Monthly Archives: Jun 2018

The Uganda Railway – Part 18 – Tororo to Jinja

We have returned to Tororo and we are nearly ready to set off for Kampala! Before we do, it is worth a quick look round. Tororo Rock sits close to the middle of the town with the town-centre and the station to its north and suburbs to its east, west and south and flanked by the town golf-course. The view above is taken from the south side of the rock.An aerial view of Tororo Railway Village on the north side of the town. The picture is taken facing South-East with the town-centre off the picture to the right. On the left of the photograph, Tororo Station and Station Yard can be seen devoid of traffic. The line to Kenya heads off towards the horizon, barely distinguishable from the grass which has overgrown it. [1]Tororo Town looking in a generally northerly direction from the Rock. The Railway Station is in the extreme top right corner of the picture in front of the trees. [2]A picture of Tororo Station taken in 2014. A Uganda Railways Locomotive is in the bay platform possibly prearing to levae for Kampala or in the process of shunting the yard. [3]

Before we set off for Kampala, there is one more thing we need to notice. On the map above there are two sidings leaving the station at its western end. One is short – it provides a rail link for a World Food Programme Warehouse (below). The second is a little more significant. It can be seen heading south in both of the maps immediately above. And can be seen continuing south past Tororo Airport, crossing Airfield Road, running about 300 metres to the west side of Busia Road (A104).

It then turns westward immediately alongside the Jinja-Tororo Raod (A109) to provide the rail link for Tororo Cement Works. This can be seen on the map immediately below.

Tororo Cement Limited (TCL) is the largest manufacturer of cement in Uganda,[4] producing an estimated 1.8 million metric tonnes annually.[5]  In July 2015, TCL began an 86 billion UgSh expansion to increase annual production to 3.0 million metric tonnes.[6][7] Production on the newly completed production line began in March 2018. [8]

On 4th June 2018, Umeme upgrades Tororo Cement Industries power, plant doubles production. [9] An image, from 2009/2010, of the plant, taken from the south-west with Tororo Rock in the background, is shown below. [10]

After having had a good look round Tororo, we set off for Kampala.Class 60 Garratt No. 6023 in Tororo in 1971. [11]The line to Kampala is on the left. The line to Pakwach is on the right!

We leave Tororo is a north-westerly direction following the contours on the north side of the Nagongera Road as far as Achilet (about 5 kilometres outside of Tororo). For the next 10 kilometres the railway stays north of the road until reaching Nagongera, or Nagongora, as the Station is named on the maps below.After Nagongera, the line passed through Budumba.Budumba Station.After Budumba, road and rail combine to cross the bridge over the Mpologoma River.The line then splits with the northerly line crossing the Jinja-Mbale Road. The shorter route to Jinja goes via Busembatia and along the Jinja-Mbale Road.After Busembatia (where a link headed off to meet the more northerly line) the shorter more southerly line continues to Iganga (top right, below), Magamaga (bottom left, below) along the Jinja-Mbale-Totoro Road (A109) and then into Jinja.

The line through the station at Iganga runs North-South on the West side of the town-centre as shown in the adjacent satellite image and map.

It then runs roughly parallel to the A109 before passing north of Bukoyo. Which is a reasonable size town, for some reason not marked on the route map roughly where Namasoga and Bulanga are shown above.Magamaga is another decent sized town on the route of the line, indeed the railway passes right through the middle of the settlement, but there is no evidence of a station. It seems highly unlikely to me that there would not have been a halt somewhere at Magamaga given the size of the town, even if it is no longer in use.Just to the west of Magamaga, the line crosses the main Jinja-Mabale-Tororo highway (A109) by means of a bridge and then travels on the south side of the road and close to Lake Victoria before reaching Jinja.On its final approach to Jinja, the line travels alongside a branch-line which fed industry on the shores of Lake Victoria in Masese and Walukuba, before joining the more northerly route once again as it enters Jinja Station.

The more northerly route of the mainline passed through only one named Railway Station which appears on OpenStreetMap, that of Namaganda (Namabuga) – which is about a third in from the left on the map below, near the top of the image. There was also a station close to Kamuli and at one time a branch-line which left the northerly route at Mbulamuti.The northerly route is considerably more torturous. As it seeks to maintain a steady grade the contours mean that is snakes down to Jinja and travels considerably further all told. The locations of Namaganda (Namabuga) and Mbulamuti are shown on the maps and satellite images below.Namaganda (Namabuga).Kamuli was some distance from the route of the northern line (over 10 kilometres along the Jinja-Kamuli Road). The station was reached by trains coming from Tororo after crossing the Kamuli-Iganga Road near Kitayunjwa. The first picture below is a satellite image of Kamuli Station site. The second image shows Kamuli Railway Station in 1969. The third image is a map of the station site from OpenStreetmap.Tribal Class 31, No. 3139, ‘Pokomo’ was built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1956 and was allocated to the Uganda Railways in 1977. It is seen heading its train at Kamuli in 1969. Kamuli, the first station eastbound after Mbulamuti, was by-passed by first and second class Mail Trains after the Tororo-Namaga deviation was completed in 1962 but the all stations Nairobi/Kampala second and third class passenger trains were still routed over the original main line via Mbulamuti which was the junction for Namasagali (c) Glyn Constantine. [10]The railway travels on to cross the the Kamuli-Jinja Road as shown below and heads for Mbulamuti.Mbulamuti.It is not at all clear, to me, where the station for the junction at Mbulamuti was, from the satellite images at least. The location of the junction can be seen on the satellite image. The mainline enters the image at the top right, it is only vaguely visible. It drifts down in a south-westerly direction through the middle of the word ‘Pentecostal’ to some trees and then curves away to the east, leaving the image bottom right. The road, which leaves the route of the mainline at the trees runs along the route of the branch-line.

The branch from Mbulamunti travelled north on the east side of the Victoria Nile. First it curved around the south side of Mbulamuti, and then sinuously followed the contours north. We will make this branch the subject of another post in this series.

Both lines enter Jinja Railway Station from the North, as can be seen on the adjacent map.

I had the joy of sitting for over 6 hours in Jinja Railway Station in 1994. The passenger train I was on was held up by the derailement of a goods train between Jinja and Kampala.

Our journey, in this post, ends here at Jinja Railway Station with a series of photographs of the location which can be seen below.

In our next post we will set off from Jinja, cross the Nile and head on towards Kampala.


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The Uganda Railway – Part 17 – Gulu to Arua

The featured image above shows one of the construction trains used for the extension from Gulu to Pakwach,© M. Hardy-Randall. [8]

Our journey in this post begins at Gulu and when we leave the town we head west towards Pakwach. We start this post with a couple of photographs taken in Gulu.

111510: Gulu, Uganda. An Officers Inspection Car No 116, taken in August 1971, (c) Weston Langford. [1]

Level Crossing tarmacked over at Gulu, taken around 2010. [2]

Leaving Gulu Station we head for Pakwach. Thanks to Thomas Kautzor, I now know that the stations between Gulu and Pakwach were: Paliri, Bwobo, Aparanga, Pai Halt, Lolim and Pakwach East. Finding evidence of these stations has been difficult. Part of the problem with identifying locations is that the station names seem not to relate easily to the named locations on maps.

Out of Gulu, the line heads initially in a generally westerly direction and the image below is typical of the countryside through which the line travels.

The trajectory of the line changes when it reaches Alelele. It heads in a south-westerly direction towards Alero.

After Alero, the line travels in a south-southwesterly direction through Nwoya and on through Patit and Patera to Aparanga where reports indicate that there is a railway station of sorts. [3] It can be just picked out centre-left on the satellite image below. I have found no photographs of the station/halt.

The next station I can find any possible location for along the line was some distance further to the West at Lolim. On the way to Lolim, the railway and the Gulu-Arua Road followed almost the same course through, or close to, Lalem, Purongo, Wianomo and Wianaka.

Near Wianaka, the road skirts the northern edge of the Murchison Falls National Park. The railway predates the formation of the National Park and so transgresses its boundaries, (see the left hand side of the map above).

Going on to Lolim, while the railway snakes around, the road from Wianaka follows the Park boundary, (as above). The most likely location of the Railway Station at Lolim is shown in the satellite image below, which is just off the left of the map above. Again, there are no photos of the station and there is little evidence on the satellite image to confirm its location.

From Lolim, the railway and road continued on a relatively similar alignment. The railway follows the contours to minimise gradients, the road takes a more direct route. Both meet short of the bridge over the Albert Nile near Pakwach.

By the time the bridge is reached the railway and the road are on exactly the same alignment with the rails let into the surface of the road. In the first set of images below, the rails are clearly visible in the tarmac surface of the road over the bridge. [4][5][6]

The second couple of photographs show the bridge from along the banks of the Albert Nile. [7][2]

Arriving at Pakwach the railway turned to the West off the bridge. At present, the line stops at the end of the road/rail bridge. The line passed through the centre of Pakwach and was extended, in 1969, to Arua.

All evidence of that extension has possibly disappeared under the formation of the Pakwach-Arua Road. There are short sections where the road alignment does not seem to have covered the old railway formation. One example is shown in the adjacent satellite image. In the Mbaro area, where, over a short length, the road travels north-south before reaching Oryang, the railway alignment can just be picked out to the east-side of the road.

However, this route has some questions attached to it. … When the Pakwach-Arua Road reaches Nebbi it turns through an sharp, acute angle at a roundabout. The alignment of the road in Nebbi is vary unlikely to be the alignment of the original metre-gauge line. There is a possible cut-off route for the line which avoids Nebbi. Its alignment can be picked out on the satellite image below. It starts on the eastern edge of the image close to the village of Namrwodo and runs just north of west across the image before turning north-west and then meeting the Gulu-Arua Road once again.

We know that the railway reached Arua in 1969. It may have taken this route or another route and I cannot find enough evidence to establish the actual route at present Nor can I identify the site of the Station in Arua. This is an unsatisfactory end to the story of this line. Perhaps in due course I will find more information, or possibly someone who has more information will come forward.

In the next Uganda Railways post we return to Tororo, and begin to focus once again on the mainline to Kampala.


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The Uganda Railway – Part 16 – Soroti to Gulu

The first picture in this post is a monochrome image taken at Soroti. a Class 60 Garratt arrives with its passenger train from Tororo. The second image captures a busy moment in Soroti Station Yard as another Class 60 musters goods wagons for its northwesterly travelling mixed passenger and goods train.

The third picture claims to show a busy time on the platform at Soroti. The station building is typical of many on the route but does not match that at Soroti, so, take your pick. Any of the stations shown in the last post or some below could be the location of this photograph! The caption on the original image says … “This photograph shows Soroti Railway Station 1956. It was a bustling and important railway cargo terminus for hauling of exports from Uganda to Mombasa Port, © Tahir Mirza.” [2]111487: Soroti Station, Uganda Westbound Passenger service behind a Class 60 Garratt, © Weston Langford. [3]A typical rural scene in Uganda. [4]

We set off from Soroti Station and the line swings immediately first to the Northeast and then back to the Northwest and then crosses the Soroti to Moroto Road. As we travel on we pass through or close to Ajikidaki, Nyalai, Okunguru, Obule, Omgariama, Mwogo, Aloi and Bar before arriving at Lira. The named stations on the route are Achuna and Aloi. First Achuna:111489: Achuna Uganda Westbound Passenger 2431, © Weston Langford. [3]111493: Achuna Station 1971, © Weston Langford. [3]

Then comes Aloi:

"disabled rail link to northren uganda"Above: 111497: Aloi Railway Station, Uganda Westbound Passenger Service with No. 2431, © Weston Langford. [3]

Adjacent: Typical of the condition of the line close to Aloi before renovation, © John Otim. [5]

After the small village stop at Aloi the line heads in a West-northwest direction, and then a westerly direction to Lira.Level Crossing near Lira.[6]Lira Railway Station.The city of Lira (above) and the location of the railway Station (below).I could find no photographs of Lira Station to put on this blog. There are a few pictures on the line from immediately around the city of Lira: These three pictures (above) were taken on the first journey for a train along the line on 20 years – in 2013. [7] The third picture shows the condition of the line at that time between Lira and Gulu.

North of Lira Station the line crosses the Lira-Kitgum Road and then travels through or near Alito and Kole, Otwal and Ayomlony, Lamin-Lyeka and Lokwir. At Lokwir the line allies itself for a time with what is now known as the Jomo Kenyatta Road, following it until it reaches Lakwatomer. It then heads west-northwest to Gulu.Kole (above and below).There are no signs of a formal station at Kole, however, the build up of a community at the road rail crossing which is some distance from the town of Kole (which is away to the East) suggests that trains must have stopped here in the past.There is a station at Otwal. It is shown in the satellite image below and location on the map above in the bottom right-hand corner.Lamin Lyeka – a village predominantly of traditional hut homes. The railway is in the bottom left of the satellite image.As the railway leaves Lamin-Lyeka and passes close to Opit (before reaching Lokwir) it runs through another village of traditional homes. In fact, the countryside in this area of Uganda is littered with  traditional round dwellings, whereas in the south-west of the country traditional homes are usually rectangular in shape.

The railway line enters Gulu from the south-east and turns to a north-westerly direction as it runs through the station site (below).The tracks approaching Gulu Railway Station. [10]111504: Gulu, Uganda No. 2305 in August 1971 © Weston Langford. [3]111506: Gulu, Uganda Nos. 2431 and 2301 in August 1971 © Weston Langford. [3]111507: Gulu, Uganda Nos. 2431 and 2301 in August 1971 © Weston Langford. [3]A survey by the US Army showed Gulu Station in use for growing maize in 2014. [11]Wagon abandoned at Gulu railway station. [12]Museveni opens Gulu railway linePresident Museveni (in hat) in the cab of a lcoc at the commencement of the Rift Valley Railway operations at the weekend in Gulu District (October 2013), (c) Cissy Makumbi. [8]

President Museveni flags off a train in Gulu, Uganda. The government is accused of awarding the tender to a Chinese firm after signing MoUs with another. FILE PHOTOPresident Museveni flags off a train in Gulu, Uganda. [9]

Our survey of the line will continue from Gulu with the next post.


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The Uganda Railway – Part 15 – Malaba to Soroti Railway Station

We are at the border between Uganda and Kenya. The railways have been in a reasonable condition over much of our journey to Malaba. A few of the branch-lines have deteriorated badly and the ride along the main-line has not been all that smooth. Sadly, as we travel into Uganda, things get a lot worse.

First a map of the railway system. The system is entirely focussed on transporting, primarily, goods to the coast at Mombasa. Little thought has been given to providing a network of feeder railways for Uganda’s capital. All railways lead to Tororo rather than to Kampala.The map below shows the first length of the journey from the Kenyan border at Malaba to Tororo. At Tororo there is a major junction where the line to Kampala and Kasese diverged from the line to Arua.The first picture below  is taken from a Tororo-bound train in August 1971 and shows an Eastbound service waiting for the line out of Malaba into Kenya.[1]111466: Malaba Kenya Eastbound Goods 3144 Tharaka Taken from Westbound Mail, © Weston Langford. [1]401461: near Tororo Uganda Mountain outcrop viewed from train, © Weston Langford. [1]111469: Tororo Station in Uganda, a passenger train for Pakwach behings a Class 60 Garratt No. 6023, © Weston Langford. [1] Tororo is the junction from the main line for the line to Arua and Pakwach East on the Upper Nile. Weston Langford had booked himself onto a tour train in August 1971 not long after the coup led by Idi Amin. He comments: “The tour party rode in carriages transferred from the Mail to the branch train. There was no sign of any immigration presence so the tour party repaired to the local police station where we were breezily told to report to the police at our first overnight stop. On the wall of the police station was a magazine page of a photo of the Queen and Commonwealth Heads of Government. It was stuck to the wall with sticky tape. The rest of that first day was a pleasant train ride through the African countryside. As far as Soroti the engine was a 60 class Garratt. The 60 class bore a striking resemblance to the South Australian 400 Class. From Soroti onwards the engine was a 24 Class 4-8-0.” [1]

Given that the first pictures I’ve found relate to a journey from Malaba to the North of Uganda, we will follow the branch-line first  and return to the route of my own, 1994, journey later. Suffice to say that , in 1994, we arrived at Tororo in the early hours, between 3am and 4am. I was awoken from my sleep at Malaba, supposedly for a passport and visa check which did not happen, and I was just beginning to settle again when we passed through Tororo in the dark on our way to Kampala.111470: Tororo Uganda Passenger for Pakwach 6023 and Shunter 1106, © Weston Langford. [1]The branch-line to the north of Uganda was closed for a very long time. In the 1970s, Idi Amin was influential in the break up of the east Afrian community and the transfer of the railway from the East African Railways and Harbours to the control of Uganda Railways. In subsequent years, tacks were stolen for steel, engines broke down and no spare parts were available, and the railways became so unreliable that they were effectively useless. [2] There was a brief period in the 1990s when some semblance of proper services were restored but ultimately to no avail.

The picture above shows the first train for many years to run along the route we are about to take. The image shows the train in Tororo preparing to run along the branch through Soroti. The journey took place on 14th September 2013. [3] Rift Valley Railways were responsible for the network at that time. As well as improving transport links to northern Uganda, the line provides a regional railhead for South Sudan and eastern DR Congo. The study of the feasibility of undertaking the refurbishment was undertaken at the behest of the Delegation of the European Union to Uganda [9]

Tororo Railway Station. [4]

This is a short video about the opening of the branch-line. The work was done before considering the work necessary on the mainline.

The three images of Tororo Station above come from a report by Dr R Choudhuri. [7]Tororo Yard in 2014. [8]The northern branch (above) left the mainline immediately to the west of Tororo. The western end of Tororo Station Yard, the right-hand track heads off up the branch we are following. [10]Level Crossing close to Tororo.

The branch travelled through or close to Mukuju, Apokori and Muliri before the halt at Mogades. close to Molo. [10]It then travelled via Lwaboba, Bumasikye, and Naukuma Village before passing through the second halt on the line at Manafwa, [10] before crossing the Manafura River about 2/3rds of the way to Mbale.After crossing the river the line travelled near or through Mudodo Village, Bungokho, Bugema and Mukanga Centers before arriving at Mbale. It appears from a survey of the line that no station facilites were provided between Tororo and Mbale, a distance of about 50 kilometres. A map of Mbale, showing the location of the station is followed by a satellite image of the station site.A recently repainted Mbale Station sign in 2004, © Iain Mulligan. [6]111474: Mbale, Uganda a Northwest-bound Passenger Service behind Class 60 Garratt No. 6023, © Weston Langford. [1]

Immediately after Mbale Station, the railway turns north and crosses the Namatala River. En-route to Soroti the line passed through Kachumbala, Bukedea, Kumi and Okungulu. The locations of these stations are shown in satellite views and map below.Kachumbala


A 60 Class with a passenger train at Bukedea, The train was booked to take four and a half hours from Tororo to Soroti where it was scheduled to arrive at 1205 before continuing on to Lira at 1400.  The booked time to Lira was  4 hours 40 minutes.No first class accommodation was available and the trains were scheduled to connect with the daily 2nd and 3rd Class only train between Eldoret and Kampala and vice versa, (c) EAR&H.

Kumi111480 and 111481: Two pictures taken at Kumi Station, Uganda of a Northwest-bound Passenger Train taken in August 1971 behind Class 60 Garratt No. 6023, © Weston Langford. [1]Okungulu (or Okunguru).

After Okungulu the railway crossed a swamp. The swamp sat alongside the Omunyari River which was bridges by a substantial girder bridge … In fact, a series of such bridges.[9][11] Bridges over the Omunyari River and Kapiri Swamp, [11] as seen in the satellite images below. The second image is a close up of the south side of the swamp shown in the first image.Just beyond the swamp we encounter Soroti Station, some distance from the town which gives it its name. The map below shows Soroti and the Kapiri Swamp but the rialway station is off the north of the map.111483: This picture was taken in August 1971 at Soroti Station, Uganda of a Northwest-bound Passenger Train taken in August 1971 behind Class 60 Garratt No. 6023. The train was taken over by No. 2431 in image 11484, below. Both pictures © Weston Langford. [1]

We finish this leg of our journey at Soroti Railway Station.


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