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, luxury cruise trains and by passenger services as far as Upington, 150km inside South African territory. However, there are no regular onward passenger rail connections at Upington, the nearest Spoornet station being some 400km away.
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 an ambitious proposal for a new 1500km freight railway between Walvis Bay and Lobatse in Botswana. a pre-feasibility study was being conducted in 2010.
Flag image from CIA World Factbook