Category Archives: Uganda and Kenya Railways

Various posts about railways in East Africa

Railways in Colonial Times in what was known as ‘British East Africa’ …

John R. Day wrote two volumes in the early 1960s about the railways of Africa. The first was about the southern area of the continent and entitled, unsurprisingly, ‘Railways of Southern Africa’. [1] The second volume was entitled ‘Railways of Northern Africa’ and dealt with the remainder of the continent. [2]

An on-line acquaintance very kindly sent me a copy of the chapter from that second volume which covers British East Africa. Today, the chapter title would give cause for some concern, but colonial attitudes still held sway in the 1960s. [2: p24-41]

Reading that chapter piqued my interest and I managed to pick up a secondhand copy of the book at a reasonable cost.

I have written a series of articles about the Uganda Railway and its successors in Uganda and Kenya. Those articles  can be found here on my blog ( [3] These articles begin with a history of the mainline and then follow the route of the railway West from Mombasa. Later articles pickup on one of the volumes about the history of the railways in East Africa which were written by M.F. Hill. [4]

Day begins his chapter on British East Africa by quoting from Sir Winston Churchill’s My African Journey, which highlights what was very true in the very early years of the 20th century, “that the Uganda Railway did not pass through Uganda. It was a railway to it, not of it. ‘It stops short of the land from which it takes its name, and falls exhausted by its exertions and vicissitudes, content feverishly to lap the waters of the Victoria Nyanza.'” [4: p24][5]

The Uganda Railway: this map of the route of the line is included in Winston Churchill’s My African Journey. [5]

Day also remarks on the level of vitriol which was directed at the Uganda Railway during its construction, quoting The Railway Gazette of 1911, “It is doubtful whether any project has been so roundly abused and so soon proved successful as the Uganda Railway. Politicians of all shades of opinion had their fling at it in turn, and it was condemned as a permanent money-sink. Yet it went on being built, slowly but surely, and in the second year of full public operation earned a profit over its working expenses.” [6]  Day goes on to state boldly that it was this railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria which created modern Kenya!

In Day’s book a short note follows about the thinking which brought the Railway into being: “The Imperial British East Africa Company, formed in 1888 from the British East Africa Association, played an important part: one of its main objects was to suppress the slave trade. In 1890, the Company arranged for 60 miles of narrow-gauge railway to be built. From England came 65 miles of 2 ft. gauge track and from India came labourers: only seven miles were built, but it was named the “Central Africa Railway”. Later it was pulled up and the material re-used for a tram-line in Mombasa.” [2: p24][7]

Apart from the desire for good communications with Uganda, which, besides being a desirable territory in itself, controlled the head-waters of the Nile and thus much of the economy of Egypt and the Sudan, it was thought that the railway would end the slave trade. The argument was that the slaves travelled with the caravans, but once the railway was built it would so speed up and cheapen travel that the caravans would cease.” [2: p24]

Robert Clemm argues that “the territory of what would become the British colony of Kenya was little regarded by Europeans during the mid-to-late 19th century. At that time, it served as little more than a barrier to cross to places more renowned and important. For explorers who wished to verify if the reports of a snow-capped mountain in Africa were true, it was simply a land to traverse on the way to Mount Kilimanjaro. For British officials in the aftermath of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, it was a land necessary to possess not for its own intrinsic worth, but only as a means to stabilize “effective occupation” and to preserve British dominance. For officers of the Imperial British East Africa Company, it was an obstacle to surmount to gain access to the much richer lands of Uganda. The construction of the Uganda Railway, however, radically changed the perception, and, by extension, the nature and history of Kenya. … The Uganda Railway was a piece of technology crafted to solve the joint political and economic concerns of the British Government in eastern Africa. In linking the coast firmly to Uganda it would solidify British control over a region contested by German colonial enthusiasts, and would ensure the prosperity of the region through the expected transport of cash crops to the coast. … As much as the Uganda Railway seems to present yet another example of the importance of technology generally, and the railway specifically, to the process of imperialism, it goes well beyond that. The “Lunatic Express,” as the Uganda Railway was nicknamed, illustrates the power of technology to create and transform well in excess of our own intentions. While its creators simply wished to solve the technical question of linking important regions via a stable transportation network, the railway fundamentally transformed the land over which it crossed. The transformation went beyond that of the physical land-scape, which would be leveled and etched with rails and ties, and extended to the very understanding of what Kenya was.” [8: p133f]

Mervyn Hill’s first volume, [4] demonstrates the way in which the Uganda Railway fulfilled the role that Clemm describes.

Day continues, in his chapter on British East Africa, to outline the survey work of a team of three Royal Engineers led by Captain J.R.L. Macdonald which sought the best route to Lake Victoria. Day comments that Macdonald “was concerned only to find the quickest and cheapest way from the coast to Lake Victoria: no one at that time was bothered about the highlands of Kenya.” [2: p25]

Day notes that the election of Lord Salisbury’s Conservative government in Britain in 1895 finally resulted in a decision to build the railway. He describes the decision taken in 1896 to build the line to metre-gauge as ‘unfortunate‘. It was a decision “based on the assumption that, as many Indian railways were of this gauge, rolling stock could be obtained quickly if needed in an emergency.” [2: p26] Day does not state why he sees the decision as unfortunate. It may possibly be because other railways on the continent were being built to a gauge of 3ft 6in, rather than metre-gauge.

Construction started with a 1,700ft timber viaduct connecting Mombasa Island to the mainland. This remained in use until an iron bridge was opened to traffic in July 1901. Day reports that relatively quick progress was made in 1896 with the railhead being 23 miles from the coast by the end of the year.

The story of the construction work in 1896-1898 was, however, a troubling one. “By the end of 1896, the number of Indian labourers had risen to about 4,000; but more than half suffered from malaria, which also attacked the European staff. Troubles continued to dog the work in 1897 and 1898. An outbreak of bubonic plague in India dried up the labour supply for months. All the camels and all but six of the 800 donkeys used to carry supplies died, as did over a third of the mules and more than nine-tenths of the oxen. Water had to be brought by train to supply the labourers. Transport beyond railhead was eased later by the importation of four traction engines and trailers.” [2: p27]

A revolt in Uganda and a mutiny by Sudanese troops saw the incomplete railway transporting large numbers of troops about 100 miles from the coast and it was the successful use of the railway by the military which gave greater impetus to the construction work.

The first 100 miles of the line has been opened to freight at the end of 1897, and to passengers early in 1898. In December 1898, a delay of three weeks with work completely shut down was caused by attack on workers by two lions. These attacks continued into 1900 and meant that the pace of the work was slower than it might have been. Nonetheless, by the end of 1897 rails were 256 miles from the coast.

By the end of May 1899 the rails had reached what became Nairobi and the railway headquarters were built there. “By the end of 1899, more than 18,000 Indian labourers were at work and the line was pressing on from Nairobi toward the escarpment and the site of the inclines. The first few months of 1900 brought heavy rains and partly washed away the earth- works east of Nairobi, causing delays. By this time the survey had been completed to the lake by a shorter route than that first envisaged, the locomotive stock had increased to over 90, and there were about 175 passenger vehicles and 900 wagons of various types.” [2: p29]

Day comments that a “new route had been found into the Rift Valley which avoided the reversing stations which Macdonald had thought necessary. At first, however, the Chief Engineer decided to use a funicular railway to carry material down into the Rift Valley so that the railway could be continued towards Lake Victoria without wait- ing for the permanent line. The vertical height of the funicular was just over 1,500 ft. and it was in four sections. The top section was at 1 in 6, the two middle sections at 1 in 2 and the bottom section at about 1 in 11.” [2: p28f]

On the top and bottom inclines, full wagons going down pulled the empty ones up again. On the centre sections, built to a gauge of 5 ft. 6 in., wagons were carried on special trucks so built as to have a horizontal deck on which were metre-gauge tracks for the railway wagons. These special trucks were hauled by a 1 in. dia. steel wire rope passing round a power-driven drum at the top of the incline. All four inclines were double track, but the lower portions of the 1 in 2 section were of gauntletted track, i.e. the two tracks were interlaced. A temporary railway led from the foot of the incline to the permanent line of route at a point 375 miles from Mombasa. The inclines enabled the railway to advance another 170 miles before the permanent alignment was finished into the valley and the funicular was taken out of use in November, 1901.” [2: p29]

March 1901 saw the railhead having reached 483 miles West of Nairobi, 17 miles behind the earthworks. The line reached Port Florence (later Kisumu) on 19th December 1901. It cost around £5.5 million and climbed more than 6,000ft en-route from Mombasa. Very soon minds turned towards extending the line to Uganda to avoid the need for the transshipment of goods onto and off lake steamers. Uganda was a different world to Kenya. “Sir Charles Eliot wrote in 1903: ‘To cross the lake [to Uganda] is like visiting another continent. The country is cultivated and thickly populated. There are good roads, fences and houses all constructed by the natives. The people are all clothed, and it is a reproach not to be able to read and write.’ The contrast with Kenya as it them was could not have been greater.” [2: p30] It is easy to see why Uganda was a target for colonial powers.

Winston Churchill continued his advocacy for an extension of the railway into Uganda. A deep water pier at Killindini was funded by the British government by means of a loan and £60,000 was allocated for the construction of a ‘tramway’ between Nairobi and Thika in Kenya. The ‘tramway’ was built to the same gauge as the railway and with gradual improvement over the years, became a defacto branch line.

An extract from a map produced by East African Railways and Harbours which shows the branch line heading away from the main line at Nairobi and running through to Thika and beyond. [2: p23]

Churchill’s advocacy resulted in the construction of a line between Jinja on Lake Victoria and Kakindu on the Nile and permitting access to Lake Kioga. The terminus was relocated during construction to Namasagali. The line was given the name, ‘The Busoga Railway’ and opened in 1912. I have written about this line and the article can be found here. [9]

A branch line to Lake Magadi was also constructed, running from Konza (282 miles from Mombasa) to the lake. It was around 100 miles in length. The Lake Magadi Soda Co. was formed in 1911 and later acquired a 99-year lease of the area and powers to build a pier at Kilindini. The branch line was complete in 1915. The line is referred to here and a pictorial record of a visit in the 1990s is included in that linked article. [10]

Another extract from a map produced by East African Railways and Harbours which shows the branch line heading away from the main line at Konza and running through to Magadi. [2: p23]

In the early years of the 20th century traffic on the mainline increased significantly. “In 1902, there were three or perhaps four trains a week in each direction. In 1912 there were 50 or 60: the working profit was £134,000.” [2: p32]

After WW1 the possibility of a line to the Uasin Gishu plateau was reconsidered. It was hoped that this line might eventually result in a further extension into Uganda. There was some heated argument about the best route for this line before work commenced on the new line from a junction at Nakuru in the the last few weeks of 1921. By 1923, a line as far as Sabatia was in use.

Another extract from a map produced by East African Railways and Harbours which shows the new line heading away from what was the main line at Nakuru and running through Sabatia, Equator and Timboroa. [2: p23]

The network continued to develop. The Thika line was extended to Nyeri. Work in the West of Kenya was also moving forward, decisions were taken to: extend the Usain Gishu line; create a branch to Mbale (in Uganda) from Tororo on the border; build a line from Rongai to Solai in Nakuru District; and a branch from Leseru to Kitali. All of these, bar the Mbale branch, were under construction by the end of 1924.

In 1926, the name of the railway was changed from the Uganda Railway to the Kenya and Uganda Railway, and at the end of that year 1,128 miles of railway were open.” [2: p34] By January 1928 the line reached the River Nile and an extension to Kampala from Jinja was under consideration.

In 1927, a further name change to ‘Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours’ was in place and more powerful locomotives were introduced with an increase in rail weight to 80lbs/yard on the length from Mombasa to Makindu. A new causeway was under construction to link Mombasa Island to the mainland. The causeway made room for both road and rail and was completed by a 5-span bridge. The Nyeri Branch was completed mid-year. The Branch to Mbale, extended to Soroti, was under construction and a branch from Gilgil to Thomson’s Falls was agreed.

A further extract from the East African Railways and Harbours map which shows the branch from Rongai to Solai, the branch from Gilgil to Thomson’s Falls and a length of the Nyeri branch. [2: p23]

Construction of the Thomson’s Falls Branch commenced at the beginning of 1928 and was completed by August 1929. The Soroti Branch was completed by September 1929 and the branch from Kisumu to Yala by November 1930. The Naro Moru Branch was extended to Nanyuki (visible to the right side of the image above) by October 1930.

The Jinja-Kampala line was started in early 1929 and the 58-mile line made such progress that track-laying was finished in January 1930. The inauguration has to wait for the completion of the bridge across the Nile, opened by the Governor of Uganda on 14th January 1931.” [2: 35f]

A portrait of East African Railways 59 class Garratt locomotive no. 5902, before it was named ‘Ruwenzori Mountains’. East African Railways and Harbours – A.J. Craddock’s personal collection of EAR&H publicity photos given to him during a visit to the Nairobi HQ in 1954 (EAR&H negative 961/1) – Public Domain. [11]

Engineers and surveyors were at work in Western Uganda in the 1930s looking for ways to connect through to the Congo but the world depression of the 1930s hampered any significant expansion of the network. Only a short length from Yala to Butere was completed. Trade improved in the late 1930s and new passenger and rolling stock arrived by 1939, along with six powerful Beyer Garratt Locomotives. WW2 brought a reevaluation of priorities, railway workshops were turned over to military uses. New lines were considered if they would enhance the war effort. One of these was an extenion of the Nairobi-Thika Branch to the North. A great deal of effort was put into the building of this line which in the end proved of little value as its intended use was overtaken by the speed of the military advance North from Kenya.

After the war, a line to the Kilembe Copper Mine was deemed essential. A route had been surveyed before WW2 and the idea was resurrected in 1950. Kilembe was expected “to produce 20,000-25,000 tons of copper and 1,500 tons of cobalt a year. The Government of Uganda came to the conclusion that a line would be justified and that the area through which it would run would be suitable for crop growing and cattle ranching.” [2: p37] The project was approved in January 1952, work began in the same month. The line was open to Mityana by August 1953 and to Kasese in August 1956. The construction work was demanding. Day tells us that “up to 5,000 men at a time worked on the new line, which ran in places through thick forest and in others demanded heavy earthworks. Embankments were needed to cross the papyrus swamps which the line traverses for some 40 miles of its route, and there are 24 bridges. The Lake George swamp demanded a four-mile earth embankment containing 18 million cubic feet of earth and included gaps spanned by three 60 ft. bridges. The swamp is fed by streams from the Rift escarpment and from the Ruwenzori Mountains, and concrete piers had to be sunk 40 ft. into the swamp to support the ends of the bridge spans.” [2: p38]

Where the railway drops down into the Western Rift Valley a great spiral was built to take the line down part of the 1,000 ft. difference in level. Apart from excavation and moving 60 million feet of earth on this and other parts of the escarpment stretch of line, blasting had to be undertaken where rock barred the way. When the rails reached Kasese, with the Ruwenzori Mountains just beyond, railhead was 1,080 miles from the sea. Traffic was flowing from the mines over the £5 million line to the smelting plant at Jinja, 263 miles away, by the end of the year.” [2: p38]

In 1950 a main line realignment between Nakuru and Nairobi (113 miles) was completed at a cost of £2.25 million, shortening the journey by 10 miles and easing gradients. “It included the 2,500ft Limuru tunnel and another at Gilgil in the side of the Great Rift Valley.” [2: p38]

In 1955, the railways in East Africa had their most successful year. Day tells us that the annual report for 1957 reviewed the decade since the war and the formation (in 1947) of the larger East African Railways and Harbours Co. with the inclusion of what were originally German colonial lines in Tanganyika (Tanzania): “Public goods on the inland transport services had increased from 2.6 million tons a year in 1948 to 3.8 million tons in 1957, and ton-mileage from 769 million to 1,454 million. (in 1962 traffic had risne to4.15 million tons and 1,661 million ton-miles.) The tonnage of imports and exports passing through East African ports rose from 3.1 million to 4.4 million. The locomotive stock rose from 234 in 1948 to 461 in 1957 and the number of wagons rose from 5,764 t0 9,594. The route mileage increased from 2,930 to 3,375.” [2: p39]

At the end of 1957, locomotive stock consisted of, “129 Beyer-Garratt, 222 tender, and 58 tank locomotives as well as 46 diesels. There were 994 coaching vehicles.” [2: p39]

1957 was a pivotal year for traction on the network. The Southern section (Tanganyika) was primarily run by diesel locomotives and railcars and some diesels were in use on the Magadi branch. 1958 saw ten new diesels (1,850h.p.) ordered and over the next few years significant expansion continued. Independence for Tanganyika (Tanzania) in 1961 put in doubt the continuing use of the Southern section as the new state would need to fund at least £200,000/year to keep the system.

In May 1963, an international committee of inquiry recommended that all steam motive power should be replaced by standardised diesel-hydraulic locomotives. Days final comment is that this would be a major undertaking as at the time 406 steam locomotives remained against 56 diesels(of which some of the largest were diesel-electrics) [2: p41]

It is at this point that Day’s history of the East African lines comes to a halt. He was unable to catalogue events of the later 1960s and beyond. His book was published in 1964.

A more detailed history can be found in M.F. Hill’s book Permanent Way: the story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway. [4] This book can cost significant sums on the secondhand market. I have produced a series of articles on it which begin here. [12]


  1. John R. Day; Railways of Southern Africa; Arthur Barker, London, 1963.
  2. John R. Day; Railways of Northern Africa; Arthur Barker, London, 1964.
  3., scrolling to the bottom of the page will lead to the earliest articles in the series.
  4. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way: the story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway; 1950.
  5. Winston Churchill; My African Journey; Clay & Sons, Bungay, Suffolk, 1909. There is an e-book available on line on this link:, accessed on 12th April 2023.
  6. The Railway Gazette, 1911.
  7. I have covered the tramway in Mombasa in, “Mombasa, Kenya – A very early tramway?”,
  8. Robert H. Clemm; The Uganda Railway and the Fabrication of Kenya; in Technology, Violence, and War; p133-154.
  11., accessed on 15th April 2023.

2018-2022: Railway News from Kenya

This post includes a selection of news items about Kenya Railways in the period from 2018 to the Autumn of 2022. The items included are by no means exhaustive but they might be of interest! ……..

The Birth of a Nation: preserving records on the Kenya-Uganda railway line (EAP1143)

In 2018 the British Library funded a small pilot project undertaken in Nairobi Railway Museum’s archive. This was a low cost 6 month pilot which identified the condition of the archived documents and photographs and improved storage and access to them.

The photographs which were digitised all seem to predate the construction of the railway and document the life and times of people who lived on its route. [1]

The Standard-Gauge Line

In 2018, NPR reported that the “Standard Gauge Railway station in Nairobi is easily the most impressive public building in Kenya.” [8] The station is “adventurous. It’s all gray and modern. Geometric shapes form an abstract locomotive, and red neon announces the “Nairobi Terminus.”” [8]

The Standard-gauge Railway Station at Nairobi. [8]

NPR continues: “The train runs 293 miles from Kenya’s capital city to the port of Mombasa and back twice a day and represents the biggest infrastructure project since Kenya’s independence 54 years ago. The Chinese financed it; a Chinese company built it; and the Chinese will operate it for many years to come. … The project, which launched in the summer of 2017, has not only come to signify Kenya’s ambitions, but also China’s ambitions on the African continent. In the past decade, China has become the biggest lender to governments in Africa. The money has helped build ports, roads, bridges, airports and trains. But critics warn the loans are full of traps that could leave African countries in the lurch. Kenya alone owes $5.3 billion to China.” [8]

On 16th October 2019, VOA News reported that Kenya opened the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway Project: “Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opened on Wednesday the second phase of his flagship infrastructure project: a Chinese-funded and built railway that will eventually link the port of Mombasa to Uganda. … The latest stretch of track cost $1.5 billion and runs from Nairobi to the Rift Valley town of Naivasha.” [9]

After the official opening, the president then joined the first ride along the line. … “The train stopped at every station, where a cheering crowd awaited the president. He promised them that the new railway will bring prosperity. … Kenyatta said that if the railway comes here, development also comes here.” [9]

The new track is 120 kilometers (75 miles) long and has 12 stations. Passengers can ride the trains, but the railway is mainly for cargo. The track will eventually lead to an inland container depot, (see below) from where containers will be distributed to Uganda and Rwanda, and to South Sudan. [9]

On 20th August 2021 the Ugandan newspaper, ‘The Independent’ reported that Kenya’s Standard-gauge railway line transported 2.31 million tons of cargo between January and the end of May that year: “an increase of about 45 percent from the similar period in 2020, according to data released on Thursday from the Kenya Railways Corporation.” [10]

“The rise in cargo volumes saw an increase in revenue generated during the months to 6.2 billion shillings (about 57 million U.S. dollars), up from 41.4 million dollars generated from January to May in 2020, it said. … The number of passengers using the train during the first five months of 2021 nearly doubled amid COVID-19 pandemic. … Some 601,201 passengers were ferried between the capital Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa during the period, up from 330,232 in 2020 when the country grappled with COVID-19 pandemic, the corporation said. … This generated revenue of 5.9 million dollars, up from 3.3 million dollars generated between January and May in 2020.” [10]

Refurbishment of Nairobi Central Station

Major renovations at Nairobi Central Station began on 27th July 2020. By January 2021, the work was well-advanced. Kenya Railways reported that the work would facilitate the use of the new DMUs due to arrive in the country.

Renovation work at Nairobi Central Station in January 2021. [5]

Kenya Railways stated on 13th January 2021 that, “as the rehabilitation works continue[d], stringent measures [were] put in place to safeguard daily commuters as they access[ed] the station.” [5]

Designated boarding points were set for various trains to facilitate safe movement of passengers within the Nairobi Central Station. For instance, Kikuyu and Ruiru trains, the boarding point was designated on the Western end of the Nairobi Central Station and it was to be accessed from Railways Police station. While passengers boarding Syokimau & SGR Link trains boarded the trains from the Eastern end of the station with the access point being adjacent to Guava restaurant.

Kenya Railways stated that, “The rehabilitation of Nairobi Central Station will not only give it a new face but also show KR is dedicated in making transportation better.” [5]

Plans for the full renewal of Nairobi Central Station were published in May 2022. The project has been sponsored by both the British and Kenyan Governments.

Design office view of the proposed renewed Central Station. [6]

THE British and Kenyan governments unveiled the final design of Nairobi’s new Central Railway Station and surrounding public area, which has been developed as part of the Nairobi Railway City redevelopment programme. [6]

The IRJ reported that, “The design was developed by SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Atkins and submitted to Kenya Railways and the Ministry of Transport. … The station is designed to accommodate up to 30,000 passengers per hour at peak periods, and will have 6000m2 of concourse space. The station will offer a new covered public space for the city with retail outlets and other amenities …. It features separate entrance and exit routes to avoid conflicting flows and ensure passengers can get to and from the platforms efficiently. … Three existing platforms will be joined by six additional passenger platforms, and four dedicated freight lines will be built. Two platform bridges will be built, with one for passengers entering the station and one for passengers exiting.” [6]

A few design office perspective views are shown below:

The SGR to MGR link at Naivasha

In July 2022, President Uhuru Kenyatta officially commissioned the Standard Gauge Railway – Metre Gauge Railway Passenger Rail Link at the Kenya Railways Mai Mahiu Station in Naivasha, Nakuru County. The ceremony took place on Tuesday, 26th July 2022.

The 5km link will enable passengers traveling to Western Kenya by train to switch from the standard-gauge service to that of the metre-gauge and vice versa. Kenya Railways reported that it would as a result be possible to travel exclusively by rail from Mombasa through Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Machakos, Kijiado and Nairobi onwards to Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kitale, Nyahururu, Nanyuki, Malaba and Bungoma. [2]

Naivasha Inland Container Depot

On the same day (26th July 2022) the Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Naivasha ICD facility which incorporates both the Standard Gauge Railway and the Metre Gauge Railway line will handle mainly transit cargo to the Great Lakes Region including Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo, Northern Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, which account for around 30% of imports and exports through the Port of Mombasa.

The SGR/MGR Link referred to above will greatly facilitate the transshipment process. All Transit cargo can now be delivered to the facility straight from the Port of Mombasa as either Through Bill of Lading (TBL) or merchant haulage (Non-TBL), while exports and empty containers can also be consolidated at the Naivasha ICD and railed to the Port of Mombasa for onward shipping.

Kenya Railways reported that, “The depot is linked to the Mombasa Port container terminal by a rail-tainer service on the Mombasa to Suswa Standard Gauge Railway line. It will serve to bring port services closer to customers and reduce congestion at the Port of Mombasa, Nairobi Inland Container Depot and on the roads. It is convenient for East African partner states who will not have to cover an entire 572 kilometres by road between Mombasa and Naivasha. From Naivasha ICD to Malaba Railway Yard, cargo will be transported over 36 hours and it will cost $860.”

Kenya Railways also affirmed that, “The Naivasha ICD includes a one-stop centre for ease of operations and efficient service delivery. The port houses all the Government agencies involved in handling of cargo namely Kenya Railways, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Port Health (Public Health) and Revenue Authority officers from partner states of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.” [3]

Nakuru Railway Station

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially commissioned the revitalized 217km Nakuru-Kisumu Metre-Gauge Railway (MGR) and the 465km Longonot–Malaba segment as well as the refurbished Nakuru Railway Station.

Kenya Railways reported on 28th July 2022 that the re-commissioning had taken place: “The iconic Nakuru Railway Station is a key transit station for cargo and passenger train services to and from Western Kenya, and is the aggregation hub for farm produce from the agriculturally rich Central Rift region for onward freight to the Coast for export.” [4]

“Nakuru town started as a railway station on Kenyan-Uganda railway line at the turn of 20th century. It was built in 1900 and later expanded in 1957. It sits on the east side of the centre of Nakuru. The town is part of the famous ‘White Highlands settlement’ areas established by the British during the colonial era. The areas surrounding Nakuru town are mainly known for their vast agricultural potential especially cash-crop farming i.e wheat, barley, pyrethrum, sisal, maize and beans. Nakuru Railway Station was built in order to serve the rapidly growing economy of the town.” [4]

Refurbished Nakuru Railway Station [7]

“Later branch lines were built to link the station to farming areas. Among these was the line linking the station to the sisal producing Solai area. Just 6.9 kilometres from Nakuru town lies Nakuru Junction station. This is the point at which the lines to Malaba and Kisumu diverge.” [4]

Suburban Services in Nairobi

Nairobi Commuter Rail Services now run regularly to Ruiru, Embakasi Village, Limuru, Syokimau and Lukenya in Kitengela. There is also a Madaraka Express Commuter Service that operates between Nairobi Terminus and Ngong station and a link service between Nairobi Central Station and the Standard-gauge Station runs at 0630hrs, 1200hrs and 2010hrs each day. [11]


1., accessed on 9th September 2022.

2., accessed on 12th October 2022.

3., accessed on 12th October 2022.

4., accessed on 12th October 2022.

5., accessed on 11th October 2022.

6., accessed on 11th October 2022.

7., accessed on 12th October 2022.

8., 12th October 2022.

9., accessed on 12th October 2022.

10., accessed on 12th October 2022.

11., 12th October 2022.

2020-2022: Railway News from Uganda

A New Book about the Railways of Uganda

Over lockdown, I played a very small part in the production of a new book about the railways of Uganda. As a result, I was sent a free copy of that book, “Our Railways. Our History.”

“The book tells the story of the birth and growth of the railways, and includes terrific visual archives shared by custodians worldwide. It also includes recent oral histories celebrating the very unique people and skill-sets that worked the rails.”

Early in 2021, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) alongside a number of partners sought to capture the history of Uganda’s railways in a high quality, large format book. This book was published by Plantain ( [1]

Uganda Railway Museum

On 16th March 2022 Uganda Railway Museum formally opened its doors to the public. Reports appeared in a variety of different sources. This is one example:

The Uganda Railway Museum is located in Jinja, close to the Railway Station. [7]
Our Railways, Our History: details of the Uganda Railway Museum. [8]

The National Railway Museum (York)

On the 50th anniversary of the Ugandan Asian expulsion order, Sophie Vohra and William Law look into the history of South Asian communities in East Africa and Britain, and how their paths have crossed with British owned and operated railways. The article is entitled: Beyond the ‘Lunatic Line’ Ugandan Asians and British Railways. It was published on 4th August 2022:

3.6 trillion Uganda Shillings Uganda Railways Revamp To Spur Trade

In April 2022, David Mwanga wrote of the ambitious revamping exercise which the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) has embarked on with the intention of fast-tracking development and spurring on regional trade. [9] it is also hoped that the planned 3.6 trillion Uganda Shillings ($1 billion) will open up mineral-rich regions, agricultural production and markets to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Four fully refurbished locomotives from Grindrod Rail, South Africa were received in September 2021. The locomotives have a haulage capacity of between 750 to 1500 tons and will last between 35 to 40 years if recommended maintenance practices are followed. They have an axle load of 18 tons. [10]

The proposed programme of investment includes: [9]

  • The 42 billion Shillings investment in September 2021 in four new locomotives which would operate on the line between the Kenyan border at Malaba and Kampala. It seems these locomotives have already contributed to a reduction in journey times from 24 hours to 11 hours. [10]
  • A reduction in tariffs of 50%.
  • A re-launch of cargo services between Dar-es-Salaam Port and Kampala following a more than decade period of dormancy.
  • A ferry service (MV Pamba) plying between Mwanza and Port Bell. This service has already reduced transit times between Dar-es-Salaam and Port Bell to 18 hours. By road the journey takes 3 days! It has reduced a traders costs from $35 per ton to $20 per ton. This has now been further subsidised for exports to $12 per ton. This supplements the service already provided by MV Kaawa.
  • Refurbishment of the rail link between Tororo and Gulu (costing 75 million Euros) which was already underway in April 2022 and should be completed by the end of 2023.
  • Renewal of the Gulu to Pakwach line ($100 million) and the Kampala to Kasese line ($400 million) with work expected to commence in the later half of the 2020s.
  • A 28 million Euro project supported by Spain to develop a passenger train service to operate between Kampala and Mukono.
  • Services between Kampala and Port Bell and Kampala and Kyengera funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB)
  • Within 10 years a Light Railway network for Kampala, the Kampala Metro (Greater Kampala Light Rail) [11] This will be a joint enterprise between Kampala City Council Authority and the URC.
  • An allowance of 50 billion Shillings to cover compensation to what the government and the URC term ‘encroachers’ onto railway land (thought to be around 20,000 people) with the intention of having historic railway land vacated during 2022. (Please note the item below about the human cost of railway development.)
  • A planned process of renewal of wagons, carriages and locomotives which have essentially been idle for 15 years
  • Automation of technology, development of skills and management to ensure best practice across the railway network.

The Human Cost of Revamping Uganda’s Railway Line

We have noted above that officials want to revitalize the country’s ailing railway system. But it seems that it might come at a cost for the people who live in the way.

A report from the Global Press Journal talks of the extensive repairs necessary as a result of the railways falling into a serious state of disrepair. Only 330 kilometers (205 miles) of the 1,266 kilometers (787 miles) of the network’s lines were operational as of 2019. But it seems clear that without the land next to the rail network cleared of people who have set up home, many of the planned upgrades can’t go ahead. [2]

It seems that many people paid good money to purchase land from Uganda’s railways but that the necessary paper did not follow their purchases. There are a number of people who are facing eviction from the land that they believe they own. Kichoncho Scovia is one example, she has lived on railway land in Kiswa parish for more than 14 years but now faces eviction. She says: “I bought this land from Uganda railway staff for 2 million Ugandan shillings [$565], which took me seven years to save. Since 2014, we have been told our purchases are not valid and we are not entitled to refunds.” [2]

Joel Ssenyonyi, a member of Parliament and chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee for the Parliament of Uganda, which scrutinizes the financial expenditures of the government, is heading an investigation into the land sales. He says 69.5 billion shillings ($19.6 million) worth of land belonging to the railway corporation was sold but “not a single coin has gone into the account of URC.” [2]

The government has provided equivalent support to the Uganda Railway Corporation (URC) which it believes covers the Corporation for any missing finances. [2] However, the issue of appropriate compensation for those living on what was railway land remains unresolved.

In 2021, 14,000 people living on land owned by the railway corporation were given six months’ notice to leave. After just 5,000 people left, the eviction deadline was extended to 31st March 2022, because the government didn’t have the 40 billion Ugandan shillings ($11.3 million) required to compensate those who do have the necessary documentation to prove they bought the land. [2]

Refurbishment of Metre-gauge Railways in Uganda

Work is ongoing to improve the condition of the old metre-gauge lines in Uganda. The Uganda Ministry of Works & Transport reports relatively regularly on Facebook about work which is being undertaken. [3]

On 20th August 2022, the Minister for Works and Transport, Hon.Gen. Katumba Wamala and the Director of Transport, Benon Kajuna inspected the rehabilitation works of the Tororo-Kampala Metre-gauge line being undertaken by the China Road & Bridge Corporation (CRBC) & The National Enterprise Corporation (NEC). On that date, 65% of the construction works complete. A completion date of October 2022 was re-affirmed. [4]

The Director of Transport, Benon Kajuna, explained that the metre-gauge railway rehabilitation will increase the cargo tonnage carried by rail to at least 60,000 tons/month. The government were, at that time, negotiating with the African Development Bank, for funding to procure more locomotives, wagons and coaches to move cargo from Kisumu, Mwanza to Port Bell. [5]

In addition to the improvement works on the Tororo-Kampala line, work is now complete on the Gulu Logistics Hub. The hub will serve as a consolidation center for cargo to be moved by rail. A crucial component for growth in Northern Uganda. [6]

The Gulu Logistics Hub which was completed in May 2022. [6]

Greater Kampala Light Rail

Greater Kampala Light Rail will be a Chinese-built light rail rapid transport system. A memorandum of agreement was signed between the Chinese and Ugandan governments in 2015 covering its planned construction. [11][12]

At a cost of 1.5 trillion Uganda Shillings ($440 million), the initial 35-kilometre stretch which shall be constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Cooperation is aimed at de-congesting traffic in the country’s capital and surrounding areas. [12]

It is envisaged that the 35km first phase will eventually be extended to a route length of 240km including:

  • Kampala-Namanve via Nakawa, Kinawataka, Banda, Kireka and Bweyogerere (12 km east);
  • Kampala-Lubowa via Kibuye, Najjanankumbi and Zana (7 km);
  • Kampala-Kyengera via Katwe, Kibuye, Ndeeba, Nalukolongo and Natete (7 km);
  • Kampala-Kawempe via City Square, Buganda Road, Wandegeya, Mulago, Kubbiri and Bwaise (9 km north).

Ultimately the lines will extend to: Entebbe (37 km southwest); Nsangi (20 km west); Wakiso (20 km) and other surrounding towns. [11]


1., accessed on 8th September 2022.

2., accessed on 8th September 2022.

3., accessed on 8th September 2022.

4., accessed on 8th September 2022.

5., accessed on 8th September 2022.

6., accessed on 8th September 2022.

7., accessed on 8th September 2022.

8., accessed on 8th September 2022.

9., accessed on 8th September 2022.

10., accessed on 8th September 2022.

11., accessed on 9th September 2022.

12., accessed on 9th September 2022.

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.
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  12.,_Uganda, accessed on 2nd April 2021.
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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.

The Uganda Railway – 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.
  5., accessed on 24th March 2021.
  6., accessed on 22nd March 2021
  7., accessed on 22nd March 2021.
  8., accessed on 22nd March 2021.
  9.,35.111779,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipOswTA_nt0PRTN_1v6oYXNZrtHhPp95MV0Ifcm4!2e10!3e12!!7i1920!8i2560!4m5!3m4!1s0x182a85c2400ef241:0x40029cd4350e8b0a!8m2!3d-0.1059847!4d35.111779, accessed on 23rd March 2021.
  10. 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; West Virginia University; Chapter 5 p199-228; accessed via, on 24th March 2021.

The Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours – The Great Depression and Years of Argument

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.

Previous articles in this series based on Hill’s 1949 book are:

The Great Depression and the Pre-War Years

This article covers the final period between WW1 and WW2. Despite the title of this chapter in Hill’s book which refers to years of argument, these notes focus on the railway rather than on the political machinations of the time.

“Towards the end of 1928, the representatives of the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours and of the Tanganyika Railways met in Nairobi to consider ways and means of securing an assimilation of the traffic of the two systems.” [1: p 476]

The two railway systems abandoned preferential rates for local produce [1: p476] and arranged for the through booking of passengers and goods [1: p477]

Throughout 1928 and 1928, the development and improvement of the railway made good steady progress. Twelve Mikado engines, pictured below, arrived, along with 3 modified corridor coaches. [1: p477]

The East African Railways and Harbours Magazine carried a single page article on the Class 28 locos in 1955. [4]

Mombasa to Nairobi replacement of rails was completed in February 1929. Between M’bulamuti and Namasagali two additional sleepers per length of rail were added to permit the use of larger locomotives. At Kilindini further improvements were made and a new tug was purchased. [1: p477]

Railway construction was progressing well:

  • Gilgil to Thomson’s Falls: started January 1928. – 48 miles completed by 31st August 1929.
  • Tororo to Soroti was completed in September 1929.
  • Jinja, Uganda – The Bridge Over the Nile. The completeion of the bridge and its opening in January 1931 saw the completion of the route from Mombasa to Kampala. [2]

    Kisumu to Yala was delayed by heavy rains and only completed  in November 1930.
  • Naro Moro to Nanyuki was completed by October 1930.
  • Jinja to Kampala started in 1929 and other than the bridge over the Nile was completed in January 1930. The bridge was opened to traffic in January 1931. [1: p478]

Further extensions West from Kampala were under consideration. Survey parties looked at possible routes to the border with the Belgian Congo – South of Ruwenzori and South of Lake Albert. [1: p478] Revenue estimates were not possible without a clear commitment from the Belgian authorities. [1: p479]

“By the end of 1930 the days of inflation, the years of heavy loan expenditure and of soaring revenues were finished, and the railway was struggling to balance its budget by drastic economies which, in effect, added to the havoc of a vicious deflation. At that time, the total route mileage of open lines had increased to 1.557 miles and the route mileage on the Lakes to 3,246 miles. The railway’s expenditure on capital account amounted to £21,463,704 of which £13,097,160 was interest-bearing capital. … The annual loan charges borne by the railway amounted to £690,181 and they were still rising.” [1: p481]

From Autumn 1928 to the end of 1931 two plagues of locust devastated the East African economy. [1: p481/482] In tandem, the stock market collapse at the end of 1929 in New York led to international problems with deflation. There was a startling drop in the value of primary products on world markets. [1: p482]

East Africa was particularly susceptible to the combined problems of drought, locusts and economic disruption:

  • Maize dropped in value to around 1/3rd of its 1928 price;
  • Sisal dropped to around a quarter of its 1928 value;
  • Butter to around 1/3rd;
  • Wattlebark to around 1/5th (Wattle is the same as ‘Acacia’)
  • Hides in Narok fell to 1/5th of their former price;
  • Ghee fell by 66%; and
  • Beans and Wimbi (finger millet) fell by 50%. [1: p483]

The value of Uganda’s exports at the ports fell from £4.3 million to £2.1 million in 1930. It was estimated that the fall in value of Uganda’s exports reduced railway revenue by around £400,000. [1: p483]

The situation in Kenya initially appeared different, heavy rains contributed to a sharp increase in the colony’s domestic exports by around £677,000, but by the following year they had fallen by over £1 million and they continued to drop. They’d sunk to £1,910,000 by 1931. Uganda’s exports had fallen in value to below £2 million. [1: p483]

Early in 1930, the important reduction of the 2% grade on the main line between Makupa and Mazeras to 1.5% was started. It was complete by November 1930 and included the provision of a spiral which lengthened  the line by 3/4 mile. [1: p501]

Nairobi-bound trains pass under the higher level of the spiral before then crossing over the lower line. Malcolm McCrow provides a few images from 1970s. [3]

In 1931, the combined earnings of the railways and harbours declined to £2,246,837, and in 1932, to £2,172,946. [1: p502] By 1934, the combined earnings of the railways and harbours were £265,270 less than in 1929 but ordinary working expenditure had been reduced by £543,120 as a result of reductions and efficiencies made by the railways. The nett surplus was £344,654. The countrywide  reduction in the transport of lower value crops meant that traffic reduced but was focussed on higher value traffic. [1: p517-518]

In 1935, the surplus increased to £362,391. A succession of good cotton crops in Uganda contributed to the restoration of the railways finances. [1: p518]

In 1936, the surplus improved again, to £415,048 even though the railway authorities had applied some rate reductions for the transport of goods at the end of 1935. [1: p518-519]

In 1937, gross earnings of the railways and harbours reached a peak of £3.35 million and the surplus was £584,326, of which only £105,196 was carried forward, the remainder was committed to Betterment, the General Reserve, the Pensions Reserve, and depreciation. Hill provides a table which shows that 1937 compared well with 1929: [1: p524]

Year                                                                           1929                            1937

Railway Revenue (excluding Harbours)     £2,448,960                  £2,715,524

Railway ton/miles                                           385,708,364                504,274,001

Railway Working Cost                                     £1,445,070                  £1,261,278

The Great Depression was described by the General manager as a “blessing in disguise, in so far as it had imposed new standards of efficiency and economy. During 1937, rate reductions estimated to cost £155,000 were introduced and further reductions estimated to cost £146,200 came into force on 1st January 1938.” [1: p524]

In 1938, the railway surplus was £285,796. In order to assist coffee producers through a period of low international prices, rates for them were reduced in both 1938 and 1939.

Planned railway improvements included regrading the main line between Uplands and Nakuru at an estimated cost of £446,000. Work started between Uplands and Gilgil but the remaining length to Nakuru was delayed by negotiations with farmers over transport rates. The advent of WW2 put the argument and the improvements into abeyance. [1: p525]

Throughout 1938 and 1939 railway policy was influenced by a growing recognition that another world war was inevitable. In September 1939, the General Manager wrote that “the railways and harbours had never been in a better position than they were in the September of 1939 to meet all the demands that might be made on them. In 1938 and 1939, the railway received a substantial reinforcement of new rolling stock, including 193 covered goods wagons,b115 open trucks and 35 third-class corridor coaches which were to prove invaluable for troop movements. Six new Garratt [EC3 Class] engines, built to specifications worked out by Mr. K.C. Strahan, the Chief Mechanical Engineer, and his staff, arrived in 1939 and proved a great advance on earlier types. The railway workshops were well equipped and the general stores position was satisfactory. In consequence, the railway was able to play an indispensable part towards the victory of the East African campaign and the maintenance of Kenya and Uganda’s economy,” during World War 2. [1: p526]

The KUR EC3 class, later known as the EAR 57 class, was a class of 4-8-4+4-8-4 Garratt-type articulated steam locomotives. The twelve members of the class were built by Beyer, Peacock & Co. in Manchester, England, for the Kenya-Uganda Railway (KUR). They entered service between 1939 and 1941, and were later operated by the KUR’s successor, the East African Railways (EAR) [5]


  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 18th February 2021.
  3., accessed 14th May 2018.
  4. Staff writer (April 1955). “”28″ Class Locomotive” (PDF). East African Railways and Harbours Magazine. East African Railways and Harbours. Volume 2(2): p57. Accessed on 17th June 2018.
  5., accessed on 19th June 2018.

The Uganda Railway: the Gilded Years 1924-1928

Great advances in the development of East Africa occurred during these years. A serious attempt was made to unify the East African Territories. “Kenya became a playground for wealthy sportsmen who came to shoot, or to photograph, big game, and they spent much money on their sport.” [1: p443]

The following Earnings/Working Profits are recorded in or estimated from Hill’s narrative:

Year           Earnings        Working Profits

1924          £1,635,189       £756,722            [1: p447]

1925          £1,993,509       £903,438            [1: p456]

1926          £2058,710        £841,937            [1: p459]

1927       £2,257,403       £1,030,000           estimated [1: p463/4]

1928       £2,511,227               –                     [1: p475] working profit not recorded by Hill

1929       £2,825,310               –                     [1: p475] working profit not recorded by Hill

The 1924 the working profit was reduced by £149,004 of loan charges.£165,579 was credited to the Renewals Fund and £438,139 to the Betterment Fund. Together with other sums, the result was that in 1925, £750,000 was put to a programme of renewals/betterment. There was also heavy expenditure on port development, new lines, rolling-stock and equipment. East Africa’s transport needs were expanding rapidly. [1: p447]

A search on Facebook produced this composite image on the Baringo New Channel [2]


Twitter carries this image of a railway bridge on the metre-gauge line in hilly Timboroa [3]

By the end of 1924, the Uasin-Gishu line had reached Timboroa; the Thika line had been extended to the Tana River. The Solai branch and the Kitole branch were under construction.

During 1925, the Thika line was expected to reach Nyeri, and the Uasin-Gishu line beyond Timboroa, through Turbo into Eastern Uganda was being funded by a £3.5 million loan. It was required – there had been a very rapid increase in traffic which was causing significant connection at the ports on Lake Victoria and at Mombasa. [1: p448/9]

At the end of 1924, 30 miles of the Mombasa to Nairobi mainline had been relayed with 80-lb rails. Work continued slowly through 1925. [1: p450]

On 3rd February 1926, the Kenya & Uganda (Transport) Order in Council was promulgated. The name of the railway was changed from the ‘Uganda Railway’ to the ‘Kenya & Uganda Railway’. [1: p453] At this time the Inter-Colonial Railway Council held its last meeting. The railways were placed under the command of the High Commissioner who was also Governor of Kenya and a new ‘Kenya & Uganda Railway Advisory Council’ held its first meeting in February 1926 at Entebbe. [1: p453/4] It decided that the most pressing need was for there to be negotiations with the Tanganyika authorities to ensure that the two railway systems collaborated, rather than competed, with each other for custom. [1: p454]

There was continued criticism of congestion at ports and in Uganda, [1: p457] with goods delayed and damaged in transit. Criticism failed to take account of a significant increase in demand for railway services, nor of problems at ports which were outside of the control of the railway authorities.

By 1926, the mainline rail replacement programme had reached Makindu, 207 miles from Mombasa. New Central railway offices were under construction in Nairobi. The Uganda extension has reached the Eastern edges of the M’pologoma Swamp but the length heading East was over 10 months behind schedule due to supply problems across Lake Victoria. [1: p462]

In 1927, a commission to review the possibility of uniting the three East African Territories was set up. When it reported in 1929, it suggested that the two railway systems of East Africa must eventually be amalgamated under one management. “Meanwhile … there was much that could be done in the direction of assimilation of rates, the standardisation of engines, rolling stock, equipment and rules and regulations, all of which would greatly facilitate amalgamation in due course.” [1: p467]

In September 1927, Felling, a strong supporter of ‘Closer Union’ spoke his mind in the Legislative Council. As part of his comments he stressed that one management of the Kenya and Uganda Railway and the Tanganyika Railway must “come in due course, but there [was] no urgent need for amalgamation of management’s; and anyway, such an amalgamation would be very difficult to arrange until there  [was] a definite railway link connecting the two territories.” [1: p468]

Further, he said, on the same occasion, that “it [was] clear that it [was] necessary for the general development of this part of the Empire that there should be rail communication between Kenya and the Central Tanganyika line, also a steady programme of railway construction to connect the Tanganyika Railway with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland …  [and] perhaps two lines, to the Congo.” [1: p468]

He argued that “railway development in East Africa should not be looked upon so much as an East African investment as a sound Imperial investment, as in the interests of the people of Great Britain even more than in the interests of the native inhabitants of the territories concerned.” [1: p469] He also argued for the rapid completion of a rail link from Jinja to Kampala.

In 1927, developments in the railways brought the advent of corridor coaches and dining cars. These were essential to a satisfactory timetable. 6 No. Mikado (2-8-2) locos were put to work on the 89-lb rails between Mombasa and Makindu. [1: p470/1]

Kenya & Uganda Railways Mail Train 1930’s Vintage Card. [4]

Kenya & Uganda Railways Mail Train 1930’s Vintage Card. [5]

The KUR EA class, later known as the EAR 28 class, was a class of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge 2-8-2 steam locomotives. The six members of the class were built in 1928 for the Kenya-Uganda Railway (KUR) by Robert Stephenson and Company. Builder’s numbers were 3921-3926. They were numbered 2801-2806 on the Kenya & Uganda Railway. [6]

A road and railway causeway/bridge between Mombasa Island and the mainland was commenced in June 1927.

In addition to the Uganda extension, building of branch lines continued:

  • On 1st November the Nyeri branch reached lnaro Moru.
  • In Uganda, work commenced on the Tororo, Mbale, Soroti branch in February 1927.
  • A branch from Fulfil to Thomson Falls was approved.
  • A line from Kisumu towards Mumias was proposed.
  • A preliminary survey for a branch from Turi to Sotik was completed. [1: p471]

The Kenya & Uganda Railways & Harbours Logo, (c) Martin Greave, 2003 [7][8][9]

The railway’s name was changed by Order in Council on 20th December 1927, to the ‘Kenya and Uganda Railway and Harbours’. [1: p472]

On 15th January 1928, the final section of the Uganda Extension from Broderick Falls to M’Bulamuti opened to traffic. Within 9 months Christian Felling had died as a result of a severe attack of malaria.

The figures listed above show impressive growth in the years to 1929. The figures fr the following period fell just as rapidly as we will see. Hills says that “although it was not yet apparent, the railway, in common with Kenya and Uganda and the greater part of the civilised world, had come near to the end of the gilded years of prosperity.” [1: p475]


  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 6th February 2021.
  3., accessed on 6th February 2021.
  4., accessed on 6th February 2021.
  5., accessed on 6th February 2021.
  6., accessed on 6th February 2021.
  7., accessed on 6th February 2021.
  8., accessed on 6th February 2021.
  9., accessed on 6th February 2021.

The Uganda Railway in the first 5 years after World War 1

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 article covers the period between WW1 and WW2.

In the years immediately after WW1, further European settlement was encouraged and ‘European’ electoral areas were set up. By 1921, the Census revealed the European population of the EAP to be 9,651 and the Indian population to be 22,822. [1: p379]

No effective provision was made in the 1919 Ordinance which established the European franchise, for Indian elected representatives. This was a cause of Indian resentment [1: p379f] Changes in India led to a greater Indian interest in politics in what, in 1920, became the Kenya Colony. The annexation of the EAP took place in June 2020, only the area lease from the Sultan of Zanzibar were excluded (a 10 mile wide costal strip).

In addition to the Indian issue, political turmoil/controversy revolved round issues which had an ill-effect on the new colony’s economy. These included:

  • the virtual bankruptcy of The Uganda Railway;
  • the need for drastic reorganisation;
  • the lack of aboriginal contribution to the colony’s economy – the native population was producing little of value on world markets;
  • the Indian community had yet to make a net contribution to the economy of the Colony.

The number of ex-pat European farmers was only 1,339, most in financial difficulty because of lack of experience, falling prices and a “disastrous currency conversion.” [1: p381] …… The rising value of the Indian Rupee against the pound resulted in a dramatic increase in the sterling value of all local services and commodities. The European settler in 1919 received 850 rupees for £100 instead of the rate before the War of 1500 Rupees for £100. If the £3 million loan first discussed in 1913 had been raised in 1919 its value would have been a third less than in 1913. The farmer also received far fewer Rupees for his sterling exports – he had to sell twice as much produce to meet his liabilities. [1: p382]

After much debate and extensive negotiation the sterling value of the East African Rupee was fixed at 2 Shillings. This was relative parity with the Indian Rupee at the time, but within 6 months the exchange rate in India settled back to historic levels of around 15 Rupees to the pound. [2: p384f]

Settlers costs were as a result fixed at a very high level, their income was held down and then they had to watch as Government salaries were increased by 50% to maintain the value of salaries at an equivalent sterling value. All government related costs charged to settlers where increased by more than 50%. [1: p385f]

Pressure to revert to a conversion rate of 15 Rupees to the pound was resisted by HM Government, the 2 Shilling (Florin) of the Rupee was maintained. However, a local review highlighted a need to create a lower standard denomination and this was eventually accepted. The order came into force on 1sr January 1922 and the Shilling became the standard currency its value set at 20 Shillings to one pound sterling. [1: p388]

The new currency maintained the high exchange rate and as a result local costs had to be reduced. Native labour lost 33% of the increase which came from the high exchange rate although, in practice, this meant that their buying power returned to historic levels.

Hill comments that another effect was the greater pressure placed on the aboriginal/indigenous populations in the reserves to take up paid employment outside the reserves. The terms on which this occured were seen by Mission Societies and the Aboriginal Protection Society. Hill says that this was an ill-informed response, however the parallel scheme in Uganda was more onorous. “In Uganda a native could be called out to work, by compulsion and with no pay, for thirty days a year,band for a greater variety of communal purposes than in Kenya.” [1: p392]

Hill says that by 1920, Kenya was planning to extend the line across the Uasin-Gishu Plateau towards Uganda and the Thika Line to Nyeri. The lack of local labour resulted in the Kenyan authorities it arrangements for forced labour into line with Uganda which inevitably drew more criticism. [1: p392]

Hill tells of a significant debate over the relative merits of the settler’s need for labour and the protection of the rights of indigenous labourers. By 1921, Winston Churchill, who had just inherited the role of Secretary of State ensured that the Kenyan Government would only use forced labour when it was absolutely necessary. In 1922, this became a statute at the time when it also became a requirement to seek HM Government approval for the use of compulsory labour. In 1923, Uganda followed suit. [1: p393]

Between 1919 and 1939, compulsory labour was only once called upon to work for the State. “In 1925 the Secretary of State agreed that compulsory labour should be employed on the extension of the Uasin Gishu Railway and on the line from Thika to Nyeri. In each case the need was urgent, because construction was severely retarded – with heavy financial loss – by a lack of labour. The largest number of compulsory labour employed in any one month was 1,500 on the Uasin Gishu line and 1,300 on the Thika-Nyeri line.” [1: p394]

Hill notes that as of the end of March 1920 the outstanding grant and loan balances available to improve the railway were £1,301,033. The settlement of the rupee-shilling conversion in 1921 enabled the colony to raise a loan of  £5 million of which over £4.2 million was designated for use on the railway.

In May 1921 it was decided at a meeting in London that the financial year of the Kenya Colony should become the same as the calendar year.

Over the next few years, the recall of the Military Governor, Sir Edward Northey, led to a significant change in direction for the colony. Northey had worked to the dictum that European interests were paramount and that Indian interests should not be ignored [1: p397ff] The new commitment of HM Government is described by Hill, quoting from the Devonshire White Paper: [2]

“The general policy underlying any decision that may be taken on the questions at issue must first be determined. It is a matter for satisfaction that, however irreconcilable the views of the European and Indian communities in Kenya on many points may be, there is one point on which both are agreed, namely, the importance of safeguarding the interests of the African natives. …” [1: p399]

This policy change was significant. Hill says that HM Government now regarded “themselves as exercising a trust on behalf of the African population, … the object of which may be defined as the protection and advancement of the native races.” [1: p400]

Whether Hill interprets the situation correctly may be open to interpretation, certainly the Wikipedia article about the White Paper suggests a slightly different motivation. [2] However, it does seem to be the case that the net result was Kenya avoiding the route that was pursued in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. [2]

Returning to focus more directly on The Uganda Railway. … The Working Profit of the Railway, even when enhanced by some creative accounting was much lower immediately after WW1 than in earlier years. The figures from within Hill’s account are:

1919-1920         £62,582        [1: p402]

1920-1921      £155,916        [1: p404]

1921                  £15,883        [1: p407]   –   only 9 months and in the midst of a worldwide depression.

1922                  £56,785        [1: p436]

1923                £300,910        [1: p439]

34 No. ‘G’ Class locomotives were delivered by the North British Locomotive Co. and 17 of these were in service by the end of March 1920. At that time, two more were on order from Nasmyth, Wilson & Co. Ltd. A daily service once again became possible along the full line. However, of the 36 new locomotives, 21 were intended for the Magadi Line traffic. [1: p402]

It was as late as 1st April 1921 that the Secretary of State finally rules that the working profit of the railway was no longer to be regarded as available for general colonial revenue purposes and that any surplus generated was to be used:

  • first, for renewals, upkeep and betterment of the railway;
  • second, for meeting loan charges on future development costs;
  • third, for a reduction in railway rates. [1: p404]

Hill notes that the general improvement in the economy brought significant pressure to bear on the railway – the numbers of engines, carriages and goods wagons available  for use was short, it seemed, on what demand required. Despite night-shift working in the maintenance facilities, 24 engines were in the year awaiting overhaul in August 1920. [1: p405] These problems were mitigated by using 17 locomotives and 108 covered wagons intended for the Magadi Line, as anticipated traffic did not arise from the Soda Works until 1921. [1: p406]

At the end of 1920, Lieut.-Colonel F.D. Hammond was appointed by the Secretary of State as Special Commissioner for Railways, Eastern Africa. He arrived in Kenya on 20th January 2021 and left on 24th August 2021 after completing his tour of investigation. His report brought about a new era in the history of The Uganda Railway [1: p409,410]

Meanwhile, Hill writes, there was a significant debate being played out over the route of the Uasin0Gishu Line. An argument had been put forward for a revised alignment which left the existing main line  on the Mau Plateau rather than at Nakuru. There would have been significant initial cost savings if proponents of this route were to prevail. However, given the increasing levels of traffic from Uganda, major improvements on the existing line between Nakuru and Mau Summit would inevitably be necessary in the relative near future. The ruling grade would have needed to be improved from 2% to 1.5% and concomitant improvements to structures would also be required if transportation costs were to be kept as low as possible. The originally surveyed route from Nakuru would, while costing more initially, would result in lower transportation costs. [1: p410-414]

Hill comments: “There is no doubt that the conclusion reached … in favour of the Nakuru route was sound, although much of the financial argument could not be sustained. … The line took far longer to build than was expected, it proved exceedingly expensive and, during the building, there was persistent friction between … the Chief Engineer … and the senior representative in Kenya of the contractors.! [1: p141]

Hammond, says Hill, reported in May 1921 that he was in full agreement with the Nakuru route “being economically the proper one to choose.” [1: p415] He strongly urged acceptance of that route. Hill goes on to say that while this debate was raging, “Hammond was devising a plan for the complete reorganisation of the railway.” [1: p415]

A new ‘Inter-Colonial Railway Council’ was set up with terms of reference provided by Lord Milner, the Secretary of State, which made that Council the effective administration authroity for the railway and all auxiliary services. Hill says that they were “to be administered as a single instrument for the benefit of Kenya and Uganda by a body of men who, with the expection of the Chairman (Hammond was in the Chair at first) were unlikely to have much experience of railway policy or practice.” [1: p419]

When Hammond left Kenya in August 1921 the position of General Manager of the railway was decreed by the Secretary of State as including the role of Chair of the Council. [1: p422]

Hill goes on to discuss the Hammond report – the main points raised were that there:

  • had been gross inefficiencies in freight transport – goods from Kisumu to Mombasa were taking close to 8 days to travel a distance for which the working timetables allowed 2.5 days. Goods from Mombasa to Nairobi were taking as much as 12.5 days to cover the scheduled running time of 1.33 days. Hammond estimated that the efficient running of the network would result in an 11% surplus capacity with the existing availability of goods wagons at the heaviest envisaged traffic levels (including for Magadi’s output). [1: p422-423]
  • was a need for a marked improvement of the telegraph system to ensure safe operating of the railway; [1: p 423]
  • was a need  a better cleaning regime, particularly of passenger stock; [1: p 423]
  • was too much centralisation of maintenance and no progress in developing maintenance facilities, particularly for locomotives; [1: p 423-424]
  • were huge stocks of coal; [1: p 424]
  • was major work required to maintain/replace machinery in teh worskshops; [1: p 424]
  • were ineffective financial controls in the workshops and in the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Department; [1: p 424]
  • was a major need for investment in replacement of time served timber buildings; [1: p 424-425]
  • was undue pressure on the General Manager from the Protectorate Government to minimise expenditure on the railway; [1: p 425]
  • was no programme for replacement of railway structures.  Although properly maintained, structures would not be adequate for the axle loads of the next generation of locomotives; [1: p 426]
  • was an over-provision of steamers on the Lakes with no possibility of sale to others; [1: p 426]
  • was no possibility of improving the capacity of Lakes steamers as Kisumu Port could not be developed to accommodate ships with a greater draught; [1: p 426-427]
  • were significant losses on the Busoga Railway and the Port Bell-Kampala line caused by a failure of the Railway to properly credit income to those lines. Thos losses were then being born by the Uganda Government; [1: p 427]
  • was a need to focus on generating traffic from Uganda and the Belgian Congo [1: p427]
  • was work to do to address expensive, slow and cumbersome systems in the Stores and Accounts Departments.
  • were too many staff drawn from India rather than from a wider pool and very little intention to employ local staff to do anything other than manual roles. [1: p427] This meant that the railway was entirely dependent on the economic and political circumstances which might arise in India. [1: p428]
  • had been a failure over 20 years to train local technical staff especially when compared to the situation pertaining in Tanganyika which had been in the German sphere of influence. [1: p428]

Hammond placed the highest priority for action on creating a comprehensive technical training scheme for local staff. He proposed the diversion of capital from the £300,000 fund set aside for the provision of additional rolling stock.

He instituted, with Railway Council agreement, a new goods tarrif system which focussed on maximising revenue. It had a tapering system of rates dependent on volumes carried and a far simpler classification of goods. The system was uniform across the network and ensured that “no transport be done at less than cost price.”[1: p429]

He also insisted that the General Manager should place a high priority on public relations and must “be directly represented on Chambers of Commerce and other local associations.” [1: p429]

Hammond estimated that the required annual contribution to a Renewals Fund should be around £280,000 and that there should also be:

  • a three-year programme to replace worn out plant/machinery at a cost of about £24,000/annum; and
  • a five-year programme of building replacement costing £112,000/annum. [1: p 430]

He emphasised the paramount importance of separating colony and railway finances, and suggested that capital costs for the development of the railway were for the colony to bear, withe the railway being tasked with the operating of the network. [1: p431]

Hammond also stipulated that, to ensure fair-dealing with Uganda, Kenya and Uganda should be placed under one Governor-General or High Commissioner to whom the railway would be responsible. [1: p432]

As a final matter, he looked into the status of the Voi-Kahe branch built during WW1. His recommendation was that “the last 57 miles of track at the Modi end of the Tanga line be picked up and used for the betterment of the costal section [in Tanganyika] and that the Voi-Kahe line be retained, regraded and realigned. He considered that the cost of the reconstruction of the Voi-Kahe line should fall upon Tanganyika as the chief benefactor, and he devised a financial arrangement whereby the Territory would bear all loss and collect all profit derived from the line. [1: p433]

Implementation of Hammond’s report was delayed by political issues. There was major controversy over the probable impact of his recommendations and implementation was delayed “pending further negotiations and discussions.” [1: p434]

The railway concentrated on reform of its own administration. The Railway Council pressed for urgent action where economies could be immediately effected. [1: p434-435]

In January 1922, the Council considered the reduction of coal stocks. It decided that the General Manager had acted in the best interests of the railway in purchasing the coal but considered that the information given to him “as to the state of the home markets at the time in question left much to be desired.” [1: p435] It was resolved to sell surplus coal stocks at the best prices obtainable.

At the end of 1922, a new General Manager was appointed. Within 3weeks or arriving, C. L. N. Felling, ” had devised a scheme for the control of the railway. It was discussed for nearly two years, but the eventual Order in Council differed little from Felling’s original draft. [1: p435]

After considerable debate, a final decision over the Voi- Moshi line was made. It was resolved to keep the line open. [1: p437-439] “Within a few years the line was paying its way, and it later became the first section of any railway in British Africa where the engines were driven by Africans, who also provided the bulk of the signal and station staff.” [1: p439]

At the end of 1923, the General Manager’s report announced a significant programme of new construction which included  the extension of the Uasin-Gishu line to meet the Busoga Railway in Uganda. “Considerable extensions and improvements to the mechanical workshops were carried out during the year and the repair of locomotives … was up to date. During 1823, thirty-seven engines were thoroughly overhauled, five were scrapped, … and twenty new engines were erected.” [1: p441]

A Uganda Railway GD Class 4-8-0 Locomotive. The first of these was built in 1923 by the Vulcan Foundry of Nasmyth, Wilson and Co. They were numbered 162 to 217 and layer became Class 24 Locomotives as The Uganda Railway developed. [6]

Hill comments: “Within a year, Christian Felling had created an amazing improvement in the working of the railway. The financial position and prospect had changed for the better beyond the most optimistic prediction. It was only the start of great achievement: in the next 4 years he was to transform the railway and it’s finances.” [1: p442]



  1. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way – The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway – Volume 1; Hazel, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury & London, 1949.
  2. Wikipedia notes: This document was intended to create “a compromise between Indian interests and those of the Europeans, despite its affirmation of African paramountcy. [3] Nevertheless, the Paper allowed for the (slow) improvement of African conditions, such as the establishment of technical schools for Africans by a 1924 Education Ordinance, as well as the appointment of Eliud Mathu to the Legislative Council, the first African to hold a seat. It also allowed for the formation of an African party, the Kikuyu Central Association, which presented African grievances to the colonial government. Although the Indians were prevented from settling in the White Highlands, they were granted five seats on the Legislative Council and immigration restrictions imposed on them by the white settlers were removed. [4] The White Paper was used by the British government to retain control over the Kenya Colony, and is cited as one reason why Kenya did not develop as a white minority ruled country, as South Africa and Southern Rhodesia did.” [5]; accessed on 3rd January 2021.
  3. Robert M. Maxon; The Devonshire Declaration: The Myth of Missionary Intervention; History in Africa Volume 18,1991, p259–270.
  4. History and Government Form 2 Teachers Guide. East African Publishers. p91–92
  5. Robert M. Maxon; Struggle for Kenya: The Loss and Reassertion of Imperial Initiative, 1912-1923. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1993, p270–279.
  6., accessed on 8th January 2021.

The Uganda Railway during the First World War

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 article covers the period of WW1.

Hill provides, at least as far as I can tell, what appears to be a very fair compilation of activity throughout the East Africa Protectorate (EAP) and the Uganda Protectorate UP) during the War. [1: p344ff] There was significant unrest in the EAP contributed to by a range of incompetencies exhibited by the EAP Government based in Nairobi, during the first year of the War. He highlights the importance of a meeting of Settlers in September 2015, which pressed on the Government the need for effective organisation and which resulted in the first elected representation for the Settlers onto a War Council.

Hill says that organisation improved markedly from this time on, although there were still significant losses in the community and the forces particularly due to fever. The German resistance throughout the War is noted by Hill as being one of “courage, endurance and astounding ingenuity” before it surrendered eventually on 25th November 1918. [1: p354]

Hill’s summary of the EAP campaign says: “The most ardent advocate of the East African campaign cannot maintain that it contributed to the ultimate to the ultimate defeat of Germany. The most caustic critic cannot deny that the story of the campaign is an epic of human endurance in the face of terrible trials. Fever, disease and starvation, through the breakdown of a suicidal system of supply, were von Lettow’s [2] allies, and they caused far more casualties than his soldiers.” [1: p354]

British troops after their train has run over a German mine. [3][4]

Hill points to the War Office record which states that, “during the campaign, 976 officers and 17,650 other ranks were killed, died or missing. Those figures covered the East African, South African, West African, British and Indian troops engaged in the campaign. In addition, 44,572 African porters were killed or died of disease. The maximum strength employed at any time was 24,156 combatants and 187,369 non-combatants. Altogether 112,000 fighting troops and 261,000 non-combatants took part in the campaign. Of the vast army of African porters, on which the transport and supply of the troops in the field mainly depended, nearly 60,000 were recruited in Uganda and the great majority of the remainder came from the Native tribes of the East Africa Protectorate. They were called upon to pay a terrible price in human life and misery because the First German War overspilt from Europe into Africa ” [1: p355]

H.M. armoured train, ‘Simba’ was built in the workshops at Nairobi to counteract the German mounted patrols that carried out nuisance raids on the railway during the War. [3][4] It was destroyed by a mine.

He goes on to talk about ‘The Uganda Railway’. Throughout the text of the chapter on the War, Hill again provides details of the working profit each year:

1914-1915     –      £180,600     [1: p355]

1915-1916     –      £287,300     [1: p360]

1916-1917     –      £351,815     [1: p364]

1917-1918     –      £208,986     [1: p368]

1918-1919     –      £152,255     [1: p370]

During 1915, Parliament approved a loan of £1.868 million for further expenditure at Kilindini Harbour, for railway improvements and for roads and bridges. Only a fraction of the loan was spent until the end of the War. Survey work onthe line from Nakuru across the Uasinn Gishu Plateau did continue. Oil storage at Kilindini and at Kisumu was increased along with work to piers at several ports and Harbours associated with trade on Lake Victoria. One new ship, the ‘Rusunga’, was launched on the lake. [1: p355f]

Hill highlights locomotive developments in 1915: 3 new tank engines were put into service; seven ‘G’ class engines were erected but not out into service until 1817 for lack of flangeless tyres for the leading powered axle/wheel set.

Twenty-nine of the ‘F’ class locos were still working. By the start of the War, the annual engine mileage was 1,862,453 of which the ‘F’ class locos were doing about 50%. The Mallets (18 No.) were doing good work, hauling satisfactory loads, but we’re proving very expensive to maintain. [1: p356]

The Magadi Line opened on 14th January 1915, the Thika Line was still passenger only and already paying its way. The Busoga Railway was crippled by the major drop in export and import traffic. It had also been realised that the costs associated with making Lake Kioga navigable would be exorbitant.

Towards the end of 1915 it was decided to build a new branch line from Voi to Maktau to solve supply problems for the proposed offensive into German East Africa. In due course this line would be extended to Kahe and so would link The Uganda Railway with the line from Tanga to the foothills of Kilimanjaro. [1: p358]

At around this time the military took control of The Uganda Railway. [1: p358f]

By June 1915,1,166 vehicles were being dispatched  monthly from Kilindini. In January 1916 this had increased to 2,994 vehicles. Before the end of March 1916, 25 engines and 200 ten ton covered wagons had been imported from India, mainly for the Voi-Maktau line, but also to receive pressure on the main line. Further wagons were purchased from the contractors for the Magadi Line. [1: p359]

A working profit of £287,000 was achieved in the 1915/1916 financial year but there was no significant allowance made for necessary maintenance and a renewals fund had still not been created. The survey of the line across the Uasin-Gishu Plateau was completed and the first mention appeared in an Annual Report of the General Manager of this route becoming the start of a trunk line through Uganda to the Congo. [1: p361]

In November 1915, the Port at Kilindini was taken over by the Royal Navy and closed to civilian traffic. The inadequate Old Port at Mombasa had to be used for all exports.

The March 1817 report if the General Manager drew attention to the wretched state of engines and rolling stock.

Little had changed by March 1919. The General Manager’s report was a repetition of the difficulties of previous years:

“Little had been done to remedy a chronic decay, the difficulties had, inevitably, become more critical. Several engines had been taken out of service either for lack of spares or as not worth repairing. In February 1919, fifteen new ‘G’ class engines were ordered, but they were not expected to arrive before the end of the year. Meanwhile, of the railway’s ninety-two engines, only seventy-seven were in working order and many of those were in bad shape. Most of the railway’s original rolling-stock particularly the second- and third-class carriages, was virtually beyond repair except at great and uneconomic cost. The majority of the machines in the workshops were worn out and incapable of turning out accurate work.” [1: p371]

All the subsidiary lines were also showing a loss and it was recognised that the two lines in Uganda (Busoga and Port Bell) were too small to be operated effectively as separate systems. [1: p372]

“For years the Treasury of the EAP had pillaged the railway in order to balance its budget. Now the Treasury had extended the field of pillage to Uganda. By this time the state of the railway was so derelict and critical that some radical reorganisation could not long be avoided. The surcharge, and the protests of Uganda, proved to be the last straws. Undoubtedly they impelled the series of events and the design of policy which eventually placed the railway on a sounder constitutional basis and a very much sounder financial basis. Unfortunately, this ill-advised surcharge, following upon the long struggle to secure to Uganda a fair allocation of the customs revenue derived from its imports via Kilindini, left a legacy of suspicion and resentment which exercised an unhappy influence on relations between the two territories for many years.” [1: p373]


  1. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way – The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway – Volume 1; Hazel, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury & London, 1949.
  2. Lieut.-Colonel (later General) von Lettow-Vorbeck was the German commander-in-chief in East Africa and remained so throughout the conflict until the end of November 2018 when surrender became inevitable.
  3., accessed on 28th December 2020.
  4. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern; Military Operations East Africa August 1914 – September 1916; Battery Press, Nashville, Tennesse, 1990.
  5. The featured Image at the start of this article comes from, accessed on 28th December 2020