A 519) would work the upcoming Mothers' Day special to the same destination.
In the event (23rd May 2014) it was 414 which performed impeccably on the run to Figtree and back.
Departure was on time at 10.00 and after a stop at Khami, arrival at Figtree was at
11.10, some 50 minutes before the schedule. A braai lunch was enjoyed at the Redwood facility...this took a bit longer than expected but the patrons enjoyed relaxing in the summery weather and nobody was concerned about getting back to Bulawayo a bit later than expected...this being after a runpast at the Bellevue flyover.
NRZ have now run 4 local day excursions this year, each behind a different loco,
ie:- 395, 414, 519 and 613. (This marks a significant reversal of fortunes
in the last year or so. RD) This was followed up with a second successful
excursion from Bulalwayo to Figtree hauled by 414 on 1st June 2014 (2nd
June 2014). I have now put some of the Railway
Museum's pictures of these on this site (16th June
Chas Rickwood reports (7th
April 2014) a small revival with 15As 395 and 414 active as well as 14A
519 and 16A 613, the last of these ran a successful second excursion
between Harare and Ruwa on Sunday, 13th April 2014 (17th
April 2014). Tickets sold so well that an extra coach was attached and
discreet rear diesel assistance provided on occasions although the train again
ran rather late - read Robin Taylor's report (20th
Nigel Petre reports from his
February 2014 visit, 395 and 519 are definitely runners and 414 under
active repair (17th March 2014).There was a steam excursion from Harare on 13th February, the
first steam there since 1978 - read Robin
Taylor's report (20th April 2014)
For some time 395 and 613 were the only two
serviceable locos, having been used for a tour group in May 2013. They have
now nominally been joined by 414 which has emerged form P15 after some years (25th
Early 2013 has seen two special workings. On
Sunday 17th February 2013, 395 worked another Valentine's Day special to Khami
Siding although there were problems with the braking on one coach. Even more
special was 613 working a special from Cement Siding near Bulawayo to the
Colleen Bawn cement facility on Saturday 2nd March 2013, this to commemorate 100
years of Portland Cement in the country (Mike Taylor via Trevor Heath, 12th
A visit found 613
being prepared for a Valentine's Day special to Sawmills, for which 395 for
reserve although it was still suffering from foaming problems during its last
steaming (in the event it was 395 which hauled the very successful train). With unpaid wages and no work being done on restoration of other
locos, it must be likely that they will be 'saved' for special workings (8th
February 2012), which will themselves not survive much longer.
Mike Taylor reported on the situation on 1st
October 2010 "Three locos in steam, 613 rostered shed loco was hauling 416 - also in steam out of the P15 to
shed. 416 had been undergoing maintenance. 525 was at the coaling tower before departing for the West End shunt.
Coal supplies are available. 395 was towed to Vic Falls last week, where she was put into steam. Then used to take a dining car and observation coach onto
the Falls bridge for "sundowners" as part of a Tourist publicity conference / campaign.
All went well and 395 is back in P15 for boiler washout - looking quite smart.
611 and 414 were also in P15. 612 - completely dismantled - has been removed out of refurbishment. Looks as if refurbishment has come to a halt.
Steam crane and associated rolling stock being prepared for trip to Mutare to recover some derailed wagons.
No obvious activity in P15. Appears apprentice- type labour used for pre- Safari servicing has been allocated to main workshops.
Seven senior staff due to go on pension this month." (added 3rd
October 2010). Chas Rickwood adds of 3rd October 2010 "14A Garratt No 525 had been on the West End shunt earlier in the day and was back on shed for fire cleaning...also in light steam was 15th class No 416.
The two active 16As, Nos 611 and 613 were both in the washout section of the P15 shop.
15th class No 395 was dead on shed having returned from last weekend's trip up to Vic Falls.
The 15th class went dead up to the Falls (and back) because of the fire risk...it was lit up there and worked the Rail Leisure trip down to the Falls bridge.
This trip was advertised to the public with accommodation from Byo to the Falls and return on the normal passenger train . In the event there were few (if any) fare paying passengers and the promotion was supported by NRZ and ZTA (Zimbabwe Tourist Authority) plus some politicos who were invited along.
All credit though to NRZ for persevering with their Rail Leisure programme which helps to keep steam alive...they are planning a couple of local steam excursions once the rains come and the fire risk is reduced."
(added 8th October 2010).
Steam continued to be used on the West End and loco
shunts into November 2010 (23rd December 2010). On
a typical day, 613 was doing the WE duty and 416 shunting coal wagons around the loco area.
Of the remainder of the working fleet, 611 and 395 were on the washout road and 525
under repairs in the P15 shop. NRZ ran a steam trip to Plumtree on 12th
December 2010 with 395 connected to a train consisting of water tanker,
caboose, 4 wagons with a total of 150 tonnes of cement - to be dropped off at Plumtree - for Botswana delivery - 2 dining cars and three 1st class Museum coaches, observation car 754 and composite guards van 2602, combined with a white painted coach previously used for surgical eye procedures around the
country. The outward trip went well but a nut came off the motion on the return
and a diesel had to be summoned to rescue the train but return was not too
late. Thanks to Trevor Heath and regular Zim reporters for this.
Chas Rickwood reports (21st
March 2011) that just three shunts are still scheduled for steam - West
End, Belmont and a Mpopoma turn. Part of this is accounted for by the railways
loss of traffic to road services. Latest news from Chas Rickwood - "2012 finds steam alive and well in Bulawayo with two locos in steam at the shed this afternoon. 611 has been the regular loco recently on the West End shunt and the other loco in steam today was a bit of a surprise, being 14A No 519. This loco is in fact an amalgam of 519 and 525, being the frame of 525 with 519's boiler and renumbered as 519. This loco has been undergoing steam test and may well do a turn on the WE shunt later in the week."
(3rd January 2012)
||Nigel Petre visited Bulawayo shed on 11th
December 2012. He was delighted to find 16A 613 in steam but it had
disgraced itself by getting derailed. In any case, there was no work for
it as the crews are still refusing to operate steam for routine turns.
15A 395 was being prepared for a Christmas special. Also present and in
steam was one of the steam cranes although he did not note its identity
(7th January 2013). Chris Capewell confirms
it will have been MXU 100 036 (Klockner Demag-Gottwald 1123-1124? / 1962),
(8th January 2013).
The colliery railway at Hwange continues to use
steam although I had had no reports of visits for some considerable time.
There are pictures of this operation in Fabrice Lanoue's Southern
Africa Steam Picture Parade 2012 (9th April 2012)
and a mention in Geoff Warren's report
of a June 2012 visit (25th June 2012).
Very little has been heard of the Victoria Falls
Safari Express in recent years, Theo Strauss sent me this picture of
privately owned 14A 512 taken in October 2010. While not in steam, the
locomotive appears to be ready for use (24th December 2010). The
Victoria Falls Steam Train Company's current programme is to be found
on their website http://www.steamtraincompany.com/
(5th January 2012). A good source of steam information in the region
is (http://dermatechengineering.yolasite.com/steam-news.php link dead
21st Octorber 2013),
Dermatech Engineering have regular contracts with the various
non-governmental steam operators, these people have now completely
retubed 512 so it can continue as a 'runner' - thanks to Trevor Heath
for this one (10th March 2012). There are pictures of this operation
in Fabrice Lanoue's Southern
Africa Steam Picture Parade 2012 (9th April 2012).
See Graham Roberts' African Steam Survivors
report (21st December 2002). The two steam locomotives (stored) at
Cement, 14A 509 and ex-SAR 19D 2695 have been sold (28th January 2003). They
have undergone overhaul in Bulawayo and by mid 2007 were on there way out of
the country, en route to New Zealand. By the end of 2007, they were in the Wellington
Depot of Mainline Steam, and Trevor Heath tells me that 509 may even steam
by the end of 2009 (2nd September 2009).
Steam cranes have always been the 'Cinderellas' of the railway steam scene,
but as their more glamorous steam locomotive sisters ended their working
days, they have often continued to be active in countries with no other real
steam, but in Africa the only known active survivors are in Zimbabwe. You
can read more about these and other
survivors (updated 8th January 2013).