The International Steam Pages

Steam in Mocambique 1999-2007

This was meant to be a country with enormous steam potential after years of ruinous civil war in which a few outposts somehow kept working. However, the bean counters got here, and alas, most of the remaining stock was scrapped and plans reined in. There are still steam locomotives in situ in several parts of the country, but very little prospect that any will ever steam again, at least in the near future.

Trying to give an overview of such a diverse country with mostly isolated railway sections is not easy. I have tried to divide this page into more easily manageable sections:

Many of the reports on this site over the years have been contributed by Paul Ash (he is a self confessed Mocambique junkie) and it may help to read his historical perspective covering a number of trips which predate most of the other material below (March 1999). Later he went back to Mocambique the hard way... (9th February 2004). There's no steam at all but you'll be enthralled like I was of his account of a trip from Malawi to Nampula in northern Mocambique and back. With steam on the way out everywhere this kind of trip sounds the next best thing to me.... 

Steam Survivors

To my mind Mocambique has long been a 'destination-in-waiting' for an enterprising tour operator, but somehow it never quite happened. 

Anyone fancy organising a steam trip to Mocambique? Described by Henry Posner III as "the Galapagos of steam - small, bloody difficult to reach but with some unusual beasts", Paul Ash discusses the possibilities (22nd August 2001). See also Henry's report on Moatize and (Link updated 24th April 2009), also these pictures from April 2009 (Link broken by December 2023. RD) (added 3rd May 2009).

Finally Henry Posner III told me (25th May 2005), "I recently spoke with one of the top people at CFM concerning their plans for rail preservation, and their plans are quite specific:

  • A national rail museum is being put together in the former passenger coach workshop in Maputo. 
  • Most surviving steam locomotives in Mozambique will be relocated to this location. This includes the Atlantic from Nampula; the two 2-10-2s and two Mallets from Moatize; the two Garratts from Beira; two wood burners from Quelimane; and 2 from Xai-Xai. 
  • CFM is conscious of the impact that this will have on steam tourism - namely, that they are foreclosing the opportunity to develop steam tourism - but does not believe that steam tourism has sufficient economic potential to justify the effort. The main focus of the museum will be to preserve history as opposed to promoting tourism.
  • There may be a few locos kept operable at Maputo for rail tours if circumstances warrant.

The above is obviously bad news for the railway tourism business, but at least represents stabilization of Mocambique's rail history and preserves the option of, for example, steam tourism in the future."

Paul Ash was back in Maputo in early October 2000. No active steam, but at least one Henschel Pacific is stored on quite good condition. Read the report (15th October 2000). Geoff Pethick (3rd February 2004) has sent this picture of Garratt 952 at Beira from December 2003. It was still here in August 2012 (25th September 2012)..

Beira Garratt

Moving north, Paul Ash stated (9th September 2004). "Staff at the shed at Moatize say the two Henschel 2-10-2s remain workable but there are no plans to operate them."

Henry Posner III was told by railway management in June 1999 that on the CFM-Central there are 10 or more Garratts stored at Gondola - Richard Grove confirmed this (15th September 1998) " Saw the ten Garratts stored at Gondola. Condition ranges from abysmal to reasonable. Three 971 class are here - two of them at least are in 'Mozambique-nice' condition.", but Paul Ash wrote (9th September 2004), " All the Garratts at Gondola have now been scrapped save for two Henschel 971 class."

Henry then added from personal inspection (note added 25th May 2005, many of these locomotives will now have been scrapped....):
"CFM North
At Nacala, three 2-8-2's are dumped at the loco shed.
At Nampula, the following were noted:
0-6-0T #1 plinthed at the west entrance to the workshop.
Two identical 2-6-2's (one is #511) dumped west of the workshops.
An unidentified 2-8-2, minus tender, dumped north of the loco depot.
Two unidentified 2-8-2's (one minus tender), one unidentified 4-8-2 dumped east of the workshops.
An unidentified 4-4-2 is stored inside the workshops, pending restoration for a tourist service on the disused line to the port of Lumbo." 

Xai-Xai Railway

Andrew Jones was in Mocambique in August 2012 and reports that he found the five Xai Xai steam locomotives in Maputo mentioned below, click on the thumbnails for a larger image: Paul Ash has identified them as respectively 012, 05, 06, 082 and either 083 or 081.(25th September 2012)

The narrow gauge railway out of Xai-Xai somehow struggled on for years and years

Alas Paul has sent me (1st November 2005) a news report which states:
"The Mozambican police have arrested a gang of thieves who stole railway equipment in the southern province of Gaza, according to a press release from the ports and rail company CFM, received by AIM on Tuesday. The thieves stole rails and other metallic equipment, presumably for sale to scrap metal merchants. Their operations were highly organised. The thieves cut paths through the bush, along which they then drove trucks. They used metal cutting and soldering machinery to remove the rails and slice them into manageable pieces. The thieves destroyed about eight kilometres of track, in the Chonguene region, along the narrow gauge railway that runs from the provincial capital, Xai-Xai, to Manjacaze. No trains have run on this line since 1998. Nonetheless, CFM intends to rehabilitate the line at some stage in the future. Since it is the only narrow gauge railway in the country, CFM regards it as part of Mozambique's heritage that should be preserved. A preliminary assessment of the damage is that it will cost 2.5 million US dollars to repair. Similar thefts have been reported elsewhere in the country." Don't hold your breath waiting, the country has more important issues to address in the short term...... 

The railway vanished under 3 or more metres of water in the 2000 rains and Paul Ash later visited in 2001 to see what survived (22nd August 2001).

Thierry Nicolas visited with a tour in mid 1999 . Click here for the report (report originally added 13th September 1999, amended and illustrated 21st December 1999). The picture below was taken at that time:

Near Xai Xai

Previously Paul Ash had sent an illustrated account of Africa's most amazing survivor (8th July 1999). Olaf GŁttler (19th September 1998) sent a brief report which included Xai-Xai which was not working then..

Former Sena Sugar Estate Steam locomotives

A number of narrow gauge locomotives have been brought to the UK from the sugar estates in Mozambique (23rd November 1998). Read Peter Nash's report. Alex Smith was working on restoring the mill at Marromeu and sent some pictures of the stored locomotives still there, (updated 24th December 2000) - absolutely fascinating material. Later (29th April 2002) Alex Smith and Pat Keegan reported that "There are now 4 mills in operation in Mozambique. Marromeu on the Zambesi, Maragra, Xinivane and Mfumbise, all located between or around Beira and Maputo and served by a reasonable road system. At Marromeu, the latest is that they have moved all the locos that were in the loco workshop, out into the elements. Afraid they won’t last too much longer there. Rail is no longer being used - all cane is presently being trucked in." The remaining locomotives at Marromeu were then acquired by South Africa's Sandstone Trust. Read Geoff Pethick's illustrated report (22nd March 2003). These are now included (2nd August 2004) in the stocklist of the Sandstone Railway in South Africa. Now, Sandstone are now restoring one of the 600mm gauge Feldbahn 0-8-0T from the Sena sugar plantation in Mocambique - a locomotive that has been exported twice to Africa. Click here for the full story and pictures (10th May 2005). 


The isolated line from Inhambane to Inharrime was never dieselised and apparently closed in 1993. For a fascinating set of pictures from August 2012 including views of equipment inside the depot see (25th September 2012). One of the locos inside the shed is 20 and Paul Ash has identified the other one as 8..

The following pictures from Koen De Vaere were taken 10th June 2007 and were added to this page on 11th December 2011, it seems a start was made on repainting 572 at some stage. 571 may be somewhere in the long grass...:

Bas Brul was in Inhambane at New Year 2005 (15th February 2005). No trains were running, the restored station had become government offices, 8 (inside works) and 571 and 572 (outside) were still present but the other rolling stock was by and large in in a dire condition.  What has happened to the other locos is not known. This is 572:


Thierry Nicolas ran in the country in mid 1999, click here for the report (report originally added 13th September 1999, amended and illustrated 21st December 1999) which saw a steam charter here, it may have been the last ever (steam) train on the line. Olaf GŁttler (19th September 1998) "There is considerable activity in the shed in Inhambane, two locos are under repair and it's planned to restart a service to Jangamo about 30km from Inhambane.  The track would be too light for the two bigger locos in the shed.  One of them did run for a film crew for about 5km recently.

Quelimane (- Mocuba)

This isolated line survived with operational steam long after the main part of the railway was dieselised. The following pictures from Koen De Vaere were taken 28th May 2007 and were added to this page on 11th December 2011:

Paul Ash reported (9th September 2004). "Rail operations at Quelimane are effectively finished for good. The track is now heavily overgrown, the staff have been retrenched (except for a lone security guard at the shed) and the locos - 409 and 412 - have been pushed into the back of the shed. Condition of both is good, but there is no nowhere, nor anyone, to run them." 

Paul Ash reported (4th October 1999): "Infrequent trains run on the Quelimane-Mocuba line (Baldwin 2-8-2s), hauling mostly logs from the plantations around Nicuadala, about 40km inland. It seems there is no traffic beyond here.

Richard Grove confirms (15th September 1998): "In Mozambique the line from Quelimane to Mocuba (145 km) is now operating with mixed passengers and freight entirely steam hauled." I have now had more details from Olaf GŁttler (19th September 1998) and you can read his brief report and see two June 1998 pictures. 

Nampula Atlantics

This locomotive was still present in August 2012 ((25th September 2012).

Henry Posner III reported that one of the Atlantics was steamed at Nampula on 31st October 2000 (added 5th March 2001) and Paul Ash reported it was still operable some time later (9th September 2004). All of which was cast into doubt by the news that loco and boiler have been separated, the latter for use in the local Coca Cola plant (24th April 2005). Compare the first picture below courtesy of Brad Knapp, General Manager of Central East African Railways with the second. Paul Ash justifiably calls it a crime against preservation. I now believe that after appropriate pressure, the locomotive is now back in one piece... (25th May 2005)

Atlantic in steam

Rob Dickinson