One of the biggest assets of the Portuguese West African colony of Angola - mainly financed by British capital - is the GBP30 million Benguela Railway.
One of the biggest assets of the Portuguese West African colony of Angola - mainly financed by British capital - is the GBP30 million Benguela Railway. It runs on a single track from Elisabethville, in the Katanga Province of the Congo Republic some 1,000 miles to the terminus of Lobito - one of Angola's two main ports.
The railway is the means by which the vast mineral deposits of Katanga have been opened up to world markets. An estimated hundred million tons of copper lies in the province, said to be the richest source of mineral wealth in the world.
Since independents was granted to the Congo, the railway had been of great use to Europeans fleeing the country. Such was the pressure of Belgian refugees leaving Elisabethville at the outset, that many obsolete carriages were brought back into relief service.
Leaving Elisabethville for its run to the Atlantic coast, the train travels along a winding track through forests and scrubland - and arrives at the frontier point of Dilolo, where Portuguese West African customs officials make their appearance. The engines are fired by eucalyptus logs. The only disadvantage of this is that the sparks from them are prone to set the wooden carriages alight.
Great areas of Angola are still uncharted, and it is considered that only a fraction of the country's mineral wealth in diamonds, oil, iron, manganese and copper has yet been discovered. Portugal is to invest over GBP90 million in development schemes.
At Lobito terminus the journey by rail is completed, and passengers are transferred to a coastal vessel for their onward journey to the ancient capital of Luanda - a city and port that has doubled in size in the last ten years. There, outgoing passengers board ocean liners for european ports.