National Railway Museum – Freetown, Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone’s rail system was built in 1897, with a line to Daru in the eastern part of the country (and a small branch to Makeni the largest city in the north).

The rail system operated until 1974, then shut down due to a combination of increased automobile traffic and the country’s politics. Since this year some of the locomotives have been purchased and shipped to Wales, the rest have been kept in the capital Freetown. They were stored in the old train workshop, with the intention of turning it into a museum.

The collection has survived despite years of neglected maintenance and the workshop turned into a shelter during the civil war in Sierra Leone. From 1992 to 2002, some 50,000 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more lost their homes. Many of these displaced people have found the old workshop complex and turned it into a temporary shelter.

After the end of the war, the collection of locomotives was located and restoration work began. A team was responsible for cleaning and repairing the engines as well as the workshop space. The museum officially opened in 2005, and has grown steadily since then. The museum presents maps of the railways, their history and photos of the stations. One of the unusual items in the museum’s collection is a sofa specially designed for Queen Elizabeth II to use on a trip across the country in 1961 (she never ended up using it). a tank locomotive built in 1915.


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