The International Steam Pages

Steam Survivors in Africa 2002

Graham Roberts' job takes him to places in Africa, few other get too. Here is a selection from his 2002 travels, with a March 2003/October 2004 update from Nigeria.

Togo (March 2002)

"I had a look for the Indian YPs, and sure enough, they are there (2684 and 2257) in the former steam overhaul shop by the look of the remaining machinery.   Haine St. Pierre 2-8-2 106 is still here. The railway staff are co-operative; ask at the manager's office at the adjacent station. "


Nigeria (original report February 2002)

This is an edited version of Nick Newport's report which appeared in the Railway Society of Southern Africa, Reef Branch Newsletter October 2004: 

"Having talked my way in, we proceeded to the diesel running shed at Ebute Metta and on seeking out the CME, who was very helpful, found out the whereabouts of the three locos. It transpired that two had already been moved to a safe museum complex near the old signal works, but the third was still in the yards derelict and could not be moved due to the tender having derailed. A guide was very quickly arranged in order to go and inspect loco No. 174 (North British) in the yard. Although ‘she’ is somewhat overgrown, many of the parts are still on her including cab fittings and certainly in the UK and probably in South Africa No. 174 would be a straight-forward restoration project. It is still hoped for her to be moved sometime in the future to join the other two locomotives.

We then proceeded by car to the old signal works still inside the complex where Nos. 211 and 217 (Vulcan?) are safely ensconced - again in a locked barbed wire complex. The shed staff told me that when locomotive 211 had moved there from the diesel shed it had done so under its own steam only a month earlier. I have to say that, to my mind, it did not look like it had steamed for some time (no water leaking out of injector pipes, ash in the fire box, coal in the tender etc). The Nigerians have no problem with spares and fitters and call back the old drivers when they wish to use them. No. 217, standing next to her but chimney first out of the shed, is again almost complete with only minor pieces missing; although she does not steam, she is part of the museum collection. No. 217 still has all fittings, name and number plates on her. Unfortunately it is very difficult to get decent pictures of these two as they are tucked in the shed, but I spent a very enjoyable morning in their presence with the shed staff that are all extremely helpful. What the future holds for all three was somewhat difficult to ascertain but it certainly seems that the intention is to keep 211 as a working locomotive."

The original report follows:

"There are two River class locos awaiting preservation (174 and 217) at the main works at Ebute Metta junction in greater Lagos. Obviously not turned a wheel for some time and totally unrestored."


In March 2003, he was back and reports further:

Colin Chambers tipped me off  that there was another River class loco to find in Nigeria. I was in Lagos last week on business and had a look for it on Saturday. Much to my delight I found 211 "River Karaduwa", in the (diesel) maintenance depot at Ebute Metta - when I was there 18 months ago I didn't have time to 'do' the shed.

The photos are not great due partly to the fact that the loco is half in and half out of the shed. The air was also full of diesel fumes.

211 was last steamed in 2002 for a short trip three stations up the line. The district CM&EE manager at Ebute Metta told me that it's available for excursions when someone has the money, and that they don't have any current staff able to maintain it - when necessary they call back pensioners (who are the only people allowed to touch it mechanically). The firebox cladding is damaged exposing what may well be asbestos cladding (see detailed photo). Can anyone give an opinion if this is likely to be blue asbestos? I warned the district manager that it could be a health and safety hazard, and he said he'd get it taped up with plastic, at least, on Monday. Apart from that 211 is superficially in a lot better state than 174 (lots of rusting metal) and 217 (bent running plate).

I am told (by the district engineer) there is a further River class loco, plus a smaller loco, at Enugu in the south-east of the country (both non-runners). A Nigerian colleague who hails from Jos, in the north, tells me there is (or was) a small loco plinthed in the museum there. That would mean at least 6 Nigerian locos still extant. Maybe I'll be able to find out more on another visit. I did come across some evidence of the proposed railway museum which an NGO, Legacy, is trying to establish along with NRC: a two-storey officer's house in the Ebute Metta compound signed as reserved for the museum (but currently being squatted and in poor repair).

I intend to contact NRC's management to find out if there's an early prospect of another trip, and if not, what it would cost to run one. I hope to get my TV colleagues to complete an item on the pensioners restoring 3020 in Nairobi, and it would be a nice balance to show a similar initiative in Lagos (especially given the common design ancestry of the River and Tribal classes).



Ethiopia (January 2002)

"No steam operating on the Chemin de Fer Djibouto-Ethiopienne I'm afraid (after seeing your report, the Eritrean line is on my list to visit!). The only visible CdFDE steam relics seem to be the frames, driving wheels and steam chests of two eight-coupled locos lying at Addis Ababa and some bogie tenders still in departmental use lying at Dire Dawa. However if vintage diesels are your thing, there are some pretty unusual diesel hulks at Dire Dawa (early Swiss SLM single-enders and old FIAT railcar bodies)." The loco is one of the post-war Davenport 'MacArthur' 2-8-2s RD, Neil Berry told me (25th July 2005) that these steam remains at AA had gone by 2005, but by 2008 it was at Dire Dawa as seen here in 2008

MacArthur remains

Zimbabwe (December 2002)

"I visited Bulawayo for the first time. It must have been fantastic when in full swing. The boiler tube problems your site describes are still present and only four locos are steamable I was told. The drill is to visit the NRZ HQ in Fife Street and seek out the public relations department, who will issue a photo permit and an indemnity form so you can ask for a ride. I spent the afternoon on the footplate of 515, shunting the sugar factory next Bulawayo station. 522 was also on a shunting turn not far off. 16A class 613 was being brought into service at the steam shed and was raising steam quietly under the water gantry. There are a depressingly large number of hulks (maybe 30 or 40) in various states of dismantling at the back of the steam shed, but if they can get new tubes, some might be brought back to life."

MacArthur remains

Rob Dickinson