The Democratic Republic of the Congo (capital: Kinshasa) should not be confused with the Republic of the Congo (capital: Brazzaville)
The first railway in what was then the Belgian Congo (at the time a new country, created from the former Congo Free State) was an 800km line opened around 1910 from Bukama, in the copper producing region of Katanga, to the Rhodesian border at Sakania. There, it connected with lines constructed by the British, which by that date allowed through traffic all the way to the Cape of Good Hope.
The gauge of the Katanga Railway was 3ft 6in (1067mm), the same as that used in Rhodesia. Subsequent development in the south east of the country was to the same gauge, most notably the Benguela Railway, which opened from Lobito in Angola to the border town of Dilolo in 1929, although it was another 2 years before the line was completed to its junction with the existing railway at Tenke.
Elsewhere in the country, a number of isolated groups of lines sprang up with various gauges, 600mm, 765mm, 1000mm and 1067mm. Some of these lines were effectively portage routes to avoid difficult sections of river navigation. All of these have subsequently closed.
The original main line remains important for freight traffic today, and is partly electrified. Most of the other lines in the south east also remain open for traffic, forming a network of over 3600km. Weekly, bi-monthly or monthly passenger services operate on most lines.
International freight traffic uses the link with Zambia, but there are no international passenger services. The international link with Angola was out of use for many years, but freight services were restored in 2018.
In 2018, the Ndjandja Project was launched, a crowd funded initiative to rehabilitate existing railways and build new ones to form a comprehensive national network with a direct outlet to a new Atlantic port at Banana. The project is currently raising money to finance a pre-feasibilty study.
Also in 2018, an agreement was signed for the construction of a major road and rail bridge across the River Congo between Kishasa and Brazzaville, connecting the capitals of the two countries and their associated rail networks.
Flag image from CIA World Factbook