Paul Edward Pheffer, "Railroads and Aspects of Social Change in Senegal, 1878-1933" (University of Pennsylvania doctoral dissertation, 1975).

in University of Pennsylvania Library
Notes © 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.

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I. The Dakar - St. Louis Railroad (p1)
     A. The Dakar-Saint Louis Railroad   (p39)
     B. Selling a Railroad  (p45)
     C. Dakar-Saint Louis blocked   (p51)
     D. Jaureguiberry Returns  (p54)
     E. Cayor taken  (p57)
     F. Conclusion   (p60)
     G. Notes   (p64)
     H. Appendix I - Ethnicity (p83)
II. Construction of the Dakar-Saint Louis  (p89)
     A. construction of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis (p98)
     B. Defects  (p103)
     C. Construction wrangles (p114)
     D. Africans and the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis (p124)
     E. Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis . . .
        Construction Under Fire (p135)
     F. Notes  (p141)
III. Dakar-Saint Louis's Impact 1885-1911 (p157)
     A. Political Impact (p159)
     B. Export Volume and Economic Geography (p163)
     C. Ports and Rail   (p168)
     D. Structure of Trade (p169)
     E. Population Distribution (p177)
     F. Export Enclave   (p186)
     G. Dakar-Saint Louis Traffic Rates and Fares (p188)
     H. The Dakar-Saint Louis Company   (p194)
     I. Notes  (p203)
IV. Penetration & Economic Development - Thiès-Kayes (p221)
     A. The Thiès-Kayes Project (p232)
     B. Construction of the Thiès-Kayes (p241)
     C. The Grand Transversal Unfulfilled (p244)
     D. Thiès-Kayes Impact in Senegal  (p252)
          1. on ports (p255)
          2. population movements  (p259)
          3. the social dimension  (p261)
     E. Auxiliary Railroads   (p264)
     F. Conclusions (p270)
     G. Notes  (p274)
V. Railroad Labor   (p295)
     A. Railroad Labor   (p298)
     B. European Employees (p301)
     C. African Manual Labor  (p306)
     D. African Skilled Labor (p314)
     E. Employment Stability  (p323)
     F. Railroad Employee Benefits (p326)
     G. Strike Activity  (p328)
     H. Tentative Conclusion  (p332)
     I. Notes  (p336)
     J. Appendix II - Oral interview & Questionnaire   (p356)
VI. Railroads and African Land  (p359)
     A. African Land Tenure   (p361)
     B. European Land Values on African Turf (p366)
     C. Law, Land and Labor   (p372)
     D. Escales, Ports and Trade   (p380)
     E. African Land Rights   (p392)
     F. Sanitation and Segregation (p400)
     G. African Urban Living  (p408)
     H. Conclusion  (p414)
     I. Notes  (p417)
VII. Retreat Into A Narrower Pattern (p438)
     A. Purchase of the Dakar-Saint Louis (p440)
     B. Automobile Versus Rail  (p455)
     C. Aftermath   (p468)
     D. Notes  (p474)


1. Modern Senegal and its Railways (p2)
2. Political and Ethnic Map of Precolonial Senegambia  (p5)
3. Comparison of Sahara, Sudan and Transaharan RR Projects  (p26)
4. Approach of the Upper Rivers  (p35)
5. Various traces for the Dakar-Saint Louis  (p41)
6. Stations of the Dakar-Saint Louis (p101)
7. The Dakar-Saint Louis Railroad in 
   relation to other areas of Senegal  (p160)
8. West Africa and the Grand Transversal  (p226)
9. The Thiès-Kayes Railroad and branch lines   (p235)
10. Plans of Tivaouane, Rufisque and St. Louis  (p383)
10. (continued) Plans of Kaolack, Dakar & typical 
    Thiès-Kayes Escale (p389)

1. Dakar-Saint Louis Railroad in the 
   peanut trade, 1878-1910 (p489)
2. Peanuts arriving by rail at ports, 1884-1901 (p492)
3. Annual Peanut Freight per Station on 
   the Dakar-Saint Louis, 1892-1911 (p495)
4. Population Statistics - Communes, 1876-1916 (p497)
5. Population Statistics - Escales, 1876-1916 (p498)
6. Annual Millet Freight per Station on 
   the Dakar-Saint Louis, 1892-1911 (p500)
7. Annual Dakar-Saint Louis Receipts, 1886-1911 (p502)
8. Passenger Traffic - Dakar-Saint Louis, 1885-1895 (p504)
9. Annual Expenses, 1883-1889 (p506)
10. Breakdown of Thiès-Kayes Receipts, 1910-1922 (p507)
11. Gross Receipts & Expenses After Thiès-Kayes-Niger 
    Fusion, 1924-32 (p509)
12. Peanut Freight Shipped, 1928-1931 (p510)
13. Effect of Fusion: Volume & Intensity 
    of Traffic, 1920-29 (p512)
14. Relative Importance of the Dakar-Saint Louis 
    and the Thiès-Kayes-Niger Lines in 
    Peanut Exports, 1908-32 (p513)
15. Annual Peanut Freight per Station on 
    the Dakar-Saint Louis, 1908-1932 (p515)
16. Peanut Freight Distribution: Dakar-Saint Louis & 
    Kaolack, 1908-1924 (p519)
17. Recorded Populations of Communes & Escales, 1914-1934 (p521)
18. European Population of Communes & Escales, 1908-1934 (p523)
19. Population of Cercles Affected by
Railroads, 1908-30 (p525)
20. Comparison of Traffic Carried on Dakar-Saint Louis &
    Thiès-Niger, 1910-1932 (p526)
21. Dakar-Saint Louis Employees, 1885-1931 (p528)
22. Thiès-Kayes and 
    Thiès-Niger Employees, 1913-1938 (p532)


Archives of the Ministry of Marine, Paris
National Archives of France, rue Franca-Bourgeois, Paris
French National Archives, Section d'Outre-Mer
National Archives of Sénégal, Dakar, Section 2G
Banque de l'Afrique Occidental
Société de Géographie Commerciale de Bordeaux
Société de Géographie Commerciale de Paris
Archives of the Dakar-Saint Louis Company, Paris
Archives of the Régie des Chemins de Fer du
Archives of the Colonial Government still in St. Louis,
Plus many secondary works


(pliii) The author explained that the Dakar-Niger railway originally consisted of three separate railways--the Dakar-St. Louis, the Kayes-Niger and the Thiès-Kayes.

I. The Dakar - St. Louis Railroad (p1)

(pp29-30) Alphonse Duponchel, a French engineer, wrote a book supporting the construction of the trans-Saharan railway, without ever visiting the Sahara. He compared the project to the American Transcontinental Railroad. [see Alphonse Duponchel, Le chemin de fer trans-saharien. Jonction coloniale entre l'Algérie et le Soudan (Paris: 1879), 200].

(pp39-82) This section concerns the Dakar-St. Louis railway. It focuses on how the idea was conceived and "sold" to the French government. The author concluded that the idea of the railway was to enhance French power in coastal Senegal, where local resistance provided an opportunity for French military officers to advance their careers. There was no economic justification for the railway, but it did serve as an important element in debates among government leaders in France.

CHAPTER SUMMARY: French colonial military officers played crucial role in the creation of the railroad. They were simultaneously devoted to idea of French power and the advancement of their careers. As a consequence, the railroad that resulted was not adapted to the needs of the colony or the people of Senegal.

The route was selected to avoid the imaginary Kong mountain barrier that separated the rich Soudanese heartland from the southern coast. The route was also determined by debates in metropolitan France that resulted from the trauma of the Franco-Prussian war, the conflict over form of Third Republic, and the ebb and flow of government money for imperial projects.

II. Construction of the Dakar-Saint Louis (p89)

(pp89-98) The author described the means of financing and parliamentary debate on that subject.

(p98) The first chief of operations for the construction of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis in Senegal was a retired military officer, Alexis Blois. Construction work was limited to the period from December-May by the climate. The first construction "campaign" began in December 1882, but it was marred by a yellow fever epidemic in Dakar. Five of six agents for the general contractor, the Société des Batignolles, were dead by the end of September. To avoid further deaths, the workers were diverted to St. Louis, but 300 construction workers from Marseille walked out on contracts before they could be transported to Senegal. Consequently, the first workers reached Dakar late, on January 26, 1883.

(p100) The first year of construction produced poor results. Only 13 kilometers of roadbed and 4 kilometers of track were finished in the north (from St. Louis) , and 15 kilometers and 2 kilometers in the south (from Dakar) by March 1883. As late as May 24, 1883, there were only 8 kilometers of completed track in the south. Work was further obstructed by a shipping accident at the St. Louis sand bar that resulted in lost pieces for a crucial bridge at Leybar.

(p103) The last spike was driven on 14 May 1885 at Kebemer-N'Dandé [see Gouverneur de Sénégal to Minister de la Marine et Colonies, letter (14 May 1885), in ANFOM Senegal I 73.], but the railroad wasn't really ready to open until June.

(p103) Even though the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis was complete, there were many defects in its construction. The government paid the Société Batignolles a subvention of 48,769.23 francs per kilometer, or a total of 12,680,000 francs. However, a completed kilometer was not necessary a well-constructed kilometer of track.

(pp124-126) The reaction of Africans to the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis is difficult to measure, since little information is available, but conflict received the most attention. There was little trouble from Lat Dior, thanks to the support of Samba Laobé, the French-supported Damel of Cayor. The most trouble came from Serer country between Rufisque and Thiès. Incidents of resistance were frequently instigated by railroad agents, and resulted in attempts to derail trains with rocks. On at least one occasion, shots were fired at a train.

(p127) Railroad construction employed a few hundred Africans to clear brush. All the rest of the construction employees were were European. The totals for the labor force were 50 French, 50 Spanish, 150 Italians and 300 Africans. [See "Notes Géographiques" in Bulletin de la Société Géographique Commerciale de Bordeaux (15 August 1883), 464.

(p128) Some railroad stationmasters sheltered escaped slaves, annoying colonial officers charged with maintaining good relations with Cayor.

(pp129-134) Over time, relations between Samba Laobé and the French railroad effort changed. At first, he offered total support for the French, but when his invasion of Djolof failed and provoked reprisals from Djoloff, the French repressed both sides equally. After Laobé was killed by French spahis, the French followed up with an armored train to prevent further hostility.

The Damel of Cayor granted the use of land outside escales (stations) to favored merchants, but the dispute between the Damel and the French over the right to tax commerce around each escale created duplicate taxes for merchants. In the end, the fact that the railroad represented a large element of fixed and vulnerable capital convinced the French to put their own interests first. Since the annexation of Cayor was too difficult because of the slavery and taxation problems, the French solution was to divide Cayor into six provinces. When the Damel Lat Dior protested this, the French invaded and this led ultimately to his death.

III. Dakar-Saint Louis's Impact 1885-1911 (p157)

(p174) Contemporary documents indicate that the railroad had little impact on the traditional trading structure, but by giving the Europeans easy access to the interior, it destroyed the equilibrium between European coastal trading stations and African interior traders.

(p177) It is difficult to measure the population of urban centers because people moved to avoid taxes and boundaries changed between censuses. However, it is clear that the ports increased in size. The coastal telegraph line and forts were abandoned, and important Cayor villages that were bypassed by the railroad line declined. The railroad escales formed the basis for new settlements that indicated a shift in population, but not an excessive concentration. Agricultural villages of similar size existed in the early 19th century. The increase in size of each escale was directly related to the volume of the peanut trade at that location. It was also determined by amount of available water and the existence of roads to peanut-producing areas.

The railroad right-of-way, after it was cleared, provided a route for animal caravans.

The railroad superimposed a demographic rigidity on traditionally fluid economic landscape. In a land of population scarcity, it both concentrated and repelled labor power and markets.

(pp186-187) The railroad created "export enclaves." The French were preoccupied with enticing Africans to cultivate peanuts at fixed locations near railroad escales. Thus, the railroad benefitted a small strip of territory at the expense of the rest of the country.

(pp188-190) The railroad helped to convert local production from domestic trade to export trade. Railroad rates favored long distance peanut shipments, and Third Class passengers subsidized other forms of traffic. The volume of government shipments was insignificant. The railroad replaced boat traffic from Dakar to St. Louis. [See page 190 for concise, clear description of the forces that determined freight rates.]

(p194) The Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis continued to receive subsidies from French government, although agreements in 1891 and 1900 reduced the size of those subsidies. The company's profitability increased after 1901, but local Senegalese criticism in 1910 led to abrogation of subsidy agreement.

IV. Penetration and Economic Development - The Thiès-Kayes (p221)

(pp221-222) The end of the period of French conquest triggered a new era in railroad construction. The French occupiers still had the same goals as conquerors -- easy access to the Niger; economic development, etc. They still believed that railroad construction alone could trigger rapid economic growth. The financial law of April 13, 1900 made each colony responsible for their own budget, so the colony of Senegal was expected to finance further railroad construction.

(pp222-223) From 1902-1904, the Gouverneur Général de l'Afrique Occidentale Française (GGAOF) became a strong federal agency that operated as an intermediary between Paris and the local colonies. It became the main driving force behind subsequent public works, including railroads. Its main effort was to strengthen the colonial economy by increasing overseas trade.

(p223) The French documents on railway projects in the era after the conquest stressed economic rationales, since they were much more closely scrutinized than projects in the military era. Railways were always justified in terms of their ability to develop the overseas trade. Trade generated tariffs that financed the colonial administration.

(p224) One of the projects of the French in West Africa was the construction of a "Grand Transversal" -- a railroad to link all of the lines built from the coast towards the interior. The first step was achieved when the GGAOF received autonomous financial authority in 1904 [see Decrees of 15 October 1902 and 18 October 1904] and began to use customs receipts to redistribute money between the poorer and richer colonies. That also made the GGAOF better able than any of the individual colonies to raise large loans in Paris.

(pp226-228) The main goal of the Transversal were to link the four AOF railroads, and to drain produce away from competing foreign-owned railroads in Gambia, Sierra Leone, etc. A secondary goal was to increase the importance of Dakar, the port at the terminus of the railroad.

(pp229-230) However, the profitability of the Kayes-Niger was in doubt. It was hindered by the limitations of navigation on the Senegal River, and the distance from the Niger Valley to Dakar via Kayes was greater than the distance to Conakry via the Chemin de Fer Conakry-Niger. To make the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger more competitive, the government instituted differential shipping rates to protect their "respective spheres of attraction on the Niger River" but the effect was to lower rates on the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger at a time when it was having trouble staying profitable, and to raise rates on the CN when it was having trouble attracting business.

(pp230-231) By choosing the longer axis of penetration, railroad planners had to make long distance shipping costs competitive with other, shorter routes. Their method was to use "degressive rates" (called "tapering" in England) for long-distance traffic, in which longer shipments paid less per kilometer than shorter shipments of the same bulk. This approach was only successful if there were economies involved in long distance transport, or if other short-distance transport revenues could make up the shortfall.

(pp231-232) The construction of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes was the first step in building the Transversal. However, plans for the project had to overcome local support for a cheaper plan to improve Senegal River navigation. That plan was favored by Saint Louis commercial interests, Senegalese deputies and the French metropolitan press.

(p233) Colonial military officers conducted a study of a dam-and-lock system for the Senegal River in 1902-1904. One result was that the plans for the Kayes-Ambidédi railway were approved easily in 1904 because it could serve improved river navigation as well as a railroad extension [see Rapport et procès verbal de la Comité des Travaux Publics des Colonies (11 July 1904) in AOF Series O 62; GGAOF to Minister of Colonies, copy of letter (26 September 1904), in AOF Series O 85; Luneau, "Rapport au Comité des Travaux Publics des Colonies (24 October 1904), in ANFOM Travaux Publics, Series 1.]

(pp233-234) Studies for the Thies-Kayes began when GGAOF Roume requested two military engineers in June 1902. The Ministre des Colonies assigned the job to the railroad director, Rougier, who was visiting Paris at the time. Although the shortest route ran from Louga to Kayes, a longer route that passed below the Ferlo Desert was chosen because it would generate more local traffic and siphon traffic away from the Gambia. The Rougier-Belle route was accepted by the Comité des Travaux Publics des Colonies in July 1905.

(pp234-238) The contract for construction of the Thiès-Kayes provoked debate in France. The Société du Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis was the logical contractor, but discussions broke down over the amount of government financial guarantees. In May 1906, the GGAOF voted to add an additional 10 million francs to a public works loan and build the railroad themselves. Although this seemed to contradict the conventional wisdom that private entreprsie should develop the colonies, it made sense because it provided better oversight over costs, and private contractors had great trouble recruiting African workers. In addition, the military officers lobbied hard to find a raison d'etre now that conquest was finished and the government was controlled by a civilian GGOAF, and railroad construction provided that. Also, without private contracts, the route could be altered by the military construction teams as they progressed.

(pp238-241) Construction of the Chemin de Fer Thiès- Kayes began in late 1907. At first, they followed Rougier-Belle route, but a rival route proposed by Calmel recommended connecting Thies to Talary. the Calmel route was 69 kilometers shorter from Niger to Dakar, and it passed through the Falémé gold fields. However, the Calmel route required more track construction, since it bypassed the existing stretch of track from Kayes to Kita. The Calmel route would have rendered Kayes obsolete, so it was resisted by both the Gouvernement du Haut-Sénégal-Niger and the Directeur du Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger. Eventually, the government rejected the Calmel route [see Ministre des Colonies to GGAOF, letter (31 August 1908), in AOF Series O 72], but some small modifications were accepted. The final route of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes ran closer to Gambia and passed 22 kilometers from Kaolack, partly in response to the 1904 Anglo-French navigation treaty which raised French hopes for access to a major port on the the Gambia River.

(pp241-243) Although the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis received a two-year contract to operate the first 140 kilometers of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes (to Guinguineo), it expired in 1910 and the initial commercial success of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes inspired the GGAOF to take over the entire project. That same year, the contract with the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis expired and the GGAOF set up its own railway company to operate the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes. The railway company was created as a special agency under the governor of Senegal, but acted as an autonomous agency under a director who answered to the Governor General. A second loan of fourteen million francs from the national assembly in February 1910 allowed the GGAOF to continue construction, and the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis operating contract was not renewed. Instead, in 1910, an autonomous railroad authority under direct GGAOF administration was created at Thiès. In 1911, GGAOF Ponty asked for another 25 million francs to finish the Thiès-Kayes and an additional 15.5 million francs to begin the Bamako-Bougouni line (as part of a public works loan of 150 million francs).

(pp243-244) As construction moved further inland, progress slowed and costs rose. The 1911 public works loan had trouble in the national assembly, and construction work stopped when the funds ran out. The public works loan was not approved until December 13 and work only resumed on the Thiès-Kayes in March 1914. The appropriation for the final third of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes was 25 million, but that did not cover the costs of construction.

(p245) Existing African trade routes ran from north to south. Parliamentary opposition questioned the effort put into the Dakar-Niger, and recommended instead that the government promote the Abidjan-Niger. [See G. Binger, Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée par le pays de Kong et le Mossi volume II (Paris, 1892), 345, & maps on 398 & 401.]

(p252) The cost of shipping freight on the Kayes-Niger was higher than on the Thiès-Kayes, and prompted the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger's reconstruction in the 1920s. The interior portion of the railway (Thiès-Kayes-Niger) depended on long-haul freight to earn revenue, but it could not pay for itself. The "more prosperous elements of traffic on the section of the line nearest the coast" assumed those deficits after unification in 1927. The fusion of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis and Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes- Niger increasing operating costs (for long-haul trains) but generated little new tonnage or revenue.

(pp252-255) The Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes had several effects on the colony of Senegal. It drew trade away from the Gambia River, ended seasonal Wolof migrations to Cayor for the purpose of peanut cultivation, producing instead a migration into Saloum, it motivated the foundation of Mouride agricultural colonies along the railroad, and it increased peanut production in Baol. As a result of the railroad, the poret of St. Louis lost business and influence since the GGAOF preferred to budget for the railroad instead of river navigation improvements. Kaolack became main port in Senegal for peanuts after WWI, and took business away from Dakar.

(pp259-260) The railroad also had an effect on population movements. There was substantial movement towards ports, new towns were created adjacent to escales, and existing villages east of Djourbel weere bypassed by the railroad, sending them into decline.

(pp261-263) The Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes had a number of social impacts. It encouraged the movement of people towards escales, led to a growth in overall railroad passenger traffic, and opened new land to farming. The combination of colonial taxation policy and work opportunities drew men from rural backwaters to railroad agglomerations. However, there was a problem with this pattern of population distribution. Few people settled in the eastern region. Instead, the French encouraged the seasonal migration of navétanes (migratory farmers) from the Soudan to sparsely populated areas served by the railroad. The administration also encouraged Mouride settlements, which flourished in two periods from 1902-1927 and 1932-1945.

(p264) Constructing railroad spurs to a productive region was an alteernative to forcing people to migrate to regions near the railroad.

(p265) The Louba-Lingère line was built to connect the region of Djoloff with the Dakar-Saint Louis. It was first promoted in 1908 by a Rufisque merchant, Ferdinand Maury. After WWI, the government took up the project and completed 154 kilometers of rail by 1931. In December 1928, the French government gave the operating contract for the line to the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis. However, the lines was a financial failure because it opened just as the Depression reduced the peanut trade, and the declining port of St. louis forced shippers to send peanuts to the more distant ports of Rufisque and Dakar.

(p266) Construction of the Louba-Lingère line began in December 1926.

(pp266-267) There was a project to build a railroad in Casamance, inspired by pressure from local political figures. After a 1929 study expressed doubt that the sparsely populated Upper Casamance could deliver enough traffic to make a railroad feasible, the idea was abandoned in favor of efforts to improve navigation on the Casamance River.

(pp267-268) The French built the line from Diourbel to Touba in response to the death of Mouride leader Ahmadou Bamba in 1927. His remains were buried in Touba, and the city became a pilgrimmage site. The French began to build the railroad in November 1929 and completed it in 1933 using volunteer labor from Mouride followers. It was an immediate commercial success despite the Depression.

(pp268-269) Based on the examples of these three auxiliary railroads in Senegal, Phefferman concludes that local political figures had a lot of opportunity to influence railroad construction, and the railroad planners vastly overestimated the extent to which a railroad could inspire development. The successful Diourbel-Touba railroad merely tapped an area that was already ripe for expansion, but it did not create the conditions of expansion by itself.

(pp270-273) CHAPTER SUMMARY: Railroad were important symbol of imperial expansion. They enhanced the notion of the mission civilsatrice, and they were intended to remedy the ills of economic isolation, creating a new world production center in the Soudan. In fact, railroads stimulated production in prosperous areas, but changed little in marginal areas, due to the lack of population to supply labor, and the vulnerability of local exports to world price fluctuations. The east-west orientation of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes cut across traditional trade routes, reducing freight potential, and the French were unable to compensate by adjusting rate schedules. As a result, the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis prospered while Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes staggered.

V. Railroad Labor (p295)

(p295) The scarcity of labor was a paramount consideration. Elsewhere in the AOF, French instituted labor recruitment. Private commercial firms pressured the government to recruit forced labor for them, especially in Ivory Coast and to a lesser extent in the French Soudan.

(p296) The October 1925 Labor Act provided limited benefits for workers, such as wage, health and working condition safeguards for, Africans. It also established Offices du Travail for labor recruitment, and conseils d'arbitrage to prosecute infractions of the contracts signed by Africans.

(p297) After 1927, the deuxièmee portion du contingent (military conscripts) became a forced labor reserve. Many African military volunteers did so to avoid forced labor. However, in Senegal, most labor remained free, contracting on its own with employers.

(pp298-299) The French tried to use imported labor at first. Italians were used to build the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis, and Moroccans and Chinese were used on the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger, but this failed due to yellow fever & malaria. After that, there were no more experiments with imported labor.

(pp299-300) Railroad workers were organized in three main operating divisions. The Section de Exploitation of a railroad is the part that operates the trains. It includes conductors, engineers, station personnel and everyone who is involved with providing a train with passengers and/or freight. The Section de Material et Traction includes everything that is connected with supplying motive power. It includes engineers, brakemen, mechanics and employeees at repair facilities. The Section de Voie et Batiments included everything that is connected with maintaining the track, right-of-way and buildings.

(p300) The railroad operated with four categories of employees: permanent European agents, European skilled workers, permanent African employees, and temporary employees ("auxiliaires"), which included a few Europeans. The Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger and Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes-Niger also had a permanent Service des Travaux Neufs, mostly run by military personnel, which constructd new track. In 1926, the Service des Travaux Neufs employed 896 African forced laborers (201 from Senegal; rest from Soudan) and 612 volunteers. In 1930, Service des Travaux Neufs employed 57 European military, 7 other Europeans, 1,320 forced laborers and 177 other laborers.

(pp301-302) Although the administration employed Europeans, their numbers were limited by health and living conditions. They had a very high mortality rate in the early years of railroad construction. In 1887, 8.5% of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis's European employees died and another 16% were discharged due to illness.

NOTE: Pheffer's figures are suspect, because in an endnote on page 340, he gives figures for 1883-5 that contradict his summaries on page 302. These are the figures from page 340, taken from individual employee records in the Archives du Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis in Paris.

Year 1883 1884 1885 Total
Total number hired 21 51 125 197
Worked less than 1 month 0 0 7 7
Worked 1-6 month 5 12 27 44
Worked 6-12 month 1 9 30 40
Worked 1-2 years 4 9 17 30
Worked 2-3 years 6 9 7 22
Worked 3-6 years 3 9 21 33
Worked > 6 years 2 3 16 21
Fired 5 11 10 26
Laid off 4 7 15 26
Quit 3 9 18 30
Died 5 5 16 26
Died in 1st yr 2 - 7 9
Repatriated for health reasons 1 14 38 53
Other 3 5 28 36

(pp304-305) European employeees also complained about low quality housing and thee fact that their high wages were offset by the high cost of living in Dakar. Their frustration with conditions led to sabotage, corruption and abuse of position, which included the misuse of African personnel and overcharging of passengers, even though Europeans occupied the best paid and least strenuous positions.

(pp306-308) Africans did all heavy labor under African foremen. The colonial government, private enterprise and the railroad all competed for African manual laborers. There was neveer enough, and as a result, the first use of forced labor on railroad took place in 1911. On the stretch between Kaolak-Guinguineo, the railroad used 1,200 forced laborers [see Rapport Menusel (June 1911) in ANS 2 G 11-43]. Forced labor was also used on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes in 1913 [see Le chemin de fer de Thiès au Niger (Paris: GGAOF, 1931), 46]. After 1927, the railroad used an average of 1,550 forced laborers on the construction of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger. The Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis did not appear to have used forced labor.

(p309) In rural areas, local chiefs recruited labor for the French. This provided on of the bases for a chief's authority under the French.

(pp310-311) There were two types of voluntary African workers: farmers who lived near the railroad and wanted to supplement their income, and men who migrated for work to earn cash with which to pay the head tax and buy trade goods. Fortunately for all, seasonal farm work (rainy season) did not interfer with the high season for railroad work (dry season), which followed the peanut harvest.

(p311) African workers resisted payment for "piecework" and preferred to be paid a daily wage. Under that system, workers who faield to produce well were discharged, so foreman were essential to maintain productivity.

Pay lists included the names of individual workers, but payments were made in lump sums to the group leader for distribution to Dakar port workers [see Governer General to Administrator of Dakar (22 July 1926) in ANS K 81 (26).]

(p312) The majority of workers on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis came from the region of the Upper Senegal River, not from areas adjacent to the railroad like Cayor, Serer and Baol. The Upper Senegal region provided a "floating" labor population [see Monograph on Thiès," (1910) 35, in ANS 1 G 337. Ethnically, most were Tukolor, Bambara or Sarakole, but ethnicity was difficult to measure because Africans "wolof-ized" their names readily.

According to interviews with ex-RR men, Tukolors were especially numerous in the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis Section de Voie and did much of the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger construction. Bambaras were especially numerous on Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger, while Sarakoles drawn to steam locomotive service.

(p313) The French passed their first labor legislation in 1891 to prevent other nations from hiring labor in Senegal.

Private employers did not buy expensive labor-saving machinery because it tended to wear out quickly in tropical climate. Instead, they counted on administration assistance in obtaining cheap labor.

(pp313-314) Senegal had fewer labor problems because it was the destination of a seasonal labor migration that supplied workers.

(p314) African skilled laborers were people who had acquired European skills while working in colonial urban centers. One example was Samba N'Diaye, a Bakiri of Upper Senegal who became Umar Tall's military architect.

(p315) In traditional African society, there were cultural barriers to the acquistion of artisanal skills. However, the acquisition of European skills carried no stigma, and it offered an opportunity for advancement, not only to freed slaves, but also to the offspring of influential families, who especially valued French education.

(316) Africans performed skilled labor for the railroad as locomotive engineers, skilled shop workers and in lower-echelon bureaucratic positions. Africans became engineers because Europeans could not stand heat of engine in tropical sun. However, Africans never reached the middle to top levels of management on the railroad.

(pp317-318) The author wrote that the French kept Africans away from all but the lowest positioons on the railroad out of a mixture of prejudice and fear of African insurrection. To preevent resistance, they mixed ethnic groups in the same work crews. (French fears diminished after Africans successfully operated the railroad during the 1900-01 yellow fever epidemic.) Frenchmen also wanted to advance their careers, so they supported discrimination to prevent African competition.

(p318) Discrimination was more common on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis than the government-owned Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger and Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger.

(p318) The attitude of African workers changed after WWI. As they developed better technical proficiency, African workers exhibited a more "independent" attitude (i.e. they became insubordinate).

(p319) Work on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger railroad was more favorable to Africans because it was built during a period of imperial peace, and because the adminsitrators employed larger numbers of Africans as a means to cut cost. The top administrators of the Thiès-Niger were often retired army personnel who generally had a higher opinion of African skills than civilians (although Africans disliked military discipline).

(p320) The Thiès-Niger also hired more educated Africans than the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis. For instance, they hired government technical school graduates and even permitted a few Africans to enter the Cadre Commun Supérieur (CCS) after 1925. Service in the CCS conveyed the right to housing supplied by the railroad.

(pp320-321) The French began to engage in serious labor recruiting in 1937 because the town of St. Louis no longer provided the expected numbers of skilled African laborers. Before 1848, men from St. Louis readily sought jobs as laptots, skilled craftsmen, etc, but after the law establishing citizenship in the communes, they preferred colonial administrative jobs.

(p322) It is difficult to determine the ethnic composition of the railroad shop workers. Goréens were prominent as repairmen, and the Dakar shops of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis employed 65 skilled Africans plus 24 apprentices and other laborers in 1897. By 1900, the Dakar shops employed 47 workers and 46 apprentices and other laborers.

(p322) Locomotive engineers included a disproportionate number of Sarakolé, who had a reputation for migrating in search of work as dyula traders, navétanes, mercenaries and laptots. [See the 1938 analysis of the "general character" of the Sarakoles and Wolofs on French vessels in ANS 17 G 160 (28)] When the railroad arrived, they found it easy to sawitch from working on steam boats to locomotives.

(p323) Africans acquired job skills in different ways. Secretaries and clerks learned their jobs in schools, and some skilled workers went to trade schools. Most craftsmen learned skills in the traditional way, as apprentices to relatives. Afterwards, they had to pass a test to work on the railroad. However, relatives of raiklroad workers had an advantage because, until trade schools became common, the railroad preferred to hire relatives of existing workers.

(pp323-325) Africans were reluctant to work for the railroad on a long-term basis. Instead, they behaved as target workers who stayed until they earned a certain sum. Most unskilled workers were part-time farmers, while skilled workers had a cultural aversion to long contracts because they implied a servile relationship. In addition, the French used contracts to enforce servitude, and worker mobility allowed skilled workers to obtain the highest possible wages. For instance, the railroad in the Belgian Congo hired seventeen locomotive drivers and six skilled workers from Senegal in 1896. Skilled workers also benefitted from a choice of employer: the private Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis, the government-owned Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes, the naval arsenal, the colonial administration, and the public works service. When they were interviewed, African workers mentioned only the regular salary and the amount of retirement pay as distinguishing characteristics of work on the railroad.

(p326) France was later than other European powers in passing legislation that provided employee benefits. The first French law concerning work accidents passed in 1898. The law limiting the work day to ten hours for women and children passed in 1900. The six-day work week was instituted in 1906. However, in all cases, European employers opposed the extension of metropolitan labor legislation into the colonies.

(pp326-327) Nevertheless, necessity required that certain things be provided for the European employees of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis. The railroad operated a hospital and medical service, granted long vacations to each employee every two years, paid a year's salary as a bonus for completing a six-year contract, and started a retirement fund in 1893, although it was not fully articulated until 1903.

Year Number of workers Number of hours of treatment
1894 180 1554
1895 248 2473
1896 165 1417
1897 254 1969

(pp327-328) The government was reluctant to extend similar benefits to Africans. Speakers for various Chambers of Commerce argued that Africans had no legal identity since their birth place and citizenship could not be determined. Others argued that Africans did not need employee benefits because they could rely on traditional forms of social support. It was not until 1908 that permanent African employees on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis obtained retirement benefits. Later on, after workers became more militant following WWI, their first demands were for salaries and allowances. Later, they fought to obtain pensions.

(pp328-329) Africans used strikes to fight for wages and benefits. Union activity was illegal before 1937 because the law of 1884 that authorized French unions did not apply in the colonies. True "labor consciousness" did not appear among Senegalese cheminots until 1947-1948, and to a lesser extent, in 1938 JJ: [years when major strikes occurred], but as early as 1908, European employees on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis tried to form union.

(pp329-320) Africans formed "associations amicales" after the law of 1920 (signed inadvertently by the GGAOF) seemed to extend the 1884 law to the colonies. These associaitons had a legal identity, collected dues from their members, and gave a voice to worker interests.

(p330) There was a brief strike by European locomotive engineers on the Thies-Diourbel run of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis in 1909. In the same decade, other strikes broke out in Senegal including a strike in Dakar in 1910 by African docker workers, a strike by African butchers at Lyndiane in 1916, a strike by masons in Rufisque in 1918, and another dockworkers strike in Rufisque on 4 January 1919.

(pp330-331) Workers on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis went on strike again in April 1919. They struck for higher wages after rising prices during World War I had outstripped the salaries. Both European and African cheminots participated in the strike, but negotiations were impossible because the workers had no spokesman. Instead, the administration drafted the cheminots and ordered them back to work. The European workers returned immediately, but African workers stayed away, especially the locomotive drivers who were crucial to the strike's success. When the first settlement proved inadequate, the African cheminots of the Dakar-Saint Louis struck successfully for a second time.

(p331) During the 1920s, before labor unions were legalized, railroad workers formed Associations Amicales (literally "friendly associations," i.e. mutual aid associations). European and African workers did not mingle, but instead maintained separate groups. these groups served useful functions by channeling worker grievances to the administration, training a generation of labor leaders, and providing a place where police informers could gather information for the administration. The Arrąté de 10 January 1920 authorized the Association Amicale et Professional des Agents du Cehmin de Fer du Thiès-Kayes and a similar oganization was formed on the Kayes-Niger in 1924.

(pp331-332) In 1925, with the export economy in a period of growth, there was a period of high demand for railroad services, plus rising prices that produced new demands fro railroad workers. They were quickly settled without a strike, but in the following years, the government tied to reduce worker militancy by hiring European temporary workers, firing "incompetent" African workers, and authorizing worker food cooperatives. The worker organizations of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis continued to threaten strikes in 1929 and 1931. They were intimidated by the government takeover of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis in 1933, plus instances of government repression in 1927 and 1934.

(pp332-333) The 1925 railroad strike on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Kayes-Niger produced a backlash against the African workers. Governor General Carde refused to sign a law permitting the formation of unions in AOF. The railroad director Chardy brought in European cheminots on short contracts to replace the strikers, and disciplined militant workers by invoking safety regulations. However, also set up food-buying cooperatives for both African and European workers on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger, although unlike the European cooperative, which became self-governing, the railroad administration retained control over the African cooperative.

(p333) The worker organizations on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis associations were more successful than those on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger. For instance, after the strikes of 1919 and 1925, they threatened to strike again in 1929 and continued to win better contracts than workers on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger as late as 1931.

(p333) The Depression and the consolidation in 1933 created an overabundance of labor, so worker militancy ceased for several years. The next outbreak of worker resistance was the bloody railroad strike in 1938 in Thiès.

CHAPTER SUMMARY: European enterprise depended on African labor for its success. However, as the use of African industrial labor increased, so did the growth of African industrial labor consciousness. On the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis, Africans remained second class workers, but felt greater solidarity against Europeans. In contrast, on the Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger, a small African labor elite became Europeanized. The 1933 amalgamation of the two lines extended Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger pattern to the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis.

(p356) As an appendix, the author included a list of the questions that he asked African informants for this study:

  1. When did you work and what job did you hold?
  2. Did your father or grandfather work for the railroad?
  3. Where did you come from?
  4. What attracted you to the railroad? Your father?
  5. What sorts of people worked for the railroad? Where were they from? What were their former occupations?
  6. How and where did they live? Single & Married
  7. What kind of organizations did they form?
  8. How did they spend their leisure time?
  9. What were the centers of communal life?
  10. Are there any songs or traditions about life on the railroad?
  11. Do you remember any stories about the railroad?
  12. How did railroad workers differ from people?

VI. Railroads and African Land (p359)

(p361) In Africa, the ability to mobilize labor was a more influential element of production than land rights. As one consequence, slaves were tied to their masters through personal bonds, rather than being attached to the land like serfs in medieval Europe. This was in marked contrast to the European notion of society as an agent of progress, with land rights and labor as elements of that society. In the African system, land rights belonged to those who first cleared the land. Over time, land rights came to be held by powerful monarchs. Users of the land paid fees for the use of the land, but they took the form of taxes and gifts rather than periodic rents. African land users were secure in the knowledge that they would not be dispossessed, since they, and not the land, were the key to productivity.

(366) When they began to settle down, Europeans introduced the idea of "Land Values" to Africans. This idea gained gradual acceptance since Africans could usually substitute other parcels of land for any particular use, and saw no reason to refuse European offers for land. European land claims first developed out of the need of coal-burning ships to use deepwater ports, which induced the government to make port improvements that made the land valuable to Europeans. Railroads then extended this system inland.

(p370) Railroads createed differences in the valuation of land because they limited the number of points of access to the transprotation system. As a result, land prices increased as one came closer to railroad stations.

(pp372-379) African land passed into European hands through sales for cash to meet tax obligations, or as a result of African ignorance of the consequences of land sale under French law. Also, the French government appropriated land for its own use and to distribute to European colonists. In all cases, the European administration stressed the value of increased productivity that would result after land was taken out of African hands and "saved" from their slash-and-burn farming methods. However, the French system of land acquisition and use never resulted in the formation of a plantation agriculture system because independent African were more productive. Instead, the French divided Senegal into directly administered territory (that included the trading posts and a one kilometer-wide swath along the railroad) and Pays du Protectorat ("protected lands"). Eventually, the French government declared its right of eminent domain over all of the land in AOF. They based their action on treaties concluded with conquered African sovereigns, although this relied on the false assumption that African sovereigns "owned" the land. Their action was formalized in court decisions made in 1907.

(pp380-391) Railroad stations and markets became the focal points for contacts between people and for commercial activity. Merchants and maitres de langue (literally "masters of language," i.e. interpreters) waited at the approaches to train stations to attract customers from among those people who brought produce to town to sell. Settled merchants who operated from stores surrounding the station resented this competition from people who did not pay the fixed costs of rent, permits and taxes. The area around railroad stations became so congested that peanuts were stored outside of town while awaiting shipment for export, and carried by hand cart to the station.

(p392) African land rights were gradually subordinated to French colonial needs. There was little private property formation in the rural areas, thanks to the French law that prevented land from being held by groups. However, over time Africans learned the value of land rights and demanded greater compensation. Some St. Louis merchants evan began to invest in land, but most Africans did not have the financial resources to do this.

(p400) The French concern with health and sanitation, coupled with their assumptions about African and European cultures, led to policies that linked sanitation to segregation. Local zoning laws were modeled on French law, but they included sanctions aimed specifically against Africans.

After 1900, the expansion of the port at Dakar brought dirt and disease into the European community. At first, the French tried to use public works and sewers to control the disease, but subsequently, enforced segregation was used.

Based on their understanding of 19th century germ theory, the French believed that Africans were germ carriers, particularly with regard to yellow fever. For instance, a major outbreak of fever during the dry season of 1911-12 ended with the expulsion of Africans from the railroad towns at at Thiès and Dakar. The 1914 outbreak of bubonic plague in Dakar was used to justify the ouster of the Lebu people, the original occupants of the land. Five thousand of 20,000 Lebu moved to the African neighborhood of Medina.

There was also a conflict between the desire to segregate Africans from the European population and the need to obtain African labor for European commerce. Efforts at segregation came to an end during WWI because of the wartime need for manpower. However, gradually Africans were expelled from urban centers through the use of strict building codes.

(p408) There is little data on African urban living practices. We know that white workers were given lodging by their companies, while Africans had to rent, or find rooms with relatives or friends. Monthly room rentals were available, but they were expensive, so Tukolor and Sarakole men would share rooms, much the way that modern immigrants share lodging in France. Wolof workers roomed alone.

Africans began to acquire land after 1900 to forestall their expulsion from European centers. After segregation/expulsion died out in Dakar in 1920s, it became more prevalent in rural areas, and even enjoyed African support. Africans saw segregated land use as a means to avoid further displacement, and it made it easier for them to obtain land, since it set aside land that Europeans could not claim. Europeans felt threatened by this, since it provided communities where rivals, especially Lebanese traders, could establish themselves without fear of European competition, despite laws to the contrary. It also provided a place for Africans to develop their own sense of community.

(p414) CHAPTER SUMMARY: The author concludes that the impact of the colonial situation on African society can be modelled in terms of forces of attraction and repulsion. Railroads concentrated the area of impact of these forces, increased the rate of conflict, and created a system that led to spread of Western property values. As a result, African land and labor became commodities.

Africans reacted to all of this in a variety of ways. Some were uncomprehending peasants who allowed themselves to simply be chased from their homes, while others used French courts to challenge their expulsion, and still others began to speculate in land investments. The nature of an individual's reaction was conditioned by their degree of financial opportunity, the amount of material investment they had in their property, and their degree of mastery of the French legal system. The author adds that an African's stake in the land was proportional to his rate of acculturation.

VII. Retreat Into A Narrower Pattern (p438)

(p438) The immediate effect of depression was to depress peanut prices. The Senegalese debt system passed bankruptcy up the line so that everyone was affected. Peanut cultivators retreated into subsistence farming, even though the government subsidized peanut prices to prevent the trade from disappearing completely. Peanut exporting firms sought ways to cut costs, eliminate African middlemen, and improve the transportation system.

(p440) As part of the effort to improve transportation, the government purchased the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis. This came about because the government wanted to reduce long distance freight rates, while the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis wants to maintain its profitability. The Chemin de Fer Thiès-Niger rates were regressive over long distance--meaning that long-distance freight paid proportionately less per kilometer than short-distance loads--but they barely covered the railroad's operating expenses. The rates on the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis were proportional to distance traveled, and the railroad earned approximately twice the value of its operating expenses. As a private company, the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis was expected to earn dividends for investors. It also had a huge debt to the state to pay back.

WWI caused massive problems for Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis because it was heavily overworked and could not get materials with which to repair its infrastructure. Post-war requests for rate increases needed parliamentary approval, at which time there was discussion of a state take-over of the line. However, as long as the line was still able to make payments on its debt to the state, there was no serious attempt to take over the line.

The Depression canceled Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis's profitability, and it became dependent on a government subsidy (9 million francs in 1932) and a government guarantee of the company's dividends. In the end, it was cheaper for the government to purchase the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis.

Once the railroads were unified, the administration concentrated on developing the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger.

(pp454-455) A sales agreement was signed in September 1932, but opposition from local merchants and parliamentary bureaucracy delayed the final parliamentary approval until April 1933. Control of the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis transferred to the government on 1 May 1933. The Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis gave up its railroad and right-of-way, the Louga-Linguère spur, its rolling stock, and its accounts payable and receivable, but the company retained some real estate that was not directly involved in railway operations. In exchange, the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Saint Louis stockholders received guaranteed annuities until 1983, paid out of the Government-General's budget. The three sections of railroad were fused into a single railroad in May 1933.

(pp455-456) After World War I, automobiles began to offer competition to the railroad. Automobile transportation was more flexible and involved lower fixed capital costs. In addition, it was open to non-Europeans, unlike the railroad, which was completely controlled by French interests.

(p457) In the 1920s, the colonial administration began to consider road improvements as a way to improve itsd contact with its African subjects. At the same time, cheap American automobiles became in Africa. The following table shows the number of vehicles imported into Senegal from 1925-1932:

Year Number of vehicles Note
1925 945
1926 1,598
1927 602
1928 844
1929-1932 3,087 also 46,700,000
liters of gasoline

(pp458-460) The colonial government expected to use automobiles as a means to bring produce to the railroad stations from more remote areas; i.e. for "feeder lines." Instead, Levantine (from Syria or Lebanon) and African merchants quickly began to use trucks to compete with the railroad in freight hauling as early as 1928. This competition endangered the economic system that was based on the trade conducted at railroad stations. Automobiles and trucks were especially good at winning passengers away from the railroad.

(p463) The colonial government responded by trying to curb the use of trucks. They did this by allowing roads than ran parallel to the railroad to deteriorate (although they maintained the road from Dakar to Rufisque). In fact, this approach proved popular with Africans because it reduced the amount of forced labor (used to maintain roads) demanded by the French.

(pp464-467) The colonial government used a number of methods to reduce the growth in truck transportation. It created weight limits for commercial vehicle on roads maintained by the colony, lengthened the driving permit procedure, increased the gasoline tax, and increased parking fees in some places. In 1934, the government forbade the use of trucks to haul peanuts, and justified this policy as an effort to promote animal husbandry through the use of pack caravans. The government effort was successful, because only 221 vehicles were imported in 1931.

(pp468-472) The government was severely criticized for this policy, which seemed to favor large European commercial interests by reducing competition from small, non-French merchants. But the author believes that this criticism was not entirely fair. The goals of the French government's policy were to preserve the peanut trade, eliminate small African traders, and save the railroads, particularly the Chemin de Fer Dakar-Niger. The arrival of motor vehicles attacked a whole economic-political-administrative complex ... to the colonial administration, private motor vehicles symbolized a chaotic, threatening order.