Monthly Archives: May 2018

Goods Services on the Network of the Tramways of Nice and the Littoral (Chemins de Fer de Provence 60)

I have been very fortunate indeed. … For my birthday this year, my wife has bought me two books about the tramways of Nice. Both of these books are written in French by Jose Banuado and published by Les Editions du Cabri. [1]

I am enjoying reading the first of the two volumes at the moment which covers the history of the tramways in Nice. I have had some conversations of a number of forums about the TNL which ran the tramways along the coast and in the city of Nice as well as a number of lines which travelled up into the hilly countryside behind the coast.

One particular area of discussion has been a practice which seems unique to Nice among other major cities in France and possibly much wider afield. The TNL ran not only passenger services but good services as well.

Sadly the story of these activities is currently only available in Jose Banuado’s books which are written in French.

I have teamed up with Google translate to translate the pages of Jose Banuado’s book which relate to the goods traffic on the TNL network and I hope that I have fairly translated his work which follows in italics. If you are fluent in both French and English and have access to Jose Banuado’s books, you might want to check my translation to ensure I have fairly represented his work. [2]

At the end of the year 1903, the TNL was at responsible for a 94.3 kilometre network, of which 29.1 km represented the eight urban lines of Nice, 12.1 km the line to Cagnes, 15.6 km that to Contes and 37.5 km that to Menton including the line through Monaco and beyond to Menton. This network was operated with one hundred six powered trams and thirty-two trailers, to which were added three tractors (shunting locos) and twenty-two wagons for the transport of goods.  

There was no extension to the network between 1903 and 1907, when the short line to St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat was completed. On the other hand, the increase in traffic necessitated the improvement and the increase of the fleet of rolling stock. On the urban lines, the original powered vehicles saw extended platforms and trailers were added on the most loaded services. As early as 1904, the company signed a contract with the advertising agency Silberberg to rent advertising space inside and outside the trams in the city. This arrangement was however not extended to the coast lines. New powered vehicles were ordered for the coastal lines: forty vehicles which were more powerful and comfortable were delivered in two batches between 1904 and 1909. They were equipped with air-brakes and coupled permanently into pairs. 

The transport of goods took off remarkably. This distinguishes the TNL network from its counterparts in most other major French cities. In addition to postal and retail freight traffic on the coast, the Contes cement plant provided substantial tonnages with coal deliveries for its kilns and lime shipments and cement in sacks. But to ensure the best trade, it was necessary to link trams to the other major transport infrastructure of the city of Nice: the commercial port, the PLM station and the Chemin de Fer du Sud. 

From the beginning of the work on the Nice-Ventimiglia railway under the Second Empire, the Municipality and the Chamber of Commerce of Nice had pushed for the creation of a port connection and a ferry terminal. Forty years later, as the PLM had done nothing, the same authorities took advantage of the establishment of trams to provide a service to the port by this means of transport. This prospect was made all the more promising by the crossing between the circular line No. 8 of the TNL and SF Nice – Grasse and Puget-Theniers. At the crossing, at Boulevard Gambetta, ir was easy to introduce a connection between these two metre-gauge networks. An agreement was signed on 7th February 1905, providing for the connection of the two lines at the north-east corner of the level crossing, the construction of an exchange platform in the sidings of the Chemin de Fer du Sud Station and the electrification of the tracks. This meant that the TNL locomotives could access these sidings. At the other end of the city, the chamber of commerce, manager of the facilities of the port, took charge of laying tracks on the docks. 

All of these facilities were built and commissioned in the course of 1906, but their operation was not made official until the following year. A transit route was established between the port and the South Station. Using the urban lanes, the distance between the lanes was accordingly increased by Arson Street, Saluzzo Square, Barla Street and Bridge, Carabacel Square and Boulevard, Gioffredo, L’Escarène, Lepante and Assalit Streets, Thiers Avenue and Boulevard Gambetta. The TNL assigned shunters/power cars and a hundred wagons to the traffic, while the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France ordered two hundred wagons able to run on the tracks of the trams to the port of Nice. A final formality needed to be settled to ensure a service which worked to the satisfaction of all: the state, as the owner of the port, had to grant an operator the right to access the tracks on the quays. The Chamber of Commerce expected to be the natural beneficiary of this concession and to surrender the rights to the company TNL. However, the Minister of Public Works preferred to deal directly with the TNL, and stipulated this in the decree of public utility of 30th April 1909. 

The connection to the port of Nice enabled the transport of large volumes of goods, the majority of which concerned the industries alongside the line to Contes (the Contes cement factory, L’Ariane flour mill and the Nice-Riquier gasworks), as well as exchanges with the Chemin de Fer du Sud de la France Station. The latter was also a point of contact with the PLM network since, although the PLM had always refused a direct connection with the trams, it was connected with the Chemin de Fer du Sud Station from 1899 onwards via a short branch-line which linked the two stations, set into the road pavement of the Rue de Falicon (now-a-days called the Rue des Combattants en Afrique du Nord). So, ultimately, it became possible to transship goods from a wagon of standard-gauge to a vehicle of the TNL and vice versa.


  1. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1 and 2, Jose Banuado; Les Editions du Cabri.
  2. Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1; p50-52.

Uganda Railways – Part 14 – Eldoret to Malaba

Back at Eldoret Railway Station, we get ready to travel on. First some bits and pieces about the town we are about to leave [1] …. Eldoret as a town, founded as it was by Afrikaners is almost unique in the British-dominated Kenya of the early 20th century. The first of the Afrikaners, the Van Breda brothers arrived in 1903 and were joined two years later by Franz Arnoldi and his family. The big influx followed shortly thereafter.[2]

In August 1908, fifty-eight families of displaced Afrikaners left Nakuru for the Uasin Gishu plateau after a journey from South Africa by sea and by rail from Mombasa. Led by Jan van Rensburg, they endured an arduous trek laden as they were with wagons that would often get bogged in mud, finally arriving at Sergoit Hill on 22 October of that year. Jan Ernest Kruger would later own the 5,000 Sergio farm, now owned by Sergoit Golf and Wildlife resort.

The land had earlier been surveyed by a the van Breda families and the new arrivals took up leaseholds of between 800 and 5,000 acres (320 and 2,020 ha) on condition that they would develop it within five years. Each family built a shack, put up fences, in-spanned oxen to simple ploughs and turned the first furrows. They sowed wheat, maize and vegetables laying the foundation for the transformation of the Plateau into a prosperous agricultural region.

The farms were later officially registered and each was given a number.[3]

Eldoret’s official town site started in 1910 with the development of a Post Office at “Sisibo”. This was followed shortly after by the arrival of sixty more Afrikaner families in 1911.[4] The governor decided to establish an administrative centre in the area 1912 and thus the Post Office was renamed to a new official town name: “Eldoret” . Becoming an administrative centre caused an enormous increase in trade within the prospective city. A bank and several shops were built.

In the 1950s the town was literally divided into two, along the main street (now Uganda Road), with the Afrikaans on the north and the British on the south. The former took their children to Highland School, (now Moi Girls High School)[5] and the latter, to Hill School.[6] Recreation was also along the divide – ‘Brits’ used the Lincoln Hotel and the Race-Course near the now “Chinese Area” while the Afrikaans converged at the Wagon Wheel for recreation.

Daniel Arap Moi was born nearby and developed the town establishing a second kenyan university, Moi University, and a third international airport. By 1987, only two Afrikaner households remained in Eldoret, with the rest having moved back to South Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the aftermath of the Mau Mau rebellion[7] and in anticipation of independence.

The city was significantly impacted by the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis when violence gripped Kenya in the aftermath of controversial presidential elections. The athlete Lucas Sang was murdered about ten kilometres away from the town while on his way home to Chepkoilel. On 1st January 2008 a mob attacked and set fire to a church in the town, where hundreds of people had taken refuge during Kenyan massacres. As a result, about forty to eighty people,[8] mostly Kikuyus, were burnt to death.

Eldoret has been manly peaceful since the 2007-2008 Crisis.

In an earlier post, we showed a picture of the roal train circumnavigating a spiral close to Equator Station on the Nakuru to Eldoret line. This is that Royal train just after it had arrived in Eldoret in 1958.[9] The video below is only short, but shows a goods train passing through Eldoret.[10]

A goods train approaches Eldoret Town. A familyA goods train arrives at Eldoret Railway Station.[11]

West of Eldoret trains for Kitale and those for Kampala shared the same railway tracks. Just before the branch-line to Kitale separated from the mainline trains passed through Leseru Station. The station site and the branch-line can clearly be seen in the satellite image below. Leseru Station was some distance east of Leseru village (3 to 4 kilometres) and was probably sited to allow the Kitale branch trains to serve Leseru.Beyond Lesuru, trains passed through Turbo, Kipkarren, Lugari, Webuye, Mulukbu, Bungoma,  Mateka, Myanga and Kimaeti before reaching the border with Uganda at Malaba. This post will take us to the border with Uganda.

En-rote to Turbo the line at first followed the A104 but then looped away to the south only coming back close to the road at the river bridge just to the east of Turbo. The location of the station is marked on the map with a blue square.Diesel in charge of a train somewhere to the west of Eldoret?

The next station was at Kipkarren. To reach the station the railway followed the contours, which predominantly meant following the river valley, whilst the A104 road took a more direct route.Kipkarren Station was close to the Eldoret-Malaba road but perpendicular to it and with the passing loop carried over the A104 on a bridge.

The railway continued to follow the Nazoia River valley, albeit at a higher level than the water course, in a generally north-westerly direction to Lugari. The Market at Lugari is visible at the top of the following satellite image, as is the road/rail crossing at the top right of the image and the river bridge, centre-left.

The next station is Webuye, which is to the south-west of Lugari, both villages can be seen on the map below. and are linked both by the railway and the River Nazoia. The stations are marked by blue squares.Webuye Railway Station.The railway passes under the A104 to the immediate west of Webuye.

Travelling further west, the railway passes close to Webuye Airport and sankes around seeking the most advantageous route on the south-side of the A104, through Mulukbu (Sudi) and on to Bungoma.Mulukbu (Sudi) Railway Station.

Bungoma Railway Station is shown on the adjacent map. The images below are both taken from the South looking back northalong the line. The first shows the station platform on the left and the Silos on the right.

The second shows the railway line south of the station and the silos can just be seen at the back right of the image.

The railway west of Bungoma.

The station is shown in plan in the adjacent Satellite image.

Trains for Uganda depart southwards from the station. The railway then turns west and north circling round the south side of the town, before breaking way to the south-west. The map below shows Mateka in the bottom left. I have not been able to pin-point the location of the Railway Station.After Mateka, the line travelled on to the West to Myanga, where it crossed the Sio River and turned north for a short distance running along the East side of the C34, Musokoto-Khwirale road and then heading in a westerly direction once again to Malaba.Myanga Railway Station is marked with a red flag. The bridge over the Sio River is towards the left of the satellite image.

Malaba straddles the border between Kenya and Uganda. I can remember queuing here in 1994 for an hour or so after having been shepherded off the train at 3.00am, before it became clear that the border officials and customs officers on the Uganda side of the border would not be meeting the train and that we would need to go to the customs office in Kampala when the train arrived so as to get passports stamped with an entry visa.

Once the border is crossed there is only a short journey on the train into Tororo. We will pick up the journey again at the border in the next blog post.




















  1., accessed on 27th May 2018.
  2., accessed on 28th May 2018.
  3. Ronaldo Retief; . Afrikaners trek to East Africa, Old Africa: Stories from East Africa’s Past; Issue 55, 2014, p14-15.
  4. Red strangers: the white tribe of Kenya, ISBN 1-85725-206-3, by Christine Stephanie Nicholls.
  5., accessed on 28th May 2018.
  6., accessed on 28th May 2018.
  7. Remnants of Boer Colony Glad They Stayed in Kenya. 1 April 1987,, accessed on 16th September 2013.
  8. Steve Bloomfield; 80 Children Massacred in Kenyan Church;, accessed on 28th May 2018.
  9., accessed on 28th May 2018.
  10., accessed on 28th May 2018.
  11., accessed on 28th May 2018.

Uganda Railways – Part 13 – Eldoret to Kitale (A Branch Line)

We begin the next stage of our journey in Eldoret Station. The first picture shows Charan Singh Kundi aboard his train (Class 58 Garratt No. 5817) bound for Kampala from Eldoret.[1]Shunting Eldoret Yard.[2]

Rather than taking the main line towards Kampala, we are first going to take the branch-line to Kitale. Some 20 kilometres to the West of Eldoret the branch to Kitale diverges north from the main line. It’s route is shown on Open Street Map as a dotted line as can be seen below.[7] Its route can be just as easily picked out on the Google Earth satellite image as well.En-route to Kitale the railway passed through 3 stations … Soy, Springfield Halt and Moi’s Bridge. for much of its route it is followed by an unnamed and unnumbered secondary road. Soy Railway Station was perhaps 3 kilometres from the village with which it shared its name.

The satellite image is the best we can do to show the station, which appears to have a passing loop and some simple buildings but nothing more. From Soy the branch-line ran some 8 kilometres in a northerly direction before swinging round to the west.

It joined the line of the B2 raod and swung north-west and then north once again. As the railway approached Moi’s Bridge it swung sharply through 180 degrees and then back again to the north. I have carefully check the line of the railway and the B2 road but cannot find any evidence of Springfield Halt. Perhaps someone wiser than me can say where it is (or was).

Over some significant distance the railway has followed a relative straight path alongside the B2. The need to snake around will have been dictated by the contours of the land. The map below shows the route taken.We are still some kilometres south of Moy’s Bridge, so it is possible that Springfield Halt is/was close to this settlement, although it is not visible on Google Earth. On its way to Moy’s bridge the railway now meanders around and enters Moi’s Bridge Railway Station travelling in a easterly direction. The blue dot on the map below gives the location of the railway station and the bridge over the River Nzoia can be found adjacent to the ‘B2 road-marker.In the satellite image above, Moi’s Bridge Station is in the bottom left and the bridge is just off the top of the picture. The satellite image below is the best overhead image available.

However, I have been able to find a video from which I have obtained this photograph. It is not the most stunning shot of the bridge but it does help to understand it construction. It seems to be a three span simply-supported girder bridge with the largest span to the south-east and spanning the river.

After Moi’s Bridge the railway follows the B2 in a generally north-westerly direction until it reaches the suburbs of Kitale. In the centre of the town the railway finishes its journey adjacent to the C45 road – the Mumia Highway.

These next few pictures are taken on the approach to the branch terminus at Kitale. They can mainly be found on the Railway Ramblers website.[3] These pictures were taken in 2009. In 1983, Kitale station was still in use as a goods terminus but passenger services had long-gone. In 1983, a significant amount of the supplies, including food, for a major famine relief project in the Turkana district to the north of Kitale came in by rail and was forwarded by road. There was a Barclay 0-8-0 class 46 shunter stationed there and the regular branch engines were EE 1Bo-Bo1 of class 71 or 72.[4]A close-up of the permanent way, viewed about a kilometre south-east of Kitale station. As can be seen, there is no ballast, although the country’s operational lines are ballasted, which makes it possible that any ballast here has simply settled into the clay. The sleepers are made from neither wood nor concrete but metal, designed so as to grip the clay effectively and (presumably) prevent the whole structure from sinking into the ground when wet. A rail joint with fishplates can be seen in the foreground, while the keys holding the rail to the sleeper are of a fairly modern spring type, used in the UK during the mid 1970s. The tracks of bicycle tyres can be made out between the rails. The demand for Sustrans-style rail-to-trail conversions would be very limited in Kenya, since the locals just help themselves. The empty railway is a far more pleasant way of getting into Kitale than the noisy main road, where vehicles emit amounts of exhaust that would send British clean-air campaigners into a frenzy. The stench of diesel fumes on Kenya’s roads is not a pleasant experience, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]A typical view along the trackbed, looking north west towards Kitale. The W signs, one facing each way, instruct the driver of oncoming trains to sound his whistle – not for the footpath crossing seen in the foreground, but for the level crossings in front of and behind the photographer, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]The home starter signal for entering Kitale station yard. The signal is an unusual combination of British styles, using the lattice structure common on the LSWR but the lower quadrant board common on the GWR, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]The level crossing seen in the background of the photograph above is still protected by this substantial sign, although its neighbour on the far side has begun to topple over (look for the white-painted ends of its arms). Signs like this abound all over the Kenyan railway system, on lines both open and closed. Unusually, this road is made of tarmac and is not full of potholes! (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]The points (turnout) to Kitale goods yard. As can be seen, the point lever is still in place, as are all of its counterparts throughout this large yard, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]The crane in the old goods yard survives. Presumably, it is still capable of working, since all the cables and pulleys remain in place – albeit somewhat rusty and in need of lubrication, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]A view looking south eastwards along the departure platform of Kitale station. The massive building on the left is the extensive goods shed, The crane in the picture above can just be made out in the distance, silhouetted against the sky, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]A picture of Kitale Station building taken in 1929.[5]Kitale station, viewed from the goods yard, was equipped with only a single platfom, although it was very long. The station’s design is just what one would expect of a colonial structure built in the early 20th century with its elegant arches and colonnades. The departure road is covered in grass but the rails can just be made out, while the rails in the foreground belong to the main running line within the goods yard. The small stone building behind the telegraph pole was the station master’s office, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]The picture above was taken in 1930 at Kitale. It shows a small family waiting to take the train which will eventually lead to them returning to the United Kingdom. [6]The running in board at Kitale station is set some way back from the platform at an angle to approaching trains, presumably so that drivers and passengers could see it better. It declares the station to be 1,895.86 metres above sea level. The original height would probably have been shown in feet, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]The exit from the platform at Kitale station was suitably grand and still proclaims ‘Kitale Railway Station’, perhaps over 30 years after the last train ran. The door visible behind the colonnade on the right indicates that the railway’s livery was similar to the GWR’s famous ‘chocolate and cream’. After years of neglect, the platform surface is beginning to break up, but it is still in better condition than many of the country’s roads, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]Kitale station, viewed from the street, has the same colonial styling as on the platform side. The building still, in part at least, serves a public transport purpose, since the banner hung from the guttering on the left advertises the booking office of Matunda Buses. Often, one of Matunda’s vehicles will be seen parked outside, (c) Jeff Vinter. [3]

We finish this post on the concourse outside Kitale Station and prepare to return to Eldoret for the onward journey to Kampala.


  1., accessed on 27th May 2018.
  2., accessed on 27th May 2018.
  3. and, accessed on 27th May 2018.
  4. Paul Taylor;, accessed on 27th May 2018.
  5., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  6., accessed on 28th May 2018.
  7., accessed on 28th May 2018.

Uganda Railways – Part 12 – Nakuru to Eldoret

We return to Nakuru to pick up again on what is now the main line. In 1929 the Uganda Railway became Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours (KURH), which in 1931 completed a branch line to Mount Kenya and extended the main line from Nakuru to Kampala in Uganda.

In 1948 KURH became part of the East African Railways Corporation, which added the line from Kampala to Kasese in western Uganda in 1956.[1] and extended to it to Arua near the border with Zaïre in 1964.[2]We start the next part of the journey at Nakuru Station. The mapaboveshows the length of the line to the junction with the line to Kisumu. The MPD can be picked out adjacent to the triangle for turning locos and we have a few more pictures of locos at rest in the MPD further down this post. But first, some images at the station.Class 30 No. 3020 ‘Nyaturu’ 2-8-4 at Nakuru Station in 2005 © Christopher Yapp.[5]Class 60 Garratt (still bearing its Governor’s name plate and without Giesel ejector) awaits to take the Uganda Mail forward from Nakuru, © Geoff Pollard.[6]By 1962, Class 58 Garratt locomotives had replaced the Class 60s between Nakuru and Kampala. Between Nairobi and Nakuru the Class 58 had in turn been replaced by Class 90 1-Co-Co-1 diesels built by English Electric, © Malcolm McCrow.[6]Someone has mentioned that there are not that many pictures of diesels in my blog posts so far. This and the next two pictures show Class 90 Diesels at Nakuru, courtesy of Malcolm McCrow …. Class 90 No. 9010 waits to take over from the Class 58 which has brought the train from Kampala, © Malcolm McCrow.[6]Class 90 No. 9010 awaits the right away for Nairobi, © Malcolm McCrow.[6]English Electric Class 90 No. 9008 at Nakuru at the head of No 2 Down (Kampala to Nairobi and Mombasa), © James Lang Brown.[6]Class 87 No 8723 at the head of a train at Nakuru, © Youth With.[7]Class 87 No. 8739 at Nakuru shunting empty stock, © Christopher Yapp.[8]‘Tribal’ Class 29 2-8-2, No. 2905 ‘Digo,’ at Nakuru in 1967, © Robert Mason.[9]Kampala bound in 1961,  Class 58 Garratt No. 5804 – the uniquely lettered EAR&H – has just handed over its train to a Class 60 Garratt which will run through to Kampala. No. 5804 has run round its train and is about to go on shed, © Malcolm McCrow. [6]

A few pictures of locos at rest in the MPD.Nakuru Shed, © Archie Morrow.[3]Class 54 Garratt in Nakuru Yard, June 1963, © Neil Rossenrode.[4]Nakuru Shed and Marshalling Yard.[10]

The satellite image below shows both the MPD and the Nakuru Sidings.

After leaving Nakuru marshalling yard, trains travelled east to the junction with the Kisumu line. After that junction the line turned north through Kiamunyi and then west to Menengai Railway Station which is close to Barclays Airport and some distance from the volcanic crater of the same name which is actually due north of Nakuru. The adjacent image is a very early picture of Menengai Railway Station building.Menengai Crater is a massive shield volcano with one of the biggest calderas in the world. ?It is located in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya and is also the largest volcano caldera in Kenya as well as the second largest volcano caldera in Africa. Farmland occupies its flanks.

The Menengai Crater is located on the floor of the Rift Valley. The volcano formed about 200,000 years ago and the prominent 12 x 8 km caldera formed about 8000 years ago. The caldera floor is covered with numerous post caldera lava flows. The Menengai volcano is considered one of the best-preserved Krakatau-style calderas in the world.

Menengai has very little sediment in the caldera which is a thick mass of lava boulders and inaccessible ridges. Volcanic activity continues and is used for geothermal power generation. The Menengai Creater is located 10 km (6 mi) north of Nakuru.[11]Satellite image showing Menengai Railway Station

After Menengai, the railway continued in an approximately westerly direction to Rongai which lies 30 km west of Nakuru. It is about 10 kilometres north of Elburgon and 15 kilometres east of Molo, names recognisable as stations on the Kisumu line. The town lies 1912 m (6272 ft) above sea level and has a population of 20878.[12]Satellite image showing Rongai Railway Station

Initially travelling in a west-northwest direction, the railway swings round to the north as it reaches the next station/halt on the route, Visoi, just before leaving Nakuru County and entering Baringo County.

The line then heads to Esageri, meandering around to follow the contours, and on to Sabatia.Sabatia Railway Station.The line snakes around from Sabatia to Maji Mazuri, circling the north side of Koibatek Forest.Koibatek Forest.

Maji Mazuri is a settlement in Kenya’s Baringo County along the Makutano-Ravine-Kampi Ya Moto highway. This is the most southerly tip of the greater Baringo area. It neighbors Kericho’s Londiani and Nakuru’s Kamara areas. The settlement was formed by migrants who used to work in the Koibatek Forest but were either retrenched or retired at one time. As such Maji Mazuri is home to people from different ethnic groups of Kenya.[13]

After Maji Mazuri come Makutano and Equator.

The line reaches Makutano  in a meandering route close to the B53 (D314) road. By now the line is,for a very short distance, back in Nakuru County. The map below shows the route of the line and the County boundary. It also shows, to the north of Makutano township (and back in Baringo County),the second spiral on the line from Mombasa to Kampala. The third is just a short dicatnce beyond the next station, Equator.A Kampala bound School Train somewhere in the Highlands – possibly west of Maji Mzuri. The dining car is the fourth coach from the front of the train; the third coach is probably a kitchen car. (c) Malcolm McCrow.[6]

The spiral is also shown on the adjacent satellite image – at the top of the picture next to A104 road to Eldoret. Sadly, in 1994, I think I missed this and the next spiral because day had turned to night at this point on the journey.

Pictures of the spiral seem to be in short supply. The one immediately below is of the royal train negotiating the spiral. It was carrying the Queen Mother to Eldoret. We will discover the remaining spiral on the line when we look at the length between Kampala and Kasese in due course.[6]

The spiral at the Equator north of Makutano. [14]Despite the legend under this picture (taken through glass) which says that this is an image of the spiral between Equator an Timboroa, careful examination of the layout of the two spirals indicates that this is the spiral bewteen Equator and Makutano.[15]

The station at Equator is better documented, than others we have already passed, in photographs, particularly on Malcolm McCrow’s website.[6]The equator runs across the platform at Equator Railway Station. A “Whistle” diamond sign is just visible at the end of the platform. Generally the Mail Train and School Trains did not stop at Equator, but a first class ticket holder on a Mail Train could request a halt at any station where a run through would be the norm. School Trains would stop if booked in advance, (c) Malcolm McCrow.Equator. Observant passengers would have noticed different equator signs along the trackside as the train wound its way over the equator at least three times.It has been suggested that the train crossed the equator 5 times, but only three points seem to be marked by signs, (c) Malcolm McCrow.The station building at Equator! (c) James Lang Brown.[6].

The map and satellite image below show the station at Equator and the second spiral, of which I can find no photographs.The adjacent satellite image is a closer view of Equator Railway Station, and the image blow is a closer view of the spiral. I’d be really interested in seeing any photographs of the two spirals in this post, but particularly of the one to the west of Equator Railway Station.

As the railway leaves Equator Railway Station in a Westerly direction it is close to the summit of the line. Equator Railway Station is 8716ft (2492 metres) above sea-level. The summit of the line reaches a height of 9136ft (2785 metres) above sea-level.

The picture below is a Kenya-Uganda Railway (KUR) Postcard showing KUR Class EC1 still in grey but sporting East African railways and Harbours (EAR&H) Class 50  number board as it heads a Nairobi bound freight over the summit (c) EAR&H.[6]The summit viewed from a Nairobi-bound School Train taken from a second class coach behind the only first class one in the consist, (c) Malcolm McCrow.[6]

The railway ran parallel to the Nakuru-Eldoret (A104) road, north from the spiral, over the summit, to arrive at Timboroa. Timboroa is just within Baringo County, very close to the border with Uasin Gishu County.At an altitude of 9001ft (2744 metres), Timboroa Railway Station is the 11 highest (non-cable) railway station in the world, and the highest railway station in the Commonwealth.[16]Timboroa Railway Station.[17]111539: Timboroa Kenya Looking East, (c) Weston Langford.[18]

From Timboroa,the railway travelled north through Ainakboi, Tumeiyo, Kipkabus and Kaptagat Stations.1961 a school train stops at Kaptagat Station ©Norman and Irene Campbell.[24]

Trains travelling East would leave Eldoret in the dark, and arrive at Kaptagat just after dawn, (c) Malcolm McCrow.[6]

The adjacent satellite image shows Kaptagat Station which is in a loop in the line which belies the direction of travel. The railway is now travelling in a North-westerly direction and continues from Kaptagat to Cheploske and Plateau.

The satellite image below shows Plateau Station. The next photograph shows Plateau Station building.

After Plateau, one station remained, Sosian, before trains reached Eldoret. Eldoret is the fifth largest city in Kenya, second only to Kisumu in Western Kenya and the end of this stage of our journey!

The first train picture below is a very early image from colonial times. The map below shows the track layout at the Station.Class 60 no. 6008 at Eldoret in 1958.Derailment Eldoret Yard, 1963 (photo by Neil Rossenrode)Derailment, Eldoret Yard, 1963.[21]Derailment in Eldoret Yard in 1964, (c) Neil Rossenrode.[20]Class 60 in Eldoret Yard above and below, (c) Peter Davis.[22],[23].



  1.  “Investing in Uganda’s Mineral Sector” (PDF)., accessed on 20th June 2010 – no longer available.
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Uganda Railways – Part 11 – The Branch from Kisumu to Butere

We start with some useless trivia, or some vitally important information about Kisumu. Which it is depends on your personality and perspective! This is only a very short post about a branch line which has very little traffic on it, the line from Kisumu to Butere.

Kisumu, officially known as Kisumu City (and formerly Port Florence), is a Kenyan inland port city on Lake Victoria and the capital city of Kisumu County, Kenya. At an elevation of 1,131 m (3,711 ft), the city-county has an estimated population of 968,879, while the metropolitan region comprising the city and its suburbs and satellite towns of Maseno, Kondele and Ahero was estimated at over 1 million in early 2017. It is the third largest city in Kenya after the capital, Nairobi, and the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu is the principal city of western Kenya, the immediate former capital of Nyanza Province, the headquarters of Kisumu County and the proposed headquarters of the Lake Region Economic Block, which is a conglomeration of 13 counties in Western Kenya. It is the largest city in western Kenya and the second most important city after Kampala in the greater Lake Victoria basin.

Kisumu port was founded in 1901 as the main inland terminal of the Uganda Railway named “Port Florence”. Although trade stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s, it is again growing around oil exports.

Kisumu literally means a place of barter trade “sumo”. The city has “Friendship” status with Cheltenham, United Kingdom and “sister city” status with Roanoke, Virginia and Boulder, Colorado, United States.[1]

As we noted in the last post in this series, Kisumu Railway Station is currently abandonned, although this may change with the removal of the concession for running the railway from Rift Valley Railways.

The raison d’etre for the railway’s going to Kisumu was decided at the turn of the Twentieth Century when it was chosen as the destination for the Uganda Railway. This was perhaps somewhat confusing since Kisumu is not and was not in Uganda. But it was the port on Lake Victoria from which steam ships sailed across the lake to Port Bell for Kampala. Not until the 1930s did the railway get to Kampala, thus degrading the mainline to Kisumu to a mere branch from Nakuru. In the mid sixites, two rail ferries – the UMOJA and the UHURU – were commissioned for lake service, principally between Kisumu, Jinja and Mwanza. Here one of them prepares for an evening departure, (c) James Waite.[2]

Before we set off down the short branch to Butere. Here are a few photos of locomotives at Kisumu from the middle of the 20th Century. All are taken by James Waite.[2]

Class 31 No. 3130 spends the night at Kisumu motive power depot in company with Class 24 No. 2448. Tank Engine No. 1302 lets off steam in Kisumu. Morning at Kisumu as Tribal Class No. 3101 gets up steam.No. 3101 sets off for a day’s work.  It is perhaps surprising that, as a Kenyan locomotive, it has retained its BAGANDA name plate.Class 31 No. 3124 ‘Chope’ taken at Kisumu on 11th August 1977 (c) Mike Morant.[3]

We leave Kisumu Station travelling for a very short distance back down the line towards Nairobi. Just beyond the station throat and alonside Obote Road the Butere branch leaves the mainline.

The mainline heads north and the branch heads west towards Kisian, running on the North side of the B1 road.Tribal Class No. 3130 (formerly Karamojong) departing Kisumu with one of the three daily services to Butere, (c) James Waite.[2]

Kisian Station.[4]

Yala railway stationWe travel on through Lela Station and very quickly after that through Maseno Station. A short distance further on and the train passes through Luanda Station, and then on over the Yala River to Yala Railway Station. Sadly, there are very few pictures of these stations available on the internet.

Beyond Yala, the line travels just a short distance north to Namasoli and then on to the end of the line at Butere. Butere was like many other town s inn the area heavily dependent on sugar cane to drive its economy.


Apparently not making deliberate smoke for the camera, Tribal Class No. 3130 heads across the equator towards Butere, (c) James Waite.[2]


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Uganda Railways – Part 10 – West of Nakuru – the line to Kisumu.

Nakuru railway station sits on the east side of the centre of Nakuru and to the east of the goods yard and MPD. The new station was completed in 1957.Nakuru is a junction station. The original Uganda Railway travelled west from Nakuru to Kisumu on Lake Victoria and a steamer service provided access to Kampala via Port Bell. Once the railway was built to Kampala and beyond, the line to Kisumu became a branch-line. Before we travel on to Kampala on the main-line we need to explore the original line to Kisumu and its branch-line to Butere. Progress along the main line will need to wait for a later post.

We being the journey to Kisumu at Nakuru railway station, which, in its current form, dates from 1957. The picture below shows the station yard at Nakuru around the turn of the 20th Century.Once past the MPD, the line followed the Nakuru-Sgor Road (B4) for a short distance before swinging away to run alongside the Nakuru-Kisumu Road (A104). A short distance travelled on the North side of the A104 led to the junction bwteen the Kampala and the Kisumu lines. The Kampala line set off in a northerly direction and the Kisumu line swung sharply away the south going under the A104 and then south-southeast to run alongside the Tarmak Road (A56) to Njoro and its station.[5]111548: Mile 454-2F West of Nakuru Kenya Mixed to Kisumu 5812, © Weston Longford. [1] Another mixed train is shown in the picture on the right. The image comes from the Imperial War Museum and is entitled, “A Train Leaving Nakuru in the Rift Valley on the Long Climb over the Mau Escarpment to Kisumu in Kenya (Circa 1950s).” This mention of the Mau Escarpment has jogged my memory about an incline on the line to the West of Nakuru and this will require further investigation!

After Njoro, trains ran parallel to the C56 for a kilometre or so before meandering away to the south of the road only meeting it again at Elburgon.At Elburgon the railway swings north, crossing the C56 and circumnavigating a residential area before swinging back once again towards the C56 and crossing two viaducts. These were two trestle bridges as can be seen by the shadows cast by the sun on the satellite image below.Trestle bridges were the typical bridge structures on the Kisumu line. Two of these viaducts are shown in the images immediately below.[2] Both are © James Waite. The line continues to follow the C56 on its journey to the next town, Molo, passing through the small settlement of Turi and over another trestle bridge close to that village.[3]

Molo Railway Station building, like others we have already encountered on the line, s built in stone and so feels a substantial building.

Alongside these notes are two photographs of the station building, they are traditionally shot and as such provide a good insight into what the building was like. The picture which follow are part of a photo essay by David Mutuma which he has called “Lil’ Town in the Forest”. They are stylised and reflect his perspective on the buildings. They are enjoyable, but further than that, for the purposes of this blog, they pick up details of the station which I have not been able to find in respect of other stations on the line.[4] Beyond Molo, the next station is Mau Summit. This is adjacent to the C56 and easily accessible.A series of stations follow – Londiani, Kedowa, Lumbwa, Kipkelion and Tunnel, before we arrive at Fort Ternan.Londiani. [5]Class 30 No. 3020 ‘Nyaturu’ at Kipkelion Station © Donald Mac.[10]Kipkelion main railway offices above and Lumbwa station buildings below, © Anita Chepkoech. [6]After following the C56 and then the B1 road. The railway finds itself following a circuitous path through the stations above before getting to Fort Ternan. Over the last few kilometres into the town the railway follows the C35. The nature of the landscape means that a series of trestle viaducts were necessary to keep gradient as shallow as possible.Class 87 No. 8740  at Fort Ternan, © Yves Locomot.[7]111557: Mile 536-11F between Tunnel and Fort Ternan, on the same viaduct, Class 58 Garratt No. 5812 is in charge of a westbound mixed goods train. [1]Fort Ternan had a triangle for reversing of locomotives as can be seen in the map extract above and the satellite image below.Fort Ternan Railway Station.[5]
Class 24 No. 2448 waits in the loop at Fort Ternan for the Nakuru goods to arrive, © James Waite.[8]Two Class 24 locos at Fort Ternan in 1977, © Lou Johnson.[9]


We travel on through Koru Station, then Muhoroni Station, and we have pictures of that station below.Then we pass through Chemelil Station, the picture below was taken sometime in the mid-1950s. [11]Chemelil Railway Station.[5]Children cross the tracks at Chemelil.[5]

Further along the line we cross the Nyando River and pass through Kibigori Station. Now travelling due west the line passes through Miwani (below) and Kibos Stations before reaching Kisumu on Lake Victoria.

On the plan below the picture of Miwani, we can see the terminus at Kisumu and also the branch-line which heads westwards to Butere.Kisumu’s station canopies are of a similar design to those at Nyakuru. Sadly, the station gets a lot less use than it used to. It has been closed for some time now and its condition is deteriorating.Kisumu railway station, Kenya

Some of these pictures of the station come from a site dedicated to saving stations along the Lunatic Line and were taken in 2016.[5] Others were taken in 2011,[12] by Richard Portsmouth.

The town holds out a hope that the SGR which will soon reach Naivasha will continue to Kisumu. The proposal that they have submitted involves the SGR taking over the site of the present station.[13]

The short branch from Kisumu to Butare will be the subject of a separate post.



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Uganda Railways – Part 9 – Naivasha to Nakuru

We start the next leg of the journey at Naivasha Railway Station. Class 30 2-8-4 No. 3020 “Nyaturu” (NBL 27466/1955) stands at Naivasha, it is one of three locomotives restored by Nairobi Railway Museum and was originally in use on the Tanzanian part of the EAR system.[1]As we leave Naivasha, the railway continues in a north-westerly direction through Morendat Station, over Morendat River Bridge and through Ilkek Station to Gilgil. Morendat Station and River Bridge on Google Satellite Image.Ilkek Station.

Gilgil is the first town after Naivasha along the line.111464: Gilgil Kenya 3124 Chope Derailed – taken on 24th August 1971, (c) Weston Langford.[2] Three images of Gilgil Station seemingly abandonned in 2013 …….[3],[4],[5]Gilgil was the junction station for the line to Nyahururu. This branch ran through Oleolondo and Ol Kalou to reach Nyahururu, the branch terminus. It left the mainline just to the East of Gilgil and followed what is now the C77 road from Gilgil. The line snaked around passing through Gilgil Golf Course and can be seen alongside the 4th hole of the 9-hole course in the image below.[6]After the golf course the line swung away from the C77 to the south-east and then for a very short distance ran alongside what is now the D390 before turning to the north and eventually regaining a path  a 100 metres or a bit more to the east of the C&7 running north towards Oleolondo where the line crossed the road at grade. It conitnued to follow the C77 northwards but now on its west side until reaching a station halt at Ol Kalou.

The old station site at Ol Kalou remains open and undeveloped as can be seen on the adjacent satellite images from Google Earth.

From Ol Kalou the abandonned line continued north alongside the C77, always within about 100 metres of it and then crossing over to the east side of the road a kilometre or two north of Ol Kalou before reaching its terminus at Nyahururu.

In the images above the tourist attraction which probably supported the branch-line while it was in operation can be seen – the Thompson Falls gave their name to the town in colonial times. Nyahururu was founded as Thomson’s Falls after the 243 ft (74m) high Thomson’s Falls on Ewaso Narok river, a tributary of the Ewaso Nyiro River, which drains from the Aberdare mountain ranges. It is on the Junction of Ol Kalou-Rumuruti road and the Nyeri-Nakuru road.

The town grew around a railway from Gilgil opened in 1929 (and now effectively abandoned). As well as providing access to a tourist attraction the line supported local industry. The town was once an important player in the timber milling industry, and the now defunct National Pencil Company had a factory there. It is also an important milk processing hub.[7]

The map and satellite image show the location of the railway terminus and the turning triangle for locomotives.

We return now to the mainline and travel on from Gilgil. The next station on the mainline is Kariandusi.Kariandusi village is a settlement in Nakuru County, Kenya. It is located 17.5 miles from Nakuru town and 7.5 miles from Gilgil town. Inhabitants of Kariandusi settled in the area in early 1980s in the former Lord Egerton Cole and Lord Delamere ranches. The area has a well established tourism industry, with Kariandusi prehistoric site, Lake Elementaita, Several Hot Springs and booming hospitality industry providing the economic growth for the area.[8] It sits close to the lake and under the significant local peak know as Table Mountain.

The prehistoric site is amongst the first discoveries of Lower Paleolithic sites in East Africa. There is enough geological evidence to show that in the past, large lakes, sometimes reaching levels hundreds of meters higher than the Present Lake Nakuru and Elementaita, occupied this basin.

Dating back between 700,000 to 1 million years old, Kariandusi is possibly the first Acheulian site to have been found in Situ in East Africa. Dr. Leakey, a renowned paleontologist, believed that this was a factory site of the Acheulian period. He made this conclusion after numerous collections of specimens were found lying in the Kariandusi riverbed.

This living site of he hand-axe man, was discovered in 1928. A rise in the Lake level drove pre-historic men from their lake-side home and buried all the tools and weapons which they left behind in a hurry. The Acheulian stage of the great hand-axe culture, to which this site belongs, is found over a very widespread area from England, France, and Southwest Europe generally to Cape Town.[9]

The image above is typical of the scenery in this area of the Rift Valley and is taken close to Mbaruk the next station on the line. The satellite image below shows the passing loop and station at Mbaruk.The last station before Nakuru itself is in Nakuru’s suburbs at Lanet and the location is shown in the satellite image below.Nakuru is the final destination for this blog post.

Nakuru was the most modern station on the line – complete with a public address system, colour light signalling and double track westbound between Nakuru East and the divergence of the former mainline to Kisumu.  During stops at Nakuru passengers could buy refreshments, books and newspapers from a trolley which passed down the platform while the locomotive was being changed, © Malcolm McCrow.[10]

111545: Nakuru Kenya 0920 Mixed to Kisumu 5812©Weston Langford.[2]111546: Nakuru Kenya 0920 Mixed to Kisumu 5812©Weston Langford.[2]111547: Nakuru Kenya 0920 Mixed to Kisumu 5812©Weston Langford.[2]


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