NATIONAL RAILWAY MUSEUM
After Sierra Leone's railways shut down in 1974, a collection of engines and other artifacts spent decades hidden away in this old workshop—now a museum.
The Sierra Leone railroad system was built in 1897, with one line to Daru in the eastern part of the country (and a small branch to Makeni the largest town in the north).
The railroad system operated until 1974, then shut down due to a combination of increased car traffic and country policy. Since that year, some of the locomotives were bought and shipped to Wales, the others were kept in the capital city of Freetown. They were stored in the former train workshop, with the intention to convert it into a museum.
The collection survived despite years of neglected upkeep, and the workshop turning into a shelter during Sierra Leone’s civil war. From 1992 to 2002, some 50,000 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more lost their homes. Many of those displaced people found the former workshop complex and turned it into a temporary shelter.
After the war’s end, the collection of railway engines was located and restoration work began. A team set about cleaning and repairing the engines as well as the workshop space. The museum officially opened in 2005, and has continued to grow since then. The museum shows maps of the railroads, their history, and photos of the stations. One of the unusual items in the museum’s collection is a couch specially made for Queen Elizabeth II to use while traveling through the country in 1961 (she never wound up using it), located on a tank locomotive built in 1915.