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 new 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 a 120km extension to a new mine in the Tonkolili area. The line was completed in 2011, with full commercial operation commencing in 2012. The mine and railway were acquired by Shandong Iron & Steel in 2015.
Around 2012, the Marampa mine was reopened by London Mining, shipping ore via the AML railway. The mine was acquired by Timis Mining Corporation in 2014.
Flag image from CIA World Factbook