Although plans for a railway in Swaziland existed from the 19th century with the discovery of gold in the country, the first line did not in fact open until 1964. This was a 120km, 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge line from the Moçambique border at Goba (where it connected with the line from the Moçambique port of Lourenço Marques, present day Maputo) to the industrial area of Matsapha and the iron ore mines at Ngwenya, northwest of Mbabane. The line was concessed to Moçambique Railways until 1978.
Shortly after the end of the Moçambique concession in 1978, a new 90km line was opened from a junction at Phuzumoya (about 6km east of Siphofaneni) to Golela on the South African border, where it connected with South African Railways. About 1980, the Ngwenya line was cut back to Matsapha following the closure of the mines at Ngwenya. A further new line from a junction north of Mpaka to the South African border at Tjaneni, connecting with a new line to Komatipoort, opened in 1986 to complete the present day network of about 300 route km.
Although the links with South Africa were intended to support freight movements to and from Swaziland and still perform that valuable function, the line from Tjaneni to Golela also provided a valuable alternative route for freight traffic from the northern parts of South Africa and countries beyond to reach the South African ports of Richard’s Bay and Durban. This flow now provides the greater part of the Swaziland Railway traffic.
There are no regular passenger train services on the Swazi network.
In Jauary, 2012, work commenced on a project to rehabilitate the Ngwenya line and extend it by about 160km to Lohiya in South Africa, serving local communities and creating a new international link.
Flag image from CIA World Factbook