From 23 April to 7 May the locomotive comes to the Streetlife Museum in Hull, the 2017 UK City of Culture, where it will be displayed as part of a ‘Spotlight on Sierra Leone’ event at Hull Streetlife Museum. Hull has many connections with Sierra Leone and is twinned with Freetown.
Hunslet 2-6-2T locomotive No. 85, built-in Leeds in 1954 for service in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, was brought back to the UK by Mid-Wales tourist attraction the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) in 1975 and for the past five years the locomotive has been on static display at the Locomotion Museum in Shildon – an ‘out-station’ of the National Railway Museum in York.
Chairman of the UK-based Friends of Sierra Leone National Railway Museum, Helen Ashby, who will be accompanying No.85 for much of the trip, was also delighted by the grant, she said:
“The Sierra Leone National Railway Museum and its Friends are very excited at being able to showcase SLR No 85 as a representative of Sierra Leone at relevant venues throughout the UK. Once engines of industry, the surviving locomotives from Sierra Leone like No. 85 are now engines for growth, helping to promote Sierra Leone to the world’.
As narrow-gauge No.85 moves around the UK with volunteer staff from the W&LLR and Friends of Sierra Leone National Railway Museum, this globetrotting locomotive will be used to tell the story of slavery and freedom, and the links between the UK and Sierra Leone now that nation has recovered from the Ebola outbreak and an infamously bloody civil war.
Councillor Terry Geraghty, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure and Chair of Hull Culture and Leisure Limited is keen to show the importance of the locomotive to local people, he said:
“We are delighted that the Hunslet 2-6-2T locomotive No. 85 will be on display here in Hull. The Streetlife Museum is the perfect location to host this magnificent locomotive for the visitors to admire.”
No.85 was the last steam locomotive from Sierra Leone that could be steamed. Still in Africa is its sister No.87 which, along with several other British-built engines and the Queen’s long-forgotten royal train, forms part of the incredible Sierra Leone National Railway Museum. Those trains have survived 40 years of Ebola, civil war and scrapmen, and are now at the heart of an ambitious regeneration and education project in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city.
No. 85 will be accompanied by a travelling museum exhibition, children’s activities for schools and families, plus interpretation. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant is paying for the physical transport of the locomotive and the production of the travelling exhibits and activities.