secondary work

Gouvernement Général de l'Afrique Occidentale Française, Le Chemin de Fer de Thiès au Niger (Rochefort-sur-Mer, 1931)

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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NOTE: A copy of this book is available at the Service des Études et de la Documentation de l'Office du Niger in Ségou, Mali, catalog number 275 C18.

This is one of three volumes on the history of the railroads of AOF published by the Gouvernement Général. The other two are available in the Bibliotheque Nationale de Mali, but this one was missing. This volume includes black and white photos of installations at Thiès, Bamako and Koulikoro. It also has maps of the route, elevations at each station, and maps of several of the most important towns and stations including Bamako.

(p21) The section on "Exploitation de la ligne" mentions that the railroad bridge at the Paparah River (near Kayes) was washed out in a major accident in 1924. The new bridge was 75 meters long, built in three 25-meter sections.

(p23) By 1931, most of the rail was steel. The rails, of the type Vignole, weighed 20 kilograms/meter and were laid in 6-meter sections, The crossties, which were made of steel and manufactured by Pousard & Boyenval, were placed at a rate of eight per 6-meter section. Steel ties came into use after 1898 when construction advanced beyond Dioubéba, because before that, local wood was used for crossties, but it lasted an average of only 15 months.

(p23) There were water towers located every 20-25 kilometers along the line for use of the locomotives. Water pumps were located at Koulikoro, Bamako, Toukoto, and Mahina.

(pp27-28) This table shows the dates of purchase and specifications of the locomotives used on the railroad:

Date Name Weight (tons) Tractive effort (tons)
1892-1893 Kipps n/a 10-15
1892-1893 Filon n/a 10-15
1892-1893 Jouissa n/a 10-15
1892-1893 Mafou n/a 10-15
1893 Marchi 10 25
1893 Paul Holle 10 25
1901 Gallet 10 25
1897-1901 Kayes 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 Huvenoit 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 Pelabon 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 Hugot 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 Wohl 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 Bérard 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 Cazemajou 15.5 30-40
1897-1901 de Chevigné 15.5 30-40
1902 Tayolle 18.5 40
1902 Boissou 18.5 40
1903 Klobb 18.5 40
1903 Marty 18.5 40
1903 de la Tour 18.5 40
1903 Grivart 18.5 40
1903-1904 Ballay 26 100
1903-1904 de Bichevel 26 100
1903-1904 Oberdorf 26 100
1903-1904 Millard 26 100
1903-1904 Dunzeau 26 100
1903-1904 Grall 26 100
1903-1904 Wallarand-Pol 26 100
1903-1904 Rougier 26 100
1903-1904 Piétri 26 100

(p37) In the section on the Chemin de Fer Kayes- Ambidédi, there is a description of the Mission Calmel of 1892 which created plans to extend the rails from Kayes-Ville along the Avenue Borgnis-Desbordes and the river. However, the 1906 flood reached "côte 37" so this plan was abandoned. Meanwhile, the 1905 Mission Ballabey had already provided the answer - the extension of the rails from Kayes-Plateau along higher ground for 40 kilometers to Ambidédi. This construction used heavier rail (20 kilograms/meter).

(p42) Two of the early directors of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes-Niger were Capt. (later Chef du Battailon) Friry from 1907 to April 1908 and Capt. du Génie Thibaud from April 1, 1908 to July 1, 1910.

(p43) Directeur du Chemin de Fer Ballabey began his career with the military engineers on July 2, 1910, but switched to Travaux Publics on May 31, 1919. He served as the Directeur du Chemin de Fer until March 15, 1925.

(p43) The Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes was built in three sections. The first section (km0-km140) was built from Thiès to Guinguinéo between 1907-1910. The second section (km140-km340) was built from Guinguinéo to near Kousanar between 1910-1913. The third section (km340- Ambidédi) was built after WWI between 1919 and 1923.

(p46) The interruption of construction in 1913 was caused by the failure of the French National Assembly to appropriate money for further construction. As a result, nine-tenths of the Tukolor labor force, all volunteers, had to be laid off. An attempt was made to continue construction using forced labor, but it "ne peut jamais remplacer les volontaires Toucouleurs, dévoués et fidèles, que ce ch“mage imprévisible avait rendu à leurs village" (Forced labor could never replace the devoted, loyal Tukolor volunteers who were forced to return to their villages by unemployment.)

(p46) WWI was a second reason for the suspension of work. All available spare parts and construction material were sent to France via Dakar.

(p47) Three out of the four major African trade routes passed through Tambacounda. The Khassonké used a route went from Khasso to Kaolack. Another went from the Upper Gambia to Kaolack. The Malinklé followed a third route from Mahina to Kaolack. The fourth route, used by the Sarakolé from Bakel to Kaolack, did not pass through Tambacounda.

(p69) After the fusion of the Chemin de Fer Thiès- Kayes and the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger, they needed to hire 215 new people (agents) to run the railroad. The railroad required a total of 541 employees: 423 on active duty and 118 in reserve. However, it was hard to find qualified people and an experiment with 80 Moroccans did not work out. By March 30, 1926, they still needed an additional 186 skilled workers.

(p103) There is a short section on the "Compagnie Indigène des Sapeurs de Chemin de Fer." This organization was created by the decree of the Gouverneur Général on November 22, 1925. It used conscripted Africans for three years to produce a body of trained railroad workers. The personnel structure included 1 European captain, 2 European lieutenants, 12 European non-commissioned officers, 9 African non-commissioned officers, 14 African corporals, 6 skilled craftsmen, and 144 laborers (sapeurs). The total personnel was 15 Europeans and 173 Africans.

(p103) The first contingent was organized in Bamako in 1926 under Captain du Génie Monnac. He began with 60 recruits and received 60 more each year.

(p104) The Compagnie des Sapeurs Indigènes du Chemin de Fer reached full strength on January 1, 1928. Following the example of similar organizations in France who ran the Chartres-Orleans and Metz-Chateau Salins portions of the railroad, the Compagnie des Sapeurs Indigènes du Chemin de Fer was responsible for the operation of the Bamako- Koulikoro section of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger.