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Transnamib freight train
A Transnamib freight train on the line between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

The first railway in what was then German South West Africa opened in 1895 from Cape Cross to Swakopmund, a distance of some 13 miles (21km). It was a 2ft (610mm) gauge line constructed for the transport of guano.

The first two public railways opened in 1899 from Swakopmund. One, built by the British Government, ran to the British enclave of Walvis Bay. The other, constructed by the State Northern Railway, ran to Karibib, being the first section of a line to Windhoek. Both lines were constructed to 600mm gauge.

The first 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge line opened in 1905. The 600mm gauge lines were converted to this gauge between 1910 and 1915. The wider gauge allowed greater carrying capacity, and eventual through traffic with South Africa.

Namibian Railways of the present day are a generally well maintained network serving most major population centres in the country. There is an international connection with South Africa, used by freight services and luxury cruise trains. There is no regular international passenger service.

A new line is under construction to Oshikango on the border with Angola. A direct connection with the Angolan rail network is a longer term prospect, dependant on the reconstruction of Angola’s existing railways. Ultimately, a through route via Angola to the Zambian border is envisaged.

The Trans Kalahari Railway is a proposed new 1500km freight railway between Walvis Bay and Lobatse in Botswana. In 2014, the respective governments signed an agreement for its construction.

As part of an initiative by the African Union, a new high speed railway is proposed from Walvis Bay via Windhoek to Gabarone in Botswana and Pretoria in South Africa.

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Photo image by Diego Delso from Wikimedia Commons