Tazara Railway

A journey by train across Tanzania from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya, the last stop before crossing over to Zambia. Tazara is a single-track railway of 1,860 km, linking the port of Dar es Salaam with the town of Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia.
It is also called the Uhuru Railway. ” The choice of this term explains the entire history of Tazara," laughs Christopher. He worked for the railway company as a mechanic over the last four decades and is travelling in the train compartment next to us. “Uhuru is the Swahili word for Freedom,” he explains.
The liberty to move, a connection to the sea, the airport, the world. For train attendant and single parent Marjorie the job is tough. When she misses her daughter during her long absences from home, she looks out the window. “The best cure for sorrow," she says and she should know.
Travel report for Annabelle, 2014


train station

Punctual departure Dar es Salaam

woman in train
woman by train window
woman with cushion

Marjorie, the train attendant, preparing a comfortable stay for her passengers in first class on board of the train.

woman by window
train tracks

The railway leads through various landscapes including the Selous Game Reserve.

Bord restaurant

Breakfast in the charming dining car with toast, eggs and and instant coffee. Later on in the day the smell of chicken, veggies and maniok drifts through the train coaches.

woman in train

This mother enjoys some moments with her daughter. She's travelling with her grandfather, aunt and sister. The family works in trade, just like several other passengers on board the train. Goods bought in the big markets of Dar es Salaam are transported back to Zambia.

man asleep in train

Christopher taking a nap. As a mechanic worker for Tazara Railway over four decades, he knows the landscape by heart and prefers to spend the hours resting instead of enjoying the view.

woman in train

On the way. To visit relatives, to the next market, to the coffee plantations or to the copper mines in the West.
This woman took some days off to travel to a funeral.

woman looking out window

Marjorie fetching some fresh air when the inside compartments heat up or when she needs a moment to herself.


The transporation of fertilizer and natural resources has moved from the traintrack to the roads. Today only half as many goods are transported by Tazara then this was the case in 1990. The railway shows losses, every couple of months the trains stand still because unpaid workers are on strike.

train station

The train is for many residents living along the route and working their land vital. Several villages have no electricity, no medicine and very little other opportunity for trade. The train is also a supply chain.

A train

A train with many destinations. In third class the coaches are overcrowded. The 24 hour


“Sometimes I have to chase the elephants from the traintracks,“ laughs the second train driver. The train crosses a Game reserve.

train tracks
foodseller on traintrack

For the farmers in the villages along the route, the train is an opportunity for trade. Cashew nuts, corn, bananas and pineapples, dried oranges and juicy mangos are passed through the windows.

grilled bananas
man looking out the window

One of the many benefits of Tazara Railway is that the windows can be opened and several folding seats in the train aisle invite to withdraw and let thoughts wander.

passengers with luggage

Stop over in Makambako, passengers stand in line to show their documents as they get off the train.

two men in train

“Did you know that over 160 people died during the construction of Tazara? Visit us in our compartment and we'll tell you the story!“ The former railroad workers Christopher and Sakala have many stories to tell. In 1970 chinese inspectors walked from Tanzania to Zambia by foot to mark the route. It took them nine months. Thereon 100,000 workers, half Chinese and the other half Africans, build the railroad. At the time it was Africa's longest traintrack.

woman pointing out the window

"Last week there were five lions resting along the train tracks,“ Marjorie shows us the spot as the sun hangs low in the sky and the train pulls through the Selous Game Reserve.

man looking out trainwindow

Since the train drives at a low speed of 40 kilometres per hour, it's perfect to look out for wildlife.

man in the night

A vendor along the track takes the opportunity to sell some night snacks to the sleepless.

girl checking her phone

Saru is sixteen and travelling back to her boarding school in Zambia after spending the holidays in Dar es Salaam. It will be six months before she sees her family again and the catholic school she visits doesn't allow smartphones. So Saru keeps her eyes on the screen while the network comes and goes.

train attendants

Marjorie and her collegue have a tough job as train attendants. They never sleep longer than three hours six days a week and the salary comes irregular. Marjorie who is a single parent misses her daughter during the long absences from her home in Zambia. Still when asked if she likes her job, she replies: “I receive two meals a day and a bed.”

early morning lanscape

Misty scenery in the early morning as the train passes through highland. A little boy on his way to the field waits to cross the tracks.

trainstation Mbeya

Mbeya, the last big stop in Tanzania before the train crosses the border to Zambia.