secondary work

Jacques Méniaud, Les Pionniers du Soudan, tome 1, (Paris: Société des Publications Modernes, 1931)

in University of Delaware Library, DT551.M4
Notes © 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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(p33) Kayes was chosen as the French base instead of Médine because of the rocks immediately upstream from Kayes, which reduced the period of deepwater navigation to Médine by 6 weeks.

(p43) Kayes was chosen as the railhead in autumn 1881. At the time, Kayes was a small village inhabited by slaves of the big merchants in Médine.

(p45) River levels at Kayes (Note that the high water levels reached St Louis two months after reaching Kayes):

(pp63-64) Discussion of the life of Samba N'Diaye, metal worker who produced guns for Samory Touré

(p77) After a description of the terrible condition of the earliest bridge at the Paranah Creek (76-77), Méniaud described the progress made under Gallieni's administration. That included the construction of the Galougo bridge, 80 meters long, "uniques dans leur genre en Afrique."

(p87) There is a picture of a "Pont de 30 metre du système américain Town, sur le Kénié-Ko (campagne 1883-1884)" (30-meter bridge built over the Kéniéko during the 1883-1884 season).

The construction of the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger

(p97) On February 23, 1881, the new Minister de la Marine (Cloué replaced Jauréguiberry), got an appropriation of 8,552,751 francs to start construction on the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger. On April 1, 1882, an additional 7,458,785 francs was appropriated in order to extend the starting point downstream to Bakel to avoid the need for navigation past the rapids at Tamboucané and Diacandapé.

(pp97-98) On August 1, 1883, a third appropriation of 4,667,000 francs was made for the 1883-1884 construction season, and M. Charles Brun, Minister de la Marine et Colonies, announced that an additional money would be necessary to complete the work in 1884-1885.

(p98) The final appropriation (3,300,000 francs) was opposed in the National Assembly and finally passed only after the new Ministre de la Marine Peyron promised it would be the last, and also promised to cease construction at the beginning of the 1885 rainy season. However, one final appropriation of 1,902,998 francs was made for the occupation of the Haut Fleuve (Upper River; i.e. the region east of Kayes), and it included some small amounts for the maintainance of the railway.

(p98) The quality of the original railroad construction was poor. Although there were enough rails and other material left over to allow the Marines to complete the railway to Bafoulabé by 1888, "Mais on ne pouvait pas dire alors sérieusement qu'il y avait un chemin de fer entre Kayes et Bafoulabé" (but one could not seriously say that there was a railroad between Kayes and Bafoulabé).

(p99) During the first season of construction (1881-1882), barely one kilometer of roadbed, plus some masonry work, was completed. One reason was that St. Louis suffered an outbreak of yellow fever and the building material did not reach Kayes. The European personnel became very ill.

(p99) Moroccan and Chinese workers arrived during the rainy season in 1881 to build forts, but the two groups did not get along, so the Moroccans were switched to railway construction in spring 1882. The Chinese continued to work on the forts, but a few Chinese masons were employed on the railway.

(p100) The Chinese did not stay long (the blacks detested them), but the last one, Tuyen-Kong, remained until 1888. He saved a good bit of money from his salary and earned more as a petty trader selling to soldiers and Africans. The Moroccans were sent home after the 1884 season.

(p100) The first locomotive arrived during the 1882-1883 season, but broke down promptly due to a rupture in the plaque tubulaire. Consequently, only seventeen kilometers of unballasted rail was laid. Two bridges were built over branches of the Paranah River (24-meters and 60-meters in length), and brush was removed from the right-of-way as far as kilomter 38. During the 1883-1884 season, the rails were completed as far as Diamou (kilometer 54) but they were laid over marshy ground near the Senegal River and later had to be moved. Some grading was done as far as kilometer 100. During the 1884-1885 season, another 5 kilometers of track were laid, and during the 1885-1886 season, another 4 kilometers of track was laid to a point slightly upstream from Diamou.

(p101) Joseph Gallieni took over command of the French troops in 1886, and during the 1886-1887 and 1887-1888 seasons, Gallieni organized Africans to complete the tracks as far as Bafoulabé by June 2, 1888. They also built a 60-meter bridge at Bagouko and constructed 3 kilometers of a branch line towards Médine.

(p101) In 1886, Galliéni promised food and wages in order to obtain African construction workers, then reneged on payment of the wages. [Note: this was how forced labor began. Denise Bouche mentioned a telegram from Archinard in 1888 that referred to subsequent labor unrest.

(p101) The next commander, Louis Archinard, arrived in the spring 1888 and found that the work performed under Gallieni's administration was inferior. Some of the track ran through marshy areas and sank under the weight of locomotives; for example between kilometer 20 and Saboucire, or between kilometer 55 and kilometer 58. Several of the creeks washed out beneath the rails during the rainy season.

(p101) Crossties were in terrible shape because many were termite-ridden, others had been damaged when they were tossed in the river to lighten barges trying to pass upstream over rapids, more crossties were used to build a defensive wall at Kayes in 1885-1886 (against an invasion by the Tukolors from Nioro). Crossties were also burned as fuel in the locomotives. Beyond Tambacoumbaffara, there were only four crossties per length of rail instead of the required seven, and around Bafoulabé, tree trunks were used in lieu of finished crossties.

(p101) Bridges and masonry were weak due to a shortage of cement and chalk. The two bridges on the Médine branch was poorly constructed without sufficient mortar and collapsed during the 1889 rainy season. Some small bridges were built without mortar and they washed out in the summer floods.

(p102) The rails used in construction were also were inferior. Since they did not have curved rails available, many curves were laid with straight tangential sections. Some grades were as steep as 5 in 100. There were frequent derailments.

(p102) There were also problems with the locomotives. The first locomotives could not reach Bafoulabé before 11 May 1890, after the Galougo bridge was completed. Before that, from Galougo (kilometer 95) to Bafoulabé (kilometer 124), the railcars were pushed by humans. Until 1892, the locomotives were so feeble that they could only pull two or three cars, and they had to make several attempts to get up the steepest parts of the line.

(p102) Before 1892, the railroad possessed five locomotives: four 12-ton locomotives (Mafou, Félou, Gouina, Kippes) and one 20-ton locomotive (Kayes). It also had about 40 flatcars and three box cars.

(p102) At the end of 1892, Lt. Col. Combes brought his column from Kayes to Bafoulabé on flatcars pushed by hand, because operations during the rainy season resulted in washouts and when locomotives passed over the weakened sections, they broke the ties.

(pp102-112) Discussion of employee performance that may have contributed to the poor construction of the railroad.

Les Canonnières du Niger (Gunboats on the Niger)

(pp374-376) Discussion of the hydrology of the Niger River. Exceptional floods occurred roughly every four years, in 1894, 1897, 1901, 1905, and 1909.

(p377) The Niger River remained low in 1902.

(pp379-383) The first steamship, the NIGER, was brought overland to Bamako, and arrived on May 1, 1884. The first test voyage took place on August 10, 1884, but the ship was damaged and the voyage was unsuccessful. Repairs were carried out by 1885 and the first successful voyage took place on September 6, 1885. The ship reached Diafarabé (below Mopti) before turning back, and it broke down while passing Ségou.

(p383) A change in the Freench government led to an order to disassemble the NIGER, but the ship failed to reach Bamako because the Niger River fell, and the order wasn't carried out before the government changed again.

(p383) Lt. Davoust built wood barges for the NIGER to tow in 1886. they were used to haul extra fuel to extend the range of the ship.

(p384) In 1886, all of the French attention was focused on the invasion by Mamadu Lamine, so the NIGER did not sail.

(pp384-388) Lt. Caron (arrived December 1886) built a 10-ton barge to carry eight tons of coal that were brought in overland using mules and Lefebvre wagons at a cost of 6,000-7,000 francs per ton. Using this barge, he led a second voyage on the Niger River that had diplomatic results as far as Korioume.

(p388) A second steamship, the MAGE, arrived at the end of 1887 after it was disassembled into 945 packages weighing 20 to 40 kilograms each. The packages were carried by train to Galougo (where bridge was too weak), then by Decauville from Galougo to Bafoulabé, and then by Lefebvre wagon from Bafoulabé to Bamako.

(p389) The first river operation using two ships took place in October 1888 under the command of Lt. Davoust. Davoust used the ships to support Bambara N'To against the Bambara leader Karamoko Diara, because Davoust was unaware that Caron had good relations with Karamoko. This set the stage for Galliéni's arrival in 1888.

(p451) The French used plenty of pirogues, but no steamships to conquer Ségou in 1890. They had no information about river levels in the spring (when the attack occurred) and did not want to risk their ships.

(pp523-524) Tukolor refugees attacked French positions at Talary, Kalé (east of Bafoulabé) and Kayes in June 1890.