The Matadi-Kinshasa Railway was built from 1890 to 1898. Its length is 366 kilometres and it is run by ONATRA.
In the 1880s the exploration and exploitation of the Congo territory was carried out by the Congo Free State, which benefitted from hydrographic network of the Congo River. But between Matadi and Kinshasa (formerly known as Léopoldville), the river was not navigable, being barred by the Livingstone Falls, which follow one another for 300 kilometres. Transport was done consequently by human bearing, which was extremely fatal and not very efficient. Therefore it was quickly decided to build a railway line along this course.
The Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l'Industrie (CCCI) was founded on 31 July, 1887. On the same day the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Congo (CCFC) was created. Work on the railway was directed by Albert Thys, who would give his name to one of the stations, Thysville. The completion of the railway cost the lives of 1,932 people (1,800 blacks and 132 whites).
Started in 1890, the railway line was completed in 1898. Alterations were made from 1923 to 1931. Several tens of thousands of people, convicts and forced workers, were employed for this renovation. 7,000 people lost their lives here.
In spite of the technical and financial difficulties related to the construction of the railway line, the railway line very quickly proved to be profitable, mainly because of the exploitation of ivory and rubber.
The railway can be classified as a portage railway.
|gauge||2 ft 6 in||3 ft 6 in|
|Rails||21.5 kg/m||33.4 kg/m|
|Charge totale||±10 t par essieu||±15 t par essieu|
|Length||249 ml||227 ml|
|Radius min.||55 yd||273 yd|
The railway line and the port of Matadi are currently the main connection of Kinshasa with the external world. The renovation of the Road to Matadi, in beginning of the 2000s, however somewhat alleviated this situation.
The railway line is underexploited and dangerous. On November 26, 2003, a train ran off the line and was damaged in the river, officially causing 10 dead. There remain currently eight locomotives in operating state.