Benguela railway back to its old pomp

Angola and China open Atlantic to African neighbours

The Benguela Railway was once Angola’s bloodline, carrying goods to and from the interior of the country, and onwards to Zambia and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Its profit posted in the last full year of business in 1973 was the equivalent of more than US$ 6 million dollars. The railway meant far more than just money, however, boasting a long and complex history.

Memories of the railway

The name of the Benguela Railway still resonates today, along with that of its promoter, Scotsman Robert Williams, friend of Cecil Rhodes, a pioneer in European exploration in Africa. “Benguela is the natural starting point for a railway to transport ore. I ask you to help me build the line and I will make Lobito a more important port than the one in Lourenço Marques” (now Maputo, in Mozambique), the entrepreneur told the Portuguese Ambassador in London in 1902.

This story still abounds with legends and images of long trains whose wagons are heaving with goods, ripping through the bright red earth of the Angolan highlands. It also brings up more dramatic memories, of the wreckage of once stately bridges shattered in the canyons during the war.

The railway line covered […]

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