Uganda Railways – Part 30 – The Railway Magazine 1950 – June 1950

Reading through old copies of The Railway Magazine, I came across this article in the June 1950 copy. I thought it might be of interest alongside my earlier post about traction on the East African Railways:

and my previous (most recent) post in this series ….

Kenya and Uganda Railway Locomotives

by G. Gibson CME, E.A.R.&H. [1]

Class F 0-6-0 Locomotive. [2]

Class B 2-6-0 Locomotive. [2]

Class N 2-6-0 Locomotive, introduced in 1896. [1]

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, attained the dignity of a city on 30th March (1950) when the Duke of Gloucester presented the Royal Charter as the highlight of a week of Golden Jubilee celebrations, and it is of interest to recall briefly the part played by the locomotives of the metre-gauge East Africa railways in the development of the colony.

As has been recorded in an earlier article in this series, in 1895, construction was commenced at Mombasa on what was then known as the Uganda Railway. The track crossed from the island to the mainland over the Salisbury Bridge, since replaced by a road and rail causeway. It then passed through the coastal belt, with groves of coconut palms and tropical trees, to emergea at about 900ft. above sea level on to the Nyika Desert, where the line travelled for some 80 miles through sparsely-populated unwatered red earth and thorn scrub land. From Voi, 103 miles from the coast, and at 1,834 ft, above sea level, the country changed to contrasting scenes of rocky outcrop amid the thorn scrub. The Tsavo River, 135 miles inland, the permanent crossing of which was later hampered by man-eating lions, marked the boundary of a section of some 65 miles of thick thorn bush and forest, now forming part of the Tsavo National Game Park. From Makindu, more open country was encountered, and at mile 286, at Konza, 5,428 ft. above sea level, the line commenced its crossing of the Kipiti and Athi Plains, reaching Nairobi at mile 330, and at 5,453 ft. above sea level, where in July, 1899, the railhead was established and headquarters were moved there from Mombasa later in the same year.

At Nairobi the construction gangs paused to gather strength for their assault on the highlands. A tent town sprang up while stores were being accumulated and fresh labour recruited. Before long, the few European traders who had followed erected stores, while other pioneers commenced farming in the district. Administration offices and maintenance workshops for rolling stock were constructed, quarters and offices for railway staff built, and almost over-night Nairobi was established. Administered and supplied from Nairobi, the track struggled onwards through the forest-covered highlands, down the escarpments and across the floor of the Great Rift Valley, situated in which was then the boundary with Uganda. Kisumu, then Port Florence, on the shores of the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria, was reached in December, 1901.

To start the initial construction of the line, two locomotives and 25 wagons had been imported from India. There appears to be no detailed description of the locomotives available today, nor is it certain that they were both of the same type, as both ” A ” and ” E ” class engines are mentioned in early papers. They were certainly very small, and the Chief Engineer reported them as being incapable of hauling more than two wagons on a 1 in 30 grade.

The first locomotives for which details are available were those known as the ” N ” class, of which eight were placed in service in 1896, and a further eight in 1899. Principal dimensions are given in the accompanying table.Principal Dimensions of Locomotives. [5]

Three were fitted with Joy’s valve gear and the balance with Walschaerts link motion. These engines suffered from one serious defect, in that they continually derailed. History has recorded that one guard; suffering from acute verbosity, was instructed to condense his telegrams. Thereafter ” on again ” or ” off again,” as the occasion warranted, was all that was heard of these incidents. The last three of this class were scrapped in 1931.

To meet increasing demands for power and to provide a more reliable locomotive than the ” N ” class, eight ” F ” class engines were received in 1897 and a further 26 in 1893. They were made by Neilson Reid and Vulcan Foundry.

In the latter part of 1897, orders were placed with Baldwins for 36 engines, known as the ” B ” class; 20 were received in 1899 and the balance in 1900. They proved reliable in service, but more expensive to maintain than the ” F ” class. They were typical of American design at that time, with bar frames, and sand box mounted on the boiler top. The ” F ” and ” B ” class locomotives suffered all the wear and tear of the construction days and by 1910 were in poor shape. Because of the difficulty in obtaining locomotive power, and to heavy military demands during the 1914-1918 war years, they were kept in service, however, although uneconomical, and were not finally written off as a class until 1931. Several of them were des-troyed by the mines of enemy raiding parties. In April and May, 1915, some 50 attempts were made on the railway by such parties, often resulting in fatal casualties among train crews.

By 1910 the tonnages hauled were rising rapidly and more locomotive power was essential. Orders were placed with the North British Locomotive Company, in 1911 for 18 Mallet type compound locomotives.The Mallet Type 0-6-6-0 compound tender locomotive. [3]

They were received in 1913 and 1914, but troubles were experienced with failures of the articulating bracket and maintenance proved heavy. Some redesigning was effected locally and improvements in performance resulted, but drivers did not like them, and stories were whispered of the strategies adopted by the crews to ensure that the engines did not run. Failures were certainly very frequent. After one engine of the class had been used for various experiments in 1929, they were scrapped in 1930.

At about the same time as orders were placed for the Mallet locomotives, three side-tank engines were ordered from Nasmyth, Wilson, known locally as the ” E.D.” class, and placed in service in 1913. They proved successful and were employed on main line traffic; additional water and fuel was supplied from auxiliary vehicles attached behind the engine. Reports at the time spoke of their ability to haul heavier loads, but with fuel consumptions equal to the older engines. They were scrapped in 1938.Class E.D. 2-6-2 Locomotive. [4]

Seven ” E.B.” class engines were ordered about a year after the ” E.D.” class tanks and put into service in 1914. In 1919 the order was repeated for a further 34 of the same pattern but be-cause of changes in a few details, these were designated “E.B.1″; 17 were placed in service in 1920 and the remainder in 1921. The original seven ” E.B.” class, and 28 of the ” E.B.1 ” class were scrapped in 1934, but the balance of six “E.B.1” engines are still in use today (1950) on shunting and departmental duties. Until 1914, the longest rigid wheelbase of any locomotive had been the 11 ft. 0 in. of the ” F ” class. In view of the extension of this to 12 ft. on the ” E.B.” Class, it was thought advisable to order the engines with flangeless leading coupled wheels. On arrival in the colony, they were found to have flanged wheels throughout, and were withheld from traffic for some time pending receipt of the correct tyres. Circumstances, however, forced their use in traffic with flanged wheels in which they proved completely successful. The ” E.B.” class were built by Nasmyth, Wilson & Co. Ltd., and the ” E.B.1 ” class by the North British Locomotive Co. Ltd. Oil fuel equipment was first tried out in the colony on one of these engines.

To return to 1913, as a consequence of the success of the ” E.D. ” class, a modified form of tank engine was ordered from Nasmyth, Wilson & Co. Ltd. They were known as the ” E.E.” class; five were placed in service in 1913 and a further three in 1914. They were due for withdrawal in 1939, but were retained in service as a result of wartime conditions, and are still giving useful service today (1950). In most respects they were identical with the ” E.D.” class, but the change from trailing pony to a bogie permitted an increase of water capacity from 800 to 1,200 gallons, and fuel from 1.5 to 2.5 tons. The adhesive weight was increased to 33.54 tons.

Up to 1921, superheaters had not been introduced, but in that year two experimental locomotives, ordered from Nasmyth, Wilson, in 1919. were placed in service. Based on similar specifications to the ” E.B.” and ” EAU ” class engines, but fitted with Robinson superheaters, they were known as the “E.B.2″ class. The resulting economies proved their worth but the locomotives were written offoff 1934 as they had been heavily worked as trial engines.

Following on the trials of the ” E.B.2 ” class, a total of 62 ” E.B.3 ” class engines were ordered between 1922 and 1930, all of which are in service today (1950). They proved a reliable class, and were originally employed on all mail links and through goods trains.Class EB3 Locomotive. [3]

Consequent on the advent of bigger and faster types, today they have been relegated to branch line and main line pick-up traffic, but are still regarded with considerable affection by the older hands who learnt their worth when they were, the pride of the railway. They were built by Vulcan Foundry and Nassmyth, Wilson.

In 1926, 21 shunting tank engines, similar in most respects to the “E.E.” class, but reverting to the original 2-4-2 wheel arrangement, were placed in service and were followed by a further six of the same type in 1930 and 1931. They were built by Vulcan Foundry and the Hunslet Engine. Co. Ltd., and their leading particulars, with the exception of the wheel arrangement and the slightly higher adhesne weight of 33.75 tons, are identical with the ” E.E.” class.

The year 1926 also witnessed the first arrivals of the Beyer-Garratt type engines, which later were to become the mainstay of the railway’s motive power. An initial order for four “E.C.” class was received and they were put into service immediately. The wheel arrangement and the motion was based on the “E.B.3” type, with slightly smaller cylinders, and the axleload limited to 10 tons to enable the engines to be used on the 50-lb track of branch lines.Class EC3 4-8-4+4-8-4 Beyer-Garratt Locomotive. [4]

In 1939, these four engines, with two of a later class, were sold to Indo-China to make room for six engines of a heavier type. Following on the successful operation and increased load capacity attainable by the ” E.C.” class, orders were placed with Beyer, Peacock & Co. Ltd., for a further 12 Garratt type, modified in a few details from the earlier engines. These were placed in service in 1928 and were designated “E.C.1” class. The main difference between the two classes is in the adhesive weight, which is increased to 83.85 tons. Total weight is increased to 134.6 tons, water capacity to 5,250 gal. and fuel to 10 tons.

In 1931, ten ” E.C.2 ” class Garratt locomotives, made by the North British Locomotive Co. Ltd., were imported. They are a little heavier than the ” E.C.1 ” class, having an adhesive weight of 87.95 tons and a total weight in working order of 142.1 tons. In all other leading particulars they are identical although there are a few differences in detail where infringement of established patents might occur.

At about the time of the receipt of the first Beyer-Garratt, orders were placed with Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd., for six 2-8-2 engines. They arrived in the colony in 1925, but were not placed in service until 1927-28 ; these six ” EA.” class locomotives have given very fine service on the fast mail link between Nairobi and the coast.Class EA and EC5 Locomotives. [3]

Today they have been relegated to long distance through goods traffic between the capital and Mombasa, being limited by their 17.5 tons of axle load to this section, which until recently was the only line laid with 80-lb. rails. Orders have been placed for fittings and materials to rejuvenate the class and they should then give many more years of useful service. In December 1948, one of these engines completed its first million miles in service.

Since 1930, the only locomotives placed in service have been of the Beyer-Garratt type. In 1939, six ” E.C.3 ” engines were received, followed by two more of the same class in 1940 and a further four in 1941. They recorded large mileages during the late war, when traffic demands were the heaviest in the history of the railway. One engine covered 243,000 miles between shopping for heavy repairs, while several ran over 200,000. The boilers are fitted with arch tubes and thermic syphons. The maxi-mum axleload is 11.75 tons, which limits their use to anything but main line traffic, where they are used on mail and through freight trains, hauling loads of up to 575 tons on 2 per cent. grades.

In 1944, were delivered seven ” E.C.4 ” class Garra tts from the War Department. With smaller wheels and larger cylinders than the “E.C.3” class, they are the most powerful locomotives in use on the railway today. They are limited to main line use because of their axle load of 13.75 tons, and are used on through goods traffic between the coast and the capital. The boilers are fitted with arch tubes and have the largest firegrate area of any class.

Two ” Burma ” type ” E.C.5 ” class locomotives were placed in service in 1945. They were transferred to Tanganyika in 1949 after a comparatively short period of service in Kenya and Uganda; Tanganyika already had four of the class in service. The engines were replaced in Kenya with six ” E.C.6 ” locomotives almost identical in design, but with 11 tons axle load and modified firebox. At the present time, a further consignment of Garratt type locomotives, representing a modernised form . of the ” E.C.3 ” class are being unloaded at Mombasa and prepared for service.

With the exception of the three ” N ” class engines with Joy’s valve gear, all locomotives have been fitted with Walschaerts link motion. Electric lighting was first introduced during the 1914-18 war years. Since 1922, all engines have been fitted with turbo-generator equip¬ment.

Up to 1900, Welsh coal was imported as locomotive fuel. When, however, the track had reached forest areas in or near the highlands, a change was made to wood fuel, which was cut and stacked at suitable points on the line side. In 1926, coal again was imported, but from South Africa, when it was required for the first Beyer-Garratts. Oil as a fuel was first considered in 1899, but no action was taken Until 1915, when an ” E.B.” class engine was fitted for trials. It was not finally accepted until 1948, however, and now all classes, with the exception of the “E.B.1s,” have been converted to burn liquid fuel.



1. G. Gibson; Kenya & Uganda Railway Locomotives; The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p401-405.

2. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p398.

3. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p399.

4.The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p404.

5. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p402-403.

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