The Uganda Railway – Part 6 – Ulu to Nairobi

Our journey along the Uganda Railway continues ………….

Ulu is our starting point for the next leg of the journey. The station can be seen on the satellite image below. It is at the top of the photograph and approximately in the middle of the image. Ulu is located in the region of Kajiado. The distance from Ulu to Kenya’s capital Nairobi is approximately 69 km/43 miles (as the crow flies).[1]  This next leg of our journey is not a long one!Leaving Ulu for Nairobi, trains travel in a North-easterly direction before eventually swinging round to the North-west towards Konza.Just before we reach Konza a branch-line diverts off the mainline in a south-westerly direction. Konza is the junction for the line which serves Magadi Soda Works. The branch travels via  Kajiado, Kenya Marble Quarry, Elangata Wuas, Singiraini, and Koora to Magadi Soda Works. I visited the Soda Works in 1994, travelling there by car from Nairobi. The first six pictures below are my own and the quality is not great.  Road is the easiest way to access Magadi despite the railway link.[3] One other way of visiting Lake Magadi is to take the Jaza train. [2] Konza Station is reached just after the branch-line leaves the mainline.Early daylight at Konza –  © Peter Ritchie.[4]The line then follows a north-north-easterly path until it reaches Kitengela (Kapiti Plains Estate/Stony Athi) and turns northeast towards Athi River. As the line approaches Athi River it passes the new SGR Station of Athi River and then turns sharply to the west and enters the town. Two short branches leave the mainline at Athi River, serving the Blue Triangle Cement Company (East African Portland Cement) works to the West if the town.Class 58 Garratt in about 1960 – the locomotive has been fitted with a Giesel ejector. No. 5810 is seen at Athi River, 16 miles from Nairobi – © Iain Mullilgan.[4]Class 59 Garratt, No. 5918 sitting in the late afternoon sun at Athi River waiting for the return working above. Below, a fireman’s eye view as the train sets off for Nairobi.[6]EARC 92 Class diesel arriving as Class 59 Garratt No. 5904 Mount Elgon at Athi River – © James Waite.[4]

The mainline crosses the Athi River just after the station and then passes under the new SGR line.Mount Elgon and its train depart across the Athi River for Nairobi – © Iain Mullilgan. [4]Mount Elgon and its train continue across the Athi River for Nairobi – © James Waite.[4]

After crossing the Athi River the metre-gauge railway passes through Marimbeti Station before reaching Embakasi Station. As can be seen from the map below, Embakasi is the location of the present Nairobi terminus of the SGR line, some distance away from the city centre.The next few pictures show Embakasi in the days long before the SGR was imagined!An unidentified 59 Class heading a freight over the Athi Plain – © Iain Mulligan.[4]Class 60 Garratt  No. 6003 Sir Stewart Symes before it was fitted with a Giesel ejector.  The train is near Embakasi – © Iain Mulligan.[4]Class 59 heads No 4 Down near Embakasi. The train would have departed Nairobi at 1545, calling at all stations to Mombasa where it was due to arrive at 0710 the following morning – just 50 minutes ahead of No 2 Down – the Mail Train which will have left Nairobi at 1830 for Athi River, Konza, Mtito Andei, Voi and Mombasa © Iain Mulligan.[4]

Beyond Embakasi the railway passed through a marshalling yard and then through Imara Daima Station before swinging round to the North-East.It then crossed the Ngong River in the southern suburbs of Nairobi.The first passenger train from the coast crosses the Ngong River Bridge which was completed as part of the Embakasi/Nairobi realignment in 1958. PHOTO – EAR&H.[4]

A short branch-line joins the mainline from the East just as it swings round to travel almost due West and is immediately joined by another branch, this time much longer. This branch headed off in a Northerly and then Northeasterly direction and terminated at Nanyuki. On the way it passed through Dandora, Githurai, Kahawa, Ruiru, Kalimoni (Juja), Komo and Thika Stations.Tribal Class 3109 Bahororo takes water at Thika.  © Iain Mulligan.[8]

Beyond Thika, the line passed through Mitubiri, Santamor, Makuyu, Saba Saba, Maragua, Murang’a, Sagana, Makaungu, Karatina, Nyeri, and Naro Moru Stations, before arriving at Nanyuki.

A Class 31 was permanently stabled at Sagana to double head freights over the 3.5% grade to Nanyuki, © Iain Mulligan.[8]

Nanyuki is a market town in Laikipia County of Kenya lying northwest of Mount Kenya along the A2 road and at the terminus of the branch railway from Nairobi. It is situated just north of the Equator. It was founded in 1907 by British settlers, some of whose descendants still live in and around the town. Nanyuki is currently the main airfield (airbase) of the Kenya Air Force. The British Army also keeps a base at The Nanyuki Show Ground (NSG) from where it conducts yearly desert and jungle training exercises on the mountain and in the arid areas to the north.[7]Nanyuki – branch terminus

After passing the Nanyuki branch-line, the railway is now in the industrial heart of Nairobi with a whole series of branches and sidings. Approaching Nairobi Central Station it passes through two more stations/halts, at Makadara and Makongeni. Then we arrive at Nairobi Central Station. The next two photographs are more of my poorer slide photos from 1994. The one’s following have been culled over time off the internet.The map above focusses more specifically on Nairobi Station. The lines leaving the right of the image head for Mombasa, the line leaving the left of the image is the line heading West to Kisumu and to Uganda.

The next post in this series about the Uganda Railway will spend time in Nairobi and will also visit the Railway Museum.[9]



  1., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  2., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  3. Lake Magadi Soda by Road from Nairobi;, accessed on 21st May 2018.
  4., accessed on 15th May 2018.
  5., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  6., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  7., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  8., accessed on 21st May 2018.
  9., accessed on 22nd May 2018.

4 thoughts on “The Uganda Railway – Part 6 – Ulu to Nairobi

  1. James Waite

    Dear Roger,

    I’ve enjoyed your EAR series. In your latest piece, from Ulu to Nairobi, you kindly credit me with three photos at Athi River. The first one, of the 59 crossing a diesel in the station, and the last one with the level crossing sign in the foreground, are indeed mine, but the middle one of the 59, is someone else’s!

    Best wishes,


  2. Pingback: British East Africa | Roger Farnworth

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