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KTM EMU at Pulau Sebang/Tampin
A former South African Railways Co-Co diesel electric locomotive
refurbished in 2014 by Transnet Engineering for Central East African Railways.

The first railway in what was then Nyasaland opened in 1904 between Port Herald (present day Nsanje) and Chiromo. It was built to 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge, as were subsequent lines in the country. The original line was extended northwards to Blantyre by 1908, and southwards to Mutarara in Portuguese East Africa (present day Moçambique) in 1912. At Mutarara there was a ferry connection over the Zambezi to other railways of the Portuguese colony; the ferry was replaced by a bridge in 1935.

The railway network of Malawi was concessed to Central East African Railways in 1999. At that time the network consisted of a north-south line from Mchinji near the Zambian border via Nkaya and Blantyre to Bangula. A branch from Nkaya ran to Nayuchi, crossing the Moçambique border to join a line to the port of Nacala. The original line south of Bangula via Nsanje had closed.

In 2010, a new line opened from Mchinji to Chipata, Zambia, but has seen little use.

Also in 2010, Vale Logistics acquired a controlling interest in Central East African Railways, ultimately leading to the establishment of the Nacala Corridor. This includes a new railway from mines in the Moatize area of Moçambique to Nkaya in Malawi, where it joins the line from there to the Moçambique port of Nacala, thus providing a more direct route for export from the mines than was otherwise available. The new line was completed in 2014 and the corridor fully opened for service in 2017.

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Photo image provided by Central East African Railways