Nigeria is set to become the destination of choice in railway tourism with the International Railway Heritage partnering with Nigeria Railway Corporation [NRC], to replicate the railway museums in UK and Sierra Leone in Nigeria.
The Managing Director, International Railway Heritage, Mr. Steve Davies, who made this known during a courtesy call on the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi on Thursday, in Abuja, said they will bring British heritage expertise to bear on what already exists in the country.
According to him, “There is an untapped potential here in Nigeria to really improve the way you tell the railway story”.
Furthermore, he explained that the appropriate time to start the legacy project is now, before the heritage is all swept away by the wave of modernization going on in the rail sector.
He further suggested, that if a facility can be created to collect and interpret that heritage to the public, it will have social and economic benefits that will also help the people to focus on the benefits of the railway for the future.
On the steam engine, Mr. Davis disclosed that in the UK, railway heritage is a big business and money is made when the steam engine roars to life as many are enthralled by the very sound of it.
Still speaking, he observed that in the course of their findings, there are four redundant British built 1950s steam locomotives, out of which one or two can be restored for use in Nigeria as tourist trains, heritage trains and for educational excursions.
The Director described Nigeria as a regional super power, saying: “There is no country of its size and wealth anywhere in the world that does not have a professional focus to railway heritage because it is not just about trains but pride in the country; pride in the past and a museum helps to instil in the public how the railway made this country great and secondly use the museum to promote rail as a formal transport and get people to become loyal to rails as they seem to be loyal to their cars”.
Also, he enthused that although Sierra Leone has no railways, it has the best railway museum in Africa through the efforts they put in there in the last 10 to 15 years
Also speaking, the Managing Director, Engr. Freeborn Okhiria, said that railway legacy was started in 1995 with the aim of telling the railway story, so that people can better appreciate the railway modernization project.
The MD noted that the railway museum will not only be a source of tourist attraction but will generate revenue for Nigeria and create employment.
On the extent of Nigeria’s involvement, Mr, Okhiria, stated that Nigeria is expected to contribute the artefacts while the Legacy Team of UK, a private body will spend its money to improve the railway museum.
Responding, the Hon. Minister who promised to support the project, noted that it is important to maintain the Nigerian railway heritage.
He therefore asked for the concept papers which will detail the level of intervention by the Ministry.