Nigeria by Rail

In 1892, Lord Knutsford, the secretary of state for the colonies, considered ‘that the time had come when steps should be taken to determine whether construction of railways should be undertaken in West Africa, where the influence of the British Government was no longer confined to the settlements on the coast, but was being extended over the adjacent territories…” (Papers relating to the Construction of Railways in Sierra Leone, Lagos, and the Gold Coast, London, Dec 1904. p. 23).

The construction of the Lagos railway began in March 1896. The “standard Colonial Gauge’ of 42 inches and a speed limit of 15 miles per hour was considered suitable for curves and gradients. The terminus of the railway line began at Iddo , not Lagos Island, because at Iddo the water channel was better suited to navigate for ocean steamers. In September 1895, two road bridges were constructed—Carter-Denton Road bridges—to connect Lagos and Iddo island with the mainland. The bridges were actually foot passages for horsemen, pedestrians, and vehicles. Construction of the Lagos railway connected Otta (20 miles) to Lagos by September 1897, Abeokuta (60 miles) in 1899, Ibadan (125 miles) in December 1900. ( “Genesis of the Nigerian Railway I” by Tekena N. Tamuno, Nigerian Magazine.  Dec 1964.)


Carter Bridge 1896 (Nigerian Magazine 1964)


Carter Bridge 2014 (Iddo Island looking to far left of picture)

During the inaugural ceremonies at Iddo and Ibadan between March 4 and 7, 1901, the Governor of Lagos, Sir William MacGregor, stressed the importance of railway extension beyond Ibadan. He urged such extension partly as an instrument for the political ‘union’ of Lagos and Northern Nigeria, partly for strategical reasons in view of parallel railway development in French Conakry (now Guinea-Conakry) and Dahomey (now Republic of Benin), and partly for the commercial development of Lagos and Northern Nigeria. With these objectives in mind MacGregor on the same occasion, called upon all Yoruba to ‘push on the railway stage by stage, and never rest satisfied till your iron horse drinks of the waters of Tchad (Lake Chad).’ (“Genesis of the Nigerian Railway I” by Tekena N. Tamuno, Nigerian Magazine. Dec 1964.)


Opening of Ibadan-Iwo line in October 23, 1906 (Nigerian Magazine 1964)

In June 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan and Chairman Dr. Bamanga Tukur commissioned two Diesel Multiple Units and six 68-seater passenger coaches, all air-conditioned, acquired by the Nigeria Railway Corporation from China, as part of infrastructure meant to further enhance the revitalization of the railway system.

View old Nigerian Railway advertisements here

(Legacy, a Historical and Environmental Interest Group in Nigeria organizes train trips from Ebuta Metta Station to  Abeokuta, and Ibadan.)

Music “Love Train” by Sounds of Blackness

All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the written permission of Lesley Lababidi 2023.

6 thoughts on “Nigeria by Rail

  1. Lesley,
    I loved feeling as if I were with you on this trip. The video is what helped to visualize everything. I liked the background music, especially. I love all the posts on Nomad4now and appreciate how knowing you has broadened my world. Karen

    • Dear Karen,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad that you enjoyed the little train ride. It was certainly a great adventure. Thank you for your continual support and interest. I am most grateful.

    • Thanks Ayo! It is special to be able to take this type of trip in Nigeria. The Nigerian railway had such an interesting past. Hope it will return to its former glory. L.

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