It wasn’t hard to find the Maputo railway station. We docked, I looked out my window, and there it was, with its distinctive dome, designed in the Paris studios of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel and fabricated in South Africa. Eiffel never set foot in Mozambique. One of his associates, Alfredo Augusto de Lima designed it but Eiffel’s name is attached to it, as well as Maputo’s Iron House, which features in another post. The dome is bronze and is and architectural landmark of Maputo built in 1910. But this is the site, although the station was built a few years later, where a young Winston Churchill emerged, filthy and smelling like a livestock car emerged after riding a freight train from deep in the Transvaal. He escaped from a Boer prisoner of war camp in Pretoria. He became a war hero in a war that had become unpopular and in which desperately needed a hero.
My friend Joe Raffelberg told me I needed to see this station. I take Joe’s recommendations seriously. It is right at the pier, where a railway station should be. It’s an early 20th century of what we now call an intermodal transportation hub. Now ship passengers only go the station to gawk now. But busses congregate in Worker’s Square in front of the station and it’s still an active hub.
When we first booked this cruise we had been hoping to take a train from this station to Pretoria and then the famous Blue Train to Cape Town. Unfortunately trains from this station only run to the border where you transfer. We looked at other options but the bureaucracy of handling visas daunted us. One of the attractions of the station is a pair of antique locomotives. But for us the main attraction was a platform full of excited school kids waiting to go on excursion, backpacks on and ready to go.