Otavi Railway

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Walvis Bay – Tsumeb
Route of the Otavibahn
Gauge : originally 600 mm re-
tracked to 1067 mm
Maximum slope : Adhesion 15 
Minimum radius : 150 m
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Walvis Bay
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Swakop (photo)
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Swakopmund Landing Bridge 2 m
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Swakopmund pier
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Swakopmund reversible loop
Station, station
0 Swakopmund
23 Namib
43 Rossing
Station, station
60 Arandis
Trekkopje (photo)
78 Karup
Station without passenger traffic
110 Ebony
120 Sting bench
Stingbank Bridge
134 Aukas
Station, station
151 Usakos management / main workshop
Khan Rivier
Wendeschleife Kranzberg
Station, station
167 Kranzberg (photo)
to Windhoek
Etiro bridge
Station without passenger traffic
198 Erongo
211 Canon
Station without passenger traffic
236 Omaruru
Esibtal Bridge
Vertex 1589 m
Station without passenger traffic
260 Epako
Station without passenger traffic
285 Otuë
Station without passenger traffic
307 Okowakuatjivi limestone field
Station without passenger traffic
Station without passenger traffic
343 Erundu
by Outjo
Station without passenger traffic
379 Otjiwarongo
Station without passenger traffic
403 Okawe
Station without passenger traffic
428 Okaputa
Station without passenger traffic
462 Komukanti
Station without passenger traffic
497 Otavi
to Grootfontein
523 Korab
546 Bobos
Gleisdreieck - straight ahead, to the left, from the left
to Oshikango
Station without passenger traffic
567 Tsumeb
Service / freight station - end of line
Tsumeb copper mine

The Otavibahn was built in the protected area German South West Africa (today: Namibia ) by the Otavi Mining and Railway Company (OMEG) in order to develop copper mines near Tsumeb . Today it is divided into the Kranzberg – Walvis Bay , Kranzberg – Otavi and Otavi – Tsumeb railway lines .


In order to be able to transport the copper ore from Tsumeb to Europe, it had to be brought to a port. In German South West Africa only Swakopmund was available for this. The makeshift extension of the Swakopmund – Windhoek state railway was not enough for the company's needs, so OMEG decided against using it in part and opted for a completely separate line with a stronger superstructure , but nevertheless built the railway in 600 mm gauge . The construction work was entrusted to the Arthur Koppel company , and work began in Swakopmund in October 1903. The Herero and Nama uprising delayed them. A 177-kilometer section to Onguati and a 14-kilometer connection to Karibib went into operation on May 8, 1905, only with great difficulty . This means that there was a second rail connection after the state railroad between Swakopmund and Karibib, which effectively relieved the burden on the first line, which was heavily loaded with supplies.

Tsumeb was reached by the railway in March 1906 after 567 kilometers and 110 bridges and the line opened on November 12, 1906. In 1907/1908, the South West Africa Company built a 91.3 kilometer branch line between Otavi and Grootfontein in just nine months . Their operation was also led by OMEG.



The Otavibahn, built as a private railway, was bought by the treasury of the protected area in 1910. OMEG was now only the company leaseholder. She led the operation under the designation German South West African Railway / Otavi Railway (DSWAE / OE).

During the First World War , German South West Africa was occupied by South African troops , who initially also took control of the railway lines located there. With the assumption of the mandate for the former German South West Africa by the South African Union , the Otavibahn was also integrated into the network of the South African Railways .


Early years

The stretch between Swakopmund and Usakos was waterless. The water required for the steam locomotives and otherwise had to be carried in tank cars from Swakopmund.

Between Swakopmund and Karibib, the Otavibahn soon overtook the state railway because of its technically superior design. The traveling speed of the fastest trains was more than twice as high (14.4: 30.6 km / h). Despite the points of contact between the Otavi and State Railways networks in Swakopmund and Karibib and the same gauge, a transfer of wagons was only possible to a limited extent due to different axle pressure , couplings and buffer heights. OMEG kept special coupling cars ready for this.

The Otavibahn used ten-ton self-unloading wagons with side flaps to transport ore . In the first year of operation, 100,000 t of goods were transported - more than three times the originally estimated amount.

From 1910

Diesel railcar from 1914, which reached a top speed of 137 km / h

With the purchase of the Otavibahn by the state in 1910, almost all traffic between Karibib and Swakopmund was routed via the Otavi Railway from April 1, 1910. Passenger trains only ran twice a month on the original state railway line via Jakalswater .

In the last year of peace before World War I , the company owned

  • 31 locomotives
  • 2 steam railcars
  • 20 water cars
  • 9 passenger cars
  • 370 freight cars

It was run by 1,040 servants, including 190 Europeans.

Cape track from 1958

Line layout 13 km southwest of Usakos from a bird's eye view (2018)

From 1958, the Otavibahn was north of Usakos gradually to 1,067 mm umgespurt , where the route was laid out primarily to ensure that trade during the construction work on the existing will not be interrupted had. All reception buildings - except for those of Usakos and Kalkfeld - were replaced by new ones. The new line was officially inaugurated on January 29, 1961, the tracks of the old line had been demolished by February 1962.

Further expansion from 2016

The Namibian development plan ( Harambee Prosperity Plan ) for the years 2016 to 2020 provides for the completion of the Walvis Bay – Tsumeb route by 2020. At the end of 2017, the African Development Bank approved a loan of 153 million US dollars for the expansion of the 210-kilometer-long Walvis Bay – Kranzberg section, which is important for foreign trade, to 80 km / h in freight and 100 km / h in passenger transport .

Between 2013 and 2018, the Namibian company D&M Rail Construction renovated almost 170 kilometers of railway line between Otavi and Kalkfeld .


A 600 mm gauge train is on display in the Namibian National Museum in Windhoek. Among them is a sleeping car , an unusual type of car with this gauge.

Picture gallery

See also


  • Franz Baltzer : The colonial railways with a special focus on Africa. Berlin / Leipzig 1916, pp. 84 ff. Reprint, Leipzig 2008, ISBN 3-8262-0233-3 . Text archive - Internet Archive
  • Brenda Bravenboer, Walter Rusch: The First 100 Years of State Railways in Namibia . Windhoek 1997, ISBN 0-86976-401-2 .
  • Helmut Schroeter: The railways of the former German protected areas in Africa and their vehicles (= The vehicles of the German railways , Volume 7). Frankfurt 1961.

Individual evidence

  1. Harambee Prosperity Plan 2016 / 17–2019 / 20, Namibian Government's Action Plan towards Prosperity for All. (PDF) Republic of Namibia, April 2016, p. 53 , accessed on January 21, 2018 (English).
  2. AfDB grants US $ 153mn loan for railway project in Namibia. In: African Review. Alain Charles Publishing, December 14, 2017, accessed January 21, 2018 .
  3. Jobseekers demand work from D & M Rail Construction at Otjiwarongo. Namibia Press Agency, January 14, 2019.