Benguela Railway

CFB: 1301 km railway with more than 100 years of history
The Benguela railway is the only railway connection from Central Africa to the Atlantic. Its construction, originated by a law from August 1899, began in 1903 and was finished on February 2nd, 1929.
On June 10th, 1931 the port of Lobito received the first copper load from Katanga.

CFB: The Cubal by-pass
Later, in the 70s, the Cubal by-pass was built. Considering all by-passes and deviations, the railway has 1679 km and it ascends 1854 meters in the first 350 km.

CFB: The world biggest private eucalyptus plantation
CFB owned 37,000 ha of land and used annually 570,000 tones of wood to steam locomotives from Lobito to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

CFB: Restoration enters final stage

After more than thirty years, on December 29th, 2013, we could hear the train whistling again at Luau's Village in Moxico's province, which is the last train station of Benguela Railway (CFB). The year before, on August 17th, 2012 the connection between Lobito and Luena, in Moxico, was re-inaugurated. The inaugural trip with passengers from Lobito to Luau is expected for 2014.

To date the government of Angola has invested 2,000,000,000 dollars in repairing the Benguela Railroad, including demining, replacement of railroads, bridges and stations' construction and the purchase and repair of railway rolling stock.

The restoration of the railroad section between Munhango and Luau started in February 2009 and was carried out by the Chinese construction enterprise China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation (CR-20).

CFB: Some recent history

Thirteen years ago, in 2001, all that had been left from Benguela Railway were the 34km between Lobito and Benguela (Benguela branch line) and some railroads accessing Lobito's warehouses and industries (Industrial area of Lobito and Lobito's Ring road - approximately 18km).

The connection from Lobito to Cubal, using the by-pass and thus not passing by Benguela, was announced to be ready in 2002... but the Cubal By-pass Bridge was in worse conditions than expected and three metal bridges hadn't been considered. August was the date declared, but in November 2002 the arrival to Cubal was postponed to December. In December 2002, the CFB's General Director, Daniel Quipaxe, stated to Angop that the connections between the regions of Benguela and Huambo were expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2003. In March there was a new rescheduling and the works were limited to the placing of stone and cracked stones due to a lack of sleepers. The works on the Rio Cubal Bridge finally began in May 2003, gathering Portuguese engineers and Angolan technicians and the works finished seven months later, on February 6th, 2004. The bridge's roadway, in pre-reinforced concrete, has six 25m long spans. One of these spans was entirely demolished and reconstructed; the same happened to one of the support pillars. Finally in December 18th, 2004, the Lobito-Cubal By-pass was reopened, but it only began to be used in July 2005, because works were still being carried out in the bridge over Halu River, 79km away from Lobito's city.

In November 2005, Daniel Quipache - Benguela Railway's Manager - announced the beginning of the Lobito - Luau rail corridor restoration to January 2006, using a credit facility from the Chinese Republic.

This credit facility accelerated the complete restoration of the 1,301 kilometers railroad up to Moxico's region. The restoration is inserted in the National Railway Plan which was first estimated to cost 200 million dollars and to be concluded in 2012. This plan considers the repairs of engines and bridges, replacement of sleepers, improvement of stations and demining. In 2005 four important projects were held:

Calenga - Santa Iria Project, which re-established the railway traffic between Caóla and Huambo in 2002.
Lobito-Cubal Project, with an extension of 153km, concluded in December 2004 but that only started up in July 2005.
Luena-Luau Project, in conclusion stage at the moment.
SITLOB - Intercity System of Passengers Transportation in Lobito and Benguela.

Now that the connections Lobito-Huambo and Luena were inaugurated, respectively on August 30th, 2011 and on August 17th, 2012, the inaugural passengers train from Lobito to Luau, in the frontier with Democratic Republic of Congo is expected to leave before long.

Out of curiosity :
The 99 years old operation and utilization agreement, assigned to the Caminho de Ferro de Benguela SARL (Benguelan Railway Company), ended on November 28th, 2001. All fixed and circulating assets of the company reverted to the estate of Angola.

Also out of curiosity :
Above, you can see some stamps commemorating the stamp's centenary, which "live" Angola Independence. Bellow, left, the first coloured postcard from Portuguese Africa: Bridge over Catumbela River, at the 272nd km - Alto de Catumbela. The rail track arrived here in 1909. Bellow, center: Alto de Catumbela Station in the 70s; for many people living there, it was the first picture they saw of the ‘city’.
Bellow, right: the new Station at Alto de Catumbela. Photo by António Carlos, August 2012.

CFB holds two still operational Baldwin 4-8-0 steam engines (Locomotives 215 and 216). They are reserved for a future museum.


 CFB’s timetable from 2014 !!!
 The International Steam Pages - Steam in Africa 2014

Updated on August 3th, 2014
Translated by Ana Catarina Pires