Sunday, March 30, 2008

Benguela Railroad

Here it comes...

The president of Zambia was in Lobito recently on a diplomatic mission, checking on, among other things, the progress of the reconstruction of the Caminho de Ferro de Benguela (Benguela Railway) that will go from the port of Lobito and west to Zambia. This used to be a major transport route to Zambia, bringing Zambian cooper to Angola and beyond. (There are some interesting pictures and history here.)

The war detroyed much of the rails beyond Cubal, and the government of Angola has given the contract to reconstruct the railway to a Chinese company. (Who else?!) The train does run from Lobito to Cubal a few times a week, but the train is mostly used as a "commuter" train between Lobito and Benguela.

I've been meaning to take a picture of the train for a long time, and last week got stopped by its crossing and was finally able to take these pictures. Those smudges are from the windhsield.

It's not actually crowded on the train cars. These guys are just train "surfers" and adventure-seekers who grab on and ride a bit without paying.

The train crossing is a bit strange. Only one lane of the street has a barrier that comes down, and it is manually operated. This guy with a red flag comes out and puts it down about 5 seconds before the train is about to cross or even as it is crossing. Needless to say, I always go very slowly when I approach the tracks.

It's a bit dark, but that's the guy with the red flag in his hand...

The guy in blue was hanging on the outside and had just jumped off.

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