The International Steam Pages

The Railways of Ghana 2007

Thomas Kautzor reports on his comprehensive visit in April 2007: It makes a very sad contrast with what was a well run railway some 30 or more years ago as shown on our CD-ROM Safari Steam North.

Ghana Railway Co. Ltd. (GRC)

General: Assets of the Ghana Railway Corporation have been transferred to the Ghana Railway Company Ltd., a public sector organisation. GRC is up for privatization or franchising, but so far
no serious bidders have come forward. Spoornet of South Africa had shown some interest back in 2003, but did not turn up at a proposed meeting and nothing has been heard from them since. Since then a number of other groups have shown interest, but all of these seem to have lacked the financial backing to be able to make a firm proposal. Currently, there are rumors of possible Chinese and Indian interest, and an undisclosed group is scheduled to meet with officials in June to discuss a possible takeover of the Accra - Kumasi Eastern line on a BOT basis. The proposal involves rebuilding the Eastern line and building a 450 km extension from Kumasi north to Tamale, Bolgatanga and Paga on the border with Burkina Faso.

At the moment the Western line between Takoradi and Kumasi (165 miles) as well as the branch between Dunkwa and Awaso (45 miles) continue to operate, and commuter trains run between Accra and Nsawam (25 miles) on the former Accra - Kumasi main line. Tracks are still in place on the disused sections between Nsawam and Kumasi and between Huni Valley and Kotoku Junction on the Central line (Takoradi - Accra). The long-closed branch line between Tarkwa and Prestea has partially been lifted, although bridges, such as the big Ankobra river bridge, are still in place. The long-closed branch between Achiasi Junction and Kade off the Central line has been badly affected by illegal/informal mining activities (this is the reason why it closed in the first place) and the remaining tracks are said to be hanging in the air at certain places. The branch from Kojokrom to Sekondi (near Takoradi) is only in use as far as the Location
Workshops, but the track and station buildings are still in place at Sekondi, the first railway station in Ghana. The station is now in use for housing and as a school.

The branch from Achimota Junction to the deep-sea harbour of Tema (14 miles) is currently being rebuilt and work is more than halfway through. Funding has come from OPEC to the amount of U$ 5 million and from the Government of Ghana (U$ 500,000). The track is being completely relaid and once open it will be used by commuter trains in order to alleviate the chronic traffic congestions on the parallel roads. One rake of ten coaches has been refurbished at Location Workshops for this service, while a further ten coaches were being worked on at the time of my visit. The first rake is now stored at Accra station after it was transferred from Takoradi with loco 1676 in March. It took this train ten days to cover the closed 123 miles section between Huni Valley and Kotoku Junction (March 03-12)! On average 10 miles were covered per day and there were at least five derailments.

The condition of the track is very bad and a cause of frequent derailments. All signaling is derelict and train operations are by radio with paper order as back-up. At Accra station encroachment by market women has become less of a problem since a wall has been erected and one has to pay to gain access to the station, but at Kumasi this has recently become a problem when after a recent crackdown on unregistered market sellers at the adjacent Kejetia market these have taken refuge on the tracks at the Accra end of the station. 

Ghana Railways currently has a very small share of the national transport market, with 4% of freight, mainly bulk minerals, and less than 1% of passengers.

All GRC employees were very welcoming and helpful during my visit. I would like to specially thank the Public Relations Officer, Mr. J. Abaka-Amuah, for his assistance in granting me a photo permit and access to all sites.

Passenger Operations: After having been suspended for a time last year, night trains 13/14 resumed service between Takoradi and Kumasi. The trains run every other day as there is only one rake in use. The train comprises five coaches (one 1st class sleeping car, three 2nd sitting cars and one 2nd/luggage composite) and a number of covered wagons used to carry luggage, foodstuff and firewood. Because it is the only remaining passenger train plying the line, it has taken over the role formerly played by the daylight "market women's" local train. The train departs at 20:30 from either Takoradi or Kumasi and is scheduled to arrive at 08:30 the next morning, but due to the condition of the track and the amount of loading and unloading at intermediate stations it tends to arrive only in the early afternoon, if there are no derailments.

Accra commuter trains operate twice daily except on Sundays to the following timetable:

Nsawam 06:00 11:40 12:20 17:30
Accra 07:40 10:00 14:00 19:00

The train consists of ten coaches, including one 1st class. The train and crew stable overnight and on Sundays at Nsawam. The two photo at Accra was taken when the 10:00 train from Accra to Nsawam did not run due to the incoming train having derailed on some broken rails just north of Kwame Nkrumah Circle. Because there are no flat wagons as well as no cranes available at Accra, the rails to replace the broken ones were loaded directly by hand on the locomotive, two on each side. The funny thing is that once all four rails were loaded, the loco driver came and told the track workers to unload them and put them on another loco as his fuel tank was empty. This led to an argument and finally the driver had to agree to fuel his loco before setting off.

Between Takoradi and Kojokrom (6 miles) there is a twice-daily Workmen's train scheduled in accordance with the shift changes at the harbour:

Takoradi 06:00 07:45 17:15 18:30
Kojokrom 06:30 07:15 17:45 18:00

The train is made up of three 2nd class coaches.

Goods operations: Bauxite and manganese ore traffic represents about 90% of total traffic. Bauxite is transported for the Ghana Bauxite Co. Ltd. (GBC) from Awaso to Takoradi using four rakes of 18 modern ore wagons built by Transwerk in South Africa. Manganese is transported for the Ghana Manganese Co. Ltd. (GMC) from Nsuta (6km south of Tarkwa) to Takoradi using four rakes of 30 older wooden-bodied ore wagons.

The remaining traffic is mainly timber to Takoradi harbour, as well as bagged cocoa from Kumasi to Takoradi and cement and flour in modern covered wagons in the other direction. This is Takoradi:

Motive power:

541-552 6wDH Henschel type DH600 32058-69 of 1975/6 (540 hp):
All twelve units of this class were found at Location Workshops, with 544/52 under repair inside the shop and the rest derelict outside.

701-706 Bo-Bo DE Brush 864-9 of 1982 (Rolls Royce 700 hp):
All six units of this class are derelict at Location Workshops.

721-724 Bo-Bo DE Daewoo type DLC-01 of 1986 (MTU 720 hp):
721/2/4 are stored inside the shop at Location Workshops awaiting repairs, while 723 is stored at New Takoradi shed.

1401-1418 Co-Co DE Henschel 20995-30012 of 1959 (GM 1400 hp):
Three locos of this class remain (1405/8/9) and are stored/derelict at Location Workshops. Although they could have carried on, they were voluntarily retired due to their high oil and fuel consumption, the last one (1409) in 2006.

1651-1663 Co-Co DE Henschel type J22CU/DE1650 32231-40 of 1978 (1651-
60) and 33063-5 of 1995 (1661-3)(GM 1650 hp):
1651 awaiting repair Location
1652 serviceable (not seen)
1653 awaiting repair Location
1654 serviceable Location
1655 serviceable Takoradi
1656 awaiting repair Location
1657 awaiting repair Location (accident)
1658 awaiting repair Location
1659 awaiting repair Location
1660 awaiting repair Location
1661 serviceable (not seen)
1662 serviceable Takoradi
1663 serviceable (not seen)

1670-1683 Co-Co DE GM-Canada type GT18-LC2 928803.1-14 of 04-05/1996 (1800 hp):
1670 serviceable (not seen)
1671 under repair Location
1672 serviceable (not seen)
1673 serviceable (not seen)
1674 serviceable Takoradi
1675 serviceable Accra
1676 serviceable Accra
1677 serviceable Accra
1678 serviceable Awaso
1679 serviceable Takoradi
1680 serviceable Takoradi
1681 under repair Location
1682 serviceable Location
1683 serviceable Kumasi

1851-1866 Co-Co DE English Electric 3850-9/64-9 of 1968/9 (1800 hp):
The last survivor of this class, 1864, in 01/2003 still stored at New Takoradi shed, has reportedly since been put up for sale, taken to Location Workshops and cut up.

2601-2609 Co-Co DE GEC-Alsthom type AD26C of 1993 (Caterpillar 2600 hp):
Because of their weight and the track conditions, this class is used as little as possible.
2601 serviceable Takoradi
2602 serviceable Takoradi
2603 awaiting bogie Takoradi
2604 serviceable Takoradi
2605 awaiting repair Takoradi (accident)
2606 awaiting repair Location (accident)
2607 serviceable Takoradi
2608 awaiting repair Location (accident)
2609 serviceable Takoradi

On the Western line the main loco shed is at New Takoradi, just behind the harbour. There is a four-road shed at Tarkwa where one loco is based for ballast trains (1679, away to Takoradi for maintenance on the day of my visit), a two-road shed at Dunkwa (disused), a two-road shed at Awaso (used for light maintenance on locos for bauxite trains) and a large shed at Kumasi (one loco normally based here). On the Central line there used to be sheds at both Achiasi Junction and Kade (both locations not visited). On the Eastern line there used to be a two-road shed at Nkawkaw.

The large shed at Accra was demolished some years ago due to squatter problems and now a small two-road shed next to the fueling point is used for day-to-day maintenance. Because of the lack of lifting equipment at Accra and the closure of the Central line, both locos based there for more than three years (1675 and 1677) suffer from flat tires and slip badly. The newcomer from Takoradi (1676) is not much better off as it is running on only four engines.

Coaching stock: Almost all coaches were built in East Germany in the late 1980s. Only three older coaches were seen during my visit:
No. 0 built by Cravens in the 1940s is the President's Coach. It is kept at Location Workshops. It was used mainly by President Kwame Nkrumah, although President Rawlings used it once between Takoradi and Kojokrom;
No. 5, an open-platform coach said to have been built in 1948, is the Audit Inspection Coach and is also now kept at Location Workshops after having been victim to vandalism at Takoradi station;
No. 78 is a 1st class Sleeping Car built by Crede in Germany in the 1960s. It is used to house permanent way workers at Awaso.

The 164 coaches built in East Germany by VEB Bautzen and VEB Görlitz between 1985 and 1990 were of seven different types:
63 2nd class coaches Nos. 801-863, built at Bautzen 1985-6 and Görlitz 1990, 27 tons, 93 seats;
30 2nd class / Brake & Luggage composites Nos. 901-930, built at Bautzen 1987, 29 tons;
25 2nd class Sleeping Cars Nos. 1001-1025, built at Görlitz 1987, 28 tons, 28 berths (4 per compartment);
12 1st class coaches Nos. 1101-1112, built at Bautzen 1987, 27 tons, 56 seats;
25 1st class Sleeping Cars Nos. 1201-1225, built at Görlitz 1987, 28 tons, 18 berths (2 per compartment);
4 2nd class / Buffet Cars Nos. in 1260 range, built at Bautzen 1987, 28 tons;
5 Tourist Cars Nos. 1280-1284, built at Bautzen 1987, 29 tons (these cars could be chartered in the past).

Many of the sleeping cars are nowadays used internally by the railway to house workers at a number of stations or as sleeping accommodation for the ballast and break-down train crews.

Service vehicles:
Following 4-wheel inspection and maintenance railcars were seen:
37 Wickham "Area Engineer Accra", derelict at Takoradi
38 Wickham "Signal & Telecomms", serviceable at Takoradi
52 Robel "Area Civil Engineer Ksi.", derelict at Takoradi
53 Robel "Chief Engineer Tkdi.", derelict at Takoradi
GT 1 Robel (54.12-112) serviceable, seen in use both at Takoradi and Tarkwa
GT 3 derelict Takoradi
GT 6 Hugh Phillips Eng. "Civil Engineering Department", named TAKORADI, serviceable, seen in use both at Takoradi and Tarkwa
GT 8 Hugh Phillips Eng. "Civil Engineering Department", named KUMASI (not seen)
MT 2 derelict at Takoradi

The GT railcars are maintenance railcars with an open bay, the others are inspection railcars with only passenger space. A Geismar road-rail excavator was standing next to the shed at Accra.

All three cranes were found at Location Workshops: TP 3249 (60 ton Orton, one of six delivered), TP 474 (80 ton Gottwald) and TPL 506 (80 ton Kirow type KRC 400).

Break-down trains are based at Takoradi, Tarkwa, Kumasi and Accra.

Industrial systems

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Obuasi Mine: This large underground mine, formerly Ashanti Goldfields Co. (AGC), still uses underground rail haulage (2-foot gauge) at levels 8, 10 and 16, but that has been replaced by road haulage on other levels. Clayton battery locos and Plymouth 8-ton diesel-hydraulic locos are used.

The mine offers underground tours to visitors. The Mine Tour Centre is located just next to the entrance of the Main Mine and is open Mo-Fr 0730-1630, Sa -1200. The tour costs U$ 20 for foreign adults, U$ 15 for foreign students or children and Ghana Cedis 45,000 (U$ 5) for Ghanaian adults. From the Tour Centre a guide takes visitors to Sansu Shaft, which is the shaft furthest away from the Main Mine. The entrance is at level 3 and visitors are taken to level 8, which is the location of the miner's training school. Of railway interest are various ore cars, loading and unloading stations, a Goodman 6-ton battery loco (serial no. 3446) with its power loading station, a diesel loco and an EIMCO compressed-air front loader. All of these are serviceable and used in training courses.

Back at the Main Mine, in front of the old visitor's centre and West Shaft Museum, 0-6-0WT no. 9 (Hudswell-Clarke 1238/1916) could still be found on display on a short section of track together with two 4-wheel wagons. This loco used to work on the once extensive timber tramway system, which definitively closed in the mid-1990s. The loco was recovered from inside a river in 1995, where it had been lying since it derailed during a storm in 1952. (However, it has since been donated to the Moseley Railway Trust and repatriated to the UK. RD)

Ghana Bauxite Co. Ltd. (GBC), Awaso: At Awaso bauxite is brought from the open-cast mine to the station by conveyor belt, but GBC used to have at least five small diesel locomotives of its own which it used for shunting wagons at the bauxite unloading facilities at Takoradi harbour. One of these, 4wDM Simplex Motor Rail Ltd. No. 289337 was found stored inside New Takoradi diesel shed.

Ghana Manganese Co. Ltd. (GMC), Nsuta: The last remnant of the once extensive 2ft 6in gauge system at this mine, formerly African Manganese Co. Ltd., was replaced by road transport in 2000. The derelict 0-6-0WT, most likely No. 3 (O&K 10609/1923), was found stored next to the crusher. Management is planning to restore it for display in front of the soon to be built new headquarter buildings. The five modern diesels previously reported to have been stored in the workshops area could not be found, but according to one worker these have been sold or disposed of and are not present anymore.

New Century Mines, Prestea: This formerly closed underground gold mine has been sold by Ashanti Goldfields Co. to Goldenstar Bogoso/Prestea Ltd. and reopened. Rail haulage is in use underground and a number of derelict battery locomotives could be seen outside the workshop area at the Central Shaft.


Steam locomotive boilers at sawmills: After the end of steam on Ghana Railways in the 1980s, a number of steam locomotive boilers were sold to sawmills, mostly around Kumasi. During my visit I found three locomotive boilers at Logs & Lumber Ltd. (LLL), located on Lake Road, Asokwa Industrial Area. Two of the boilers are still serviceable and are used as back-up when the main boiler for generating electricity is shut down for maintenance.

At this location I was told by a worker that another wood processing firm was reportedly still using a steam engine to power some machinery, but this turned out not to be a former railway locomotive.

Accra park railway: At the Efua Sutherland Children's Park in central Accra there is a loop of 2-foot gauge track with two small stations and a wooden tunnel. The railway and train were donated by India. The train consists of a 4-wheel diesel named CHACHA NEHRU and two open bogie coaches, built by the Southern Railway Mysore Shops in 1995. The loco is painted yellow and blue, the coaches yellow. The train is serviceable and operates during special events on school holidays.

Rob Dickinson