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Royal Commonwealth Society : West African Railways

Swan, Charles Bell, 1870-1943, railway engineer

Royal Commonwealth Society

<p style='text-align: justify;'>An album of photographs collected by Charles Bell Swan, who worked as an engineer for the Gold Coast Government Railway and the Lagos Railway. The discovery of gold at Tarkwa during the 1890s provided the stimulus for the establishment of the Gold Coast Government Railway. Sekondi was chosen as the terminal port to support mining operations and construction began there in 1898, reaching Tarkwa in 1901. The line was extended to Kumasi in 1903. Items 1-18 and 44 document the building of the harbour facilities and station at Sekondi, and the European and African workers engaged in their construction. Other photographs illustrate festivities to celebrate King Edward VII's coronation in Aug. 1902 and Christmas of that year.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Work on the Lagos Government Railway began at Lagos in 1893 and the first section to Ibadan was opened in 1901. In 1907 it became the Lagos Railway. It appears that Swan was employed soon after in the extension of the line from Ilorin to Jebba and then beyond to Zungeru. This involved two significant landmarks: the major engineering feat of bridging the Niger River at Jebba and the junction of the Lagos Railway with the Baro-Kano Railway at Minna on 1 Jan. 1912, which linked the two Protectorates of Southern and Northern Nigeria.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Photographs 19-20, 22-43 and 45 relate to Swan's tenure with the LGR/LR. They include images of bridge construction and camps at Akerri, Egebi, Igberi, Boboji and Jebba, and of European and African workers engaged on the works. The Jebba photographs can be dated by the celebration of George V's Coronation in June 1911. Item 21 features a boating scene on the Leam River at Leamington.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Charles Bell Swan was born in Gateshead in 1870. He was employed as an engineer by the Gold Coast Government Railway and the Lagos Railway.</p>

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