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Nigeria & Sierra Leone

The Influence of the Railway in West Africa


A LOCAL TRAIN passing over the completed Pimmi Bridge on the extension north of Lagos

A LOCAL TRAIN passing over the completed Pimmi Bridge on the extension north of Lagos. This bridge is one of the many smaller bridges which are a prominent feature of the line.


IT is only in the last few decades that the British West African colonies and protectorates have been opened up by means of railways. An example of this civilizing process is furnished by the Gold Coast railway. The other West African colonies are Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Each of these administers, in addition, an extensive protectorate.

Gambia, the most westerly of the four, is a narrow strip of territory on either side of the River Gambia, extending eastwards from its mouth, and surrounded by the French colony of Senegal. The colony comprises the Island of St. Mary with an area of four square miles. Various other islands and riparian divisions make up the protectorate, whose area is 4,130 square miles. Since, however, Gambia has no railway, transport being mainly by water, it does not concern the railway enthusiast.

To the south of Gambia, beyond French and Portuguese territory, extend the colony and protectorate of Sierra Leone. The Negro republic of Liberia and the French Ivory Coast separate Sierra Leone from the Gold Coast. Farther into the Gulf of Guinea, beyond French Togo and Dahomey, is Nigeria.

Nigeria owes its name to the Niger River, which rises in the Futa Jallon Mountains, near the borders of Sierra Leone, flows in a horseshoe curve through French West Africa, and then runs south into the Gulf of Guinea, after a course of about 2,600 miles. Its principal tributary is the Benue River, which joins it at Lokoja, about 340 miles from the sea. Other tributaries are the Rima (or Sokoto) and the Kaduna.

The colony and protectorate are bounded on the west and north by French territory, on the north-east by Lake Chad, on the east by the division of the Cameroons mandated to France, and on the south by the Gulf of Guinea.

Nigeria is more densely populated than any other part of Africa, except the area watered by the Nile. On January 1, 1914, the territory was divided for administrative purposes into the colony of Nigeria and the protectorate, subdivided into the Northern and Southern Provinces. The colony has an area of 1,381 square miles and a population of 325,020 (1931 census). The eleven Northern Provinces have an area of 281,778 square miles and a population of 11,434,924. The corresponding figures for the eleven Southern Provinces are 89,515 and 8,168,227. Including the mandated territory of the Cameroons, treated administratively as one of the Southern Provinces, the total area is 372,674 square miles, or more than three times that of the British Isles. The population is nearly 20,000,000, the non-native population (mostly Europeans and Syrians), being about 5,500. The density per square mile for the whole area is 53.47.

THE OFFICIAL TRIAL of a slip-way down to a train ferry on the northern extension of the Lagos Railway

THE OFFICIAL TRIAL of a slip-way down to a train ferry on the northern extension of the Lagos Railway. The above Coach was run over the track to test the stability of the permanent way and the security of the rails.

There are four main zones of country. First, there is a belt of swamp and mangrove forest which follows the coast line and is from ten to sixty miles wide. It includes the delta of the Niger, and is intersected by many rivers and creeks. Next comes a belt of dense tropical forest from fifty to a hundred miles wide, intersected by streams, and rich in oil palms. Then follows a belt of more open country, which rises to the fourth zone, a vast undulating plateau, of an average height of 2,000 ft, with occasional hills of granite and sandstone, and some heights of over 6,000 ft. The southern side of this region is covered by thin forest, but towards the north the country becomes more open until the sandy tracts that border the Sahara Desert are reached.

In the north of the Cameroons Province begins the Central African plateau with an average altitude of 4,000 ft, and in the south, near the sea, is the volcanic Cameroons Mountain, 13,350 ft high, which was active as recently as 1922.

The coast of Nigeria first became known to Europe towards the end of the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese were establishing the Cape of Good Hope route to India. During the next century several English merchant adventurers visited the coast. In 1590 James Welsh returned to London with a cargo of “589 sacks of pepper, 150 elephants’ teeth and 32 barrels of Oil of Palm trees”. By the end of the sixteenth century Benin had become a trading centre for English, Dutch, and Portuguese merchants.

Bridging the Niger

In the early years of the last century Great Britain decided to suppress the slave trade, of which the island of Lagos was the centre on this part of the coast. By 1850 Lagos, under its usurping king, Kosoko, had the reputation of being the biggest slave depot on the coast. In December, 1851, a British naval force of 400 officers and ratings landed and drove Kosoko out and restored the exiled king, Akitoye. This king’s son, finding himself unable to stop the traffic in slaves, ceded Lagos to Great Britain in 1861. Lagos and its dependent territory became a British colony in 1862. Four years later the colony became part of the West African Settlements under the Governor-in-Chief, who resided at Sierra Leone. In 1874 it was united to the Gold Coast Colony. In 1886 it was again made a separate colony.

East of Lagos, the various British firms trading on the River Niger amalgamated, and in 1887 a Charter was granted to the amalgamation which became the Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited. In January, 1900, the company's territories became the property of the Crown, with Colonel (afterwards Lord) Lugard, one of the makers of British West Africa, as the first High Commissioner.

Nigeria was constituted in 1914 as stated above. At that time two areas each having a separate and disconnected railway system, based on Lagos in the West and on Port Harcourt in the East, were united.

At the present day the Nigerian Government Railway has 1,772 miles of 3 ft 6-in gauge and 133 miles of 2 ft 6-in gauge. This route mileage is greater than that in any of the other British West African colonies.

The first railway in Nigeria was that from Lagos, and was begun in 1893, although the first section to Ibadan was not opened until 1901. The main line section of this Western Line runs from Lagos (Iddo and Apapa stations) to N’guru, a distance of 847 miles, passing the important towns of Abeokuta (served by Lafenwa Station on the main line - 60 miles), Ibadan (120 miles), Oshogbo (182 miles), Ilorin (243 miles), Kaduna (566 miles; junction for the Eastern Line), Zaria (617 miles), and Kano (705 miles).

ANOTHER VIEW of the slipway on the northern extension of the Lagos Railway

ANOTHER VIEW of the slipway, together with the train-ferry, on the northern extension of the Lagos Railway.

For a long while the Niger was an obstacle to the railway, but two bridges, finally completed in 1916, were built, totalling 1,795 ft in length.

On the Western Line there are four branch lines. These are: (a) From Ifo Junction to Ilaro and Idogo, twenty-seven miles; (b) from Minna (mile 462) to Baro on the River Niger, 111 miles - originally the southern portion of the Baro-Kano Railway, which was joined by the Lagos Railway at Minna; (c) from Zaria (mile 617) to Kaura Namoda, 137 miles; (d) from Zaria to Jos, 134 miles (by a 2 ft 6-in gauge railway, which rises to an altitude of over 4,000 ft). At Jos this railway, which serves a tin mine, meets a branch of the Eastern Line from Port Harcourt.

The Western Line rises from sea-level at Lagos to 1,429 ft at Offa (215 miles), dropping to 318 ft at Jebba (300 miles). At Zaria the altitude is 2,140 ft. The northern terminus at N’guru stands 1,168 ft above the sea.

A well-appointed “Boat Express” with dining- and sleeping-cars is run between Lagos and Jos and Kano, in connexion with the mail steamers. Steamer passengers entrain or detrain at Apapa Wharf on the mainland, opposite Lagos Island, where waiting rooms and a restaurant are available. The express runs alongside the vessel. A tender brings passengers from Lagos to Apapa, where the express is waiting to take them up country. The speed of this express, though appearing moderate to passengers accustomed to the timetables in Europe and other settled continents, is good in the eyes of those who know something of African conditions. From Apapa the train reaches Oshogbo, 182 miles, in 9½ hours; Kaduna, 566 miles, in 32 hours; Jos, 740 miles, via Kaduna and Kafanchan, in 46 hours; and Kano, 705 miles, in 43 hours.

Apart from this “Boat Express”, a regular passenger service with dining and sleeping-cars is run between Lagos (Iddo Terminus) and Kano and Jos.

Lagos, the capital of the colony, has a population of over 126,000 Africans and some 1,300 Europeans. The township includes the islands of Lagos and Iddo, Ebute Metta and Apapa on the mainland, and a part of the land lying between the lagoon and the sea. Lagos is the terminal port of the Western Line, which was formerly known as the Lagos Railway. The two Lagos termini are Apapa Station, on the mainland opposite Lagos, for ocean-borne freight and passengers; and Iddo Station, on Iddo Island. This island is connected with Lagos Island by Carter Bridge, and with the mainland by a causeway and by Denton Bridge, which cross Ebute Metta Creek. In 1931 the old Carter Bridge was replaced by a new structure, 2,600 ft long, at a cost of £426,000. Vehicular and foot traffic between Iddo Island and the mainland are carried by Denton Bridge, the railway crossing by a causeway. The principal workshops of the railway are at Ebute Metta, where the lines from the two terminals of Iddo and Apapa meet.

The town of Lagos is built on the western part of the island, of which it occupies only about a quarter. It is in the process of passing from a native African town to one on the European plan.

For the first section of the Western Line from Lagos to Oshogbo, 182 miles, the country is rich in natural products, cocoa, cotton, palm kernels and palm oil, and is well populated. Then comes the long stretch outside the palm belt, a total of 435 miles from Oshogbo, until Zaria (617 miles) is reached.

Heavy Freight Traffic

This sparsely populated region is little cultivated. The Zaria-Kano stretch of eighty-eight miles is much more productive, having a trade in ground-nuts, hides, cattle, and cotton. Ground-nuts, also known as peanuts and monkey nuts, are the most important commodity handled by the railways, the total tonnage amounting to more than 205,000 in the year ended March 31, 1934. The importance of this traffic can be realized by noting that the next heaviest traffic, coal, which was carried principally on the Eastern Line, was 102,000 tons; palm kernels totalled 43,000 tons, and occupied the third place in tonnage hauled over the railway for that year.

Kano is the chief trading centre of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, and also the wealthiest and most populous town (89,000 inhabitants) in the Western Sudan. The town is famous for its brass-work, its coloured leather work, and the cotton cloth woven by the natives.

The Bauchi Light Railway of 2 ft 6-in gauge, which runs from Zaria to Jos, a distance of 133 miles, in hilly country, was built to serve the tin fields, although in recent years cotton has been developed to a large extent in the surrounding country. A new main line of the Eastern System was completed to Jos in 1927, linking it to Port Harcourt. All the tin is now carried in through-wagons to the coast, thus avoiding the transhipment from narrow-gauge wagons to the main line wagons, which was previously necessary at Zaria, on the old route from the Bauchi Plateau to Lagos.

THE RAILWAY SYSTEMS of Nigeria and Sierra Leone

THE RAILWAY SYSTEMS of Nigeria and Sierra Leone are shown on this map. The Nigerian Government controls 1,772 miles of 3 ft 6-in gauge track and 133 miles of 2 ft 6-in gauge track. In Sierra Leone there are some 330 miles of 2 ft 6-in gauge track open for service.

The light railway is an interesting example of the development of the country. In 1884, while opening up the River Benue for trade on behalf of the Royal Niger Company, the late Sir William Wallace found that the tin used by the natives for tinning their brass-ware was not being brought across the desert, as had been thought, but was being produced on the Bauchi Plateau, whence it was distributed in the form of thin rods, or “straws”. Efforts were made to develop this trade, but with little success, as the Bauchi Pagans were hostile to the Hausas. In 1902, after the Imperial Government had taken over the control of the country from the Royal Niger Company, Sir William Wallace, as Political Agent, accompanied the force that was sent to subdue the Emir of Bauchi. He remembered the question of tin, looked into the matter and succeeded in obtaining about 28 lb of tin-concentrate, which he took back to England. After this had been shown to the directors of the Niger Company a prospecting party was sent out.

The richness of the deposits discovered was such that tin-mining on the Bauchi Plateau developed rapidly. Transport difficulties became acute. As soon as the Baro-Kano section of the railway which was then being built had advanced as far as Rigachikun a road was made between Naraguta and that place. The route previous to this involved travelling in barges up river to Loko, and then proceeding on foot to the mine. The industry went ahead at such a pace that the new road became inadequate and the light railway was decided upon.

This line was started in 1911, reached Naraguta in 1914, and was extended to Bukuru in 1915. This light railway brought the main tin-field within two days of the coast, whereas, before it was built, the journey took about three weeks. In recent years, because of world conditions and restriction of tin-mining, the tonnage of tin concentrates hauled by the railway has declined seriously.

The light railway still has its uses, however, and is a valuable feeder to the main line, especially for cotton traffic. It rises steadily from Zaria (2,140 ft above sea-level), and, with only one short stretch of about eleven miles between Kai-Yerda (seventy-nine miles from Zaria) and Rahama in its favour, climbs up to 4,000 ft at Jos, 134 miles. Thirty pound rails are used for the track. Although there were thirteen 2 ft 6-in gauge locomotives on the books of the railway in 1934, eight of them were not required to work. Of the remaining five, one was a shunting engine of the 0-6-2T type, and the four others were of the 0-6-2 type, weighing 38½ tons each, with coupled wheels 3 ft in diameter, cylinders 14-in by 21-in, boiler pressure 150 lb per sq. in, and a tractive effort of 14,577 lb.

The main line of the Eastern System begins at Port Harcourt on the Bonny River This new port did not come into existence until after 1914, but it is second in importance only to Lagos. It is the port from which coal from the coal-fields at Enugu is shipped, the colliery being worked by the Government. The colliery consists of the two mines of Udi and Iva, which began to yield coal in 1915. The coal is used both by the Marine Department, and by the railway. Coal is also exported to the Gold Coast Colony.

The Eastern Line was begun in 1913. It runs from Port Harcourt to Enugu, headquarters of the Southern Provinces (151 miles), and on to Makurdi (290 miles), Kafanchan (468 miles), and Kaduna Junction (569 miles). From Kafanchan a branch runs west-north-west to Kagora (seven miles) and Jos (sixty-three miles), the terminus of the Bauchi Light Railway. At Kaduna the Eastern and Western systems meet. At Makurdi the Benue River is crossed. Until 1932 a train ferry had to be used: but a bridge was opened on May 24, 1932, by the Governor of Nigeria. This bridge is claimed to be one of the largest in Africa.

It is a combined rail and road bridge and crosses the Benue River at the Munshi Narrows. It consists of ten deck spans of 180 ft. each, and three through spans of 240 ft each, carried on concrete piers faced with pre-cast blocks. The total length of the bridge is 2,584 ft, with a roadway width of 18 ft between curbs. The three middle spans are directly over the navigation channel of the river and have a clearance of 37 ft above the highest known flood level. The abutments and piers are all founded on rock, with the exception of the two centre piers which are carried down into the sand for 93 ft below water-level. Work started in February, 1928, and was completed in four years and about three months.

The foundations of the Pimmi railway bridge during construction

NATIVE BRIDGE BUILDERS. The foundations of the Pimmi railway bridge during construction. The bridge was built in connexion with the extension of the line north of Lagos. The illustration gives an excellent idea of the nature of the territory to be overcome.

The design was governed largely by the formations of the bank and the river bed, which are of sandstone except at midstream, where there is a deep, sand-filled chasm about 700 ft wide in which the two centre piers are sunk. The road and railway are 166 ft above foundation-level and 74 ft above low-water level. The river, a tributary of the Niger, which it joins at Lokoja, has a high-water season, the maximum floods occurring during October with an average rise of 26 ft, although a rise of 30 ft has been recorded. The minimum clearance of 36 ft for navigation at maximum flood during normal years is to the underside of the central spans.

The piers and abutments contained 1,268,000 cubic feet of concrete weighing 84,900 tons, and 8,600 tons of steel and 700,000 rivets. Thirty-six Europeans and some 1,350 Africans were employed, the Africans using pneumatic hammers. The total cost of the bridge, including the north and south approach banks, was over £1,141,000. The bridge was completed before the stipulated time, and is a splendid structure, the workmanship of which leaves nothing to be desired. Soon after it was completed a through service of trains, with dining- and sleeping-cars, was put into operation between Port Harcourt and Kaduna Junction (569 miles), where connexion was made with similar trains from Lagos.

The section of the Eastern Line between Enugu and Kafanchan, containing the Benue Bridge, passes through slowly developing country. It provides an alternative route for traffic from the north to the sea, by way of Port Harcourt, the second port in Nigeria.

A daily service of passenger trains is run between Port Harcourt and Enugu, and thrice weekly trains run from Port Harcourt to Kaduna Junction, and back.

The main line from Port Harcourt, which is about 180 ft above the sea, climbs up to two heights of about 750 ft before descending to 338 ft at Makurdi (290 miles). It then climbs another hill and descends to just below 500 ft at Barakin-Abdullahi (364 miles). Then follows a climb, in two stages, of adverse gradients, to 2,542 ft at Kafanchan (468 miles), and about 2,900 ft at Zonkwa (477 miles), and then a descent to Kaduna Junction, 2,542 ft. The branch line from Kafanchan to Jos rises to 4,494 ft at Bukuru (fifty-three miles), and then descends to 4,000 ft at Jos (sixty-three miles).

The train passes through the palm belt for the first 150 miles from Port Harcourt, the area producing palm oil in large quantities. There is a steady traffic in coal in either direction from Enugu, and in tin from Jos to Port Harcourt.

There were fifty-four shunting locomotives, and 179 main line locomotives, all of 3 ft 6-in gauge, on the books of the railway on March 31, 1934. Among the most modern are a 4-8-2 and a 2-8-4, each having four cylinders 16½-in by 23-in, coupled wheels 4 ft in diameter, boiler pressure 180 lb per square inch, tractive effort 39,920 lb, and total weight 125¾ tons. Three other engines have the 4-8-2 wheel arrangement, their principal dimensions being three cylinders 18¾-in by 24-in, boiler pressure 200 lb per square inch, tractive effort 39,843 lb, diameter of coupled wheels 4 ft 6-in, total weight 139¾ tons. Forty-four locomotives are 4-8-0’s, with cylinders 18-in by 23-in, boiler pressure 160 lb per square inch, tractive effort 23,706 lb, diameter of coupled wheels 3 ft 6¾-in, total weight 75½ tons. There are thirty-five 4-8-0 locomotives, with cylinders 18-in by 23-in, boiler pressure 160 lb per square inch, tractive effort 21,114 lb, coupled wheels 4 ft in diameter, total weight 81½ tons. Another numerous type, comprising a total of twenty-nine locomotives, is the 4-8-2, with cylinders 20-in by 24-in, boiler pressure 180 lb per square inch, tractive effort 32,640 lb, coupled wheels 3 ft 9-in in diameter, and total weight 108 tons. Six engines of this class have cylinders 19-in by 24-in, and two are fitted with boosters.

A DEEP CUTTING some sixty miles out of Lagos

A DEEP CUTTING some sixty miles out of Lagos looking towards the town of Jebba, 303 miles from the coastal terminus of the Western Line.

The two locomotives with boosters were put into service in February, 1929, and after tests were put to work on the Mada-Kafanchan section of the Eastern Line from Port Harcourt to Kaduna Junction. This section is the most severely graded in Nigeria, the difference in altitude between Mada and Kafanchan being about 1,500 ft in some eighty miles, the only respite in the climb being a stretch of about twenty miles between the Morca River and the Kogum River.

The maximum permitted load for a locomotive on this section is 460 tons, distributed in from twenty to twenty-two wagons. But the load for the two engines fitted with boosters was increased, using the same number of wagons, to 570 tons, an increase of more than twenty per cent.

On the Minna-Kaduna section of the Western Line, which is laid with 45 lb rails and has maximum gradients of 1 in 66, two Garratt engines have been put into service. The normal load hauled by a Garratt is 560 tons, which compares favourably with the load of 280 tons usually hauled by engines on this section. One of the Garratts hauled a gross load of 1,168 tons the whole length of the section, setting up a record for this part of the line.

Regarded as a commercial proposition, the Nigerian Government Railway is not, at the time of writing, a profit-making concern. It has been built and operated with the object of opening up the colony, the trade of which is not yet developed to the transport capacity of the railway route mileage. The railway is purely a utility one, the bulk of the haulage being low-rated produce. It has no pleasure traffic, as Nigeria is off the track of the tourist. The Eastern Line, between Enugu and Kaduna Junction, shows a heavy deficit, which is being carried by the rest of the system. The first-class passengers are mostly officers travelling to and from their posts of duty. The second class is little used.

Intense as the competition between road and railways has been in more settled countries, it has been rendered more acute in Nigeria. In recent years the administrators of the railway have taken the drastic step of halving the rate for third-class passengers from a halfpenny to one farthing a mile. This has had the effect of adding to the number of passengers, especially in the Lagos suburban area, but the gross receipts were only slightly increased.

In modern development of hitherto unopened territory the responsible officials have three means of transport, railways, roads, and waterways. In Nigeria the roads have been made, particularly for the first 200 miles north of Lagos, parallel with the railway. Thus the roads, instead of feeding the railway, as in other undeveloped colonies, have become competitors. The lorries are acquired under the hire-purchase system; and as the purchaser not infrequently lives in the lorry, this reduces his overhead charges. The railway, with its expensive and vulnerable track, its need for rigid maintenance standards in the interests of safety, the heavy cost of renewals and its tradition of good wages and reasonable working hours, is necessarily at a disadvantage.

It is a remarkable sidelight on the rapid development of a colony which a few generations ago was the stronghold of slave-traders that this question of road and railway competition should now be so acute.

The policy of the Government is to develop the railway in the interests of the African, not of the European. In this connexion the following figures are illuminating. All the station-masters, firemen, and clerks are Africans. Of the engine-drivers 53.5 per cent are Africans, of the guards 94.5 per cent are Africans, and of the shop chargemen 53.7 per cent are Africans.

THE BENUE BRIDGE carries the Nigerian Government lines across the Benue River

THE BENUE BRIDGE carries the Nigerian Government lines across the Benue River. The construction was begun in 1928 and finished in 1934. The bridge is one of the longest in Africa. Its total length is 2,584 ft. It has ten deck spans of 180 ft, and three through spans of 240 ft each, carried on concrete piers. The three middle spans, which are above the navigation channel of the river, stand 37 ft above flood level. The cost of building the bridge, including the two approaches, was more than £1,141,000 ; 8,600 tons of steel, 84,900 tons of concrete, and 700,000 rivets were absorbed in the construction of the piers and abutments. The bridge replaced a train-ferry and permitted an uninterrupted journey between Port Harcourt and Kaduna.

The Government Railway of Nigeria is the only system of transport in the Colony which publishes its rates and time-tables, which are comprehensive.

The four principal passenger trains are: the “North Mail” or “Boat Express”, from Lagos (Apapa Station) to Jos and to Kano, this train being called the “Ocean Mail” on the return journey to Lagos. The “Western Limited” runs from Lagos (Iddo Station) to Kano and back. The “Eastern Limited” runs from Port Harcourt to Kaduna and back. The highest average speed, including station stops, of any of these trains is only 20.48 miles an hour, and 22.76 miles an hour excluding station stops.

The section of the Western Line between Lagos and Ibadan is laid with 80 lb rails and is 120 miles long. A speed of forty miles an hour is permitted. Ibadan is the largest city in Nigeria, with a population of about 250,000. When passenger traffic justifies the experiment it is proposed to put Diesel-engined rail-cars in service between Lagos and Ibadan, each to carry forty passengers, to enable Lagos business men to make the return journey to Ibadan in one day. Two Sentinel coaches are used on the Lagos suburban service.

The main workshops at Ebute Metta employ more than 1,500 Africans. They were erected in the early days of the railway. The workshops at Enugu, where about 440 Africans are employed, were equipped to serve the formerly isolated Port Harcourt line. Now that the two systems are connected most of the locomotive repairs are carried out at Ebute Metta.

The training of African workshops’ apprentices and firemen and engine drivers is interesting. Apprentices who have had a superior education and have shown marked ability in their work are selected for a more extended training than is usually given to ordinary and indentured trade apprentices.

Training Apprentices

Those selected will go through the locomotive workshops, have a year in the drawing office, and then spend three or four years in the Ebute Metta running shed, with a view to qualifying as locomotive foremen. Every encouragement is given to these African youths to qualify as mechanical engineers.

An obsolete locomotive of the 0-6-0 type has been blocked up for the use of the African Drivers’ Training School. All the parts are clearly lettered. One cylinder of the engine is disconnected, and the valve chest cover and front cylinder cover removed. About 60 lb of steam is raised in the boiler and the wheels are slowly revolved by one working cylinder, the class gathering round the opened up one to see the valve and piston working. Many Lagos schoolboys want to join this class.

Boys, preferably from secondary schools, are selected by competitive examination, and enter the training school for eight months, for a part of which they are engaged in cleaning engines. The second stage consists of six months in the erecting shop and six months with the fitters in the running shed. In the third stage they work as firemen on shunting duty, or on suburban trains. In the fourth stage they are main-line firemen. In the fifth stage they drive shunting engines. In the sixth stage they work as drivers on slow goods and suburban trains. The course takes a minimum of six years, at the end of which, if the man has made good and sustained progress, he is eligible for promotion as a main-line driver.

A THREE-CYLINDER LOCOMOTIVE built in England for Nigeria

A THREE-CYLINDER LOCOMOTIVE built in England for the Nigeria 3 ft 6-in gauge lines. The use of this 4-8-2 or “Mountain” type of engine for hauling heavy passenger and goods trains has steadily increased in West Africa. Some of the latest “Mountain” type locomotives working in Nigeria weigh as much as ninety tons.

The salaries paid to European officials of the railway range downwards from the £2,000 a year plus £400 duty pay of the general manager. Locomotive drivers receive from £380 to £480, this salary scale being also that for shed-fitters, warehouse supervisors, boiler-makers, and carriage and wagon examiners. European guards are on the scale £360 to £460, as are foremen platelayers. The best paid post on the African clerical staff is that of the office assistant in the administration department, who draws from £315 to £475.

The railway started the ground-nut industry when the line was extended to Kano in 1912-13, and the newer branches to Gusau and N’guru opened up more “ground-nut country”. Since the railway was built the annual exports have increased nearly eightfold.

Sierra Leone has a longer history than any of the other Crown colonies in West Africa. The first explorer to arrive in the Bay of Sierra Leone is believed to have been Hanno, the Carthaginian, between 500 and 450 BC.

There are several versions of the derivation of the name. One was that the Portuguese sailors serving under Pedro da Cintra, who had been sent on an expedition by Prince Henry of Portugal and discovered the country in 1462, called the mountain Sierra Leone, or the Lion Mountain, because of the continual roaring of thunder on its summit, which was enveloped in clouds. It is more generally assumed, however, that the name was selected because, seen from the sea at a certain angle and distance, the mountain resembles a crouching lion.

In 1562 Sir John Hawkins paid his first visit to the coast and carried off 300 natives, took them across the Atlantic to Hispaniola, and sold them to the Spaniards as slaves. Early in the seventeenth century the English began to establish a regular trade. At the beginning of the eighteenth century Sierra Leone became a rendezvous for pirates. One pirate, a Captain Roberts, sent a boat to Governor Plunkett at the fort on Bunce Island to ask if he could spare any gold dust or powder and ball. The governor replied that he had no gold to spare, but he could have the powder and ball if he cared to call for it. The pirate vessels then attacked the fort. When the governor had exhausted all his ammunition, he tried to escape in a boat. He was captured and brought before Roberts, who swore at him for his impudence in resisting him. The governor swore back with such a rich vocabulary that the pirates laughed and told their captain that he had been out-sworn. The governor's life was spared, and he was left in possession of his damaged fort.

The beginnings of the colonization of Sierra Leone date from late in the eighteenth century. Many West Indian planters had been in the habit of bringing negro slaves with them back to England. In January, 1792, Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, gave judgment that a slave setting foot in England immediately became free.

About 15,000 negro slaves in England, affected by this decision, found themselves at once free and destitute. A proposal was accordingly made to find a home for them in West Africa. It was suggested by Dr. Smeathman, a naturalist familiar with the West Coast, that a grant of land should be obtained from the native chiefs and that the liberated slaves should be sent overseas to form a settlement.

The first ship left England in 1787. Other vessels followed; and the settlement of Freetown came into existence. In 1808 Sierra Leone became a Crown Colony, the population being 1,000.

To-day the Colony of Sierra Leone has an area of about 4,000 square miles and a population of 96,422 (1931 census). The Protectorate, declared in 1896, extends to the north and east of the Colony. It has an area of about 26,000 square miles and an estimated population of 1,672,600. The European population is only about 650, including 420 in the Colony.

THE WELL CURB of a pier on the Niger Bridge which now carries the railway across the famous Niger River

THE WELL CURB of a pier on the Niger Bridge which now carries the railway across the famous Niger River. Before the railway was built, the Niger, the Benue, and Kaduna rivers were the only satisfactory means of communication in Nigeria.

Freetown is now a well-laid-out city, with many wide roads carrying motor traffic and subsidiary roads for pedestrians. The use of motor lorries is now general for transporting goods between the railway, the stores, and the wharf. In addition, private cars and motor cycles are being used in increasing numbers. A fine motor road has been built between Freetown and Hill Station, some 900 ft above the city. Hill Station is the residential quarter of most of the European Government officials, and the drive up from Freetown provides some beautiful views.

The motor roads in the Protectorate are of special importance, since they serve as feeder roadways to the railway and have thus done much to develop and increase the trade of the country.

Sierra Leone is roughly circular in shape, the maximum distances being about 200 miles, from north to south, and about 180 miles from east to west. After the Colonial Office had decided to open up the country by means of a 2 ft 6-in gauge railway, a survey party was sent to Sierra Leone in 1893.

The first attempt to survey the interior was made by a party of three, consisting of a surveyor, his assistant, and a doctor, the doctor being indispensable owing to the then unhealthy nature of the country. The surface of the ground was covered with a thick layer of decaying vegetation, the putrefaction of centuries. The severe rainfall had converted this bed of leaves and branches into a spongy mass, interspersed with pools and swamps, where mosquitoes and other insects multiplied by the million. Malaria was rife, and disease was a formidable obstacle.

The three men had not gone far when the formidable nature of their task was brought home to them. The doctor went down with malaria, and while he was ill the assistant surveyor was struck down by the same disease and died. The surveyor turned the provisions out of the wooden boxes in which they had been packed for transport, made a coffin, and buried the assistant. Meanwhile he nursed the doctor. When the doctor was able to walk, the surveyor packed his gear and the two returned to the coast. But the pioneers were not defeated. Another survey was organized and carried out as soon as possible.

The work of construction was begun in 1896, and in May, 1899, the railway was opened for traffic for thirty-two miles as far as Songo. The next year the line was extended to Rotifunk. Bo was reached in 1902, Baiima in 1905, and the present eastern terminus at Pendembu in 1908. Pendembu is an important trading centre in the east of the Central Province and is 227½ miles by rail from Freetown.

A locomotive of the famous Garratt type used on the 2 ft 6-in gauge railway of Sierra Leone

“FIFTY-FIFTY”. A locomotive of the famous Garratt type used on the 2 ft 6-in gauge railway of Sierra Leone. The boiler, with cab attached, is slung between two similar power units, each carrying a water tank. The attachment of the boiler frame at either end to the power units allows the locomotive to negotiate very sharp curves.

After passing through the beautiful mountainous scenery of the peninsula of Sierra Leone, the line runs for almost its entire length through the Central Province. Although much of the country through which the railway runs is unattractive and apparently unproductive, feeder roads lead from all the oil-palm belts to the track, so that it taps the whole of the area of the Protectorate.

The Northern Province is served by a branch line from the main line at Bauya Junction. This line runs up to Makeni, a distance of eighty-two miles. It was intended to carry this line farther, but the project had to be abandoned during the war of 1914-18, although part of the earthwork had. been constructed.

At one time there was a branch line which ran for five and a half miles from Water Street Station, Freetown, through the central and western part of the town of Wilberforce and up to Hill Station, but this was closed in 1929 and a bus service was substituted. This mountain railway had a maximum gradient of 1 in 22, and a journey on it afforded a panorama of lofty, green-clad mountains, blue sea, and river gorges as the train wound its way round the shoulders of the hills to the terminus, about 900 ft. above sea-level. It was the means of transport for white officials who lived on the hill, and was built for that purpose, but when motor-cars were introduced the passenger traffic declined, and the line was closed.

The railway workshops are at Cline Town, a mile from Water Street Station. Most of the British railway officials live at Cline Town, where there are an institute, a cricket pitch, and a golf course.

The country traversed by the railway is particularly well watered. Thus the engineers found it necessary to build a large number of bridges. Omitting single-span bridges, there are about forty bridges of two spans and more. The longest bridge, 716 ft in length, spans the River Sewa on the main line, 160 miles from Freetown, and has six spans. The next longest is the bridge across the Ribbi River, thirty-eight miles from Freetown, which is 662 ft in length and has nine spans. The bridge across the River Moa, 212 miles from Freetown, is 633 ft, long and has five spans.

The modern railway bridges of Sierra Leone contrast strangely with the “stick” and “hammock” bridges of the natives. “Stick bridges” are used to span narrow high-banked streams, and are constructed of two or more large tree trunks, laid across the water. The straight sticks are laid crosswise on the trees and lashed in place with bush roots.

Shallow streams and swamps are bridged in a similar manner by driving rough piles into the bed of the river or swamp and building the causeway on top of the piles. “Hammock bridges” are made by plaiting together long, thick, and tough roots, and suspending them between the branches of trees on either side of the river. Similar but smaller roots are suspended from these main “cables”, the principle of construction being exactly the same as in a modern suspension bridge A causeway, about a foot in width, is woven to the lower ends of the suspended roots, and a hand-rail of roots tied to these perpendiculars completes the bridge.

The locomotives total thirty-nine, fifteen being tank engines. Thirteen of the tank engines are of the 2-6-2 type, weighing 20 tons each. Seventeen of the tender engines are of the 4-8-0 type, weighing from 33 to 36 tons each. There are seven Garratt engines, each weighing 46½ tons. In 1933 the number of railway employees was thirty-seven Europeans and 1,580 Africans.

The most important traffic on the Sierra Leone Government Railways is the transport of palm kernels, the oil from which plays such an important part in the manufacture of soap and candles.

The total mileage is 327½. Because of the fall in prices which has affected the railway there have been no developments in recent years.

A TEMPORARY STATION at Port Weir on the northern extension of the Lagos Railway

A TEMPORARY STATION at Port Weir on the northern extension of the Lagos Railway. The first line of the Lagos Government Railway was opened in 1901 to Ibadan, a distance of 120 miles. The northward extension later reached N’guru some 850 miles distant.

You can read more on “Across Africa by Rail”, “The Gold Coast” and “Unconventional Locomotives” on this website.