Foreign Traffic On Botswana Rails

Some time before Easter I was proceeding along the A1 between Gaborone and Francistown when I saw a train being hauled north by non-Botswana Railways locomotives, did a bit of research based on the “AR&TS” livery and found they belong to a railway service company, African Rail and Traction Services.

Couple of weeks later, heading back to Gaborone after Easter and we found the same train heading south from Mahalapye.  Having time on our hands we put some distance between us and the train, and then found a convenient gate out of the road reserve with a dirt track up to the railway line and took a few pictures.

Ex-Queensland Railways class 2600, units 2609 and 2606, owned by African Rail & Traction Services passing through Botswana with grain wagons.

Some more research and I was able to establish that the wagons belong to Transnet freight rail, and grain is one of the commodities they transport throughout southern Africa.

What I’m not sure about is why the train was being hauled by hired locomotives, I’ve never seen non-Botswana Railways locomotives on the rails here, so I assume they are hired to substitute for BR locomotives damaged in recent train crashes.

One of the articles above suggests that goods transit Botswana en-route to Zimbabwe, and presumably other rail-connected countries to the north.  There is also a privately operated route to the north via Beitbridge.

For the trainspotters the following wagons were identified from photographs, not a complete listing of the consist however:

  • Locomotives ex-Queensland Railways class 2600, units 2606 and 2609.
  • Transnet FGLJ hopper-type, 19,500kg tare, 44,000kg maximum weight, 66m³ volume (numbers 86-017667, 86-022784, 82-029045)
  • Transnet FZJ box car, 20,000kg tare, 44,000kg maximum weight, 67m³ volume (numbers 81-063067, 81-05169x, 81-05446x, 81-06305x, 81-028733, 81-052154
  • Transnet FZLJ box car, 19,700kg tare, 44,000kg maximum weight, 67m³ volume (numbers 81-03656x, 81-02529x, 81-036515)
  • Transnet FZJ/FZLJ box car, details not captured in pictures (numbers 81-051875, 81-077149, 81-076894)

The history of the locomotive units is interesting: they seem to be General Electric designs (the engines, generator/alternators and motors having GE part numbers) and were built under license or contract by the Australian company A Goninan for Queensland Railways in the early 1980s.  They were apparently disposed of under strict conditions in order that they not fall into the hands of Queensland Railways’ competitors.

I’m also fairly sure they were cranking a bit faster than their rated 80km/h.