Flag of Sierra Leone

Railways in

Sierra Leone

Leone Rock locomotive
A locomotive carrying publicity banners of Leone Rock arrives at Pepel port for use on the Kingho Railway.
It is one of a batch of 3 Grindrod 3000hp Co-Co diesel electrics delivered in April 2022 to supplement the existing fleet.

The first railway in Sierra Leone opened in 1897. It was a 2ft 6in (762mm) gauge line from the capital, Freetown, running for a distance of 11km to Wellington. This formed the basis of the Sierra Leone Government Railways, which reached a total route length of around 500km by 1930.

The railways were well maintained into the 1950s and modernisation was put in hand. However, changing circumstances led to gradual decline and closure, with the last section ceasing operation in 1974. In the early part of the 21st century, some of the original equipment (locomotives and rolling stock) was rediscovered in an abandoned workshop near the docks in Freetown. Much of this has since been restored for static display in a National Railway Museum.

A separate railway, of 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge, was opened in 1933 by the Sierra Leone Development Company to connect its iron ore mine at Marampa with the port of Pepel, a distance of 85km. Iron ore extraction ceased in the 1990s as a result of rebel activity in the area. In the early 20th century a 62km section of the line from Pepel to Rogberi was reopened to serve bauxite extraction at Port Loko. The line was rebuilt partly using materials from the Rogberi to Marampa section.

In 2009, African Minerals Limited (AML) obtained a lease for the entire railway from Pepel to Marampa. Rehabilitation and reinstatement followed, together with an extension to a new mine in the Tonkolili area, making the total length of the line 197km. Full commercial operation began in 2012. At about the same time, the Marampa mine was reopened by another company, shipping ore via the AML railway; however, in 2017, this operation closed. In 2015, the Tonkolili mine, together with the railway and the port operation at Pepel, were acquired by Shandong, and operated by them until 2019 when their license was withdrawn by the government. In 2021, the China Kingho group acquired and resumed operation of the mine, railway and port.

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Photo image from the Facebook page of Leone Rock Metal Group