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Rapport de l'Ingenieur des Travaux Publics Lacheze, Directeur p.i. du Chemin de Fer de Kayes au Niger au sujet de l'Exploitation de la ligne de Kayes au Niger et de la ligne de Kayes à Ambidédi et des travaux executés pendant l'année 1912
(Bamako, February 28, 1913) in ANS 2 G 12 (37)

© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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This 24-page report provides a history of the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger and describes its operation just before the outbreak of World War I.

(p1) Faidherbe had the original idea to extend French commerce eastward by connecting the Senegal River to the Niger River. His successors let it drop, but in 1879, de Freycinet, the Ministre de Travaux Publics, revived the idea. He dispatched two missions, the Flatters expedition which was destroyed by Tuaregs, and the Soleillet mission which was pillaged en route and had to turn back. Nevertheless, on February 5, 1880, the Ministre de Marine proposed the construction of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis, a line from the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis to ...

(p2) ... Médine, and a third line from Médine to the Niger via Bafoulabé and Kita.

On February 24, 1881, the French parliment voted the first credit of 8,552,751 francs for railroad construction. From 1881 to 1884, a total of 23,987,000 francs were appropriated and 54 kilometers of railroad were constructed to a point seven kilometers short of Diamou. Gallieni pushed construction as far as Bafoulabé by 1888 using material already delivered to the Soudan. In 1888, the Artillerie de la Marine took charge of railroad construction.

From 1891-1898, the railroad project entered a period of "Études et Réfections." The Administration des Colonies launched two study missions under Marmier and Joffre.

(p3) Marmier covered the region between Bafoulabé and Kita while Joffre covered the region from Kita to Toulimandio. Both missions took place in 1892-1893.

Also in 1892, railroad construction was assigned to the 5e Genie (5th military engineers). The Arrêté du 19 Novembre 1893 opened the railroad to commercial operation on January 1, 1894.

In 1898, the Departement des Colonies approved a project to complete the railroad by 1906 in yearly installments of 40-50 kilometers, at an estimated cost of 24,919,000 francs. Progress was rapid in 1899 and at a rate of 80 kilomters per year, the railroad was complete to Koulikoro by December 10, 1904, on which day it opened for business.

The total cost of railroad construction was 49,570,177 francs, or 86,500 francs per kilometer over 573 kilometers. This is a breakdown of the costs by region:

Section Distance Cost per kilometer
Kayes-Bafoulabé 126 144,000
Cita Foula-Oualia 65 63,655
Oualia-Koulikoro 382 71,285

(p4) By 1912, three different studies were made for a railroad bridge over the the Niger River to complete the Bamako-Bougouni line. New rail had been laid to the Dinguira chalk ovens and grading for new rail to the Toukoto chalk oven was complete. A third "voie fluviale" was complete at Koulikoro. The station at Kayes-Ville was refurbished, as was the "batiment Pandevoine" at Toukoto.

(p5) A wall was built to enclose the station at Kayes-Plateau. There were new chalk ovens at Toukoto and Dinguira. An average of 384 men were employed on line maintainance. Their salaries cost an average of 16.62 francs per kilometer per month. An average of 5 workers were involved in new construction and track improvements.

During the year, the railroad produced 1,356 tons of chalk, of which 482 tons went to other services of the government. The railroad also produced large amounts of stone, gravel and sand, plus 425,773 bricks, of which 118,680 went to other services.

(p7) There were no accidents or incidents on the Kayes- Médine line to report in 1912. On the Kayes-Niger line, trains were derailed by animals on February 24, March 6, April 15 and May 12. On September 16, train n°3bis ran into train n°3 at kilometer 185 when the first lost steam pressure and came to a halt without the engineer remembering to place warning markers.

(p8) The Arrêté n°321 du 20 Fevrier 1912 allowed passengers to carry "colis non postaux" (non-postal packages) up to 5 kilograms on trains de grande vitesse (long distance trains). Other arrêtés reduced the freight rates for kapok and karité.

Arrêté n°332 du 9 September 1912 allowed 4th class passengers to ride in covered boxcars (NOTE: instead of open flat cars) if they paid an extra 0.02 francs per kilometer. The minimum surcharge was 0.10 francs. This went into effect on November 5, 1912.

Arrêté n°1665 du 11 Novembre 1912 authorized full-price passengers to carry 30 kilograms of baggage and half-price passengers (children) to carry 20 kilograms, an increase from 20 kilograms and 10 kilograms respectively. It went into effect on February 18, 1913. On the same day, Arrêté n°1667 required that passengers who boarded the train at stops without scales had to have their baggage weighed when they got off.

(p11) "Resultants du traffic - ligne de Medine"

Year Passengers Tons of Baggage and parcels (Grande Vitesse) Tons of freight and parcels (Petite Vitesse) Total receipts (francs)
1907 28,870 70,000 1,443,000 19,868.45
1908 23,437 150,000 904,000 20,456.05
1909 24,604 48,000 1394,000 -
1910 22,456 43,000 2320,000 -
1911 24,323 37,900 1385,700 -
1912 24,485 25,860 1321,210 -

(p11-12) "Resultants du traffic - Ligne de Niger"

Year Direction Passengers Tons of baggage and parcels (Grande Vitesse) Tons carried for the government Tons commercial freight Total receipts (francs)
1910 towards the Niger 74,452 370,000 5,516,000 9,717,000 15,233,000
1910 towards Kayes - - 873,000 10,702,000 11,575,000
1911 towards the Niger 118,365 544,300 3,988,400 14,258,500 18,246,900
1911 towards Kayes - - 339,100 14,881,800 15,220,900
1912 towards the Niger 121,273 499,921 2,129,245 15,305,975 17,435,220
1912 towards Kayes - - 391,690 17,474,800 17,866,490

Year Total tons carried Total receipts (francs)
1910 26,808,000 2,809,386.40
1911 33,467,800 2,644,617.60
1912 35,301,710 2,361,430.30

Types of freight 1910 (tons) 1911 (tons) 1912 (tons)
Salt 4,492 4,722.6 6,657.35
Food (includes wine) 1,079 1,434.5 1,335.205
Cloth 1,191 1,401.5 918.65
Construction materials
and hardware
3,964 4,345.7 1,684.06
Coal 1,377 767.84 -
Miscellaneous
and kola
3,132 5,574.7 6,739.955

(p13) Shipments of exports increased. Local products like rice, peanuts, karité, gum arabic and wool made up the bulk of the increase, despite the decline in rubber and millet exports.

Item 1909 (tons) 1910 (tons) 1911 (tons) 1912 (tons)
Rubber 1,028 744 262.909 168.93
Ivory 26 16 2.97 0.46
Millet 2,305 3,019 5,447.955 3,723.01
Rice 3,193 1,645 2,136.511 2,932.5
Peanuts 1,580 3,781 3,508.462 4,907.72
Karité 257 348 577.175 1,342.22
Gum 108 186 164.27 298.28
Wool 99 113 119.89 258.24
Cotton 22 41 23.21 70.55
Hides 69 49 35.79 58.63
Kolas - - - 159.66
Other 1,407 2,149 2,937.086 3,948.29

(p14) "Trafic direct" - This refers to goods and people who traveled on the rail-river connection. River service ended in January when the Niger got too low, and resumed in July.

Month Navigation receipts (francs) Railroad receipts (francs)
June 7,362.70 17,364.50
July 2,513.33 6,926.10
August 20,640.14 33,185
September 15,664.12 43,901.20
October 29,121.15 43,901.50
November 30,814.75 23,753.50
December 12,944.80 7,740.30
TOTAL 119,060.99 152,905.95

The railroad also carried mail and transmitted telegrams.

(p15) There were a total of 31 locomotives and one automotrice (self-propelled rail car) in service. The largest were the two 27-ton "Type Mangins" and eleven 26-ton "Type Ballay." An average of 6.08 locomotives were out of service at any given time.

(p19) The Chemin de Fer Kayes-Ambidédi was covered in a separate section of the report. The Chemin de Fer Kayes- Ambidédi began service on July 15, 1909 even though it wasn't completed until February 1912. It was constructed for 3,200,000 francs (69,000 francs per kilometer). The quay and cranes at Ambidédi cost an additional 150,000 francs. There were only two stations, at Kayes-Plateau and at Ambidédi.

(p20) 13-meter wells were dug at Samé and Ambidédi. The line employed an average of 13 maintenance workers whose salaries averaged 7.14 francs per kilometer per month.

(p22) Receipts in 1912 totaled 29,383.83, roughly 10,000 francs less than 1911 because of rate reductions and higher water levels on the Senegal River, which permitted ships to unload at Kayes for a longer period of the year.