History of rail transport in Tanzania
The history of rail transport in Tanzania began in the late nineteenth century.

German colonial period

From about 1880 to 1888, a tramway
Tramway may refer to:* Tramway , a lightly laid railway for uses such as logging or mining * A system of trams * Aerial tramway...

 operated in Zanzibar
Zanzibar ,Persian: زنگبار, from suffix bār: "coast" and Zangi: "bruin" ; is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja , and Pemba...

, then ruled by the second Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash bin Said
Barghash bin Said of Zanzibar
Sayyid Barghash bin Said Al-Busaid, GCMG, GCTE , son of Said bin Sultan,was the second Sultan of Zanzibar. Barghash ruled Zanzibar from October 7, 1870 to March 26, 1888....

. The first railway lines in Tanganyika
Tanganyika , later formally the Republic of Tanganyika, was a sovereign state in East Africa from 1961 to 1964. It was situated between the Indian Ocean and the African Great Lakes of Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika...

, known at the time as German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

, followed soon afterwards. In 1891, the Eisenbahngesellschaft für Deutsch-Ostafrika (English: Railway Company for German East Africa) was established, with the goal of building a railway from Tanga
Tanga, Tanzania
Tanga is both the name of the most northerly seaport city of Tanzania, and the surrounding Tanga Region. It is the Regional Headquarters of the region.With a population of 243,580 in 2002, Tanga is one of the largest cities in the country...

 in Tanganyika to the hinterland. For that, and subsequent, main lines in the German colony, the gauge selected was metre gauge
Metre gauge
Metre gauge refers to narrow gauge railways and tramways with a track gauge of . In some African, American and Asian countries it is the main gauge. In Europe it has been used for local railways in France, Germany, and Belgium, most of which were closed down in mid 20th century. Only in Switzerland...

. In addition, light railway
Light railway
Light railway refers to a railway built at lower costs and to lower standards than typical "heavy rail". This usually means the railway uses lighter weight track, and is more steeply graded and tightly curved to avoid civil engineering costs...

s were developed for individual Tanganyikan sisal
Sisal is an agave that yields a stiff fibre traditionally used in making twine, rope and also dartboards. The term may refer either to the plant or the fibre, depending on context...

A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

s in narrower gauges
Narrow gauge
A narrow gauge railway is a railway that has a track gauge narrower than the of standard gauge railways. Most existing narrow gauge railways have gauges of between and .- Overview :...

, usually gauge.

The construction of the Usambara Railway
Usambara Railway
The Usambara-Railway was the first railway to be built in German East Africa and what is today Tanzania.- German East-Africa :A railway company was created in 1891 with the aim, to connect the port of Tanga at the Indian Ocean with the Lake Victoria by passing south of the Usambara Mountains. ...

, from Tanga to the hinterland, began in 1893. However, the company building that railway went into bankruptcy
Insolvency means the inability to pay one's debts as they fall due. Usually used to refer to a business, insolvency refers to the inability of a company to pay off its debts.Business insolvency is defined in two different ways:...

 after two years. At that stage, only 40 km (25 mi) of track had been completed, as far as Korogwe
Korogwe is a town in Tanzania, with a population of 44,000 in 2002. It is the main centre of Korogwe District, which is within the Tanga Region.- Overview :The town is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Tanga, has a cathedral church, dedicated to St...

. The treasury
A treasury is either*A government department related to finance and taxation.*A place where currency or precious items is/are kept....

 of the colony then took over the project in 1899. Four years later, in 1903, it issued an Order for further construction. Subsequently, there were other attempts to operate the railway on an economically and juristically stable footing.

In 1904, the smaller railways received a boost. In Zanzibar, a tramway network was built once again, this time by a US company. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Sigi-Eisenbahngesellschaft (English: Sigi Railway Company) was established, with the objective of constructing one of the narrow gauge railways branching off the Usambara Railway, the Sigi-Bahn, in gauge. The same year, 1904, the Ostafrikanische Eisenbahngesellschaft (English: East African Railway Company) (OAEG) was formed to promote a railway from Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam , formerly Mzizima, is the largest city in Tanzania. It is also the country's richest city and a regionally important economic centre. Dar es Salaam is actually an administrative province within Tanzania, and consists of three local government areas or administrative districts: ...

 in the direction of Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, after Lake Baikal in Siberia; it is also the world's longest freshwater lake...

, the Zentralbahn (English: Central Line
Central Line (Tanzania)
The Central Line is the most important railway line in Tanzania apart from TAZARA. It runs west from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika via Dodoma...

). Kigoma
Kigoma is a town and lake port in western Tanzania, on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and close to the border with Burundi. It serves as the capital for the surrounding Kigoma Region and has a population of 135,234 and an elevation of 775 m.The historic trading town of Ujiji is 6 km...

 was reached on 2 February 1914, on the eve of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Later in 1914, work began on the Ruandabahn, a line from Tabora
Tabora is the capital city of Tanzania's Tabora Region with a population of 127,880 . Tabora region is one of the largest geographical regions of Tanzania.- History :...

 in the territory that was later to become Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

. This project was thwarted by the outbreak of World War I.

East African Campaign

During World War I, German and Allied forces engaged in the East African Campaign
East African Campaign (World War I)
The East African Campaign was a series of battles and guerrilla actions which started in German East Africa and ultimately affected portions of Mozambique, Northern Rhodesia, British East Africa, Uganda, and the Belgian Congo. The campaign was effectively ended in November 1917...

, a series of battles and guerrilla actions which started in German East Africa. Towards the end of 1915, the Allies decided to build a railway from Voi
Voi is a market town in southern Kenya, lying on the edge of the Tsavo National Park. It lies at the junction of the railway lines from Nairobi to Mombasa and Taveta. Also the Voi Sisal Estates are located near the town. Voi is also located near some Taita villages like, Ikanga and...

, Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, a station on the Uganda Railway
Uganda Railway
The Uganda Railway is a railway system and former railway company linking the interiors of Uganda and Kenya with the Indian Ocean at Mombasa in Kenya.-Origins:...

, to Maktau, as a supply route for a full-scale invasion of the German colony, including an offensive down the Usambara Railway to Tanga. Subsequently, the line was extended to Kahe
The Kahe are an ethnic and linguistic group based southeast of Moshi in northern Tanzania. The Kahe language, or Kikahe, is in the Chagga cluster of Bantu languages. Three dialects are recognized: Kimwangaria, Msengoni and Kichangareni. Kikahe is spoken by 9130 people, and is one of the smaller...

, a station on the Usambara Railway near Moshi
Moshi is a Tanzanian town with a population of 144,739 in Kilimanjaro Region. The town is situated on the lower slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro, a volcanic mountain that is the highest mountain in Africa....

, Tanganyika. As both the Uganda Railway and the Usambara Railway were metre gauge, the transfer of vehicles from one of these lines to the other thus became readily achievable.

By September 1916, both the Usambara Railway and the Central Line from the coast at Dar es Salaam to Ujiji
Ujiji is the oldest town in western Tanzania, located about 6 miles south of Kigoma. In 1900, the population was estimated at 10,000 and in 1967 about 4,100. Part of the Kigoma/Ujiji urban area, the regional population was about 50,000 in 1978....

 were fully under Allied control.

British mandate

After the Armistice in 1918, the British occupied Tanganyika was granted to the United Kingdom as a League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

Mandate (international law)
In international law, a mandate is a binding obligation issued from an inter-governmental organization like the United Nations to a country which is bound to follow the instructions of the organization....

. On 1 April 1919, the new colonial administration established Tanganyika Railways and Port Services as the operator of the railways in the mandated territory.

In 1928, the Tabora–Mwanza railway was completed with the assistance of the German pre war preparations for the Ruandabahn. In 1930, the Usambara Railway was extended to Arusha
Arusha is a city in northern Tanzania. It is the capital of the Arusha Region, which claims a population of 1,288,088, including 281,608 for the Arusha District . Arusha is surrounded by some of Africa's most famous landscapes and national parks...

. In 1948, a branch line from the Central Line was opened between Msagali and Hororo, and in 1949/1950 the Kaliua
- Transport :It lies on the Central Railway of Tanzania, at the junction of a branch line opened in 1949 to Mpanda....

Mpanda is one of the 4 districts of the Rukwa Region of Tanzania. It is bordered to the Northwest by the Kigoma Region, to the Northeast by the Tabora Region, to the East by the Mbeya Region, to the Southeast by the Sumbawanga Urban District, to the Southwest by the Nkansi District and to the West...

 line was opened. As early as 1951, the line to Hororo was closed.

In 1948, Tanganyika Railways and Port Services was merged with its counterparts in Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 and Kenya to form the East African Railways and Harbours Administration (from 1969: East African Railways Corporation).

From 1950, the Overseas Food Corporation established a gauge network in the south of Tanganyika. It linked the port of Mikindani
Mikindani [translation: young palm trees], is a coastal African, Swahili town in south-eastern Tanzania.-History:In the far south of Tanzania, Mikindani is an old Swahili port that was once the centre of trade in southern Tanzania. The original inhabitants were joined around the 9th Century AD by...

 with the growing regions for the Tanganyika groundnut scheme
Tanganyika groundnut scheme
The Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme was a plan to cultivate tracts of what is now Tanzania with peanuts. It was a project of the British Labour government of Clement Attlee. It was abandoned in 1951 at considerable cost to the taxpayers when it did not become profitable...

 in the hinterland. Eventually the network reached a total length of more than 250 km (155 mi). In 1952, it was transferred to the East African Railways and Harbours Administration.

Republic of Tanzania

In a series of steps between 1961 and 1964, Tanganyika became independent and united with Zanzibar in a federation
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

. Meanwhile, the existing network was expanded. In 1963, a coastal railway was constructed to link the Central and the Usambara Railway, and in 1965 a branch line was opened southwards, from Kilosa
Kilosa is one of the 6 districts of the Morogoro Region of Tanzania. It is bordered to the North by the Tanga Region, to the East by the Mvomero District, to the South by the Kilombero District and to the West and Southwest by the Iringa Region....

, on the Central Line, to Kidatu
Kidatu is a town in southern Tanzania located in Kilombero district, Morogoro Region. The local population is about 3300. Primary economic activity is the large Illovo sugar plantation.Kidatu is a town in central Tanzania...

. In 1963, the narrow gauge network in southern Tanganyika was shut down.

From 1964, discussions took place about a proposed railway line between Tanzania and Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

. As Great Britain had not shown any interest in the proposal, the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 joined in. The PRC government sponsored construction of the railway specifically to eliminate Zambia's economic dependence on Rhodesia and South Africa. The contractual foundations were closed in 1967, and one year later, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) was established, as a condominial railway owned by Tanzania and Zambia.

The TAZARA was built in Cape gauge
Cape gauge
Cape gauge is a track gauge of between the inside of the rail heads and is classified as narrow gauge. It has installations of around .The gauge was first used by Norwegian engineer Carl Abraham Pihl and the first line was opened in 1862.- Nomenclature :...

, which was new for Tanzania, but common in southern Africa. The line was handed over to the company as it was completed in sections in 1973 and 1974. In 1976, a branch line was opened to Kitadu, where the metre gauge branch line from the Central Line ends.

In 1977, in light of the different policies and widening standards of economic development in its participating countries, the East African Union broke up, and all of its joint structures were also dissolved. The Tanzanian Railways - except the TAZARA - was reorganised as Tanzania Railways Corporation
Tanzania Railways Corporation
The Tanzania Railways Corporation ' is a state-owned enterprise that runs one of Tanzania's two main railway networks.When the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation was dissolved in 1977 and its assets divided between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, TRC was formed to take over EARH's railway,...

 (TRC). Economically, the network then went constantly downhill, due to increasing road traffic, corruption and political neglect. A number of rail links, such as between Arusha and Moshi, were shut down, and passenger services abandoned, including on the Usambara Railway.

The TAZARA has been a major economic conduit in the region. However, it has never been profitable and more recently it has suffered from competition from road transport (such as the Trans–Caprivi Highway and Walvis Bay Corridor to Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

) and the re-orientation of Zambia's economic links towards South Africa after the end of apartheid. As of October 2008, a Tanzanian newspaper described the TAZARA's condition as being "on the verge of collapse due to financial crisis", with the operator being three months late on paying worker's wages and most of its 12 locomotives being out of service. At the beginning of 2010 the Chinese government gave the financially crippled operator a US$39 million interest-free loan to revive its operations.

Meanwhile, in 2007 RITES Ltd.
RITES Limited is an engineering consultancy company, specializing in the field of transport infrastructure. Established in 1974 by the Government of India, the company's initial charter was to provide consultancy services in rail transport management to operators in India and abroad...

 of India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

won a contract from Tanzania's Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC) to operate the TRC's passenger and freight services on a concession basis for 25 years. The concession agreement was signed on 3 September 2007, and began on 1 October 2007. The services previously operated by the TRC were run as Tanzania Railway Ltd, with the government owning a 49% stake. However, in 2010 the government terminated the agreement and resumed control.

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