The International Steam Pages

The Benguela Railway 2012, Part 2
Catumbela Today

The railways of Angola are undergoing a remarkable revival, being reconstructed by the Chinese funded largely by an oil boom. The Luanda Railway in the north is effectively complete, the Mocamedes Railway in the south is making good progress and will open in mid-2012, but the most spectacular progress is being made on the Benguela Railway which will once again be a through international route in 2012/2013. 

For the record. the railway reopened from the coast to Huambo (formerly Nova Lisboa) at the end of August 2011. Reports on the web indicate that the next section to Cuito/Kuito (Silva Porto) was opened in February 2012, reports that a Kuito - Huambo service would restart on 4th April 2012 and other reports claimed that the section on to Luena would be ready at the end of April 2012. This seems a big ask in terms of what has gone before as it represents the best part of half the remaining section to the DRC. There is currently very little freight traffic and the passenger train is lightly loaded.

Jose da Palma is based in the country and has sent me some pictures of the 'new' railway and some of the steam survivors. This is Part 2, click below for the other parts:

The Benguela Railway runs east-west except for the short coastal section which connects Benguela with the port of Lobito. Catumbela is the site of a river crossing part way and the construction of a new bridge (see Google Earth imagery at the end) has led to the bypassing of the old station. 

The old railway bridge, together with the old and new road bridges.

There were a number of sugar mills along coastal Angola which used steam on their narrow gauge railways. Images of them at work are of the "Hen's Teeth" variety but Geoff Lanham's pictures from October 1969 are on our Images of Rail CD ROM "Safari Steam South". By at least 1974, a small open air museum was established at Catumbela which included two small 600mm gauge Krauss. Amazingly, some of it survived the civil war, here is the surviving Jung and two small diesels.


The display is mounted on the east side of the main road just north of the river. There are also two Fowler steam ploughing engines here, Z7 class of 1925 nos. 16449 and 16450 (thanks to Dick Eastwood for these data):

This is the Google Earth view, the new alignment runs directly north-south and the old railway bridge is to the right of it. There appears to be a standard new station building at the top.Despite the 'imagery date' I am sure this is actually older (maybe 2004) as the new railway appears incomplete.

Rob Dickinson