. Uganda Railways .



Uganda Railway - Derek Williams

The Uganda Railway was originally built by the British on land and the Indian Ocean that at Mombasa, to Lake Victoria, in what became known as Kenya.  Britain was determined to break up slave trading in Central Africa, and the railway was built to put an end to the slave caravans in Uganda, and would also help to open up the hinterland for trade.

The railway had been an element of British foreign policy since 1890. A committee was appointed to study the feasibility and cost of building the line.  Advocating pinching pennies, the track gauge was reduced from 3 ft 6 inches to 3 ft, and eventually modified to one metre, as stock would be readily available from India. Lumbered with the metre gauge from India, the Uganda railway was inevitably provided with whatever surplus locomotives were available. To assume this equipment would be adequate for what was virtually an international mainline traversing exceptionally severe terrain, was expecting too much!  

Overcoming disease and shortages of both labour and water, the railway was built through hostile train and, as such, ranks as one of the world's best examples. Around the Tsavo River, the buildings were terrorised by a man-eating lion which eventually claimed for 28 of their number.

The railway reached Nairobi in 1899, crossed the Great Rift Valley and Mau Escarpment, climbing to a summit of 9,000 ft above sea level, but before dropping down to Lake Victoria. The topography presented almost insurmountable problems, and hostile tribes had to be placated. The 584 miles of railway from Mombasa to Port Florence on Lake Victoria Nyanza were completed between 1896 and 1901.   The final leg of the journey to Uganda was by lake steamer. The mainline extension, the Uasin Gishu Railway to Uganda was built between 1921 and 1931.  

The Uganda Railway was renamed to Kenya and Uganda Railways in 1926, when the line crossed into Uganda. In 1948 the Kenya Uganda Railways and Harbours and the Tanganyika Railways and Port Services were merged and became the East African and Harbours Administration.

Published by
Chris MacKenzie for the
Virtual Narrow Gauge Model Railway Exhibition
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