Sierra Leone railway – the stolen national treasure

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 July 2019:

Sierra Leone’s railway was a national asset that was stolen from its people. Before Sierra Leone’s national railway was finally shut down in 1975 by the APC government of president Siaka P. Stevens, it passed through 49 train stations – all connected by an overall total of 600-kilometers distance of rail-tracks, divided along three lines.

The first line which connected the Water Street Train Station in Freetown to the Bauya Train Station, passed through 14 other stations at Dove Court, Cline Town, Fisher Lane, Kissi, Wellington, Allen Town, Hastings, Rokel, Waterloo, Newton, Songo, Mabang, Bradford and Rotifunk.

The second line connected Bauya to Maken, passed through 13 stations, that included Malachi, Nwala, Mabinti, Matsuri, Makasi, Mate, Mafuma, off-Yonibana, Masuba, Magbolo, Masang, Magbass, and Magburaka.

The third line connected Bauya to Pendembu passed through 19 other stations at Yoyema, Moyamba, Levuma, Kangahun, Mogbaseke, Mano, Tabe, Kondiama, Bo, Gerihun, Yamandu, Baoma, Blama, Kenema, Hangha, Komende, Segbwema, Daru, and Baima.

All 49 stations were served by two types of trains: The Goods Train (sub divided into the Locomotive and Steam cargo trains) which transported large and heavy consignments of economic commodities such as cocoa, coffee, oil palm, “Banga”, Piassava, among others; and the Passenger Train (sub divided into the Express and Normal passenger trains) which transported people in their thousands every day of the week.

In terms of impact, the Sierra Leone railway company alone employed a minimum of 10,000 Sierra Leoneans at any given time from 1961-1971.

Moreover, the 49 train stations served by the Sierra Leone railway were the engines of economic growth that drove the creation of employment for an estimated 1.5 million rural dwellers out of the country’s estimated 2.5 to 3 million people, during the first decade of independence.

Within that period, agriculture accounted for over 80% of rural employment; and it contributed to 70% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Also, within that same period, the agricultural boom triggered by the transportation services of the railway did not only serve as an “employment creator”, but also served as a “wealth creator”.

Sierra Leoneans not only earned incomes to make ends meet, they actually earned incomes to make wants meet.

The Sierra Leone National Railway was built in 1893 and changed the nature of society.

It enabled the transportation of passengers and goods between the country’s interior and the capital Freetown and its sea port.

At independence in 1961 the railway was well equipped and was a significant employer.

What madness befell our leaders in 1975. That same mentality of – “Ee don ole nar for troway”, still exists in Sierra Leone today – no sense of the importance of heritage and economic value.




  1. 30 and more years after, what have we done to get the stolen treasure back? Most things are easier said than done.

  2. It seems to me, with the boundaries already set here on this forum my hands are completely tied. Its all good though! Now here’s my gentle, Choir Boy response…Why were the old SLPP leaders dilly dallying around, wasting monies, drinking kegs of Apeteshie and palm wine, marrying countless wives, while Old Stevens was toiling, night and day making history, carving a Legendary Status for himself? What happened to all your learned, wise, occultic and religious men – doctors, professors, Priests, Pastors, juju men, and so on, and so forth.

    Why didn’t they do something to change the course of our nation’s history? Anything would have been better than doing nothing. Yup,they accomplished absolutely nothing in the interest of our nation, except winning trophies as the worst village and town barefooted braggarts and scoundrels. Hilarious!

    These were people that were notoriously, widely known for their pettiness, unruliness, debaucheries and drunkenness. And you have the nerve to compare ordinary stones to a priceless diamond,that cut,shaped and designed its own destiny with magnificent and dazzling colors? Something is seriously wrong with these people. Rest in Heaven…Good Old Stevens. Rising sun will Rise Again.

  3. Plesse listen to “The untold story of the S/L Railway” by Prince Hycy Bull on YouTube. Thanks.

  4. Saidu Conteh, have you ever heard of Mr. S. A. T. Pratt? He had Organised a process with France to modernize the R/W then, i.e. improve on the guage, etc. He had all what was needed to go ahead FOC. Sierra Leone only needed to transport the materials etc. Costing $8.000.000. But no – just one Lady at the Prime Minister’s Office kept the Documents beneath the carpet, until Sir Albert Margai left Power and subsequently….

  5. Old Stevens was nothning but an old buffoon. He was a fool and tyrant who sytematically dismantled the moral, economic, social and political fabric of our post-colonial Sierra Leone.

    Yes, we had challenges in the early to mid 1960s, and I do remember very well how much effort was being made to build a new nation based on tribal diversity, utilising the very high standards of administration and education that the British had left us. So what went wrong?

    Then came along that dog-catcher – yes, those of us old enough to remember Stevens back then in the 1950s, can attest to the fact that, working for the Council, Stevens’ job was to catch stray dogs in Freetown. He also worked as a messenger at SCOA. But African politics being what it was back then, he joined politics with very little formal education, which as we all know can be very dangerous.

    Semi-literacy can make a man become schizophrenic, insecure and jumpy, especially when they find themselves wielding so much power with little brain behind it. They then resort to the use of brute force and abuse of the constitution in order to assert their authority and power, knowing full well that they lacked the moral authority to govern.

    Had Stevens had any decent level of education, he would have known better than to make some of the most stupid decisions and choices that he did. Crass Stupidity at its worse, I would say, including the dismantling of the railway, the de-coupling of the Leone from Sterling, and staging of the OAU conference; not to talk of declaring a one party state. What a selfish idiot he was. He should have been kept behind bars for crimes against humanity.

    Read his book written for him – “What Life Has Taught Me”, and you will get a sense of what I am talking about. Don’t let anyone try to fool you, or have you hoodwinked by their shallow attempt at rewriting history. Stevens – the buffoon, lacked sophistry and substance, and will always be remembered as the leader who destroyed the post-colonial dream of the people of Sierra Leone.

    Stevens destroyed the fabric and building blocks of post independence Sierra Leone, with which we could today have become one of the leading nations in Africa. Long may he rot in hell for his sins. Amen.

  6. Well – If you had long been patiently waiting to show your disgust,and utter contempt for attitudes of ignorance,and gross ineptitude; the time is now. First,it was about an unnecessary expensive bridge,that we do not have a penny,nickel,or dime to even start to begin to build with.

    Then came the outrageous idea of trading the Sovereignty of a whole nation,its economic livelihood,and the daily sustenance of the poor masses,in a senseless exchange for Partnership with self seeking,wolfish,greedy investors. Madness? Well,it gets worse.

    And now they are thinking of how to get their incompetent,childish hands on imaginary monies to build another needless,costly project – a rail system,fully equipped with,and serviced by high speed cargo,and bullet trains. Who needs a bullet train in poor,dusty Sa Lone? And which great pyramids of Agricultural products are you going to be hauling,that you haven’t even learned how to plant as yet?

    If such a delusional mindset doesn’t make you roar,and roll with unrestrained laughter,nothing ever will. The facts regarding the economic situations in our country,remains clear,and unchanged – we cannot afford any luxurious development at this time. Your bridge and rail systems are nothing but wasteful,poorly conceived,foolhardy risks. if this nation must move forward,we must begin to think practicably,cautiously,and sensibly.

    We must be ready to accept,embrace,and put to practice Fiscal responsibility,discipline,and prudent spending methods .Yep,Its time to begin counting pennies as if they were daily laborers,and putting them to work like hardworking slaves. Again,the staggering costs,maintenance,and manpower involved in managing,and controlling a rail system, in order for it to become viable,sustainable,and efficient isn’t a small thing – its no Child’s play at all.

    Old Stevens didn’t maintain it,I am quite sure because of labor related inadequacies,nation-wrecking,substantial costs,and the intricate obligations attached to it. Our people lacked the skills,and work ethics back then,as they do today. It would have been a total disaster. A complete waste of State revenues,and the flushing away of other highly needed priorities,by a nation still struggling in its infancy.

    You think paying tens of thousands of people salaries in a new democracy is an easy thing to do? Listen,all of you armchair critics -The British used Colonial revenue subsidies,and Incentives from their Royal treasuries to finance such huge projects,all over the world.That’s how they stayed in full control.

    Stevens knew very well, we couldn’t afford it. He made the right call,did the sensible thing to let it go. And now a silly people,who still do not know the differences between their knees, and their elbows are pointing cowardly fingers,second guessing,his diligent actions.

    And lastly, – No the Rail system was not abandoned because, of the attitude; “If E Don Ole We For Troway” but rather for thoughtful,judicious,pragmatic reasons. Our people need to learn to crawl first,then walk,before they will ever be able to run. The legendary Stevens understood that principle very well.

    Indeed,had Existence not divorced Old Stevens from us,he will still be in control, calling the shots,making good things happen in Sierra Leone today…Rest in Heaven, “Pops Shek” Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Old Stevens was indeed a good economist, that’s why he scrapped the railway and brought in mercedes buses to do the work the railway could not do. He then organised the OAU Conference; and for his citizens he built the OAU Village. Thanks Mr. Conteh for your brillant contribution.

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