The Sierra Leone National Railway Museum was opened in 2005 in the old railway workshops in the Cline Town area of Freetown. The museum has a fine collection of historical 2’6” gauge railway locomotives, coaches, wagons, and related equipment from the former Sierra Leone Railway that once connected Freetown to Pendembu via the second principal city of Bo, and to the major town of Makeni.
Established in 1895, the Sierra Leone Railway started its first passenger train service to the provinces in 1898. The Railway was closed in 1975 and the locomotives and carriages that now form the major part of the museum’s collection languished in the Cline Town workshops for 30 years, suffering from numerous acts of vandalism during the civil war. Find the full story here
The museum is located in Cline Town in the east, which is 30 minutes to an hour from where most of the hotels are. When arriving at the museum it seems as if there is not much going on. It’s built-in a former warehouse and has a slightly faded, graffitied entry sign. But don’t be fooled by its exterior, inside you find a spacious, bright, and clean museum filled with vintage train coaches, rusty tracks, and steam engines.
Mohamed Jabbie, one of the guides, has a clear passion for everything related to trains and is more than happy to share all the knowledge he has. He will guide you through the history of the Sierra Leonean railway, from the first train ride in 1903 to the last public train ride in 1975. You can also enter the coach that was specially made for Queen Elizabeth II when she came for a state visit in 1961. At least it’s fit for the museum; she never even rode the train.
It can take a good one hour to experience and observe the artifacts of the museum. There’s room to play around, especially with the hand-steered trolley that rolls over one of the tracks. A sure hit with children (and playful adults). After the tour, you can buy some souvenirs in the shop, of which the best gift must be the ‘I love trains Sierra Leone’ mug in the national colors.