Times of the Steam Locomotive Trains in Zambia

Fond memories of my childhood days


A visit to nearly all major Zambia railway stations reveals some import piece of the history of our railway industry in Zambia.
Railways management has stationed an old steam locomotive engine at nearly every major station, as a preservation of that important part of our railway history. One can see different types and sizes of steam locomotive engines at our railway stations across the country.
In Kitwe, one of the monumental steam locomotives can be seen right by the railway entrance on Oxford road just where CR bus station is. Looking at its size, it is probably one of the biggest steam locomotive engines in the world. It is indeed a marvel to see such a gigantic piece of engineering even in its “dead state”. The locomotive is nearly 15 metres long and almost 2.5metres high, in frame size.
Just by my observation and as far as I can remember from childhood, the steam locomotive engines were decommissioned around 1974, and were replaced by the U20 diesel engines from Canada.
I still have fond memories of how we used go to the railway track to watch trains powered by steam locomotive engines. We were filled with awe as the steam locomotive left a trail of smoke in majestic fashion each time it passed through Bwacha Township in Kabwe. Iam sure it was almost the same experience for those that grew up in Kitwe’s Ndeke Village.

We could get close to the train focusing our attention on the wheels of the passing locomotive engine and watch curiously, wondering what was happening when shafts linking wheels on axles were stroking up and down on both ends of the steamer creating the sound which went on like “tcha tcha tcha tcha” until the train disappeared from us and leaving us in a trail of smoke.
The driver would be seen reaching for the roof inside the cabin of the steamer to pull his horn which would sound something like “pow pow pow” in whistle like fashion.I also remember how a man in hard hat and dressed in overalls, who was known as the fireman, would be shovelling coal into the fire chamber or furnace as the steam locomotive passed by.
I understand the coal was used to boil thousands of litres of water which was in the water compartment until steam was created. The steam would then be released under pressure to thrust the pistons linked to the shafts on the wheels on axles to move the train.

Water tanks were mounted at major railway stations to replenish the massive water tank of the steamer. There are water tanks that can still be seen at the goods shed in Kitwe. In Kabwe the water tanks are located near the south end goal posts of Railways Stadium ( the home ground for Kabwe Warriors Football club).

In the southern part of the county’s railway network, Kafue was the major water replenishing station for the locomotive engines. No wonder in those days when we travelled to and from Livingstone, the passenger train used to take long to leave Kafue station.
It would be a good idea if the railways management refurbishes at least one or two steam locomotive engines that can journey from Livingstone to Chililabombwe once every year on the anniversary of decommissioning so that our children and grand children can share in our childhood experience of the steamer. The older generation would relive our fond memories of watching the majestic steam locomotive as it became part of our play time.

The railways authorities need to be commended for putting up such a relic to preserve the history of Zambia’s  steam locomotive steam trains.

Passenger Train coach - Kitweonline

Passenger Train coach – Kitweonline


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