Usambara Railway

The Usambara Railway (German: Usambarabahn) was the first railway to be built in German East Africa and what is today Tanzania.

Usambara Railway
LocaleGerman East Africa
Line length350.5 km (217.8 mi)
+ 86.1 km (53.5 mi)
Track gauge1 Meter
Minimum radius150 m
Maximum incline2.5  %
Route map
0.0 Tanga
1.7 Golfu Halt
6.8 Kange Siding
10.6 Maweni Siding
14.1 Pongwe
15.3 Pongwe Halt
24.8 Ngomeni
28.7 Mkanyageni Halt
Reder’s Halt
35.9 Lusange
39.7 Muheza
44.3 Tengeni
ex: Sigi-Bahn (750 mm)
50.0 Mambo Leo Halt
55.2 Kihuhwi
58.3 Zannetiberg Halt
to Ruvu and Dar es Salaam
65.0 Murasi Junction
69.1 Mnyusi
74.8 Magunga Siding
81.3 Luengera Halt
84.0 Korogwe
87.3 Manundu Halt
91.1 Ngombezi
96.9 Maurui
113.3 Makuyuni
127.6 Mombo Quarry Siding
ex Bus n. Lushoto
140.8 Mazinde
147.4 Mkumbara
ex Seilbahn v. Adolf Bleichert & Co.
166.9 Mkomazi
178.6 Mikocheni Halt
189.7 Mabirioni
198.1 Hedaru
217.5 Mkanya
252.1 Same
243.4 Moshi Trading Company Siding
283 Höchster Punkt der Strecke
290.4 Lembeni
296.8 Kisangara Halt
306.2 Mbuyuni Halt
310.4 Kisangiro
321.9 Tingatinga Halt
330.9 Kahe Junction
nach Voi. Kenya
von Voi. Kenya
341.1 Rau River Halt
21.6 Rundugai Halt
31.7 Kikuletwa
62.3 Usa River
65.2 Tengeru Halt
77.3 Tanganyika Packers Siding
82.3 Themi states Siding
86.1 Arusha


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. 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) gauge was chosen. Since June 1893 the line advanced from Tanga inland. Due to undercapitalization the company had to be taken over by the state in 1899. Thereafter the line was run by the Ostafrikanische Eisenbahngesellschaft (East African Railway Cooperation), a company which had been created to build and operate the Tanganyika Central Line (Zentralbahn) from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. Between Pongwe and Ngommi on the Usambara Railway there was a double hairpin turn. Around 1910, a cable spur (the Seilbahn) was constructed to connect the line with the sawmills at Neu-Hornow.

On 26 September 1911 the track reached Moshi at Mount Kilimanjaro after 351.4 km (218.3 mi). Traffic on the whole line commenced on 4 October 1911, the official inauguration took place on 7 February 1912. In 1914 one train ran from Tanga to Buiko and back daily and on two days of the week the service continued to and from Moshi. The trip over the entire distance took 14 hours 40 minutes.

From the station Tengeni to the town of Sigi there was a branch-line of 23.3 km (14.5 mi) constructed with 750 mm (2 ft 5 12 in) gauge possessing four hairpin turns on its course.

From 4 June 1912 – 12 May 1913 the line was renamed Nordbahn (Northern Railway) for a short period. The extension to Arusha was already planned and money provided but was not built due to the start of World War I.

British Mandate

The British mandate, which took over Tanganyika from the Germans, connected the Usambara Railway between Moshi and Voi with the Uganda Railway in Kenya and extended it 1929 to its current termination point Arusha.


After the Tanzanian independence the Tanzania Central Line and the Usambara Railway were connected between Mruazi and Ruvu. During the East African Community, which covered Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the Usambara Railway belonged to the East African Railways (EAR). This community was dissolved in 1977 and the Usambara Railway became part of the Tanzania Railways Corporation which was taken over in 2007 by an Indian investor.


Under the German rule in 1913, the Usambara Railway operated 18 locomotives, 31 carriages and 199 trucks with 562 employees (of which 35 were Europeans).

After construction of the connection to Voi, traffic between Arusha, Moshi and the coast was directed to the port of Mombasa and the eastern part of the Usambara Railway was reduced to a local service. The passenger traffic was handled with four DMUs during this time. Passenger trains operated on the line into the 1990s.

In 2018, the Government of Tanzania invested 5.7 billion Tanzanian Shillings to rehabilitate the line. As of July 2019, diesel powered cargo trains are leaving Tanga Railway Station again and passenger transport between Tanga and Arusha is set to start in September 2019.[1]

See also



  • Helmut Schroeter: Die Eisenbahnen der ehemaligen deutschen Schutzgebiete Afrikas und ihre Fahrzeuge = Die Fahrzeuge der deutschen Eisenbahnen 7. Frankfurt 1961.
  • A map of the line, following its annexation by Britain and connection to the Kenyan system

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