As joint inventory of Railway Relics is conducted by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Monuments and Relics Commission and the National Railway Museum the power of heritage conservation to inform present and future development trajectories became vivid.
By Francis Musa Momoh
Sierra Leone has a unique and diverse heritage that awe anybody that interact with it for the first time which is an attraction or tourism pull anchored within the framework of social, economic and environmental sustainability.
After 44 years of closure of the Sierra Leone Railways, it contributions to economic development and opening up of the country is a point of lamentation by people with unique footprints left behind that need to be preserved and promoted bearing in mind the economic and educational potential.
We started what can be termed a Railway heritage journey at Pendembu the eastern frontier where the 227 miles of the Railway ended, had community engagements and made field visits to map the Railway Station and attendants structures that came into being on 29th June, 1908.
One of the narrow gauge structures in the complex has been converted to a Police Station and another a radio station with most assets derelict but the power of landscape and memory can be felt till this day.
The team listening to a 95 year old Henry Palmer recount his experiences of the Railway was not only fulfilling but inspiring.
Palmer served the Railways as Diesel Engineer from 1953 first at Cline Town, Fischer Lane, Bo and moved to the location we met him today in 1962 till his retirement in 1974 leading to the total abandonment of the Sierra Leone Narrow Gauge.
Born in Moyamba District but never returned as he embarked on his Railway journey to Pendembu detailing his era.
His experience was a mixed feeling of happiness on one hand and regret on the other especially for the closure of a major facilitator of economic activity in Sierra Leone that he didn’t phantom.
When asked what was his message to government, Henry Palmer answered calmly but with hopes bring back the Railways.