Author Archives: rogerfarnworth

Coalport Incline – Ironbridge – Addendum 2021

The Hay Inclined Plane at Coalport, Shropshire – a 2021 addendum. …

In March 2021, Tony Jervis, an on-line acquaintance, sent me some photographs from visits that he made over the years to the inclined plane at Coalport. These are shared below with his kind permission. [1]

Tony comments: “The site has been tidied up somewhat since I was first there, with more clearance of overgrowth at the summit, but has there been a landslip pushing the tracks sideways partway down?  The Gorge area has been prone to landslips for years. ….. Much work has been done in recent years to landscape and stablilise the area.”

The pictures are shown annotated as Tony sent them to me.


278-08 Old Shropshire Canal, The Hay Inclined Plane top, 29-May-1974 MediumA    278-08    19-285    29 May 1974    SJ 695028 ESE    Ruins of engine house and chimney at top of The Hay Inclined Plane, Old Shropshire Canal

278-09 Old Shropshire Canal, The Hay Inclined Plane summit, 29-May-1974 MediumA    278-09    19-286    29 May 1974    SJ 695028 NE    Summit of The Hay Inclined Plane, Old Shropshire Canal


555-11 Old Shropshire Canal, Hay Inclined Plane top, 16-Sep-1979555-11    42-112    16 Sep 1979    SJ 695028 NE    Top of Hay Inclined Plane, Old Shropshire Canal, Ironbridge Gorge Museum

555-12 The Hay Inclined Plane, re-laid tracks, 16-Sep-1979 Medium555-12    42-113    16 Sep 1979    SJ 695028 SSW    The Hay Inclined Plane, with re-laid tracks, Old Shropshire Canal, Ironbridge Gorge Museum

555-13 The Hay Inclined Plane, re-laid tracks, 16-Sep-1979 Medium555-13    42-114    16 Sep 1979    SJ 695027 SSW    The Hay Inclined Plane, with re-laid tracks, Old Shropshire Canal, Ironbridge Gorge Museum


ASH-22 Coalport Canal, foot of Hay Incline Plane, 1-Apr-2005ASH-22    39-264    1 Apr 2005    SJ 693025 SE    Coalport Canal at bottom of Hay Inclined Plane

ASH-23 Hay Incline Plane, Coalport High St bridge, 1-Apr-2005ASH-23    39-267    1 Apr 2005    SJ 694025 NNE    Coalport High Street bridge over Coalport Canal at foot of Hay Inclined Plane

ASI-20 Coalport East (west of), Hay Incline bridge, 4-Apr-2005ASI-20    15-093    4 Apr 2005    SJ 694026 NNW    Hay Incline bridge over ex-L&NWR line west of Coalport


    1. Email dated 19th March 2021

The Owencarrow Viaduct Accident in 1925. ….

The featured image above shows the Viaduct in good condition. [7]

In the February 1963 edition of The Railway Magazine there was a letter from L. Hudlass which said: “The accident on the Owencarrow Viaduct, on the Letterkenny & Burtonport line, Ireland, of January 30, 1925, involved a westbound train running from Londonderry to Burtonport, on the Burtonport extension of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway. The 380 yd.-long viaduct, sited between Kilmacrenan and Creeslough in County Tirconaill is in wild and open country and, on the day in question, a gale of 100mph caught the train broadside on and one carriage plunged through the parapet, pulling another with it. The couplings held and neither of the vehicles fell into the valley, but roof destruction caused several passengers to be thrown out, three people being killed outright, a fourth dying later in hospital. Being situated on a north-south section of the line, the 30ft.-high viaduct, across Glen Lough and over the Owencarrow River, caught the full force of the westerly gales. When the line was in operation a wind velocity of 60mph meant the exclusion of open wagons from the train, while a wind speed of 80mph caused the suspension of all traffic. The breach in the viaduct parapet was still visible in 1949. Other derailments due to gales gave been recorded on the west coast of Ireland.” [1]

One day, I will get round to covering the route of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway (L&LSR) which ran from Derry to Burtonport through some of the wildest of Co. Donegal scenery.

This article is by way of a taster and focusses on an incident at Owencarrow Viaduct in the 1920s.

The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway ran from Derry to Burtonport via Letterkenny. [2]

The Owencarrow Viaduct was sited between Barnes Gap and Creeslough and was, other than earthworks, the major civil engineering structure on the L&LSR.

The Owencarrow Viaduct with a Burtonport train crossing. From an old postcard. The photographer is not known. [8]

The Google Maps satellite image and Google Street view images below show what remains of the structure in the 21st century.

The Owencarrow Viaduct in Co. Donegal. [Google Maps]
The remains of the Owencarrow Viaduct, seen from the Northwest on the L1332. [Google Streetview]
The remains of the Owencarrow Viaduct seen from the West on the L1332. [Google Streetview]

Wikipedia/Wikiwand covers the accident in a single paragraph: “Disaster occurred on the night of 30 January 1925 at around 8pm at the Owencarrow Viaduct, County Donegal. Winds of up to 120 mph derailed carriages of the train off the viaduct causing it to partially collapse. The roof of a carriage was ripped off throwing four people to their deaths. The four killed were: Philip Boyle and his wife Sarah from Arranmore Island, Una Mulligan from Falcarragh and Neil Duggan from Meenbunowen, Creeslough. Five people were seriously injured. The remains of the viaduct can today be seen from the road (N56) which carries on from the Barnes Gap on the road to Creeslough.” [2]

The scene of the accident. This picture was taken on 31st January 1925, the day after the disaster. The photographer is not known. [3]

There are a number of accounts of the accident available online which provide a bit more detail of the tragic events of 30th January 1925.

Walking Donegal looks at the event through the eyes of fireman John Hannigan who was on the footplate that day. [4] Long after that day Hannigan recalled “vividly the events of the night, the passing years ha[d] not erased the memory of the harrowing scenes or stilled the sound of the screams of agony. He still relive[d] the feeling of hopelessness he endured as he surveyed the scene of desolation in the fleeting moments, oblivious to his own danger, he scrambled over the wreck-strewn terrain to run the two odd miles to Creeslough to raise the alarm.” [4]

Hannigan was interviewed in 1984. [5] He was 85 when he gave that interview, a few years before he died in 1987 at the age of 88. Much of the text of the interview was reproduced in a Donegal Daily news item on 14th November 2019 and was extracted from a Christmas Annual published by Letterkenny Community Centre in the 1980s.

Hannigan spoke eloquently of his experience of working on the railway, first joining the staff of the L&LSR when he was just 15 years old, he was just 26 the night the train left the rails in the storm. After years of efficient service on the footplate, he realised his youthful ambition and was promoted to the position of driver the following year.

John Hannigan. [5]

Speaking of the first part of the journey from Derry, Hannigan said, “We left Derry that evening around 5.15pm, we had two wagons of bread next to the engine. They were sent out from Derry by Stevensons and Brewsters Bakeries. After that was three carriages, a first, a second and a third class, behind that were six wagons of general merchandise and the guards’ van at the end. Neilly Boyle was in charge as guardsmen who was from Burtonport, who later was a conductor on the buses.” [5]

When the train reached Letterkenny a bit of shunting was required to remove the six wagons and replace them with others. Hannigan remembered that they were using locomotive No. 14 which was a 4-6-2T and is shown below.

Locomotive 4-6-2T No 14 seen here at Pennyburn, Derry, 1931. Donegal Railway Heritage Centre (DRHC) Collection. [8]

By the time that they reached Kilmacrennan Station the wind was starting to blow hard and Hannigan and the train driver, Bob McGuinness, consulted about the state of the weather, wondering about whether it would be safe to go ahead.  Hannigan commented: “I had often gone over the viaduct in a smaller engine. We decided to proceed. Bob slowed down to a snails pace and as we crossed the bridge we did not think that the storm was all that bad.”

From Hannigan’s recollection of the evening it seems as though a freak gust of wind hit the train close to the end of the viaduct. He said:  “The carriage behind the two bread wagons was raised up on the line, it was like a hump on its back. It then fell against the parapet and the roof was smashed, two passengers were thrown out, Phil Boyle was killed, his wife was injured and died afterwards.” [5]

“A Mrs Mulligan also lost her life, they had fallen through the roof and into the river below. Another man, Andy Doogan, was found dead near the viaduct, he must have also been on the train.” [5]

As the minutes ticked by, the wind continued increasing in strength, the hostility of the gale made it hard for voices to be heard. Hannigan remembered managing to stumble across the bridge to the end of the train to free Neilly Boyle jammed against the bridge railing. He then trekked the two miles to Cresslough Station for help. “Between running, walking and falling I finally made it. On the way, I called at the homes of the two-level crossing men and brought them with me. We told John Gallagher the Station Master what had happened. Next we alerted the local guards and doctors. I got a lift back to the scene. It was about quarter to eight. A young priest, Fr. Gallagher was attending to the dead and injured.” [5]

The ‘Why Donegal?’ Facebook page carries a less personal account of events. [6] The train apparently left Letterkenny at 7:05PM. The journey to Kilmacrennan was uneventful, but “by the time they reached Barnes Gap, the driver remarked that the wind was bad. As the train approached the Owencarrow viaduct a strong gale was blowing. He slowed down to 10m.p.h. and was a few dozen yards from the Creeslough side of the viaduct and almost clear of it, when a sudden gust came so strong that it blew the carriage nearest to the engine off the rails. Two were derailed in all. One somersaulted and the roof was smashed. The four occupants of the coach were thrown through the roof into the rocky ravine forty feet below. The victims were Philip and Sarah Boyle from Arranmore Inland, Una Mulligan from Falcarragh and Neil Duggan from Meenbunowen, Creeslough. Duggan’s home was only a stones throw from the crash.” [6]

“Six of the injured were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital. Of the 14 passengers, just one was unhurt, a young woman who was flung from the upturned carriage and landed on the soft boggy soil.” [6]

The ‘Why Donegal’ Facebook page includes a few photographs of the viaduct as it remains today which were taken by Jacqui Reed.

The Owencarrow Viaduct in the 21st century (c) Jacqui Reed. [6]
The Owencarrow Viaduct in the 21st century (c) Jacqui Reed. [6]


  1. L. Hudlass; Owencarrow Viaduct Accident; a letter in The Railway Magazine, February 1963, p148-149.
  2., accessed on 30th May 2021.
  3., accessed on 30th May 2021.
  5., accessed on 30th May 2021.
  6., accessed on 30th May 2021.
  7., accessed on 30th May 2021.
  8., accessed on 30th May 2021.

A Steam Tram at Heywood, Middleton, Manchester (UK)

The February 1963 edition of the Railway Magazine included a photograph of a Steam Tram which used to serve Heywood. [1] Until coming across the image above, I had no idea that steam trams served boroughs in the Manchester conurbation.

This postcard by an unknown publisher shows the final days of the Heywood Corporation steam tramway in 1905. Just behind is Rochdale Corporation electric car 29 at the borough boundary south-west of Rochdale at the Sudden terminus where Rochdale Road and Bolton Road meet.The postcard bears the title “For Auld Lang Syne”, thereby clearly indicating the imminent demise of the steam tram service. [2]

Heywood, sits about 8 miles north of Manchester, 3 miles east of Bury and 4 miles south-west of Rochdale, and only a couple of miles from where I served my curacy in Middleton.

John R. Prentice says that “the Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways Co. Ltd. (MBRO, founded c.1883) became the second largest steam tramway operator in Britain with over 90 tram engines, 80 double-deck passenger trailers and 30 miles of routes. Of all these, two-thirds of stock and track were narrow gauge (3ft 6ins), including the section between Bury and Rochdale, through Heywood.

The MBRO system was split into three areas: “standard gauge southwards from Bury (to Whitefield, Prestwich and Kersal) and from Royton (to Oldham and Hathershaw), but everything else between these points (i.e, nearly all the lines in Bury, Rochdale and their environs) built to a gauge of 3ft 6ins.” [3]

By 1896, “it was clear that several of the local authorities intended to build municipal electric tramways, and that the company’s days were numbered.” [3]

Ashley Birch says that, “Oldham took control of its lines (which it had always owned) in June 1902, and a year later, in June 1903, initial agreement was reached between the remaining various local authorities and the company on a sale. … The parties eventually signed a binding agreement on the 24th February 1904, so that work on electrification could progress, with a price being set by an independent referee.” [3]

The last steam tram ran “in Royton … on the 30th May 1904, the last tram in Bury on the 10th July 1904, and the last tram in Rochdale, probably on the day before the company’s assets were sold … 12th October 1904.” [3]

After nearly 20 years of operation, the MBRO network was no more. The withdrawal of steam tram services generally coincided with the electrification of the lines and the inauguration of an electric tram service. This was true for the Bury Corporation service to Heap Bridge (west of Heywood) But when Rochdale Corporation replaced its steam trams with standard gauge electric cars, it only did so “as far as the district of Sudden, a three-quarters of a mile walk to and from the Heywood borough boundary and the steam tram terminus. In December 1904, Heywood Corporation decided to run its own steam tram service by buying 13 tram engines and 10 trailers (by then, 20 years old) from the former MBRO company when it closed down.” [2]

Peter Gould says that, “On the 20th December 1904 the main line across Heywood was re-opened to the steam trams. On the 22nd December the service on the Hopwood branch was re-instated. … The locos and trailers retained their former brown and cream livery and fleet numbers, although from 24th March 1905, the legend ‘Heywood Corporation Tramways’ began to appear on the sides of locos.” [4]

Gould continues: “The initiative was not a great success and began to flounder when Rochdale initially refused permission for the trams to use the stretch of line between the Heywood boundary and Sudden, where their electric trams currently terminated, leaving a gap of around 1 mile for weary passengers to trudge. … Although Rochdale later relented, the conditions they sought to impose were unacceptable to Heywood and the steam trams continued to terminate at the Heywood boundary.” [4]

However, by April 1905, “Rochdale extended its electric service at Sudden to the Heywood boundary in Bolton Road to establish a direct transfer to the Heywood steam trams. Later the same year, on September 20th 1905, the last steam tram ran and the through service was converted to standard gauge electric operation using Rochdale and Bury cars. Thus, as a tram operating municipality, Heywood Corporation Tramways was very short-lived and lasted less than a year; something of a record in British tramway history.” [2]


  1. Alan P. Voce; A Relic of the Steam Tram Era; Letter in The Railway Magazine, February 1963, p137
  2. John R. Prentice; Heywood Corporation Steam Tram Engine 63;, accessed on 29th May 2021.
  3. Ashley Birch; Manchester, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways (from 1888, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham Steam Tramways);, accessed on 29th May 2021.
  4. Peter Gould; Heywood Corporation Tramways 1904-1905;, accessed on 29th May 2021.

The Railways of Jamaica again. …..

I have been reading historic copies of the Railway Magazine again. This time it was a bound copy of the magazines from 1963. …….. I came across an article about the Railways of Jamaica in the September 1963 edition which was written by H. G. Forsythe. [1]

My previous article about the Jamaican network can be found at:

The Railways of Jamaica

Forsythe visited the island’s railways in the early 1960s and quotes figures from the late 1950s as part of his article.

In 1959, the Government “transferred ownership of the railway to a statutory corporation – the Jamaica Railway Corporation – which now [1963] operates the system.” [1: p644]

Forsythe talked in 1963, of the network having “some 205 route miles open to traffic, 112 miles being in the mountain sections. Mainline standard rail [was] 80 lb. per yd. and was laid on native hardwood sleepers. The highest point reached [was] at Green Vale, on the Montego Bay line, 1,705ft above sea level. This altitude [was] reached rapidly from the foothills and there [were] long stretches at a ruling gradient of 1 in 30 and right curves of a minimum radius of 320ft.” [1: p644]

Forsythe noted that the mountain sections of the network had a total of 41 tunnels which were cut straight through solid rock were generally unlined and had no portals.

Later in his article, Forsythe points out that the Jamaican railways “cover some of the most difficult standard-gauge mountain sections in the world. The schedule on the Montego Bay line [was] a generous 6 hrs and 45 mins allowed for the 112-mile run.” [1: p649]

He also commented that there were a total of 234 bridges/viaducts on the network. Some of these were combined road/rail bridges. He mentions 46 fully-staffed stations and 41 unmanned halts. The station buildings were to a standard design.

Wikipedia provides a full list of all the stations on the network on this link:

That link also includes a map of the rail network, [2] which appears below. …


When Forsythe was writing his article, the latest available statistical reports for the railway network were dated 1959. By that date the Bauxite industry on the island had become well-established. In 1959, the railways on the island carried passengers on 1,084,588 journeys [1: p645] and 900,000 tons of freight, [1: p644-645] including:

380,000 tons of Alumina; [3]

210,000 tons of Alumina processing materials; [3]

94,000 tons of bananas;

125,000 tons of sugar cane;

5,000 tons of citrus fruit;

15,000 tons of sugar; and

71,000 tons of general goods.

Rolling stock was largely of an American style. Forsythe notes that goods wagons were bogie-wagons with buck-eye couplings and Westinghouse air-brakes. He comments: “Box cars have the familiar American high handbrake wheels and ‘catwalks’ for the brakeman on top, the sides carrying gaily painted advertisements.” [1: p645] He also remarks on the Jamaican practise of converting goods wagons into ‘market cars’ which had seating provided inside a box car with added windows. On market days passengers were able to travel with their goods.

Train control used the block telegraph system, ” three telegraph lines emanate[d] from the Train Controller’s office at Kingston. … A dispatcher [was] in charge of each line and [was] linked by telegraph and telephone with each station … each station was similarly linked with every other station on its line.” [1: p645]

Signalling was “carried out by hand-held flags or lamps. Trains [could not] enter station areas until a yellow and green flag [was] displayed.” [1: p646] An additional precaution was employed at busier centres. … Trains were not permitted to move unless the pilotman was on-board. There was only one pilotman on duty in such centres. His duties included, “setting and locking points for incoming trains before walking to station limits to meet them.” [1: p646]

At the time of Forsythe’s visit, dieselisation of the motive power on the network was taking place. However, the steam locomotives were all oil-powered, so rather than seeing coaling stages, oil tanks and hoses were in place across the network.

Forsythe provided an update on the locomotives available on the network at the time of his visit. He wrote: ” Motive power comprises, first and foremost, a rapidly vanishing group of superb-looking Canadian-built 4-8-0 steam locomotives. Designated classes ‘M1’, ‘M2’ and ‘M3’, they are all of the same general design and were built by the Canadian Locomotive Company between the years 1920 and 1944. Originally coal-burners, they were converted to oil after the last war when good quality coal became far too expensive. The maximum locomotive axle loading which the line can accommodate is 15.4 tons and the sharp curves restrict the rigid wheel-base to little more than 15ft.” [1: p647]

sljmjgrM2Built in Canada, these 4-8-0 locomotives were, according to Forsythe, the main stay of the Jamaican steam loco fleet. [5]

Forsythe continues: “These ‘Mastodons’ are typically American in appearance and are fitted with bells (now inoperative), ‘cowcatchers’, and electric headlamps. Cowcatchers are a very necessary piece of equipment, much livestock straying into the largely unfenced main lines.” [1: p647]

In addition to these 4-8-0s, there were a couple of US-built 0-6-0 tank shunting locos which Forsythe observed in Kingston Goods Yard working alongside a General Electric Bo-Bo 360 horsepower diesel-electric shunter.

US-built 0-6-0T locomotive. [5]

He also came across an elderly 0-8-0T built by Liston & Co. of Leeds standing used in the roundhouse of Kingston MPD.

These steam locos are tabulated by J.D.H. Smith on this link: [4]

Forsythe also pointed out the innovative attitude of the management of the Jamaican railways. As early as 1938, “the internal combustion engine was in use in the form of s small fleet of 110-hp railcars supplied by D. Wickham & Co. Ltd., Of Ware. Some of these railcars are still in use and performing well. At least one has been thoroughly refurbished and painted in silver. It operates a popular and interesting rail tour from Montego Bay, known as ‘The Governor’s Coach’.” [1: p649]

More information about the developing use of Modern Traction in Jamaica can be found via Wikipedia: [6]

Forsythe refers to delivery of some Kalamazoo railcars from the US during the war. The name ‘Kalamazoo’ is now used in Jamaica to refer to any diesel railcar. He also mentions Metropolitan-Cammell units which were being delivered at the time of his visit, and a series of ten English Electric general-purpose Bo-Bo 750-hp diesel-electric locos. These EE locos were apparently mist successful under Jamaica’s arduous operating conditions.


1. H. G. Forsythe; The Railways of Jamaica; in The Railway Magazine, September 1963; p642-649. The full article can be accessed in the Railway Magazine Archive which is available for a subscription over and above the regular magazine subscription price.


3. Alumina is produced from bauxite, an ore that is mined in various tropical and subtropical regions. Jamaica’s bauxite occurs in a series of deposits across the middle of the island, east to west. The largest deposits are in the parishes of St. Ann, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, and Trelawny. … The Bayer process, discovered in 1887, is the primary process by which alumina is extracted from bauxite. To produce pure aluminum, alumina is smelted using the Hall–Héroult electrolytic process.

4. Smith has tabulated a whole series of different locomotive rosters. This is just one table of many!




The Micklehurst Loop – Part 4

I am indebted to Alan Young for a number of the images in these articles about the Micklehurst Loop. This is his drawing of the Loop which appears at the head of his article about the Loop on the Disused Stations website. It is used with his kind permission, (c) Alan Young. [7]

During January 2021, my wife and I walked the majority of the length of the Micklehurst Loop from Stalybridge to Diggle. This was the goods relieving line for the main Stalybridge to Huddersfield railway line. It had been hoped to alleviate congestion by making the mainline into a 4-track railway but the geography mitigated against this and a route on the other side of the Tame Valley was chosen instead.

The maps used in this sequence of articles are predominantly 25″ OS Maps from 1896 through to 1922 and have been sourced from the National Library of Scotland. [1] There are a number of websites which focus on the Loop which are excellent. The sites concerned are noted immediately below and the relevant link can be found in the references section of this page or by clicking on the highlighted text here:

  1. The most detailed treatment of the line and its stations can be found on the Disused Stations – Site Records website. The particular pages on that site which cover the Loop were provided by Alan Young. One page covers the route and pages covering each of the stations can be accessed from that page. [7]
  2. Particularly good for old photographs of the Loop is the Table 38 webpage about the railway. [9]

The first articles about the Micklehurst Loop can be found at:

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 2

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 3

There is a series of addenda to these articles which include additional material found or shared with me after the drafting of the relevant article. These can be found on the following links:

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1A

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1B

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1C – Including Hartshead Power Station

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 1D – Some Miscellaneous Items relating to the area around the Staley and Millbrook Goods Yard.

The Micklehurst Loop – Part 3A

In my perambulations around the internet, I have also encountered a series of videos (on YouTube) which start from the Northern end of the line. 5 videos cover the length of the line in 2020 and a separate video covers some of the structures on the line. These videos are easily available on YouTube. This is the first [3] in the series:

Part 4 – Chew Valley Road, Greenfield to Diggle

We continue our journey travelling North from Chew Valley Road. The images immediately below appear at the end of the last article about the line which finished at Chew Valley Road. …………..

Man marking Ordnance Survey minor control revision point with an arrow on Chew Valley Road in Greenfield. The photograph looks Southeast along the Northern pavement of the road with the arch-bridge which carried the Micklehurst Loop visible in the background, (c) Manchester Libraries. [2]


Corner of Greenfield Conservative Club, converted to housing in 2019. The bridge visible carries the Micklehurst Loop line over Chew Valley Road. This view is also looking to the South east but on the opposite side of Chew Valley Road, (c) Manchester Libraries. [3]


Greenfield Viaduct. [4]

We finished the last length of the Micklehurst Loop at Chew Valley Road in Greenfield.

In concluding, we saw a couple of older postcard images of Greenfield Viaduct, the second of which looks along Chew Valley Road towards the Southeast, and a 21st century Google Streetview image of the point at which the Loop crossed Chew Valley Road.

Old Postcard Image looking past Wellington Mills and along Chew Valley Road to the Southeast. Greenfield Viaduct appears on the right side of the image, there is then a short section of embankment before the arched bridge over Chew Valley Road. Bentfield Mill sits behind the Viaduct. The line was on embankment to the Northeast of Chew Valley Road, to the left of this image. [5]


Chew Valley Road at the point where the Micklehurst Loop crossed the road by means of an arched bridge. The trees sit where the bridge abutments once sat! (Google Streetview.)

We get ready to set off on this last length of the Loop by looking at a few images of Chew Valley Road Bridge which I found on the “Greenfieldgoneby” Facebook group. [15] 

1655889_672312406145899_1025406773_nThe adjacent image looks from the Southeast along Chew Valley Road. [16]

The second image is taken from the same direction and a little closer to the bridge. The first was a winter-time shot, the second was taken in the summer. [17]18520008_1005337762935788_7573688195040044335_n

1743676_674486469261826_2034452463_nThe third, below, is taken from the Northwest and shows the Conservative Club on the right side. [18]





This final image of the bridge before we begin our journey, is also taken from the Northwest, but from much closer to the bridge. [19]


An extract from the 25″ OS Maps from the early 20th Century. Chew Valley Road appears in the bottom left of the extract. [1]


Satellite image of approximately the same area in the 21st century (Google Maps).



Looking Northeast from Chew Valley Road in the 21st century along what would have been the line of the Micklehurst Loop (My Photograph – 25th January 2021)

Wellington Mills – the postcard above and the extract from the OS Mapping show Wellington Mills to the West of the railway in Greenfield. The mills were built in 1852 for Shaw, Son and Lees cotton Spinners who traded until 1858 and were  succeeded by N. Broadbent and Sons. When Broadbent ceased trading the mills were left unused for 6 years (from 1932 to 1938). 1938 saw part of the buildings used as a general engineering works and in 1941 the rest of the premises were opened up with the installation of 362 looms by the fabric weaver B. Kershaw. [6]


The railway embankment between Chew Valley Road and Higher Arthurs has been regraded to tie in with surrounding land. (My photograph – 25th January 2021).

In the years up to 1946 the engineering section of the mill produced engine parts for bombers. It was then used for storage, first by the Navy and then by the British Wool Board. In 1946 the buildings and land were purchased by William Oddy. He transferred his woolen carding and mule spinning operations form Shipley to Greenfield. The Knoll Spinning Company was formed at this time. It seems that 362 looms were installed at this time. The company ceased trading in the 1990s and the mill again became vacant. [8]


The approach to Higher Arthurs in the 21st century – the original bridge has been removed. The railway embankment can be see rising ahead (My Photograph – January 2021).

Huddersfield Narrow Canal – along this stretch of the Loop the Canal is conspicuous by its absence. Having followed the Eastern valley side and hence having been very close to the Loop at times on the way up from Stalybridge, the Canal crossed both the Tame valley and the River Tame in the Friezland area. Through Greenfield and Uppermill it followed the line of the older mainline railway on the West side of the valley. The River Tame can just be made out in the Northwest corner of the map extract above running on the Southeast side of Frenches Dye Works. The Canal was on the northwest side of the Works.

Frenches Dye Works – Owen Ashmore, in The Industrial Archaeology of Northwest England, notes the existence of this Dye Works but as having been closed at the time of his survey – “At Frenches … is [the] site of [a] former Dye Works built on [the] site of [an] early 18C fulling mill.” [10: p130]

Our walk along the line of the Micklehurst Loop took us across Chew Valley Road and Higher Arthurs on 25th January 2021. Just to the north of Higher Arthurs, we had to choose between scrambling up the embankment face seen just beyond the dwarf wall which is all that is left of the abutment of the bridge which carried the Loop over the lane, or a short walk along Carr Lane to access the track-bed along the approved walking route. We chose the latter and joined the route of the old line a few tens of metres ahead of the steep track shown in the picture.


This slightly blurred image from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group shows the bridge which carried the Loop over High Arthurs. A double-headed mineral train is travelling North on the Loop. The road in the foreground is Carr Lane. The photographer is not known. [60]

The old railway continued Northeast from Higher Arthurs curving gradually round towards a Northerly direction. At the time the map below was drawn, there was a footbridge carrying a footpath from Wellington Terrace across to Kinders Lane and Fur Lane Farm. This footbridge was a narrow blue-brick arched bridge. It remains in place in the 21st century. These next two pictures show it from track-bed level. 


The footbridge is a two span blue-brick arch bridge. This picture is taken looking North toward Uppermill Station, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).



The footbridge again, this time looking South towards Greenfield, (Photograph taken by Jo Farnworth – 25th January 2021).

The track-bed continues to curve round towards the North.


The Micklehurst Loop track-bed approaching Uppermill Goods Yard, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).



An extract from the 25″ OS Mapping of the early 20th century. [1]



The same area on modern satellite imagery, (Google Maps). The encroachment of modern housing in significant.

The next map extract shows the immediate approach to what was Uppermill Goods Yard. The goods yard was protected on it southern boundary by another accommodation bridge which provided access to Ballgrove from Uppermill. On Google maps this bridge can be seen to carry Rush Hill Road.


This next extract from the 25″ OS Mapping shows the approach to Uppermill Goods Yard from the South. [1]



The same area as the map above, shown on modern satellite imagery. The site of the Goods Yard has been replaced by Uppermill Sports Club.



Northbound Goods approaching Rush Hill Road Bridge to the South of Uppermill Goods Yard. [25]

This image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website, where Alan Young comments: “In the late 1940s a Leeds-bound goods train is seen from Rush Hill Road bridge approaching the goods station at Uppermill. The locomotive is Bowen-Cooke-designed ex-LNWR 7F 0-8-0, built at Crewe works in August 1896. Numbered 9020 by the LMS, and previously 2540 in LNWR ownership, she continued to work as British Railways No.49020 until October 1961 when she was withdrawn from 10A, Wigan Springs Branch shed, and cut up the same month at Crewe works – Photo by Jim Davenport.” [26]


A view from the East of Rush Hill Road as it crosses the line of the Micklehurst Loop – the blue brick parapets are almost hidden by summer vegetation, (Google Streetview).




Rush Hill Road Bridge Northern parapet taken from the Western end of the bridge, (Google Streetview).



Rush Hill Road Bridge was strengthened using and Armco Arch with stone backfill when the route of the line was turned into a linear walkway, This view looks forward into the former Uppermill Goods Yard, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).



Looking north along the route of the Micklehurst Loop from Rush Hill Road Bridge, (My photograph – 6th April 2021).



Looking back to the South along the line of the Micklehurst Loop through Rush Hill Road Bridge, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).

Once closed, Uppermill Goods Shed was demolished and the tracks were lifted. In the 21st century, the site is used for a variety of sporting interests. The route of the old line crosses the carpark facilities of the sports centre and continues to the North. Before following it, we take a look at some images of the goods facilities on the Loop at Uppermill.


Uppermill Goods Shed from across the Tame Valley [11]



The Uppermill Goods Yard from the West. In front of it there is a game of cricket taking place – from the “Saddleworthgoneby” Facebook group. [20]

This image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website, where Alan Young comments: A view of “Uppermill goods station looking east c1937. A cricket match appears to be in progress on the ground to the left. The goods warehouse dominates the scene, built on a generous scale, as were those at the other Micklehurst Loop stations. The single storey section of the warehouse contains offices and toilet facilities. The sidings are occupied by numerous wagons. New houses can be seen beyond the railway, on Bankside Avenue – Photo from Peter Fox ‘Old Saddleworth’ collection.” [26]


The Uppermill Goods Yard taken from the Southeast. Saddleworth Viaduct can be seen to the right side of the image. This picture was also sourced from the “Saddleworthgoneby” Facebook group. [21] 

The above image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website. On that site Alan Young comments: This is “Uppermill goods station, looking north-west from near Ballgrove. This view (circa 1905) highlights the goods warehouse, a commodious structure in engineering brick. Some rakes of goods and mineral wagons occupy the sidings. A traction engine is standing in the yard (left).  Uppermill (or Saddleworth) Viaduct is seen on the original Huddersfield-Manchester route which runs parallel to the Micklehurst Loop. Den and Ladcastle quarries, both in operation at this time, are excavated into the distant hill – Photo from Peter Fox ‘Old Saddleworth’ collection.” [26]


The Micklehurst Loop was designed to take pressure of the original line in the Tame Valley by separating Goods from Passenger traffic. This relatively shorts goods train is travelling South past Uppermill Goods Yard and Shed. Another image from the “Saddleworthgoneby” Facebook Group. [22]

The above image also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website. On that site Alan Young comments: “At all four stations on the Micklehurst Loop the passenger and goods facilities were some distance apart. This northward view from Rush Hill Road bridge is of the goods yard at Uppermill, and the passenger station is ahead but out of sight. The tall, brick-built warehouse on the left was a standard feature of these goods stations. On 5 June 1958 ex-WD 2-8-0 No.90671 is hauling loaded coal wagons southbound from Diggle (dep 5.55pm) to Heaton Norris (Stockport). The Riddles-designed locomotive was produced from 1943 for the War Department and entered British Railways service in 1948, based initially at 73C, Hither Green shed in Kent. She was withdrawn from 26F, Lees Oldham shed, on 30 September 1963 and cut up at Crewe works the following December – Photo by B Hilton.” [26]


A short parcel working passes Uppermill Goods Yard travelling South. The photograph includes an excellent shot of the Yard Signal Box. Another image from the “Saddleworthgoneby” Facebook group. [23]



An OS 25″ Series Map extract from the turn of the 20th century which centres on the Station building at Uppermill. [1]



Approximately the same area from satellite imagery in the 21st century, (Google Maps).



Uppermill in the 1920s. The Loop Line intrudes onto the photograph in the bottom left. The Passenger Station was just off the image to the left The Mill in the foreground adjacent to the Mill Pond is Albion Cotton Mill which appears on the 25″ OS Map extract above. Station Road leave the left side of the image beyond Albion Mill. Church Road runs under the bridge in the bottom left of the picture. [13]


Looking East across the Tame Valley from above the main line with the Loop Line visible in the distance. Uppermill Station and platforms can be made out just to the right of centre and just above mid-height in the image. [14]



Uppermill Railway Station building in the late 20th century. Another image from the “Saddleworthgoneby” Facebook group. [24]

Uppermill Passenger Station sat adjacent to the Station Road Bridge but at low level. Steps led up to wooden platforms which were sited to the North of the brick-built Passenger facilities. That arrangement can be picked out on the large image immediately above. The solid wooden area which looks a little out of place is the rear of the platform shelter on the Northbound side of the Loop.

The larger image above also appears on the ‘Disused Stations’ website. Alan Young, on that site comments: This is “a panoramic view eastwards across the old Diggle-Stalybridge line (with train) towards Uppermill c1910. In the village are Victoria Mill (cotton), lower left, with Alexandra Mill (cotton) on its right and Dam Head Mill (cotton spinning) in its dominant position beside Church Road. A little right of centre in the distance the platforms and waiting sheds of Uppermill station on the Micklehurst Loop can be seen, with the station building to the right, at a lower level close to the railway bridge. … Photo from Peter Fox ‘Old Saddleworth’ collection.” [26]


In this view from the West across Uppermill, Buckley Mill and Damhead Mill can be seen on the left and right of the image respectively. Behind Damhead Mill, the platform structures of Uppermill Station can be picked out. [31]


IMG_20210125_110421002 (1)

Uppermill Passenger Station Building, Station Road, Uppermill in the 21st century, (My photograph – 25th January 2021)

The Passenger Station Building was of the same design as others on the Loop Line. The front faces of these buildings were built in red-brick the side and rear walls in blue engineering brick. The building is in private hands. Station Road passed under the Loop Line immediately adjacent to the Station building as shown on the panorama below.

IMG_20210125_110421002 (2)

Uppermill Passenger Station building sat immediately next to Station Road in Uppermill. The line was originally carried across Station Road on a girder bridge. In this view in 2021 the modern footpath/cycleway is carried across Station Road on a laminated hardwood timber structure, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).



An extract from EPW016500, an image held by ‘Britain From Above’ on their website. The Loop Line and Uppermill Station can be seen at the top of the image. The remains of the ramp structures leading to the platforms can be made out on this photograph.  The building at the bottom centre of the image is Albion Mill, (c) Britain From Above. [27]



Station Road Bridge in the 21st century, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).

In the text above a number of mills are mentioned:


Church Road Bridge in the 21st century. By January 2021, the footbridge crossing Church Road was removed because of defects, (My photograph).

Albion Mill – was a cotton mill, built circa 1854 [28] which is listed in the ‘1891 Worrall’s Cotton Spinners Directory’ along with Spring Hill Mill, Waterhead as belonging to John Lees. [29] The Mill has been converted to apartments.

Alexandra Mill – was a cotton mill “built in 1860 by flannel manufacturers J.Bradbury & Co. This four-storey stone built mill has had many uses over the years. In the mid 1980s it was a craft centre which was divided into small units. Today the mill, on the banks of the River Tame, has been converted into stylish living apartments. For reference, a 2-bedroom fourth floor flat was on the market for £199,950 in March 2009.” [28]


Church Road Bridge North abutment, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).

Dam Head Mill – was also known as Willow Bank Mill. [28] Neither this mill nor Alexandra Mill seem to be listed in the ‘1891 Worrall’s Cotton Spinners Directory’. [29]

Victoria Mill – was a cotton mill and housed Ellis Meanock,  cotton spinners and manufacturers. [29] The mill has been demolished but what were outbuildings remain and house the Saddleworth Museum and Art Gallery. [28][30]


Church Road Bridge – South abutment, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).

Continuing North from Uppermill Station, the Line passed two further Mills and two relatively large houses.

Buckley Mill and Buckley New Mill sat either side of Uppermill High Street, neither is mentioned by Wikipedia [28] or Grace’s Guide [29]. They were owned by the Kenworthy family and produced flannels and shawls.

Two larger private dwellings stand out on the 25″ Map below and are relatively typical of a number of properties around Uppermill.


Another extract from the 25″ OS Survey maps from around the turn of the 20th century. Buckley Woollen Mill and Buckley New Mill (with buildings straddling the River Tame) can be seen to the West of the Loop Line. Fernthorpe and Hawthorpe Halls can be picked out to the East of the line. [1]


fernthorpe hall

Fernthorpe Hall, Uppermill

Fernthorpe Hall – is now a series of luxury apartments.


Hawthorpe Hall, Uppermill

Hawthorpe Hall – is now two separate semi-detached family homes.

They both can be made out on the satellite image below.

It is now only a short distance to what was the mouth of Butterhouse Tunnel, named after Butter House which sat almost directly over the tunnel.

The next 25″ Map extract shows the tunnel mouth and also shows how the mainline and the Loop are now gradually moving towards each other as they travel North by Northeast. Brownhill Quarry and Saddleworth Station can be seen on the left side of the extract.


The Northern part of Uppermill which includes Saddleworth School. Both Fernthorpe and Hawthorpe Halls can be seen among trees and lawns to the East of the Loop Line, (Google Maps).



Another 25″ OS Map extract shows the last section of the Loop to the South of Butterhouse Tunnel. Saddleworth Station on the Mainline can also be seen on the left of the extract. [1]



North of Uppermill the Loop line began to curve round towards the Northeast and entered Butterhouse Tunnel. The most southerly portal of the tunnel has been infilled, (Google Maps).



The Micklehurst Loop Line in 1900 – this picture shows the line just before it entered Butterhouse Tunnel. In the background is Pickhill Clough. Photographer not known. [12]


The formation of the Micklehurst Loop North of Church Road, (My Photograph – 25th January 2021)



Google Maps satellite image in the vicinity of the South Portal of Butterhouse Tunnel. The line of the Micklehurst Loop through the tunnel is marked in red, the footpath/bridleway route in light blue.

North of Church Road we regained the old railway formation and walked North past Saddleworth School.

A short trek beyond Saddleworth School along the gentle gradient of the old Loop and approaching Ryefields Drive the public bridleway is forced away from the Line of the Micklehurst Loop as first the cutting and bridge under Ryefields Drive and then the tunnel portal have been infilled.

Once the footpath/bridleway separated from the old line and our walking route took us across Ryefields Drive at road level and then on towards Brownhill Lane. A left turn before reaching the junction of Brownhill Lane and Butterhouse Lane and Butter House. 

It can be seen on the adjacent satellite image that two roadway lengths bear the name Ryefields Drive, both of which provide access to Rye Fields and that these are linked by the bridleway which also bears the name Ryefields Drive.

Rye Fields which sat above the Old Loop to the East is still occupied today. It is a Grade II listed 18th century structure. [32]

Butter House is similarly a Grade II 18th century property. [33]

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. …. The lower arm of Ryefields Drive crossed the Loop on a girder bridge, very soon after this the old railway entered Butterhouse Tunnel. I have so far only found one image relating to either of these structures. It is not reproduced hear for copyright reasons. It can be found in a short article carried on the Saddleworth Independent website in an article by Peter Fox entitled “History: Saddleworth by Rail – Part 2.” [43] The second image in the article on that webpage is a view taken from inside the South Portal of Butterhouse Tunnel looking towards the bridge which carried Ryefields Drive.

We then walked along Butterhouse Lane before following a footpath which led off the the left which brought us out close to the Northeastern portal of Butterhouse Tunnel. That portal is still open and the tunnel can be accessed from the track-bed if desired. [34]


Butterhouse Tunnel appears on this next extract from the 25″ OS Map series from the turn of the 20th century. [1]



Roughly the same area as in the map extract above, (Google Maps).



25″ OS Map extract from the turn of the 20th century, the main Huddersfield Line and the Loop run side by side towards Diggle. The point at which the footpath crossed under the rail lines appears just to the Soputh of the Works [1]


The Micklehurst Loop ran alongside the mainline towards Diggle Junction, (Google Maps)



This image comes from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group and shows the point at which the Micklehurst Loop (on the left) meets the Mainline. Photographer not known. [47]



Butterhouse Tunnel North Portal, (My photograph – 25th January 2021).

The footpath that we used can be seen entering the above map extract from the bottom right and then turning North-northeast to run parallel to the railway. We left the footpath at the point where it turns North and wandered South toward the Tunnel portal.

North of the tunnel portal, the Loop left its cutting behind and ran alongside the main Huddersfield Line towards Diggle.

What was a 4-track line was (and is) closely followed by the Huddersfield Narrow Canal over this next length.

The 25″ OS Map extract above shows that at the time of its drafting the Dobcross Loom Works were rail served. The Dobcross Loom Works was built in 1860 and was set over a 22-acre site. [40] It still features a Grade II Listed building known locally as ‘The Cathedral’ which houses a Gothic clock tower. [35]

During the Great War, the factory doubled up as a munitions factory to assist with the war effort. Later, during the Second World War it helped create parts for Russian submarines to help counter the U-boat threat. [35]

The Loom Works closed in 1967 [35] and was then (in 1969) used for 37 years until 2006, as the home of Shaw’s Pallet Works, reputedly one of the largest pallet works in Europe. [40]

The Daily Mail [35] reported on the site just before it was demolished to make way for a new secondary school – Saddleworth School. Their report is online and includes some excellent picture of the works and its interior prior to demolition. Further excellent pictures can be found on the website. [36]

The works are shown from the air on the monochrome aerial photograph below in 1926. They have been significantly extended compared to the buildings on the 25″ OS Mapping.

The Micklehurst Loop, the mainline to Huddersfield and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal can all be seen behind the Works and careful inspection also reveals the Works sidings. There is an added bonus of a goods train on the Northbound Loop line. Diggle Brook meanders in front of the Works.

There are a sequence of extracts from that image which focus on specific elements: The mainline railway; the canal and sidings and finally a grainy picture of private owner wagons in the Works sidings. carries an excellent photograph of the 4-track railway line to the North of the Loom Works in around 1964. It shows the siding drifting away to the west of the mainline and on the right side of the image the bridge over the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which gave access to the Works can also be seen. [39]


Shaw's 2

An extract from photograph EPW016481 held by Historic England – Dobcross Loom Works in 1926 looking across the site from the West. The Micklehurst Loop, the mainline to Huddersfield and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal can be seen behind the Works and careful inspection also reveals the Works sidings. There is a goods train on the Northbound Loop line, (c) Britain from Above. [38]


Shaw's 3

An extract from the image above which focusses on the Goods train on the Loop. It must have been a colourful sight with a significant range of different wagon liveries. Sadly the locomotive is not visible, (c) Britain from Above. [38]


Shaw's 4

Another extract from EPW016481, this time focussing on the Works sidings and the Canal. The bridge to the sidings from the mainline can be seen on the left of the extract. Three private owner wagons sit centre stage on the apparently sloping siding, (c) Britian from Above. [38]


Shaw's 5

Sadly, the photo-definition is not good enough to make out the livery on the wagons, (c) Britain from Above. [38]

There is an excellent short illustrated article about the small locomotive employed at the Loom Works. It is written by Peter Fox and appears in the Saddleworth Historical Society Bulleting Volume 49 No. 4 p128-129. The locomotive was nicknamed the Dobcross Donkey and arrived at the Works in 1931 to replace horse-drawn shunting operations. Parts of the locomotive seem to have been in use in the years prior to the purchase on 3ft gauge lines in Ireland (the Clogher Valley Railway and the Donegal Railways). [49]


Dobcross Loom Works and the Works sidings as shown on the 25″ OS Map from the run of the 20th century. [1]



Ward Lane and Diggle Junction on the 25″ OS Maps from the turn of the 20th century. There was a footbridge crossing the main line a little to the south of Ward Lane. It carried a footpath access from the East to the Canal towpath, immediately to the South of the bridge for the Works sidings. [1]



A similar area to that shown on the 25″ map extract above. The footbridge can still be made out to the southwest of Ravenstones Drive. Grandpa Green’s is a very popular destination which can create significant car traffic, (Google Maps).

There is an excellent monochrome image in the Brian Hilton collection which looks North from the footbridge on the 25″ OS map extract above and visible in the image below and shows the junction between the Works siding and the mainline and provides an excellent view of Ward Lane Bridge and has a hint of the pointwork of Diggle Junction beyond. Not included here for copyright reasons. [48]


This image comes from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group. [46] Rebuilt Patriot approaches Diggle Junction on the mainline passing a L&Y ‘A’ Class idling in a siding adjacent to the Loop lines. The footbridge visible on both the 25″ OS map and the satellite image can be seen clearly against the haze. The bridge carrying the Works siding over the Huddersfield Narrow canal can be made out in the middle distance above the train. The photographer is standing on Ward Lane Bridge. Photographer not known. [44]


Also from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group but now in the blue-grey livery era and with the Loop line lifted this view is taken from the footbridge in the image above. Photographer not known. [45]


Diggle Junction was the site of a significant accident in 1923. This photograph is taken from Ward Lane Bridge. There seem to be a lot of people watching the recovery operation! The footbridge South of Ward Lane can be seen on the right of the image. The photographer not known. [64]

Diggle Junction was the point at which the Loop joined the main Huddersfield line before passing through Diggle Station and on into Standedge Tunnels. There was a relatively complex series of points which allowed access to the different lines to the North, and into the Works sidings to the South. Ward Lane spanned the tracks at this point. Diggle Junction was the scene of a significant rail accident in 1923, one picture of the aftermath of the accident is shown above. Full details of the accident can be found in an article by Alan Schofield in the Saddleworth Historical Society Bulletin Volume 43 No. 1 of Spring 2013. [41]


The complexity of Diggle Junction can be seen on this 25″ OS Map extract from the turn of the 20th Century. [1]


As far as the railway layout is concerned, things are far less complex in the 21st century, (Google Maps).


Another photograph from Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group. A view Northwest from Ward Lane Bridge. The chimney is that of Warth Mills which appear on both the 25″ and 1:2,500 OS map extracts (above and below). The buildings are still standing in 21st century. Photographer not known. [50]


Warth Mill in the 21st century, (c) Paul Anderson (Warth Mill DiggleCC BY-SA 2.0). [52]


An early image, also from Saddleworthgoneby. Warth Mill is centre stage and the railway can be seen running right to left Southwest to Northeast roughly halfway up the image. Sadly the resolution is not good enough to focus in on the railway. Photographer not known. [56]

Warth Mill was constructed in 1919 in its present form, although there was an earlier, smaller mill on the site beforehand. It was acquired by the Tanner family in 1928 and in its prime was producing 50 tons of tyre fabric for the automotive industry every week. The building is now in use by a range of small industrial concerns – a café and a catering school are of most interest to me! Until recently Wooly Knits had a factory shop int he building, [61]


This 1:2,500 OS Map extract from 1932 shows that between the turn of the 20th century and the 1930s the number of sidings provided at Diggle increased significantly on both sides of the running lines. This map comes from the Disused Stations Website and is used with the kind permission of Alan Young. [51]


Another image from Saddleworthgoneby. A short distance along the line from the last monochrome image was Diggle Junction Signal Box. [53]


Another image from Saddleworthgoneby. An Austerity 2-8-0 in charge of a train of mineral wagons comes out of the gloom adjacent to Diggle Junction Signal Box. Photographer not known. [54]



Also from Saddleworthgoneby. The same location again, this time in colour in the mid- to late1960s with a Jubliee in charge of a rake of marron stock. The first coach appears to be LNER Gresley stock. The others appear to be Mark 1 stock. Photographer not known. [55]



Saddleworthgoneby again – although monochrome this is a much later image. The Sidings on both sides of the main line and the Micklehurst Loop lines have seemingly recently been removed. Photographer not known. [57]



A final 25″ OS Map extract shows Diggle Station and the Tunnel mouths of Standedge Tunnels – a double bore carries the modern mainline and two single bores used to carry two other lines under the Pennines. [1]



And in the 21st century, (Google Maps)



Saddleworthgoneby again, a very early image looking across the railway towards Sam Road with Harrop Green behind. The photograph was taken from the South. The photographer is not known. There appears to be a goods shed in the sidings on the near side of the mainline which does not appear on either of the OS Map extracts of the location. [58]



Another early image also from Saddleworthgoneby. It is a view from Station Road across the throat of Diggle station from the North. The shows the good shed to better advantage. The buildings beyond the railway make up the hamlet of Kiln Green. The mill chimney is on the left of the image. The photographer is not known. [59]

Kiln Green Mill was a Works that produced Ceramyl. It is marked as such on the 25″ OS Map from the turn of the 20th century. Ceramyl appears to be a hard synthetic product used in bathroom fittings – mainly basins and baths. Most modern references to the product on the internet are from Europe or North America. The word does not appear in the majority of on-line English dictionaries, but it was clearly being produced in Kiln Green early in the 20th century.

Diggle Station sat at the mouth of the Standedge Tunnels.  4 tracks ran through the Pennine Hills in Tunnel between Diggle and Marsden in West Yorkshire. The first tunnel was completed in 1848 and was large enough for just one railway track. The second was completed in 1871 and was also single-bore. The third tunnel was large enough for two tracks and was completed in 1894. It is the double-track tunnel which remains open in the early 21st century. [62]

Diggle Station was “opened in 1849 along with the first rail tunnel and closed to passenger traffic in 1968. The station features on the Diggle Community Association Website. [65]


This photograph is carried by the Diggle Community Association Website. In addition to facts about the station, their comments include the following: “There is an indication of how small Diggle used to be. In the background, the fields below Harrop Edge are obviously used for farming. Today there are houses along Devon Close and Dorset Avenue. Note also the chimney at Wharf mill. The bridge crossing the railway is still in use today and a car has just turned round the corner at the top of Sam Road. The fields to the right of the car are now occupied by houses on Clydesdale Rise. Just to the right of the steam train is an expanse of water, which is the canal lagoon used for turning barges around.” [65]

In its heyday, the station had platforms serving all four lines but little trace remains of it today—all of the buildings and much of platforms having been demolished.” [63]

The next two monochrome photographs were carried by the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook group. They show trains leaving two of the different tunnel bores, with the third bore visible in the first of the two images.


An image rom the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group. It shows a goods train emerging from one of the two single-bore tunnels and immediately into Diggle Station. The photographer is not known. [66]


Another Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group photograph. This one shows a passenger train breaking out into the summer light from the double-bore tunnel which is still in use in the 21st century. The platforms of Diggle station begin at the tunnel portal. Again, the photographer is not known. [67]



And another Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group image which shows the southwest end of the platforms. The picture was taken from a point just to the Southwest of the station footbridge which was, in turn, just to the the Southwest of the road bridge. On the left of the image the goods shed can be seen behind a row of mineral wagons. The photographer is not known. [68]



Saddleworthgonebay Facebook Group also provided this photograph taken from the station approach road (Station Road/Sam Road) which shows the footbridge and road bridge and also shows the small station building at high level next to the road and carried on girders over the most easterly of the tracks at the station which was a terminus line. The photographer is again not known. [69]

The next sequence of photographs were taken in April 2021 and show the condition of the station site in the 21st century. The first three pictures are from Google Streetview. The subsequent images are my own photographs.


Looking Southeast across Station Road bridge in Diggle, (Google Streetview).



Looking Northwest along Station Road Bridge in Diggle, (Google Streetview).



Looking Northeast towards the double-bore tunnel still in use, (Google Streetview).



A similar view of the single-bore tunnel but this time taken in the 21st century, (My photograph – 9th April 2021).



The double-bore tunnel on 9th April 2021, (My photograph).



A panorama which shows the relative positions of the three tunnel bores. The two single-bore tunnels are marked by the yellow panels, (My photograph – 9th April 2021).



A 21st century view along the line of the old station footbridge, (My photograph – 9th April 2021).



The view Southwest along the railway on 9th April 2021, (My photograph).


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  58. I know that this image came from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group but I did not record the link. 
  59., accessed on 15th April 2021.
  60., accessed on 15th April 2021.
  61., accessed on 15th April 2021.
  62., accessed on 15th April 2021.
  63., accessed on 16th April 2021.
  64.,_Yorkshire_in_1923.png, accessed on 16th April 2021.
  65., accessed on 16th April 2021.
  66. I know that this image came from the Saddleworthgoneby Facebook Group but I did not record the link. 
  67., accessed on 14th April 2021.
  68., accessed on 14th April 2021.
  69., accessed on 14th April 2021.

The Kampala to Bombo Railway

017406I first came across this ‘railway’ completely by accident.

In a listing from a Google search for another matter, I came across the article by Henry Lubega below. I have discovered quite a bit more about the design philosophy since then. The system used for the line, the Stronagh-Dutton Roadrail System, is referred to elsewhere – particularly in “Narrow Gauge Steam … and other railway curiosities, Volume 1,” a ‘bookazene’ published by Kelsey Publishing [1] and in a relatively short publication by the Narrow Gauge Society. [2]

At first look, it seems quite an ingenious idea – removing the weight of the locomotive from the rails enabled much lighter rails to be used. In practice, however a whole series of factors rendered the idea impracticable.

There are a number of sources listed in the references at the end of this article, but it is worth drawing attention to which has a significant number of images relating to this system and its use around the world. [7]

A film of theStronach Dutton system at work [12] …

Henry Lubega speaks, in 2015, of ‘interesting colonial tractor trains that failed to take off in the 1920s and he talks initially of the death of this railway in the 1930s not long before the commencement of World War II. [3] Although later in his article he talks of it being operational until 1926. (The article is repeated almost word for word in the Daily Monitor of 14th March 2015.) [4]

Henry Lubega talks of two railways which were constructed in Uganda as feeder railways for the main Uganda Railway. There were actually three railways constructed in advance of the appearance the Uganda Railway.

One line ran from Jinja alongside the Nile to Namasagali, another ran from Port Bell into Kampala and the third was the railway from Kampala to Bombo.

The line to Namasagali (the Busoga Railway) is covered in  an article which can be found on this link:,

and in the history of the line on this link:

The route between Port Bell and Kampala had two different incarnations in the early years. The first was a monorail which is covered in the article you can find on this link:

The second was a metre-gauge line built some time before the Uganda Railway reached into Uganda. It superseded the monorail and  provided for the transport of goods which had crossed Lake Victoria from Kisumu, the original terminal of the Uganda Railway. You can find out a little more about this line by following this link:

The section referring to Port Bell comes towards the end of the linked article.

In addition, references are made to the line from Port Bell to Kampala in the historical account of the Uganda Railway based on M.F. Hill’s book, ‘Permanent Way’. For example:

The Kampala to Bombo line is not mentioned in the histories of the Uganda Railway. This is perhaps not surprising, as in many ways it was the pet project of the Governor of Uganda and was managed by the Director of Public Works. [2: p13]

Henry Lubega dates the Monorail from 1909-1914 and the Bombo line from 1923 to 1926. The Uganda Railway did not effectively extend beyond Jinja until the 1930s when the Nile Bridge was completed.

Lubega says that “the construction of the Kampala- Bombo road-rail was as a result of the consistent demand from the Uganda Chamber of Commerce and the Planter’s Association to the legislative council. A trial stretch was laid in 1920 from Kampala to Kawempe though the line from Kampala to Bombo did not operate commercially until 1st April, 1923. The following year, a branch of the Kampala–Bombo line to Gayaza was opened.” [3][4][5: p61]

This line was built mainly to facilitate the transportation of cotton from Bulemezi to Kampala, Although Lubega says that “there are speculations that it was built to ease transportation of military hardware to Bombo, hence it being known in some circles as the military railway.” [3][4][5: p61]

Writing in the Uganda Journal of March 1963, W. J. Peal says that “the railway used the ‘Loco-Tractor’ system invented by Frank Dutton of the South African Railways Motor Transport Department. [5: p61] Dutton patented the system in partnership with General Stronach of the Royal Engineers.

“The introduction of a novel form of light railway, cheap to construct and operate, aroused considerable interest. ” [5: p61]

“The major feature of these tractors was their large driving wheels which operated outside the rails on the roadway,” Peal says, and goes ahead to explain that the people behind these Loco-Tractors “claimed that it was capable of handling heavy loads on considerably steeper gradients than could be achieved by conventional railway locomotives.”

After the demonstration on 26th August 1920, of how the Loco-Tractor was to work, the Uganda Herald newspaper praised the new transport venture, saying: “Thus in a simple way has come what will in all probability prove to be the solution of the transport problems in the protectorate for if the tractor will do only half what is claimed for it, the results will be far reaching indeed. To H.E (His Excellency) who originated the idea of this form of transport in the protectorate are due the thanks of the community.” [5: p61-62]

The Development and Use of the Railway

While going for his annual leave in 1919, governor Sir Robert Coryndon left instructions with the then director of public works (the equivalent of a Minister of Works) Mr Claude Espeut to go ahead with experiments on the railway as soon as possible. Tracks were bought from the War Salvage Board for experimental purposes and a 300-yard (274-metre) track was laid near the Kampala station for the trials which were carried out in February 1920.

Trials were so unsatisfactory and public opposition so strong that the acting governor reported back to the colonies office saying: “The trials should be discontinued as they will take a much longer time to bear fruits yet the country’s transport needs were immediate.” [5: p62]

The governor, however, “insisted on having the project continue and he directed the director of public works to go ahead with the construction of a five-mile track, against the advice of all those concerned with the improvement of transport system in the country.” [5: p62]

The Governor, according to Peal, listened to two people whose advice he relied on in making his decision: “First was Frank Worthington, the governor’s brother-in-law, acting on behalf of road-rail Company in Uganda, who in September 1920 had applied to have his company construct the Mbale-Majanji railroad. The other was Major E. A. T. Dutton, the secretary to the governor and a relative to Frank Dutton, the inventor of the railway system.” [1: p62]. R.G. Cash, however, considers the two Duttons to be unrelated and of significantly different social standing. [2: p12]

By the time of Coryndon’s return from leave, the track from Kampala to Kawempe was complete and the trial run was done in August 1920. The experiment’s locomotive was a converted Ford Box motorcar from which the front axle and wheels had been removed to fit a rail bogie. The experiment journey from Kampala to Kawempe was covered in 12 minutes with a cotton cargo of three tons. [3]

Commenting on the experiment, The Uganda Herald of September 24, 1920, reported: “Perhaps more important, it convinced the members of the Chamber of Commerce of the potential of the road-rail.” [3]

In the Chamber of Commerce’s next sitting after the experiment from Kampala to Kawempe, it was resolved that “the chamber approves of the decision of the government to order a further 50 miles to be laid along Bombo Road. The chamber would welcome the opportunity of giving its opinion on the most suitable routes for any extension to be placed”. [3]

“One of the main attractions of the railway was how it was laid along the edge of the existing roads, for it to serve the public better by going through existing towns and villages. Some sections of the public were disappointment when government decided to reroute the Bombo railway along the Kitante valley from South Street because some sections of the drainage on Bombo road were badly affected during the rainy season. … Another reason was that it was better for the railway not to run through the centre of Kampala in order to avoid traffic distraction and the necessity to maintain level crossings.” [3][5: p64]

Upon completion of the construction of the track, two tractors were imported in mid-1922, however, in a joint report by the directors of public works and transport — G.N. Loggin and Major R.B. Hill respectively — entitled “The Stronach-Dutton system of road rail transport as in operation in the Uganda protectorate,” they stated: “As these two tractors were the first to be constructed much trouble and expense had been incurred locally in remedying the defects in both engines and chassis.” [3] [5: p64]

The first two tractors did not perform well. Replacements were ordered which arrived in May 1924. The Uganda Herald was skeptical. It predicted their failure. At first it seemed to be vindicated as without adaption, the tractors could not operate efficiently on wood fuel. It was the intervention of the foreman from the Busoga Railway which resulted in changes to operating procedures that they started performing to expectations.

However, in service, the railway did not perform well. In 1924 an average of 100 tons of cotton were produced in the Bombo region. The most that could be transported in one trip was 15 tons and only 46 trips occurred in the whole of that cotton season between March and May.

A commission of inquiry headed by Major Rhodes, the chief engineer of the Uganda Railway was set up. That commission concluded that the tractors would have been far more efficient using coal as fuel rather than wood or parafin and that maintenance of the permanent way required improvement. [5: p65]

“In 1925, the Uganda railway recorded its highest transport tonnage, but the following year it nosedived to its lowest. The fall was due to handling procedures at Kampala station, forcing ginners to resort to sending their cotton direct to Port Bell by motor vans than the railway.” [3][5: p65]

On 31st December 1926, the line was closed. Its performance is summarised by Peal in a small table which he gleaned from a letter sent by F. J. Hopgood: [5: p65]


The route followed by the line is illustrated on an sketch map which Peal included in his article in The Uganda Journal [5: facing p62] and which is reproduced below:


The Kampala to Bombo Railway. The loops of track shown on the enlarged view were required because the locomotives were unable to reverse! [5: facing p62]

The Road-Rail system was unable to pay its way. Despite providing attractive rates, customers were not willing to entrust their product to the railway because it was unable to function with sufficient reliability to compete with road transport. Peal provides income and expenditure figures [5: p68] which he extracted from the Director of Public Works’ final report on the line: [6]c


Peal provides details in his article in The Uganda Journal [5] of the ‘locomotives’ used on the line. He provides 4 illustrations which cover: first, in figures 2 & 3, the Guy-engined tractors [5: facing p66] and secondly, a prototype of the William Beardmore supplied steam tractors. [5: facing p67] 

Locomotives used on the line were: [5: p65-67]

  1. A Lacre 2-Ton van (1920 trials – locally converted road vehicle [2: p44])
  2. A Ford box car (1920 trails – locally converted road vehicle [2: p44])
  3. An Albion 32h.p. Lorry (converted locally, used for short journeys and shunting).
  4. Two Guy-engined Tractors (each had two 25h.p. internal-combustion engines).
  5. Two Steam Tractors (built by William Beadmore with Sentinel boilers [2: p46]).

R.G. Cash tells us that the two Guy-engined tractors were provided with bogies made by John Fowler & Co of Leeds. [2: p44] By the time these were supplied William Beardmore had become the sole supplier of Stronach-Dutton locomotives. [2: p24-25, p46]

Rolling Stock

Peal tells us [5: p67] that the Kampala to Bombo line had:

  • 10 No. 6 ton covered bogie wagons.
  • 2 No. 6 ton covered bogie wagons.
  • 2 No. bogie passenger cars each with a 28-person capacity
  • 20 No. 8 ton bogie platform wagons

Stations and Signalling

Peal notes that three locations were provided with lockable sheds which served as stations and goods yards. These could be found at Kampala, Gayaza and Bombo. they allowed goods and rolling stock to be stabled overnight. Each was 116ft x 25ft in size and in each case the line passed through one side of the structure, leaving the remaining 16ft width for the handling of goods. [5: p67]

Signalling was felt unnecessary as traffic was controlled by a self-contained telephone system. [5: p67].

Bombo 2The Route of the Line ……

Bombo 3I have been unable to find much in the way of records of the route of the line. However, based on Peal’s sketch map above, The line appears to have run Northeast along the modern Station Approach and Station Rd in Kampala to the junction between Station Road and what is now Yusuf Lule Road. The line seems to have followed the verge of Yussuf Lule Road, crossed the modern Kira Road at what is now Mulago Roundabout. There was a short branch at this location noted on Peal’s sketch plan as Mulago siding. At the end of the siding closest to the Bombo Road, there was a turning loop. That siding is not shown on the adjacent satellite images as its location is at the junction of the first two images.

I have endeavoured to transfer the probable/ possible route of the line to the adjacent satellite images. In some places the route seems relatively obvious and road alignments seem to support the existence of the old line at those points – these lengths are shown as a solid red line imposed on the satellite images sourced from Google Maps. However, even though shown as solid lines, the route should be considered probable rather than likely and others with better local knowledge my need to correct my assumptions.

Bombo 4In other locations, the route of the is shown with red dashes. At these points on the line, I cannot be sure of the route taken by the line, only that the line traveled through the area. At these locations the line shown should be considered as possible rather than probable. Again, I should be delighted if others with greater knowledge can correct my assumptions.

Please note, also, that the mapping follows the line South to North, rather than North to South. This means that the top of the first image will marry with the bottom of the second image … and so on.

Bombo 5It is worth noting that in Kampala and its suburbs, even if any remnant of the line existed as long as the middle of the 20th century, the modern intensive use of tarmac on main roads in the city and its suburbs will have completely covered any possible remnants of the narrow gauge line.

Bombo 6The line then followed the verge of what is now the Binaisa Road, passing Mulago Hospital and on towards the junction with the Bombo Road. There is now a roundabout at that point. The line did not, however, follow the Bombo Road, it seems to have more closely followed what is now the Gayaza Road on the East side of the Kalelwe River. It seems to have crossed the Gayaza Road in the vicinity of Kalerwe Market.

Bombo 7A short siding ran close to what is now the line of the Kampala Northern Bypass Highway, west towards the Bombo Road. This branch was known as the Kawempe Siding. It terminated in a loop adjacent to the Bombo Road. From this point Northwards the Bombo Road is marked on current maps as the Kampala-Gulu Highway or the Kampala-Masindi Highway.

North of the Kawempe siding the mainline followed a course between the Gayaza Road and the old Bombo Road. The route drawn by Peal approximates to the line of the Ttula Road. This appears on the third and fourth satellite images.

Bombo 8On the fifth image, a longer branch can be see diverging from the mainline to Bombo. As noted earlier, I have shown the first length of this branch-line in red dashes because it is impossible to tell what the alignment may have been over the first few hundreds of yards until the branch reached the Kampala-Gayaza Road.

Bombo 9The next few satellite images follow the assumed route of the branch-line alongside the Gayaza Road. On his sketch map (above), Peal shows the line following the road through to Gayaza.

There is little to note about this branch-line except perhaps its length. It was about 7 miles long, according to Cash. [2: p30]

Bombo 10Wikipedia tells us that in the early 20th century, Gayaza started as a road junction, where the road to Gayaza High School branched off the main road from Kampala to Kalagi.

Shops began to appear in the middle of the century when the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture opened an agricultural research center at Namulonge. Later, Makerere University opened a crop and animal farm at Kabanyolo to cater for the faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine.

Bombo 10AToday, the township continues to grow and is continuous with Kasangati, a short distance to the south-east. [8] included in the run of satellite images is a typical Google Streetview image of the main road approaching Gayaza. The old narrow gauge branch line was alongside the old road which would have been much narrower.

Bombo 6Returning to the mainline, I have repeated the satellite image which shows the approximate location of the junction between the Gayaza line and the Bombo line. That appears just below the Streetview image of Gayaza.

It is difficult to be sure that the line I have chose to illustrate is the actual line of the Bombo railway. It seems from examination of the staellite images and Peal’s sketch (above) to be the most likely. I have, as elsewhere in this article assumed that, in general, the road alignment followed by the line will have survived, or that the presence of the line in the 1920s would have established a more widely used right-of-way which  over the decades has become more established.

The mainline continued North along the West side of Mpererwe. Even in the 21st century its surroundings are increasingly rural and we are approaching the limits of the Streetview images available through Google Maps.

Bombo 6AThat the alignment of the railway shown on the satellite images is at best tentative is perhaps best illustrated by a further Streetview image of what I think was the route of the line back in the 1920s. The image was captured in 2015. It shows the North-South road on the satellite image just to the north of the probable location of the junction between the Bombo and Gayaza lines.

Wikipedia tells us that Mpererwe is a trading centre that is gradually turning into a busy commercial area. Schools, gas stations, small-scale factories, hospitals, and a cinema hall are in this neighborhood. In up to 50 percent of homes, backyard urban agriculture is practiced. Because of the rapid urbanisation rate coupled with high unemployment, particularly among young people, the area is prone to crime. Despite those challenges, the neighborhood remains close-knit, with a modest cost of living compared to other areas of the city. [9]

Bombo 11The mainline probably continued in a generally Northerly direction through Kiteezi, which had a large landfill site to its Southeast. The Uganda Observer carried a short article about the landfill site in 2013, written by one of the site managers. [10]

Bombo 12It then turned more to the Northwest beginning to drift towards the Bombo road from Kitagobwa.

Bombo 12A These areas seem quite built-up on the Satellite images but much development is single storey and dispersed.

Bombo 13The next Google Streetview image shows the location of the junction between the Kigaga Road and the road to Kiti in the village of Kitagobwa. If I have the line of the railway correct, it followed the left fork in the Streetview image – to the left of the large tree in the centre of the picture.

Bombo 13AThe line passed to the Southwest of Kiti. The village/town is off to the right of what appears to be the alignment of the old narrow gauge railway. The railway followed the right fork in the Streetview photograph – essentially straight-on from the camera.

Beyond this point Google has not yet provided Streetview images and we will have to rely on just the satellite images from Google Maps.

Bombo 14The next district along the presumed route of the old railway is Buwambo which appears at the top of the next segment of the satellite imagery.

Bombo 15North of Buwambo, running through Migadde, there is much more uncertainty over the line followed by the old Railway, There are no roads following the approximate route shown in Peal’s sketch map above.

Bombo 16The old railway route is represented by red dashes through this area as it approaches the main Bombo Road – the Kampala – Gulu Highway.

Bombo 17North of Migadde, which straddled the Kampala-Gulu Highway, the narrow gauge Road-Rail line followed the verge of the old main road. Before branching away to the East-Northeast towards Bombo Town.

Bombo 18Bombo was the ultimate destination of the line. It has been a relatively significant centre since the formation of the Uganda protectorate.

It was an important cotton growing area at the time that the Kampala to Bombo Railway was operational. It was cotton growers need for good transport that  saw the railway built and it was its failure to meet the needs of the cotton growers which meant its failure and its closure were sealed.

Wikipedia carries details of the history of Bombo, but only from the 1960s. [12] ……

The area in which Bombo town is a main township became Bombo District, one of the first regions that initially received district status when Uganda became independent in October 1962.

In 1967, the district was renamed East Mengo. In 1974, Uganda reorganized from districts into provinces, and East Mengo became the Province of Bombo.

Provinces were reorganized into districts in 1980, and the district of Luwero was created, with Bombo town as one of the main town councils.

Many officers and soldiers of the Uganda Army (UA) settled in Bombo upon their retirement during the Second Republic of Uganda (1971–79). At the time, many inhabitants were Nubians, an ethnic group whose members were viewed as supporters of President Idi Amin.

The town also hosted the barracks for the UA’s Malire Regiment. As a result, Bombo was affected by the Uganda–Tanzania War. After Idi Amin’s government had been factually overthrown and Kampala been captured by the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) as well as allied Ugandan rebels on 11 April 1979, UA soldiers of Nubian origin as well as their families began to terrorize other locals in Bombo.

After several killings, many younger soldiers fled the town, but the retired officers set up defenses to oppose the TPDF’s 201st Brigade that was approaching the town from the south. … The Battle of Bombo in April 1979 resulted in a Tanzanian victory. Several Ugandan defenders were killed, much weaponry was captured by the TPDF, and the town suffered substantial damage. Many Nubian, Kakwa, and Lugbara locals subsequently fled the town, fearing reprisals by anti-Amin groups.

Following the war’s conclusion, Bombo was not provided with relief aid like other settlements, as the new Ugandan government suspected its large Nubian population. Many buildings in the town continued to display damage suffered during the 1979 battle for decades.

Bombo’s barracks continued to be used during the Ugandan Bush War, and the Uganda National Liberation Army was known to imprison civilians there from 1981.

In the 1980s, Kenya forced many former Nubian inhabitants of Bombo to return to Uganda. They were denied refugee status, and often fell into poverty.

In 1995, Bombo was also stripped of its municipality status. Since then, locals have struggled to regain this status.

Encyclopedia Britannica  notes that Bombo, town is located in south-central Uganda about 23 miles (37 km) north of Kampala. Located in an agricultural region, it is a centre of trade for cotton, coffee, and bananas. Industries produce plywood and other wood products, footwear, beverages, textiles and apparel, rope and twine, glass, and structural clay products. The Encyclopedia records the population in 2008 as  19,400. [11]

As we noted above, the Stronach-Dutton Roadrail system was only in use in Uganda  for a few years in the 1920s. The route shown on the satellite images above assumes that Peal’s sketch map can be accepted as drawn and assumes that for the major part of the route of the line existing highways were followed, or the presence of the railway resulted in a public right of way becoming established. There are, however, gaps in the suggested line which may mean that too many assumptions have been made about the route followed. If other people have more, or better, information, it would be good to hear from them and then to adjust this article.


  1. Derek Rayner; The Stronach-Dutton Roadrail System; in ed. Paul Appleton, Narrow Gauge Steam … and other railway curiosities, Volume 1, Kelsey Publishing Ltd, Yalding, Kent, 2020, p72-79
  2. R.G. Cash; The Stronach-Dutton Roadrail System; in series ed. Alan Burgess; The Narrow Gauge; Special Issue No. 234; The Narrow Gauge Railway Society; Autumn 2015.
  3., accessed on 16th March 2021.
  4., accessed on 16th March 2021.
  5. W.J. Peal; The Kampala to Bombo Railway; in The Uganda Journal, Volume 27 No. 1, March 1963, p61-70, via, accessed on 16th March 2021.
  6. Entebbe Archives No. 6085 (Loco-Tractor) Part III, via via, accessed on 30th March 2021.
  7., accessed on 20th March 2021.
  8., accessed on 2nd April 2021.
  9., accessed on 2nd April 2021.
  10.…/23761-heres-the-truth-about-kiteezi-landfi…, accessed on 2nd April 2021.
  11., accessed on 2nd April 2021.
  12.,_Uganda, accessed on 2nd April 2021.
  13., accessed on 3rd April 2021.

Easter Day – John 20:1-18

Mary Magdalene is in the Garden of the Tomb – mourning the loss of the person who turned her life around. The one who loved her when no one else did. The one who brought her healing when she was filled with demons and mentally disturbed. The one who gave her dignity. The one who made her feel loved and accepted. But now he was gone, Jesus is gone, he is dead. Nothing can bring him back.

And what makes it worse for Mary is that someone has removed his body, stolen his body. She no longer has somewhere to go, somewhere to express her grief, somewhere to place her memories. For her, this theft, this desecration, is the greatest of cruelty – it brings despair.

At Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. So easily, we rush past Good Friday and the long hours of Saturday, we rush past the pain of death and mourning and move as quickly as possible to the resurrection. It is uncomfortable to stay too long with death, with the cross – we prefer to think about new life, new hope – about resurrection.

The story of Mary in the Garden of the Tomb reminds us of the pain of grief, but it also of the need to allow grief to run its course. However much we long for the darkness to pass, for the feelings of anger, of guilt, of despair to go away, we cannot just brush them under a carpet of false hope. Nor can we talk glibly of the Christian hope of resurrection without experiencing the reality of loss.

If we are not careful, as Christians, we become so concerned to emphasise resurrection hope that we forget that it has always been a hope borne through the pain of death and loss. Resurrection can only follow death and loss – just as it did on that first Easter morning. Our resurrection hope is not just a general hope of resurrection, nor is it just about heaven, nor is it a denial of the reality and power of death,.

Christian hope of resurrection is specific and personal it relates to me and those I love. It is not an abstract, general, hope of resurrection.

Christian resurrection hope does not deny the reality and power of death. It is, in fact, is born in the midst of death, Calvary precedes Easter, and in a very real sense over this Easter season we are called to feel something of the power of death, to struggle with the disciples through death, through the uncertainty and fear for the future that Jesus’ death left them with. It is, in a very real way, intended to be a struggle for us to move through Good Friday into Easter Saturday and then on to Easter Day and ultimately, finally, resurrection hope. Hope born out of death.

Christian hope is for now as much as for the future, the impossible is possible with God, new things can be born out of the shell of the old, new things can spring to life, the phoenix can rise from the ashes of despair. We can be renewed, made new, have new life now, as individuals and as communities. This too is resurrection hope.

Mary Magdalene discovered resurrection hope not through dismissing her grief and putting on a brave face, but rather in her grief – Jesus himself drew alongside her, he reached out to her with one word of comfort – “Mary.” Hope, real hope, was born from the darkness of despair. This was no false dawn that would fade, this was a new day in which the brightness of the sun would warm Mary’s heart.

In some words that have at times been very special for Jo and me. Isaiah promised Israel:

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and through rivers they shall not overwhelm you.” ‘I will stand with you’ says Isaiah, speaking for God, ‘I will stand with you in the pain, … you are not alone’.

For Mary, resurrection still meant loss – Mary could never have Jesus back as she had known him. “Do not hold on to me,” he says. “Do not keep clinging onto me.”    Mourning and grief are about letting go – letting go because we have confidence that we can trust our loved ones to God – letting go because we cannot hold on to them, letting go because we also trust in God’s love for us.

Jesus resurrection does not deny death, it fulfils it. Jesus resurrection assures us of all God=s promises not to leave us or forsake us – neither in life nor in death will he let us go. He draws near to us in darkness and despair, he speaks our name and gently draws us to himself where true hope begins.

The Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours – The Second World War ….. and after. ….

I recently picked up a copy of each of the two volumes of ‘Permanent Way‘ written by M.F. Hill and published in 1949. The first volume [1] is a history of ‘The Uganda Railway’ written in the 1940s when the railway company was known as ‘The Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours’ and published at the end of that decade under the jurisdiction of the new ‘East African Railways and Harbours’ which was formed to formally include the infrastructure in the modern country of Tanzania.

Hill’s first volume provides a detailed history of the Uganda Railway until just after the end of World War II.

This is the last article based on Hill’s book. Previous articles in this series based on Hill’s 1949 book are:

The Second World War

It was anticipated that, given the international situation in the first 8 months of 1939, followed by the first 4 months of the War, trade would decline significantly to the detriment of the railway. In fact it only declined 2% on the record levels of 1938. [1: p531]

Rates were pushed down to support the economy, but the railway still made a surplus of £208,422. The position was satisfactory with the one exception, provision to cover outstanding loans meant that the railway’s free reserves were only £155,045. This sum was clearly inadequate for the size of the undertaking. [1: p531]

“The railway was not called upon to undertake any major troop movements immediately upon the outbreak of war, because there were few troops to move.” [1: p532]

Initial fears in the British sphere of East Africa were allayed when it was discovered that the feared invasion by Italian forces was not going to happen soon. Mussolini decided to remain ‘non-belligerent’ during the first nine months. This gave East Africa important time to prepare.

“The railway had 3,000 goods wagons and 175 passenger coaches, of which 54 were derelict four-wheelers rescued from the scrap heap. Throughout the war there came no reinforcement of coaching stock, ships or lighters, and only thirteen new engines and 380 goods wagons – in terms of the work done, it was a very small reinforcement. During September and October all the obsolete engines, lying idle and waiting to be sold as scrap-iron, were quickly reconditioned, re-equipped and made ready for service. Fortunately the stock of coal was sufficient for eight months.” [1: p532]

“In general terms, the work of the railway went on in the normal manner, and there was no reduction of African and Asian staff. The earthworks on the realignment between Uplands and Naivasha has been started in August and the work was allowed to proceed. By the middle of 1941 the earthworks, retaining walls and the culverts of the new alignment were completed beyond Naivasha as far as Gilgil. Due to the general shortage of materials, completion of the realignment was then postponed until after the war.” [1: p532]

A reconnaissance survey  for the extension of the Nanyuki branch-like into the Northern Frontier Provence was finished by the end of September 1940.

“The total available European man-power in Kenya was 8,998, and soon more than 3,500 men were serving in the armed forces. Of the remainder, rather more than 3,000 were retained in occupations essential to the community. The great majority of the thousand or so European farmers left alone on farms were elderly or of low medical category. They were nobly reinforced by more than 800 European women, many of whom were left alone on farms and many of whom looked after more than one farm. About 6,500 European women, between the ages of sixteen and sixty, were registered for essential service in one form or another, and more than half of them were soon engaged in war-work outside their own homes.” [1: p533]

The railways made a significant contribution to the war effort. “The Nairobi workshops became the Ordnance Main Base Workshops of the East Africa Command. There was a wide range of excellent machinery and skilled men to run it. The shops were the only well-equipped mechanical workshops of any size in East Africa. … In the last 6 months of 1940 more than half the shops’ capacity was devoted to the equipment of the forces. During these months, the maintenance of the railway took second place to an extent which later made it difficult to cope with the arrears of repair. … [At the end of 1939,] the workshops were asked to design and build bodies for 22 motor ambulances, the first of 250 which were eventually built; to manufacture 72 three-inch mortars, 25,000 screw pickets for barbed-wire entanglements, 600 four-gallon water tanks; to make hundreds of stretchers, target frames, supports for anti-tank guns, and to undertake repairs to scores of Bren guns.” [1: p534]

Four Kenyan and seven Tanganyikan coaches were converted to form an ambulance train.

The list goes on and does not need to be repeated here. It is worth noting that in addition to the work at Nairobi, the railway workshops at Mombasa were proving of great value to the Royal Navy and to the Mercantile Marine. A variety of marine repairs were undertaken before the Navy installed their own dockyard facilities. [1: p536]

The transportation and engineering departments began to experience added strain because of the war effort. Between 2nd September and 2nd November 1939, 473 Eritrean deserters and 7,000 Abyssinian refugees had to be moved in 15 train loads, away from potential conflict areas in the North of Kenya. Throughout the war, dramatic increases in both traffic and passengers occurred. “By 1944, the goods traffic had soared to more that 2,000,000 tons, double that of record ore-war years, while the number of passenger journeys, exclusive if special troop movements, rose from about 1,000,000 in 1938 to 2.75 millions in 1944.” [1: p536]

The first clash of arms of the East African Campaign occurred at Notable, in the far North of Kenya. A force of 150 men held the British position in the first of ‘Beau Geste’ against overwhelming odds, around 10 times the ground force strength and Italian Air Power. The eventual retreat of the British force was achieved by stealth and guile.

The Italians began their advance into the Northern Frontier Provence, occupying Dobel and Buna. Another Italian force attempted to invade the Sudan without success. The Italian bombers were billeted within range of both Nairobi and Kilindini, but made no attempt to to bomb either target. [1: p540]

In the Northern Frontier Provence, highly trained British commanded troops soon gained the upper hand. “In Kenya, as in Libya and the Sudan, bluff was a potent secret weapon in the British armoury. The Italian intelligence reports presented a fantastic exaggeration of the real land and air strength. … A few technicians with carefully manipulated wireless sets … so deceived the Italian command that they were convinced of the arrival of an Australian division.” [1: p541]

By the autumn of 1940, the British forces main preoccupation had moved from defence to the mounting of an offensive against Italian Somaliland with The port of Kismayu as a target. [1: p541]

In November 1940, it was decided that the projected offensive “against Italian Somaliland required the building of a railway from Thika, on the Nairobi-Nanyuki line to Garba Tulla, a point in the Frontier Provence roughly halfway between the northern bend of the Tana River and the Uaso Nyiro which flows into the great Lorian Swamp. … The railway was called upon to build the new line, nearly 250 mike’s long, through grim country, as quickly as possible. … By the end of March 1941, when work was stopped due to the unexpected speed of … [the[ offensive, 217 miles of the line had been surveyed, and 117 miles staked out; 81 miles of earthworks had been completed, 7 major bridges were nearly finished, and 12 miles of track had been laid.” [1: p544]

The figures for 1940 were: “including the balance of £119,325 brought forward from 1939, there was a surplus of £554,433 for the year. … Of this sum, £21,000 was allocated as a reserve for the Superannuation Fund, £120,000 was contributed to the Betterment Fund, £300,000 was devoted to be a remission of charges on military traffic and £113,433 was carried forward.” [1: p544]

The rates charged on military traffic were radically reduced. Very low rates for troop movements were introduced. Speaking in 1946, the General Manager said that these rate reductions amounted to a saving to the British taxpayer of over £2 million. In addition, early in the war, a direct gift from the railway of £655,000 was made and an interest-free loan was made to the British Government of £500,000.

“On the other side of the ledger, Kenya colony and the railway were relieved of the contingent liability of £5,592,592 in respect of the original cost of the Uganda Railway on 21st May 1940.” [1: p545]

Total first- and second-class journeys rose firm 46,601 in 1938 to 77,089 in 1940. Increases in the population through settling refugees, the presence of the army, and petrol rationing all contributed to an increase in travel by train. Goods traffic in the year rose to 1,257,158 tons. This produced revenue of £2,184,752, only marginally above the receipts from 1935 which were achieve on transporting 849,795 tons of goods.

Although ton-milesbwere down on both 1939 and 1938 figures, wagon-miles increased from 68 million in 1939 to 74.5 million in 1940. [1: p545]

Public traffic was more evenly spread over the year but instead of significant amount of long-haul goods, there was intensive military traffic with frequent short-hauls and uneconomic wagon loads. [1: p545]

By the end of the year, the strain on the railways increased immensely.  In December, 46 special troop trains were run. In addition to the building of the railway towards Garba Tulla, the demands of the Army for sheds and sidings, stores and offices, were so large that a special engineering section had to be set up to cope with military work. [1: p545]

The military campaigns of 1941 which entered the Italian sphere and routed their forces was a great success. According to Hill: “In strategic conception the campaign was bold; in terms of organisation and execution it deserved all praise; and the most remarkable feature was the triumph of the engineers and of transport over immense distances and great natural difficulties.” [1: p550]

In comparison to the battles fought in “Russia, in northern Africa, in Italy and western Europe, the East Africa Campaign was a small thing. But it was the first complete success of British arms on land,band it had a far greater influence on the outcome of the war than us often realised. Of events had turned out otherwise … as once seemed possible and even probable – would it have been possible to hold the Middle East, or the Indian Ocean? If those two vital zones had been lost, the Germans and the Japanese might well have linked hands and the war would have been immeasurably prolonged.” [1: p551-552]

The railway was a major contributor to the war effort, between August 1940 and September 1941, “the railway carried 670,600 tons of military supplies, … special troop trains moved nearly 155,000 soldiers and 22,000 Italian prisoners of war. … Thousands of military passengers travelled by the ordinary train services.” [1: p552]

In 1941, traffic was greatly increased over the figures for 1940: freight ton-miles increased by 87 million; passenger traffic increased to 1,614,156 excluding military passengers (204,522); goods traffic increased to 2,257,761 tons; Kilindini Harbour dealt with 2,101,970 tons (cf. 1938 – 1,261,812 tons).

For the first time railway earnings exceeded £4 million, the surplus including carry forward was £1,217,083 (of which: £365,539 was devoted to remission of charges on military traffic, £321,214 was allocated to the Betterment Fund; £20,000 to the Superannuation Fund; £160,000 to the Rates Stabilisation and Relief Fund; and £350,330 to the General Reserve). [1: p552]

A wagon shortage was a serious problem, exacerbated by a concentration of wagons at depots awaiting shipments; demands for export cargoes at the coast at short notice; uncertain arrival dates for ships; the cancellation of shipments already notified; the use of covered wagons for troop movement; carriage of prisoners of war, third class passengers and livestock. Every effort was made to increase wagon turn-round times which resulted in shorter trains, over-use of coal, increased use of wood (which resulted in the use of less powerful engines0. [1: p552]

Six new Garratt engines in December 1940 and throughout 1941, was a  welcome improvement in haulage power but the Garratts were unable to operate with wood fuel. The rapid increase in passenger traffic could not be efficiently accommodated, rolling stock was aging  and available coaching stock was always given to the miltary as a priority. Public criticism grew. [1: p553]

Closer cooperation between the railway and Sudan Railways and the marine services on Lake Victoria became essential, as did better connections with the Tanganyika rail system. The General Manager (Brig.-General Sir Godfrey Rhodes was seconded to the Army in October 1941. He was transferred to Iran and as a result he finally resigned his post as General Manager in June 1942, after being absent for some 8 months. [1: p553]

His replacement was not appointed, even on a temporary basis, until May 1942. 1942 saw a further increase  in goods traffic and passenger numbers. Although military goods traffic fell slightly to 667,000 tons, “the total goods traffic increased to 1,808,624 tons and the passenger journeys by 42 per cent, to 2,333,033. The goods traffic would have been greater still if the short rains had not failed int eh later part of teh year, a misfortune which was partly responsible for the food shortage of 1943.” [1: p555]

Great difficulties were experienced in sourcing spare parts for the railway which were normally imported. The workshops had to rely much more on their own resources. Many engines had missed their intermediate 60,000 mile repairs and repair intervals were extended to 120,000 miles. Despite this the railways we able to meet the increases in engine mileage from 4,071,238 miles in 1939 to 5,546,577 in 1944. The workshops performed admirably, especially as they were still being called on to meet military needs as well as those of the railway. [1: p556]

During 1942, the railway placed a substantial order for new engines and rolling stock. In order to finance the deal, £500,000 was temporarily transferred from the  Renewals Fund to the Betterment Fund. Half of which was covered by an allocation from the 1942 surplus. At the end of the year, the railway was left with a surplus of £893,620, (of which £447,626b was paid to the Betterment Fund; £250,000 was repaid to the Renewals Fund; £26,369 to the Superannuation Fund; and £69,625 to the General Reserve). [1: p557]

Despite significant increases in income, the massive increase in traffic resulted in a rapid deterioration in the general condition of the railway infrastructure and rolling stock. All non-urgent work was deferred.

“By the end of 1944 the railway’s Capital Account amouted to £24,255,938, of which sum £14,139,229 was interest-bearing capital and £10,116,709 was free of interest,” coming from Parliamentary Grants and the railway’s own revenue streams. [1: p559]

in 1943, military traffic increased to 889,000 tons. Rainfall was was short of expectations, navigational difficulties began to be experience on the Great Lakes and a plague of locusts and famine once again threatened. Exports decreased in imports rose. The total goods traffic on the railway increased to 2,024,238 tons. Passenger journeys rose to 2,745,229. [1: p560]

In December 1943, the workshops had to  build 250 covered wagons and 130 high-sided open wagons which had been delivered as parts from the USA.

There was another large surplus at the end of 1943, (of this, £270,743 went to the Betterment Fund; £250,000 was used to wipe out the loan from the Renewals Fund; £29,500 went to a Gratuity Reserve Account; £100,000 to the Rates Stabilisation and Relief Account; £11,1430 to the Wartime Contingency Fund, and £152,831 was carried forward.

1944 brought no respite to the railway. Military traffic fell to 688,000 tons but the total goods carried rose to 2,084,594 tons. Passenger journeys rose to 2,752,647.[1: p561]

Seven new Barratt engines arrived – the ‘EC4’ class, as shown below, “although they were far less satisfactory than the engines of the ‘EC3’ class. The design of the new engines was imposed by the exigencies of war, and they gave a lot of trouble with hot axles and other defects. Due to unsatisfactory design, they required an intermediate overhaul sooner than was expected, and so they gave less assistance in hauling the heavy traffic than had been estimated.” [1: p562]


The official works photograph of a EC4 Class Garratt. [5]

“Although the machine shop was run night and day it could not produce enough finished parts to cope with the needs of incoming locomotives, which had generally run a greater mileage than was considered permissible before the war, in many cases without intermediate repair.” [1: p562]

Locomotives ran an average of 41,835 miles per engine. Very high mileages for Metre-gauge locos!

Both staff and stock were over the limits of their capacity/endurance. [1: p563]

“On paper the railway again earned a large surplus of £821,027; after adding the balance brought forward from 1943, £624,613 was allocated to the Betterment Funds, £267,245 to the Rates Stabilisaton and Relief Fund, £29,500 to the Reserve for Gratuities, and £52,500 to a Passages Equilibrium Reserve which was created to meet the heavy expenditure on passages for staff travelling on overseas leave, which was to be expected after the war.” [1: p563]

As is clear from these notes, the financial position of the railway was essentially no where near as good as the above figures suggest. The railway was rundown but because of the war it did not have the personnel resources to make use of surpluses in maintaining the railway. It was living off its capital! “The introduction of large engines and heavy and long trains … made it imperative to replace the present type of coupling and to effect improvements and alterations in the braking system if the standard of safety [was] to be maintained.”[1: p563]

The large surpluses of the war years  would not be sustained indefinitely. Further problems would need to be addressed so as to secure the future of the rail network. Hill points out that providing an adequate water supply and an adequate fuel supply was paramount. “The shortage of water [had] resulted in damage to and repeated failures of locomotive. …. Progressive steps [needed to] be taken to re[place wood as a lcomotive fuel. Apart from the fact that it [was] a comparatively inefficient for the production of motive power in a steam locomotive, there [was] always the ever-present risk of causing fires on land adjoining the railway, with consequent economic loss to the country.” [1: p564]

1945 was the fiftieth anniversary of the railway. “Bay 11th December 1945, the achievements of the railway had far surpassed the most optimistic dreams of its creators. By that time, also, the demands made upon it were creating a situation which grew the more difficult as the moths slid by.” [1: p564]

Strenuous arguments were made back in the UK in favour of radical action to increase the number of engines, rolling-stock, general equipment and staff. The entreaties fell on deaf ears and only two light Garratt engines were procured during the year. These were Class EC5 locomotives as shown below. The railway demanded 443,00 engine miles per month, the workshops had such a backlog of work that a reduced mileage had to be agreed. A guarantee of 390,000 miles per month was negotiated. In the end, through all manner of means, an average locomotive mileage of over 465,000 per month was sustained throughout 1945. [1: p564]


EC5 Garratt locomotive. ” of these were supplied to the network after WW2. [4]

The rolling-stock position was greatly hampered by the failure of wheel sets obtained in the USA – by the end of the year 160 bogie wagons were out of service. [1: 564]

Passenger traffic increased once again to 2,838,250 journeys. Freight traffic dropped as a result of a significant decrease in military traffic after the end of the war. However, there was a marked decrease in the goods carried which attracted significant subsidies. The result was a record revenue form goods traffic of £3,106,671. [1: p364-365]

“Despite attempts to tap new sources of supply, a shortage of water again proved a serious handicap. The rainfall was generally below average, and the lack of water caused grave anxiety in many directions besides the railway. In Nairobi the situation was critical, and it was patent that drastic measures to increase the supply were essential.” [1: p365]

Labour difficulties in Uganda adversely affected the running of all trains into the protectorate. Those difficulties and some lesser issues in Kenya led to a significant re-evaluation of wages and war bonuses. [1: p365] The administration of the rialway also needed to enhance productivity and sought ways to incentivise increased output. [1: p566-567]

Towards the end of 1945, it was agreed that the 1921 loan should be redeemed at the earliest opportunity. In December 1945, the complete amalgamation of the Kenya and Uganda Railway and Harbours with the Tanganyika Railway and Ports Services was proposed. [1: p567] Political expediency placed this proposal on hold. [1: p568]

From a financial perspective the railway did far better in 1946 “than had been expected, for earnings were £896,750 above the estimate. … The surplus amounted to £745,992 compared with an estimated deficit of £59,522. In 1947, there was much the same story to tell. The railborne tonnage incrased by 6.08 percent. over 1946, and the ton-mile figure for March was the highest ever achieved. The earnings were more than £1,000,000 above the estimate and the surplus amounted to £888,214. [1: 569]

“The shortage of materials of all kinds, especially wagon tyres, exacerbated the problems of coping with the increased traffic, and a series of coal crises made matters worse. … The difficulties of ensuring an adequate coal supply impelled a decision to change over from coal to oil, which would also cause a reduction in the fuel bill.” [1: p570]

During 1947, “32 third-class bogie coaches [arrived] and enabled an end of the practice, enforced by the war, of carrying some third-class passengers in goods vehicles. A Diesel rail-car service was introduced on the Kisumu-Butere branch in August, and proved very popular with the local population.” [1: p570] Two examples of these Wickham rail-cars are shown below.


Metre gauge 200hp Wickham Rail Car No. 3, one of the three 58 seater railcars built for the Kenya & Uganda Railways Kisumu-Butere branch line. Works Nos. 2828-2830 ordered in January 1939 and finally delivered in May 1946. Fitted with Saurer BXDL engines. (Public Domain [2]


Metre gauge 200hp Wickham Rail Car No. 2, numbered 2829 and delivered after WW2. (Public Domain) [3]

“Work on the Nairobi-Nakuru realignment, which had been held up during the war … was resumed” and eventually completed. [1: p570]

And over the period to the 1st May 1948, negotiations were undertaken to amalgamate the two railway systems in East Africa. This negotiations concluded on 1st May 1948 and Hill’s story of the old Uganda Railway ends at that point. He was, after all writing in 1949. We need to look elsewhere for the ongoing story of the railway network in East Africa from 1948 on through the gaining of independence by Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda up to the present day.


  1. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way – The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway – Volume 1; Hazel, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury & London, 1949.
  2., accessed on 29th March 2021.
  3., accessed on 29th March 2021. 
  4., accessed on 21st March 2021.
  5. and, accessed on 19th June 2018.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week (Mark 11:1-11)


One of the early experiences I remember well is watching Doctor Who. I always sat on the settee, with a cushion close at hand – and when things seemed to be getting to frightening I’d bring the cushion up to my face and peep over the top. If things looked really bad I’d hide behind the back of the settee – peeping out occasionally – with my imagination running riot!

I’ve carried this forward into adult life – some friends and I went to the cinema to watch Braveheart. The film has some very graphic and dramatic battle scenes. I was unaware of how I was responding. Each time an axe hit someone’s torso I was apparently jumping in my seat. At one point, I looked along the row of friends to find that they were all watching me rather than the screen.

I always get engrossed in what I’m watching on TV or at the cinema – and I find that I can usually anticipate the story line. My imagination works overtime – and if I’m not careful when I am watching TV, I find that the anticipation has got the better of me – I’ve got up from my seat and left the room. Before I even realize what I’m doing, I am in the kitchen putting the kettle on to boil!  In some things we watch on TV it is easy to get ahead of the action, anticipate what is going to happen and react accordingly.

We have a similar, but greater, problem with Holy Week and the Easter story. We can anticipate everything that is going to happen. It’s not that the plot is predictable or easy to anticipate – for us it’s the problem of hindsight.

We know that Palm Sunday’s jubilation was followed by the despair of Good Friday. We know that the seeming failure of Good Friday was quickly overtaken by the triumph of the first Easter Day. Hindsight is supposed to be beneficial – but in the case of the Easter story it robs us of the possibility of living through the events as they happened.

img_mouseover3What was going through the disciple’s minds as they came into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday? What was Jesus feeling as he rode into Jerusalem on that donkey? Our danger is that knowing the outcome we minimize the intensity of the events and feelings of Holy Week because we know it turned out OK in the end.

What was Jesus feeling as he entered Jerusalem knowing what the week ahead would hold? Was he was already feeling that overwhelming sense of loneliness that comes when we are completely misunderstood.

How many times had he told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die? How often had they failed to hear what he said?

Palm Sunday dramatizes for us the chasm in understanding which existed between Jesus and everyone around him – his disciples and the happy shouting crowds. … Jesus was alone. Really alone – no one understood what he was doing – no one grasped what was about to happen!

When we talk of Christ’s suffering – we think primarily of the Cross. We miss the agony of the anticipation, the loneliness of the last week of his life. The shame of abandonment and torture. … And because we miss his anguish we minimize the significance of many of the events of that last week. With the benefit of hindsight we rush on to the resurrection – to the good news.

1dc2b2a68ab7fd0b323a3e9778c579faAs Jesus repeatedly talks about his death his disciples remain at best confused, at worst oblivious to what he is saying. And the loneliness Jesus felt in the crowd of Palm Sunday, gets replaced by the loneliness of the garden of Gethsemane. Only he can walk this road. No one will walk it with him!

When we grasp this, we will begin to be able to believe that Jesus understands our loneliness. … He knows the loneliness of the cell for those in solitary confinement; those condemned to die for their faith. But more than that – he feels the dark loneliness of depression; he is with us in the loneliness of the hospital bed; he knows the loneliness of watching other people=s pain; and he knows the loneliness of being misunderstood. It=s not just that he cares – he knows what we go through. He is the one that has gone before – he is the one who calls us on – in spite of the darkness or the pain – to continue to serve, to continue to love, to continue to hope.

So, as we live through this Holy Week, lets not get to far ahead of the plot anticipating the final outcome. Let’s rather to the best of our ability stay with the story watching and feeling it unfold. For then, perhaps only then, will we really begin to understand how much God loves us.


Uganda Railways – Part 10A – West of Nakuru – Sugar Factory Branches on the approach to Kisumu.

On the final approaches to Kisumu the line passed through a significant sugar cane growing region. Sugar processing factories were set up in two locations along the line – Chemelil and Miwani. Both these locations were provided with short branch-line connections to the main Nakuru to Kisumu line. Both of these branch-lines are shown on the 1:250,000 OS Maps from the second half of the 20th Century. [1] The extract below is taken from an image file very kindly sent to me by James Waite.


Chemelil Railway Station was 26 miles East of Kisumu and was mentioned in Part 10 of the main series of articles about the Uganda Railway which can be found on this link:

chemilil-railway-station-25-03-2016-e1484401060558Chemelil Railway Station. [2]

Chemelil in the mid-1950s. A double headed passenger train arrives at Chemelil, 26 miles from Kisumu .  The pilot engine is 2445  (c) Ron Bullock. [3][4]

Children cross the tracks at Chemelil. [2]

The short branch-line to Chemelil Sugar Factory left the mainline just to the Southeast of the Station beyond the C37 road. The next image shows a trip-working on the branch-line in the 1970s.


Although the condition of the locomotives running on the mainline freight service dictated the need for a double-header, the short branch to the sugar mill at Chemelil was out of bounds to heavier of the two locomotives in charge of the train, No. 2924. This meant that No. 3145 had to make the trip along the branch-line on its own. This picture is (c) Rob Dickinson and used by kind permission. [8]

The branch travelled over relatively flat land, its junction with the mainline is shown on the first satellite image below it is followed by a series of satellite images which follow the line of the branch.

Chemelil 1

The branch junction at Chemelil was sited to the Southeast of the C37 road (Google Maps).


Chemelil 2

The branch travelled North East away from the mainline (Google Maps).


Chemelil 3

The C37 and the route of the branch-line soon converged (Google Maps).


Chemelil 4

Road and rail ran parallel to each other for a short while (Google Maps).


Chemelil 4a

Road and Rail ran parallel to each other just a few metres apart (Google Streetview)


Chemelil 6

As the C37 approaches a large roundabout, the branch turns gradually away form the road (Google Maps).


Chemelil 7

Just Southeast of the large roundabout junction between the C37 and the C34 the route of the line crossed the C34 and turned further round towards the East (Google Maps).


Chemelil 8

And across the southern side of the workers village at the Sugar Factory (Google Maps).


Chemelil 9

The line continues across the South side of the Factory workers village (Google Maps)


Chemelil 10

Before swinging away to the South (Google Maps)


Chemelil 11

And then round to the North along the West side of the settlement (Google Maps).


Chemelil 12

Then back around to the West as it approached its terminus in the industrial complex (Google Maps).


Chemelil 13

Chemelil Sugar Factory from above (Google Maps).

The Mainline to Kisumu travelling Northwest from Chemelil Railway Station followed a straight line to Kibigori. The next two images are taken just a short distance to the Northwest of Chemelil Station.

Chemelil 1A - (c) Joshua Obera - April 2018

Looking Southeast towards the Chemelil Railway Station (c) Joshua Obera – April 2018. [9]

Chemelil 1B - (c) Joshua Obera - April 2018

Looking Northwest towards Kibigori, from the same location (c) Joshua Obera – April 2018 [9]


Rehabilitated bridge at km 174 on the Chemelil – Kibigori Section (c) Kenya Railways January 2021. [5]

Kibigori Railway Station was only a short distance Northwest along the mainline beyond the Nyando River. The adjacent photograph shows the station building. [6]

Leaving Kibigori, the line now travels due West to Miwani and then on to Kisumu.

Kibigori Station 1

Kibigori Railway Station (Google Maps)

Miwani 1

The Miwani Sugar Factory branch-line. [1]

Miwani Station building is shown below, the Sugar Factory branch-line left the mainline just to the East of the station and ran directly to the Sugar Factory. Subsidiary lines spread out at the factory to serve close-by cane fields. It is interesting to note that there were also a series of more temporary light tramway lines in use, as explained below.Miwani Railway Station Building. [7]

The route of the branch-line is shown on the satellite images that follow:

Miwani Station 1

Trains from the East were able to access the branch on a facing turnout/point (Google Maps).


Miwani Branch 2

The branch ran alongside the railway station approach road from the Sugar Factory and the C34 to the North, almost all the way to the Factory. The full length is not shown in these satellite images (Google Maps).


Miwani Branch 6

Immediately before reaching the factory sidings the line crossed the access road while turning towards the Northwest and was joined by one of the distribution lines from/to the cane fields (Google Maps)


Miwani Branch 7

The Miwani Sugar Factory. Its sidings were on its Northeast flank (Google Maps).


Miwani Branch 8

The approximate layout of the feeder lines to the Factory. These were supplemented by lighter tramways which are explained below (Google Maps).

Miwani Sugar Factory was once named the Victoria Nyanza Sugar Company and was one of the earliest plants of its kind in Kenya. The notes which follow are gleaned from a paper written by Godriver A. N. Wanga Odhiambo, “Colonial Sugar Production in Nyanza: (Kibos-Muhoroni) The Asian Initiative, The Genesis, and
Development of Kenya’s Sugar Industry, 1903-1963.” [10]

Given the problems of transporting sugar cane along relatively poor roads The Victoria Nyanza Sugar Company set up an alternative means of transport to the raods and the heavier metre-gauge lines. Large-wheeled metal containers were moved around the sugar cane estates on the Company’s own trolley or tramway lines. This network required its own ordinance, (the Victoria Tramway Ordinance No.1 of 1922). This ordinance was introduced specifically to enable the company to convey sugarcane from the neighboring farms to the factory on trolley lines which were drawn by small locomotives. [10: p205]

Wanga Odhiambo says that “a tramway was built in 1923 by the Victoria Nyanza Sugar Company, starting on its own estate and running along a line of a public road, and terminating at the Kibos railway station.” Wanga Odhiambo [10: p206] If this is correct, the trolley way would have followed the line of the C34 road which appears in the satellite images above and would probably have been an extension to the short length of line that appears on the satellite image above.

Wanga Odhiambo also comments that: “According to the agreement between the Victoria Nyanza Sugar Company and the railway, the company was allowed the use of the railway siding line from Miwani railway station to the company’s nearby sidings. This was meant to be used for light trolley conveyance; thus the railway provided the engine for use of the trolley.” [10: p206]

“Farmers were expected to allow feeder lines to be laid and maintained in their fields for transport of cane from the adjoining farms by extension of the feeder line. Farmers also had access to portable tramlines which were connected to the nearest mainline and when not in use these were removed and returned to the nearest mainline. This arrangement by the Kenya-Uganda Railway facilitated the transportation of cane from the farms to the factory, but again it could only help those farmers whose farms were near the railway line, since the feeder lines were not very long.” [10: p207] 

The cost of using the mainline was high and only 8 wagons were provided by the Uganda Railway per day for moving cane along the mainline. The result was quite an extended network of trolley lines being created to enable  cane to be transported to Miwani from as far away as Chemelil.

The majority of these tramways/trolleyways have left little evidence of their existence, they were light and easily moved and they were often moved to suit the needs of farmers.


  1. Modern versions of the 1:250,000 Map of Kenya can be sourced from a variety of online sales sites. This extract can be found on Map No. SA-36-04. 
  2., accessed on 24th May 2018.
  3., accessed on 25th May 2018.
  4., accessed on 22nd March 2021.
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