- In the Cline Town area of the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, the old railway works yard still keeps a large selection of old engines and wagons that where used until the 1974 closure of the national railroad network. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a keen railway fan, now hopes to preserve the hall and engines to open a railway museum in the future.
President Kabbah on Wednesday visited the old railway works yard at Cline Town, where a national workshop was being held. He made sure to inspect what was left of what once used to be the Sierra Leone Railway.
- The President's visit was prompted by the idea to transform the old railway works yard into a museum for visitors and children who did not have the opportunity of using or even seeing the railway in operation, according to a press release by the Sierra Leonean presidency.
Sierra Leone's President had "always had great interest in the railway," the presidency said. This interest was, however, rekindled with the arrival of British Colonel Steve Davies at IMATT, the International Military Advisory Training Team. Colonel Davies, who is also very keenly interested in railways, said his attention was drawn to the Sierra Leone Railway when he saw one of the engines of the former railway being used in North Wales in the UK.
On coming to Sierra Leone a few months ago, Mr Davies set off to inquire about what was left of the old railway and where they were being kept. After inspecting the old remains, the Colonel started to work on the idea of preserving them.
On Wednesday, President Kabbah, accompanied by Sierra Leone's Vice President Solomon Berewa, upon arrival at the National Workshop were taken on a tour of the remaining stock which had been placed at the National Workshop shed since 1975. The railway service in Sierra Leone was scrapped and folded during the days of the late President Siaka Stevens.
Mr Davies said the closure of the narrow gauge railway in 1974 was premature but intimated that in spite of the length of time and the ravages of the war which came to an end in 2001, some of the old engines, carriages and other parts that have survived could still form a significant part of the heritage of the old Sierra Leone Railway.
The collection comprises three locomotive steam engines, diesel locomotive engines, carriage coaches, a pay coach and one goods coach. Also among the collection is the Governor's carriage, a carriage that was built at the Cline Town Workshop for Queen Elisabeth II's visit to Sierra Leone in 1961.
The three locomotive engines, the Hunslet tank engine, built in 1947, the 66 tons Garret No.73 built in 1955 and the Nelly engine, Mr Davies said, "all have their engines intact and can be repaired and renovated."
The British Colonel informed the President and entourage that the sister engine of Nelly is still in use in North Wales in the UK. The pay coaches, he said, "could be rehabilitated for touristic purposes." The government statement did not mention plans for the funding of such a project.
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