Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Zambezi Sawmills Railways

This description is adapted from displays in Livingstone Railway Museum, Zambia.

The oldest locomotive in Zambia, No. 955, built by Neilson Reid in 1892 and acquired second-hand by Zambezi Sawmills Railways in 1966. Now exhibited in Livingstone Railway Museum, Zambia.

Increasing demand for timber led to the formation of Zambezi Sawmills in 1916 by a number of private enterprises:-

Messrs Trombous, Salisbury (now Harare)
Jacobs Limited
Messrs A. F. Philips and Company (Bulawayo)
W. E. Tongue (Southern Rhodesia)
The timber was variously used locally, in the Copperbelt or in the mines of South Africa. In 1917 Zambezi Sawmills installed new machinery in Mapanda Forest, 48 km west of Livingstone. Cut timber was initially shipped back to Livingstone by ox cart and river barge but problems with this method led to the construction of a 2-foot gauge tramway (using Mukusi timber) from Mapanda to Livingstone. In order to exploit other reserves of Mukusi timber, a 3 foot 6 inch railway using steel rails was then built, initially from Mulobezi to Livingstone (163 km), later extended to Kataba (172 km).

The railway was operated by second-hand locomotives purchased from Rhodesia Railways, South Africa Railways and Nyasaland Railways. Various liveries were used.

In 1925, the name Zambezi Sawmills Railways was adopted and passengers were accepted, travelling at their own risk, perched on top of timber on flat cars and exposed to the weather, wild animals and fire thrown from locomotive chimneys.

Under the Nationalisation Reforms of 1968 the Government of the Republic of Zambia acquired 51% of the shareholding of all privately-owned organisations.

In 1973 Zambesi Sawmills Railways ceased trading and its Locomotive Repair Sheds at Livingstone were abandoned. In 1976 the National Monuments Commission declared the site a National Monument and it subsequently became a railway museum. I visited the Museum in February 2012 and there's a brief post here. My pictures taken at the railway museum illustrate the range of locomotives used by Zambezi Sawmills Railways.