The International Steam Pages

The Railways of Zambia, November 2008

Peter Bagshawe reports:


A number of visits were made to Lusaka Station and yard, and also to the Workshops at Kabwe.

Steam Locomotives

12th Class 4-8-2, 197, remains preserved outside Lusaka Station in reasonable condition. In November 2006 it was very smart, having been recently repainted with blue cab and buffer beams, white trimming and lettered RSZ. However RSZ realized (or it had been pointed out to them) that the loco did not belong to them, and the blue has now gone and the RSZ replaced by ZR. Under the ZR, in very small lettering, it says “Preserved by RSZ”.

9A Class 4-8-0, 117, black with orange cab, and 9B Class 4-8-0, 113 (this loco is actually 84), black with yellow cab and a horrible yellow disc in lieu of a smokebox door, are preserved in poor condition at the north end of Kabwe yard.

9B Class 4-8-0, 84 (this loco is actually 113), black with orange cab and no tender is stabled in poor condition in the Kabwe New Workshops (along with the ex General Manager’s saloon 750 which is nearly derelict).

The three Garratts (20th Class 703/704 and 20A Class 733) which were dumped by the side of the line, north of Lusaka station, are no longer there. The area where they were had been graded and made into a dirt road, which seemed to give access, by crossing the RSZ lines, to the National Milling Company. I was told that they had been scrapped on site in early 2007.

Passenger Services

There had been recent changes to the passenger services. There had been through ordinary trains from Kitwe (dep 08:45) to Livingstone (arr 18:45 next day), and return (dep Livingstone 20:00, arr Kitwe 06:00 two days later), every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from each terminus. The Wednesday trains were discontinued from 17 September in order to release coaching stock for a Lusaka-Livingstone return express passenger service. This commenced on 30 September, scheduled to depart Lusaka every Tuesday and Thursday at 18:00, arriving Livingstone at 09:10 the next day. The return train is scheduled to depart Livingstone every Sunday and Wednesday at 18:00, arriving Lusaka at 09:10 the next day.

Only one class, Economy, is offered on all trains, whether express or ordinary. Coaching stock is drawn from 28 rehabilitated coaches which were brought into Zambia from South Africa by RSZ in 2003. The only types seen were open 98 seater Economy class coaches (numbered in the Spoornet 257xx/258xx series) and Baggage coaches (201xx/210xx series). They are in the Spoornet blue and white livery with red waist stripe, supplemented with the RSZ logo. There are no Restaurant or Buffet cars on the trains.

The passenger trains were normally hauled by ex ZR GE U15C or U20C locomotives, normally in blue livery with white waistband and RSZ logo. Regular performers in November were U15C, 02-309, and U20C, 01-257 and 01-271.

Timekeeping was variable, but on two occasions the Express arrived at Lusaka ten minutes early.

Freight Services

Freight trains are not all that frequent, probably averaging about one through freight (Livingstone-Ndola and v.v.) in each direction daily. These are invariably hauled by the ex ZR GM GT36CU locomotives. There are also local freights which will clear any additional traffic between Lusaka and Kafue or Lusaka and Kabwe for example. These could be hauled by any type of locomotive. Such trains originating in Lusaka would often utilize the Lusaka shunt locomotive.

Freight trains were often double headed but invariably the second loco was under dead haulage, being taken to where it was needed.

Shunting Duties

One locomotive is normally based at Lusaka for shunting, which includes trips to the industrial sidings and to the National Milling Company factory, which is just north of the station. This locomotive was also used on local freights to Kabwe and Kafue, including collection of clinker from the Lafarge cement factory at Chilanga south of Lusaka (this is served by a 5 km branch from Lilayi siding (10˝ km from Lusaka)). This is railed to the Lafarge factory at Ndola. During my visit ex Spoornet GE U15C, 35-041, was the regular shunt locomotive, being replaced by ex ZR GE U15C, 02-309 (still in ZR silver grey livery) from 21 November. The locomotive off the express passenger from Livingstone stabled at Lusaka between trains, and would be used on the shunt if the shunt locomotive was away on a freight.

On 19 November ex ZR GE U20C, 01-258, was booked as the Kabwe shunt locomotive.

Kabwe New Workshops

A hurried visit was made to the Workshops on 19 November. The workshop shunter was one of the CMI 0-4-0DH, 02-502A. This was noted doing some shunting before stabling on the traverser.

Locomotives under repair in the Loco Overhaul Shop were 01-110/254/257/264/604/ 606/609/611, 02-308/501A and ex Spoornet LOG locos 35-005/044/436. The Ndola Cowans Sheldon breakdown crane was also under repair. 01-110 is the last of the long- nosed first ZR batch of GE U20C still in service, and is waiting for its engine to be overhauled. It was also noted here in November 2006 and doesn’t seem to have been back in traffic since.

The serviceable Kabwe Cowans Sheldon crane was stabled in the C & W Repair Shop. Also found here was the old (circa 1950) ZR two foot gauge Ruston 20DL locomotive which was used at various Commercial and Agricultural Shows in Zambia. After RSZ took from ZR, over these circuits were either closed or privatized. However RSZ took over operation of the circuit at the Lusaka Agricultural & Commercial Show this year. The locomotive has received a new body since I last saw it a few years ago, but it still has the Hatz 33hp engine with which it was fitted in 1980.

The usual derelicts were scattered around the site, mainly GE U20C, but also including Krupp U20C and GE U15C as well as some of the withdrawn Henschel 6wDH shunters, the two ex Spoornet Class 32 1Co-Co1DE (32-056/057) which had been taken over from ARZ Zaire, the two CMI slave units and some Japanese railcars. However the surprise was the large number of LOG locomotives stabled at the workshops, ex Spoornet Class 35 (U15C). Besides the ones in the shops, 35-015/022/033/035/040/048/058/401/406/407/ 429/434/461/463 were noted, whilst 35-047/402/405 were also supposed to be there but were not seen. Most were apparently serviceable, but a few were in bad order. I was told that most of them had arrived in August 2008. When Spoornet pulled out of RSZ in 2006, a number of locomotives were transferred to NLPI Logistics (the owners of the Zambian concession), believed to have been twenty five Class 34 and ten Class 35 (known as LOG locos). It seems that additional locomotives have been transferred recently. RSZ are very cagey about the actual status of these locomotives, just saying that it is an “arrangement” with Spoornet. When asked if they had to be returned to Spoornet, they said it depends on what happens in the future.


A visit was to New Kapiri Mposhi on 19 November.


No trains were scheduled in or out during the period of the visit so the only locomotive seen was the Kapiri shunt locomotive. Apparently the normal shunt locomotive (probably a Chinese built CK6 B-BDH locomotive) was under repair at Mpika Workshops and they were using DE2006, a type CKD Co-CoDE built at the Dalian works in China in 1997. There are apparently six of these line locos (DE2003/4/6 allocated to Zambia, the balance to Tanzania) but they are not as reliable as the GE’s and not all of them are in service.

The GE U30C locomotives handle the majority of the line traffic on Tazara, singly or in pairs on heavier trains. It is believed that they normally work the trains, whether passenger or freight, throughout from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam and vice versa. General Electric presently has a contract to overhaul eighteen of these locomotives at the Mbeya Workshops in Tanzania over a three year period. I was told that three have been overhauled so far with two more expected by December. Konkola Copper Mines is apparently funding the overhauls, recouping the cost from preferential rates and a more reliable service. These overhauls are desperately needed as I was told that Tazara locomotive availability averages about twelve a day, although the previous day (18 November) had been a good one with seventeen locomotives available.

Of the original Chinese DFH2 locomotives I was told only two remain in service, both in Tanzania.

Passenger Services

Due to the shortage of locomotives and other problems (trains ran out of fuel in section due to no fuel stocks) passenger services were rationalized from 10th October 2008. Instead of two through express passenger trains a week in each direction, and a once weekly ordinary passenger train to the border and back in Zambia and from Dar to Mbeya and back in Tanzania, there is now one express in each direction weekly, returning as an ordinary train. Since the previous MD was fired around August, sufficient fuel stocks have apparently been held.

The Mukuba express departs Kapiri on Fridays at 16:00, arriving Dar at 12:35 on Sundays, returning from Dar as the Mukuba ordinary train on Tuesdays at 13:50, arriving Kapiri at 13:37 on Thursdays. From Dar, the Kilimanjaro express departs on Fridays at 15:50, arriving Kapiri at 09:26 on Thursdays, returning as the Kilimanjaro ordinary train on Tuesdays at 14:00, arriving Dar at 15:46 on Thursdays. Restaurant cars and four classes of accommodation are offered (1st Sleeper, 2nd Sleeper, 2nd Sitter and 3rd Sitter).

Freight Services

Freight traffic is at a low ebb and, on average, a freight train runs no more than every two days (in each direction). What is even more surprising is the paucity of traffic handed over to, or collected from RSZ, a small number of wagons being exchanged only two or three times a month. There is a container terminal at Kapiri Mposhi and it seems the majority of containers are transshipped to or from road here.


A trip was also made to Chilanga to check out two industrial concerns which used to have their own locomotives.

Lafarge Cement Zambia PLC (formerly Chilanga Cement Ltd)

They have just completed a major expansion project, and are still rail served but have not used their locomotive, a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0DH (D1385 of 1967), since around 1993/1994 when it was taken out of service needing repairs. They then hired a locomotive from ZR/RSZ (in November 2006, GE U15C, 02-302, was on hire) but from 2007 RSZ normally send the Lusaka shunt locomotive to shunt and collect or deliver traffic as required. Their locomotive is still on site, devoid of any identification. I was also told that, at the Lafarge Ndola factory, the ex ZR Henschel 6wDH (115) is still in use, being recently fitted with a reconditioned engine.

TAP (Zambia) Ltd

This company manufactures asbestos roofing sheets and was served by the same branch as the cement factory. Rail traffic had ceased, probably in the mid/late 1990’s, but their locomotive, a Lenning M&R 4wD (Type 8, L808-104 of 1968) was still on site and, although they had recently tried to auction it, no satisfactory bid had been received. It is apparently still in working order having been moved under its own power for the auction.

With thanks to the staff of RSZ, TZR, Lafarge and TAP for information and assistance.

As a PS to the above, this is a picture of 16A 620 in store at Mopani Copper Mine, Kitwe, courtesy of Dietmar Fiedel.

Rob Dickinson