Nearly 25,000 passengers a year. A journey from Matadi to Kinshasa via the Mpozo, Songololo, Kimpese, Kisantu, Inkisi and Madimba stations.

Nearly 25,000 passengers a year. A journey from Matadi to Kinshasa via the Mpozo, Songololo, Kimpese, Kisantu, Inkisi and Madimba stations. The “express” train from Kinshasa to Matadi is an ideal travel option, at a very affordable price.

For those who saw something new in the “Kinshasa – Matadi” train, think again! One would have to go back to the 1880s in order to discover its genesis. At that time, the exploitation of the territory of Congo by the Independent State of the Congo via the river encountered some disappointments and not the least: the part of the river between Matadi and Kinshasa was absolutely not navigable because of the presence of the Livingstone and Inga Falls. Transportation was then carried out by porters, which proves to be extremely cruel for the local populations. The solution? A railway line, of course!

The “Compagnie du Congo” for Trade and Industry was founded in 1886 and two years later, its subsidiary, Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Congo (Railway Congolese Company), started to initiate some discussions on the construction of the line between Matadi and Stanley Pool. While its conception began 1890, it was completed by 1898. The project was confronted by several major challenges, starting with the creation of a corridor to leave the Congo gorges through the canyon of the river M’pozo and building a passage through the Crystal Mountains. No less than 1932 people lost their lives. And this is without counting the work undertaken for the gauge, alignment and elevation of the route that continued until 1931 and during which 7,000 convicts and labourers bowed down. Once these “difficulties”, or rather, atrocities were overcome, the ballet of the White Train between Léopoldville and Matadi could then go “smoothly”. Indeed, the profitability of this enormous project was quickly proven owing to the mass exploitation of ivory and rubber.

Left to its fate in 2008, the train rose again from its ashes on August 22, 2015, after 7 years of interruption, and this time with a better service and greater comfort. Following weekly rotations, two Belgian locomotives and nine wagons stroll along the 366 kilometres of railway connecting the two cities. Driven by the rhythmic pace of this long iron snake, the 534 passengers can admire the beauty of the landscapes as they approach the town of Matadi, through the gorges and the canyon. During this 7 to 8 hours’ journey, a dining car and a snack bar wagon offers friendly service and meals to the delight of both adults and children. Equipped with an air-conditioned luxury class and a first class, there is something for everyone. However, in order to fully experience this unique journey, I highly recommend the second class with beautiful encounters in perspective.

Congo, à bord du Train Blanc 1

If it is interesting to take it out of simple curiosity, most passengers see it as a good alternative to road transport because as it is more safe and relaxing. With its 25,000 passengers per year, the railway line also boosts sales of vegetable produce from the regions crossed. Not to mention the positive effects of freight transport on the Congolese economy. Why not buying a little something here and there when stopping at the station? There are plenty of them. Smiles too.

If you get a chance, why not stop in Kisantu to stroll through the thriving botanical garden of rare species and visit its cathedral. Or try a stop-over in Kwilu-Ngongo to roam sugar cane fields and visit its sugar plantation. Mbanza-Ngungu is famous for its limestone caves known for sheltering blind fish. Options are endless…

Logbook

Sleep and Eat

VIVI PALACE

Quartier Ciné Palace

10, avenue Futi Muekono

LEDYA FLAT HÔTEL

10, avenue Ledya

See

The city, stretched on a hillside, takes its name from the rugged environment that welcomes it, and from the proximity of the rapids. Matadi means stones in Kikongo. To see in the city and its surroundings:

 

  • The Sacré-Coeur Cathedrale;
  • Métropole Hotel;
  • The Belvedere (a little crowdy);
  • Some heights of the city for breath-taking views;
  • Matadi’s bridge, formerly known as Pont Maréchal (722 meters long) et its memorial;
  • Palabala Plateau, 12 km away from the city;
  • Diogo Cão Rock;
  • Inga’s dam.

Useful information about the train

  • Times, a single rotation per week:
    • departure / return: 7:30AM from Kinshasa;
    • return / departure: 7:30AM from Matadi.
  • Luxury class: 36 seats at USD 65 (including meals);
  • First class: 70 seats at USD 25 (including meals);
  • Second class: 418 seats at USD 12;
  • 50% of the fees for children between 5 and 11 years old.