One of the most iconic buildings in Mozambique’s capital is the Beaux-Arts style Maputo Central Train Station. Known for its beautiful facade and grand central some, the eye-catching station design is sometimes incorrectly credited to Gustav Eiffel, designer of the Eiffel Tower. The station has a museum with historic trains on display, and was even used as a set during the filming of Blood Diamond.
The train station was envisenged as a replacement for the old wooden train station from 1895. Construction for the train station began in 1908, and was completed in 1916. Initial plans were drawn up by architects Mario Veiga and Alfredo Augusto Lisboa de Lima, and sent to Portugal for approval. The plans were changed to have a much grander facade, inspired by Johannesburg’s main station.
The steel platform was opened first, in 1907, while the main building started construction around 1908. The station building was officially opened in 1910. To give the station extra grandeur in the Beaux-Arts style, a copper dome was designed by José Ferreira da Costa. With World War I in progress, construction of the done took place in South Africa, instead of in England as originally planned.
Architectural Design Features of Maputo Station
The station is one of the best examples of neo-classical Beaux-Arts style in Mozambique. The art movement was most popular between 1885 to 1925, combining elements of classical architecture from Greece and Rome, with ideas from Renaissance architecture.
The train station contains many of these elements, with symmetry and a grand, ornate central facade, lined of columns, balustrades and balconies, cornices and pilasters. The main dome of the station is clad in copper, raising the building’s height to an impressive 51 metres. The wings of the building connect to the domed central tower via second storey verandas. The grandiose feel continues on the inside, with opulent decorations, marble pillars and wrought-iron lattice in the main entranceway and along the platforms.
Gustave Eiffel and the Maputo Train Station
Design of the Maputo Train Station is often mistakenly attributed to Gustave Eiffel, designer of the Eiffel Tower. While Eiffel worked around the world, with many works across Europe and South America, his only contribution to Mozambique was the unusual, hot and impractical Casa de Ferro (the Iron House), which was donated to Mozambique by France.
Maputo Central Railway Station Museum (Museo dos CFM)
The Maputo Central Railway Station Museum (Museo dos CFM) was opened in 2015 to celebrate the history of Maputo’s public transport systems. Located within Maputo Train Station, the museum aims to educate visitors about the history of Mozambique’s ports and railways. There is a permanent and temporary exhibition, with artefacts from the history of the station, as well as two decommissioned locomotives to board, explore and learn about.
Filming Location of the Film Blood Diamond
Maputo Train Station was used as a location during filming of the 2006 film Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou. The station was used to portray a hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone, during which militants storm the city.
Statue of The Maputo Snake Lady
Just outside the Maputo train station is a monumental stone statue of a woman clutching a book in one hand, a sword and shield in the other, with a gigantic rearing snake striking beside her. It’s certainly a dramatic sculpture, and locals refer to her as the ‘Snake lady.’
Standing in the Praça dos Trabalhadores (the Worker’s Square),The sculpture is a memorial to those Mozambicans and Portugese who fell during WW1. It was sculpted by the sculptor Ruy Roque Gameiro, in collaboration with the architect Veloso Kings.
As a major transport hub in Maputo, this beautiful train station is well worth checking out for visitors to the city. While it doesn’t require very long visit to admire, it is a wonderful chance to see some historic Mozambican architecture, take some pictures, and learn about the history of train travel in Mozambique.