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CFB Diesel locomotive, in 1973

The Benguela railway is operated by the Caminho de Ferro de Benguela (CFB) that connects the Atlantic port of Lobito, Angola, to the eastern bordertown of Luau and to the rail networks of south-eastern DR Congo, of Zambia and beyond.



The Benguela railway has a length of 1,344 kilometres (835 mi) in Angola and provides access to the inner part of the country, but achieved its greatest success through linking to the Copperbelts of Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia. The railway is Cape gauge, 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), as used on most railways in the region. Investors in the copper mines invested in the railway to export copper via Lobito, made possible by the link in southern Katanga from Tenke junction on DR Congo's Katanga Line to Dilolo and Luau at the border.

A freight train on the Benguela railway with a number of riders.

Through passenger trains also ran between Lubumbashi and Lobito, connecting with passenger ship services to Europe. This provided a shorter route for Europeans working in the Katangan and Zambian Copperbelt, and the name 'Benguela Railway' was sometimes used loosely for the Lubumbashi-Lobito route not just for the Luau-Lobito section to which it strictly applies.

Through the Katanga link and Zambia's connections to Beira and Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean, the Benguela railway is part of a transcontinental railway. It also connects indirectly to the rail system of South Africa. In its heyday the Benguela railway was the shortest way to transport mineral riches from the Congo to Europe.


The railway line roughly follows old trade routes between the ancient trading centre of Benguela and its hinterland of the Biė plateau.[1] In 1899, the Portuguese government initiated the construction of the railway to give access to the central Angolan plateau and the mineral wealth of the then Congo Free State.[2] A concession, running for 99 years, was granted to Sir Robert Williams on 28 November 1902. His Benguela Railway Company took over the construction which commenced on 1 March 1903. Messrs Pauling & Co and Messrs Griffiths & Co[3] were contracted to build sections of the railway. By 1914 when the World War I started, 500 kilometres (310 mi) had been completed. Construction was halted until 1920 after which the railway's connection to Luau at the border to the DR Congo was completed in 1929. The primary purpose was the export trade and the 'domestic Angolan traffic would be of secondary importance.'[2] The line proved very successful and profitable, especially in the early 1970s after Zambia closed the border with the then Rhodesia.[4]

After Angola's independence in 1975, the Angolan Civil War brought operations to a halt.[5] In the 2000s, most of the infrastructure were still heavily damaged or destroyed. In 2005 talks were initiated between Angola and Zambia to restore operations. The People's Republic of China provided $300 to $500 million in financial aid to help the replacement of the war-damaged track.[6]

Main stations

Current operations apparently run between Lobito and Cubal.


In the Tolunda rail accident on September 22, 1994, damaged brakes caused a train to plunge into a canyon, killing 300.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Benguela Railway Company. (1929)
  2. ^ a b William A. Hance and Irene S. van Dongen (October 1956). "The Port of Lobito and the Benguela Railway". Geographical Review 46 (4): 460–487.  
  3. ^ Mineral Wealth of the Congo Free State (1907)
  4. ^ Portuguese Africa before the real storm. The Economist, Saturday, 24 August 1974, Issue 6835, Page 74.
  5. ^ Stephen R. Lewis (1990). The Economics of Apartheid. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. ISBN 0876090560.  
  6. ^ The Increasing Importance of African Oil (2006)

Further reading

  • Benguela Railway Company. (1929). A brief history of the Benguela railway, describing its construction through Angola, Portuguese West Africa, and the important role it is destined to play in the development of Southern and Central Africa. London: Benguela Railway Company.


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