The International Steam Pages

Steam in Mocambique, October 2000

This is the latest of Paul Ash's occasional reports from Mocambique.

"Spent a rushed day in Maputo a week or two back and managed to squeeze in a visit to the loco depot. The old half-roundhouse still stands but is now almost totally empty-the diesels are shedded in a pukka diesel depot nearby. Two of the roundhouse roads have been fenced-off: one is a kind of ad-hoc wagon repair shop (with not a lot of repairing going on), the other is a storage line for the breakdown crane. However, the shed does contain two gems - Henschel Pacific, No.331 and an unidentified Henschel 0-10-0T. The Pacific is in excellent condition (all things being relative in Mozambique) although every single cab fitting, including the seats and footplate, have been removed, presumably to deter thieves. 331 was set aside to haul a proposed tourist train from Maputo down the southern branch to Salamanga. The plan was part of American philanthropic millionaire James Ulysses Blanchard's massive resort and game reserve development on the southern coast but the project folded after his death last year. 331's future is undecided.

331 in store

The 0-10-0T is in fairly decrepit condition and no-one could tell me what was planned for it. There are similar locomotives up in Beira, Mozambique's second city - of which at least one has seen occasional use in the last five years.

Outside the shed are four of the handsome MLW 700-class 4-8-2s, looking very the worse for wear. They are exposed to the humid climate and sea air and have grass growing all over them.

At the front of the shed lie the remains of a Michelin railcar, one of several supplied to Mozambique, and one of its dinky four-wheel trailers. There were plans to get the railcar running again (a project which Michelin was interested in supporting, as they did with the Michelins in Madagascar) but inaction and foot-dragging ensued. It is now too late - both the railcar and have been cut in half longitudinally, the interiors stripped utterly bare and the frames rusted to hell.

No word yet on Xai-Xai and the fate of its locomotives. The road across the Limpopo floodplain is still being repaired (from March!) but was expected to open this week. Of course, the rainy season is just beginning here, the ground is still waterlogged and some gloomy weathermen predict the same deluge as last season.

Rob Dickinson