The International Steam Pages

Sierra Leone Railway Museum

By Marian Samu

The following report originally appeared on the website of the President of Sierra Leone:

A collection of the remains of what was once the Sierra Leone Railway, the major commuter network linking the capital Freetown with the rest of the country since colonial days, has been finally rescued and put on display as one of Sierra Leone's preserved heritage. The rescue mission was undertaken by British born Colonel Steve Davies, who is in Freetown on assignment with the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT).

Giving a background history of the Sierra Leone Railway, which dates as for back as 1895 during the opening ceremony, Col. Steve Davies said the remains of the Sierra Leone Railway which had been housed at the Cline Town workshop since the closure of the railway in 1975, had been seriously vandalized especially during the war when displaced persons where placed at the National Workshop compound.

The Sierra Leone Railway started its first passenger train service to the provinces in 1898 and since that time the train had been the major commuter facility between Freetown in the Western Area and the hinterland, up to Pendembu in eastern Sierra Leone. Col. Davies informed his audience that he started the rehabilitation of the remains of the Sierra Leone Railway in September 2004, and since then the Colonel and his team were able to clean and renovate thirteen pieces of the remains of the railway, ranging from passenger coaches to coal and diesel engines. Among the rehabilitated pieces are the Governor's Coach, the Queen's Coach. He thanked the British Council, the Union Trust Bank and all those who contributed to make his venture success.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Tourism and Culture Dr. Chernor Jalloh thanked Col. Davies for this laudable venture, and assured him that what he has started will be nurtured and not allowed to die. He said Col. Davies will be remembered in the annals of Sierra Leone's history for providing the opportunity for those, especially the children who never had the opportunity to see the Sierra Leone railway in operation.

The Head of the United Kingdom Railway Museum, Mr. Andrew Scott, who traveled all the way from England to witness the occasion, said Sierra Leone has a history that is linked to the railway, and the day was just a beginning of a long journey. Developing the Sierra Leone railway story, he said, was indeed a challenge, which he hopes will continue from that day onward.

President Kabbah shakeing hands with school children Remains of the Sierra Leone Railway

The President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, paid tribute to Col. Davies for his laudable idea of preserving the remains of the railway as a Museum, which could with time serve as a tourist attraction. President Kabbah praised Col. Davies for using his own money to preserve this national heritage, a venture for which Sierra Leoneans are very much appreciative.

President Kabbah also used the opportunity to reiterate his other targets that need attention to be preserved for posterity. Some of these, he mentioned, included the Old Fourah Bay College Building at Cline Town, which he said was used at some time during the Second World War when Fourah Bay College moved to Mabang, as the Headquarters of the Sierra Leone Railway, the old Ministerial Building at George Street, where the laws of this country were enacted during the colonial era that was destroyed by rebels during the war, and the building at the Bo reservation, where Queen Elizabeth II slept overnight on her visit to Sierra Leone during the Independence ceremony. Bo, the President recalled, was the main seat of the provincial administration during the colonial days.

President Kabbah also reiterated his intention to resuscitate the railway in Sierra Leone, a declaration that was made during his initial address to the nation when he assumed office in 1996. He said the idea was still alive and was doing all he could to bring it to reality. President Kabbah also said that he had indicated the railway issue to the Indian government who have expressed interest in investing for them to direct attention to resuscitating the railway service.

Former railway workers at the ceremonySchool children enjoying themselves

Rob Dickinson