History of the Nigerian railway
The Nigerian Railway system officially came into existence in October, 1912 when Frederick Lugard merged the pre-existing Lagos government railway and the Baro-Kano railway to become the 'Nigerian Railway'. The merger further enhanced the desirability of merging the Northern and Southern Nigeria protectorates.
The railway line ran on two principal North and South trunks: one from Lagos to Nguru and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, both tracts having branch extensions. In the 1950s, partly for economic reasons, the railway system in the country came under the coordination of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
The rail transport system employed Nigerian workers from the various ethnic groups in the country and was known as having a diversified workforce which also included West Indians. Prior to the creation of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, the government railway department had four core sections, the engineering department, running department, traffic and commercial department, and accounts and stores department.
 Before 1912
 Lagos railway
In the early years of the Lagos railway, the colonial intentions of Governor MacGrogor and Egerton was to develop a railway line from Lagos to the furthermost parts of Northeastern Nigeria and to open the interiors of Southwestern Nigeria to commerce. In Lagos, railway terminal at Iddo was erected to connect the Lagos Island with the mainland and and act as a transit stop for the trains using the railroad bridge constructed along two major road networks that connects the Island with other parts of Lagos, the Carter bridge and the Denton bridge. Also in 1896 railway construction began from the Iddo area with extensions made along the Lagos route with stops at Otta, Ifo, Arigbajo, Papa Alanto, Abeokuta and Ibadan (1901). However, financial reasons hampered further development of the railway in Southern Nigeria. Proposals linking Benin and Sapele (1906) and Ibadan with Oyo (1907) came to naught.
 Baro-Kano line
The Baro Kano line was a railway development project predicated on developing the trade routes along River Niger. The initial intention of the then Northern Nigeria governor was to develop a rail line along the Niger River and the port of Forcados in Southern Nigeria and importantly both routes leading to Kano. In September, 1907 the British government approved a credit of 2 million pounds in furtherance of developing a railroad from Baro (lower point of the Niger) with the town of Kano, a major commercial center in the North. Reasons given included cutting expenses and enhancing communication between areas of interest, the result would reduce the time and cost of transporting troops from one garrison to another and ease the cost associated with transporting goods across the North. Also, the British Cotton Growing Association had an interest in seeing a railroad to the cotton growing areas in Northern Nigeria. The rail road will go from Baro, to Bida, Zungeru, Zaria and finally to Kano and construction started in 1907 with a completion target of four years. The railroad was a narrow-gauge, single track with a speed of twelve miles per hour. The construction utilized a local method of administration whereby the colonial office was bypassed in major decision making with the Northern Nigeria government in charge of organization. It was completed in 1911.
In 1912, a light rail from Zaria reaching Bauchi was built, further extensions were made along the Bauchi Light rail linking the system with the tin producing fields along Jos and Bukuru.
 Other branches
In 1911, a rail line linking Apapa to Ebutte Metta was built and in 1912, a line was built linking Jebba with Minna along the Lagos railway.
 After 1912
In late 1912 preparations began for the development of another rail way trunk from the Eastern areas of Nigeria to the country's Northeast regions. A deep water port site along the Bonny River was chosen in an area previously known as Isaka now Port Harcourt was subsequently chosen as the location of the terminal. The new trunk was built to benefit major economic activities such as the Udi coalfields in the Eastern and upper Benue regions and also Northeastern towns. The financing of the line was mainly appropriated from Nigerian revenues and reserves.
In the 1920s and early 1930s, extensions such as the Zaria-Gusau-Kaura Namoda (1929) were built. Two others extensions were made in 1930, the Ifo-Idogo and the Kano-Nguru lines.
 1970s-1990s:Technical and financial shortcomings
Since the 1980s, the Nigerian Railway Corporation had been bounded by technical and financial shortcomings, however since the 1960s, its performance had not been stellar. The Nigerian civil war depressed railway operations and in the following decade, the low interest in export commodities and coal resulted in reduced freight haulage.
The corporation rarely placed commercial objectives as a priority and government changes in administration and policy resulted in structural and managerial problems. The use of tracks of narrow gauge strewn with curves and gradients coupled with low maintenance over the years resulted in slow speeds for trains.
In 1978, the Nigerian ministry of Transport employed the services of an Indian group: Rail India Technical and Economic Services to operate the railways. The period also coincided with large capital outlays from the government to the railway sector though a large amount of the money was diverted to an ill fated change to standard guage. The contract resulted in modest positive changes but the contract was not renewed. By the end of the 1980s, reduced funding from the government, import bans and managerial problems decreased the performance of the railways.
The large of employees of the railway corporation at many times were owned arrears leading to low labour morale within the corporation.