Author Archives: rogerfarnworth

Uganda Railways – Part 23 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock – Part A (1896 to 1926)

The featured image shows a busy Nairobi Railway Station from above.

To finish my series of posts about the Uganda Railway, I want to focus on the locomotives and rolling stock on the network.

It was my intention, before starting this exercise to cover all locomotives and rolling stock in a single blog post. As I began to review the available information in books and on the internet, it seemed that there was enough material to justify more than one post. This and the following posts will not be fully comprehensive in nature but I hope that they provide some insights that are valuable.

Probably, along with many other people, my attention is primarily drawn to the Garratt locomotives on these lines. However, I will attempt to reflect the full range of motive power and rolling stock on the line, references are given where ever possible. Everything in this first post predates the arrival of the Garratt locomotives.

Early Locomotives on the Uganda Railway (1896-1926)

At first, all locomotives were imported secondhand from India and it may have been this fact that proved decisive in determining the track-gauge for the line. On 11th December 1895, George Whitehouse arrived at Mombasa with the mandate of the Uganda Railway Committee in London to build the “Lunatic line”. He was a veteran of railway building having served as Chief Engineer in Mexico, South Africa,South America and in India. The first rails were laid at Kilindini on 30th May 1896. [1] The first two locomotives arrived from India in May 1896. They were designated ‘A’ Class and were built in 1871/72 by Dubs of Glasgow for the Indian State Railways.

I was fortunate enough in 1994, to find a copy of Kevin Patience’s book, “Steam in East Africa,” in a Nairobi bookshop. This book was published in 1976 by Heinemann Educational Books (E.A.) Ltd in Nairobi. Some of the pictures below are taken from this book.‘A’ Class Locomotive imported from India in May 1896. [2]

The first two imports worked between Kilindini and the assembly yard at Mombasa. They were officially retired in 1903 but there are reports of one still working in 1917. [2]Two ‘E’ Class locos (as above) built in 1878 arrived from India in June 1896, along with six secondhand  ‘N’ Class locos. The ‘E’ Class locos worked up to the rail-head until George Whitehouse imported new ‘F’ Class steam locomotives in September 1896. [2]Steam Engines being unloaded at Mombasa docks, © Nigel Pavitt. [3]Erecting ‘N’ Class locos at Kilindini in 1896. A further 20 secondhand ‘N’ Class locomotives were imported from India and remained in service until 1931. [2]Between 1896 and 1898, 34 new ‘F’ Class locos were delivered from Britain by Kitson of Leeds, Neilson Reid of Glasgow and the Vulcan Foundry of Lancashire. [1] The ‘F’ Class loco above is shown with a supply train at Maji ya Chumvi. These new ‘F’ Class locos were the first new locomotives bought for the line and were based on the older ‘F’ Class Indian Railway locos. [2]Torrential rain held up construction work for 22 days at Mazeras in November 1896. The rain caused subsidence and derailments. [2]Similar problems arose near Maji ya Chumvi in May 1897 when 24 inches of rain fell. This mishap involved another ‘F’ Class loco and 23 days of work was lost while repairs were made to embankments and bridges. [2]When the railhead reached Voi a triangle was installed which allowed the locomotives to turn to head back to Mombasa. I am not sure whether the locos shown in the image above are ‘N’ Class or ‘F’ Class. [3]‘F’ Class Loco on Tsavo River Bridge. [2]An ‘N’ Class Loco with water train near Nairobi during construction of the line. in 1897/8 no supplies for locomotives were shipped from the UK because of industrial action in the UK factories. These older Indian ‘N’ Class locomotives kept construction on track during a crucial phase of the project. [2]

The UK strike in the locomotive industry in 1897/8 caused a complete cessation of supplies of spares and new locos. Once the UK strike was over, it would have been reasonable to expect that new locos and supplies would reach East Africa from the UK. However, the high demand within the UK meant that the companies involved could not prioritise work abroad and it quickly became evident that motive power would have to be found from a different source. The Uganda Railway Committee turned to the American market and purchased 36 locos of 2-6-0 wheel arrangement.Thirty-six new 2-6-0 locomotives  were imported from the US by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in 1899 and 1900. This became the “B” class of UR. [2] I cannot ascertain the location of the image above, however, the image below is taken at Nairobi Station. The early station building is evident.The “F” class locomotive weighed 30 tons and her tender could carry 1,500 gallons of water. The “B” class weight 25 tons and carried the same amount of water as the “F” class. Both the locos were coal burning (the coal was imported from South Africa). Wood fuel replaced coal in 1903 as it was less expensive and readily available. However, it produced more smoke than coal. UR administration ensured plantations of eucalyptus and other fast- growing trees were established to provide wood fuel for locomotives. [1]During the construction of the line it was necessary to make provision for work to continue across the Rift Valley floor while a difficult task of constructing the route down the escarpment took place. At the end of September 1899, the rail-head had reached the eastern escarpment of the Rift Valley (7,500ft above sea-level). [2]

An Incline was built to move construction materials to the valley floor, two sections of the incline were set at 45 degrees, special cars had to be constructed to carry equipment and in particular locomotives. The incline opened in May 1900 and remained in use until November 1901. Use of the incline advanced the rail-head westward by 170 miles while the line down the escarpment was being built. The pictures immediately adjacent, above and below show the top of the escarpment and two images of a locomotive being lowered to the valley floor. [2]One of the  temporary trellis viaducts being crossed by an ‘N’ Class Loco near Elburgon in 1900. [2]An ‘F’ Class Loco narrowly misses  R. O. Preston on the trip up the line on the Mau Escarpment during the building of the line. [2]These locomotives had a short life on the network. Eighteen were supplied in 1913. They were 0-6-6-0 Mallet ‘MT’ Class Locomotives. Disappointing performance and high maintenance costs led to them being relegated to secondary duties and eventually being scrapped in 1926 as the Beyer Garratt locomotive began to arrive. [2] Their presence on the system was heralded by, “Railway Wonders of the World,” with the picture shown below. [13]Nasmyth-Wilson supplied eight of these 2-6-4T ‘EE’ later Class 10 locos to the railway in 1913 and 1914. They gave good service right up to their due date for replacement in 1939. The outbreak of the Second World War kept them in service and eventually they were not withdrawn until 1965! [2]No. 1003 (393) on display at Jamhuri Park, (c) Kevin Patience. [5]In 1925, the Vulcan Foundry shipped two lots of 2-6-2T locomotives (as above) to the Uganda Railway. One batch of 6 locomotives of which the photograph below is the official Vulcan Foundry works photo. [6]The second batch included 15 locomotives of the same wheel arrangement, of which, the locos in the photographs below may be examples. The first, photographed in East Africa and perhaps in the 1930s. [7] The second, also in East Africa but taken at around the beginning of 21st Century at Nairobi Railway Museum.The Nairobi Railway Museum brochure says that this was the last saturated steam locomotive class used by the railway. Experiments in the 1920s showed that super-heated steam was far more efficient. Originally used for shunting, they were often to be seen hauling branch line traffic, (c) Hawknose Harlequin. [11]The UR GB class, known later as the UR / KUR ‘EB1’ class, and later still as part of the EAR 22 class, was a class of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge 4-8-0 steam locomotives built by North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow, Scotland, for the Uganda Railway (UR). [8] The design of the GB class was based upon that of the earlier UR G class. The 34 members of the GB class entered service on the UR in 1919, and continued in service after the UR was renamed the Kenya-Uganda Railway (KUR) in 1926. Some of them were in service long enough to be also operated by the KUR’s successor, the East African Railways (EAR) as part of its 22 class, from 1948 until the last ones were withdrawn in 1964. [9][10]This picture is taken on the mainline extension to Uganda at Eldoret it shows an ‘EB1’ Cl;ass Locomotive. This 4-8-0 design proved to be very successful on East African lines and further versions of the 4-8-0 were produced – the ‘EB2’ and ‘EB3’ class.Two ‘EB2’ Class Locos were introduced in 1919 – these were super-heated locos. The trials undertaken with the ‘EB2’s (URGC Class) were a great success and in 1923, the first of many ‘EB3’ locomotives arrived.The two GC class locomotives were heavily worked as trial engines, and then written off in 1934 after proving the value of super-heating. [12]An early locomotive on display in a relatively dilapidated state at Nairobi Railway Museum in 1994. The plate at the back of the tender shows No.301 which suggests that it is a Tanganyika Railway locomotive of the Class ‘EB3’ which might later have been EAR&H Class 23 No. 2301.Another early locomotive on display in a refurbished state at Nairobi Railway Museum in the early 21st Century. Incidentally, these two pictures do not show the same locomotive, careful review of the two pictures will reveal the differences between the two! [4] The loco immediately above is shown below, first in an early picture from the Railway Museum, (c) Thomas Kautzor, [5] and then in 2005 in a refurbished state shown in the second picture. The locomotive concerned was originally numbered No. 173, then No. 2412 and then No.2401.The original Class 24  No. 2401 sits in a forlorn state at Tororo Railway Station in the mid-1980s, © torgormaig on the National Preservation Forum. [15]

The locomotive No. 301 in the earlier picture is shown in the next two shots below during and after refurbishment, and repainting, lettering and numbering. [5]Further examples of Class ‘EB3’ were shipped to Kenya in 1923 from the Vulcan Foundry – No. 162 below is pictured at their works. No 170, below No. 162, is shown in Kenya, it was later numbered 2409 which means that No. 162 became No. 2401, although No. 173 eventually took over the No. 2401 (after first being number 2412).No. 177 above will have become Class 24 No. 2416. [5]Another loco of the same Class (EB3) found on a trawl of the internet. [14] Once renumbered to Class 24, the numbering ran from No. 2401 to No. 2462.

My original intention was to post a single post on locomotive and rolling stock. I anticipate that this is the first, now, of 3 or 4 posts. The next post will start with locomotives used by the Kenya-Uganda Railway which took over from the Uganda Railway in 1926/27.


  1., accessed on 13th June 2018.
  2. Kevin Patience; Steam in East Africa; Heinemann Educational Books (E.A.) Ltd., Nairobi, 1976.
  3., accessed on 19th May 2018.
  4., accessed on 12th June 2018.
  5., accessed on 15th June 2018.
  6., accessed on 16th June 2018.
  7., accessed on 16th June 2018.
  8., accessed on 16th June 2018.
  9. Roel Ramaer; Steam Locomotives of the East African Railways; David & Charles Locomotive Studies. Newton Abbot, Devon, UK, 1974, p42-44.
  10., accessed on 16th June 2018.
  11., accessed on 16th June 2018.
  12., accessed 17th June 2016.
  13., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  14. &, accessed on 17th June 2018.
  15., accessed on 15th June 2018.






Uganda Railways – Part 22 – Jinja via Mbulamuti to Namasagali

There were two very early railway lines in Uganda. Port Bell to Kampala was one. The other was an earlier line from Jinja to Namasagali via Mbulamuti. We encountered this line as we travelled from Tororo to Jinja earlier in this series of posts. Indeed the original line from Tororo travelled to Mbulamuti to meet the older line from Jinja to Namasagali. At that time there was a good justification for this. Namagali was a significant point on an ‘overland’ journey from Mombasa to Cairo! Meeting the line from Jinja to Namasagali at its mid-pint allowed easy access to both significant destinations and beyond them to the Nile and to Lake Victoria.

Until the early sixties the main line from Jinja ran to Tororo via Mbulamuti which was the Junction for Namasagali. At one time it had been possible to travel in a through first class coach from Nairobi to Namasagali, the coach being detached at Mbulamuti and added to the 3rd Class service which ran from Jinja to Namasagali. By 1962 there is no mention of this service in the timetable, nor of sailings between Namasagali and Masindi Port.

We have already looked at the length of this line between Jinja and Mbulamuti in this series. The relevant link is:

So, we will begin this post by focussing on Mbulamuti.

Malcolm McCrow says that “Down Mail Trains (and School Trains) from Kampala used to arrive at Mbulamuti after dark having left Jinja some two hours previously. Perhaps a young schoolboy who had been given a multi-coloured torch at Christmas would play its beam on the station sign which read Mbulamuti for Namasagali but few of us schoolboys at that time had any idea of what exactly was the significance of Namasagali.” [1]

West-bound Mail Trains arrived at Mbulamuti in daylight and, as at most stations, it was possible to buy fruit and other food items from platform vendors, (c) Neville Webb. [1]

Mbulamuti was busy when trains stopped at the station. It is sad that all of this activity has ceased and that Mbulamuti no longer has a place on the country’s rail network.

In the image below a local goods train from Jinja pauses at Mbulamuti en route for Namasagali while Tribal Class 3110 Bakiga waits at the platform, (c) Neville Webb.

As we have already noted, the line south of Mbulamuti has been covered in another post. However, it is worth seeing the third monochrome picture in the adjacent sequence. In it a Class 24 heads a mixed passenger-freight train into Kakira, which was on the old line between Jinja and Mbulamuti, (c) EAR&H Magazine. [2]

In the satellite image below, the pink line represents the route of the old Tororo to Jinja line and the blue line represents the first part of the branch-line to Namasagali. The town of Mbulamuti is visible at the top of the image, left of centre. The station, in later years, was on the mainline. The branch, which was once the mainline, travelled to the south of the township and we will pick up its route on other satellite images and maps as we progress along the route. The map below is an extract from OpenStreetMap and shows the old mainline (in dark grey) and the branch (as a light-grey line to the northwest of Mbulamuti). The River is the Nile flowing north from Jinja.

The route from Mbulamuti starts from south of the town, travels up its east side and then meanders following the countours as much as possible towards Namasagali. The railway formation has been converted into a murram road which snakes through the landscape as shown ont he adjacent larger scale extract from OpenStreetMap. Mbulamuti is in the bottom right corner of the map.

The first class coach in the first monochrome picture above has now (below) been detached from the Mail Train and takes up position next to the caboose in the mixed traffic train for Namasagali where, as the sign says, passengers can join a steamer service which in these days connected with other steamers which in turn connected with yet other steamer and rail services which ultimately took passengers all the way to Cairo, (c) Neville Webb. [1]By 1962 the Busembatia-Kakira deviation had been completed and only 2nd and 3rd Class passenger trains (travelling over the old line) continued to call at Mbulamuti from where services to Namasagali had by 1962 been discontinued. A mixed traffic train with a through first class coach from Nairobi to Namasagali awaits departure from Mbulamuti prior to 1962, (c) Neville Webb. [1]The photographer is travelling on the mixed traffic train headed by a Class 31 between Mbulamuti and Namasagali, (c) Neville Webb. [1] The route continues to snake across the landscape, perhaps getting a little closer to the Victoria Nile until north of Lusenke. After this it follows a relative direct North-northwest route to Namasagali.Another Class 31 (this time in colour) heads a mixed traffic train as it arrives at Namasagali Station, (c) Neville Webb. [1]

Namasagali is shown in the adjacent satellite image. The route of the railway is shown as a road which is a straight line heading north-northwest alongside the river to a point approximately in the centre of the image. At this point the road turns to the west and the line of the railway continues north-northwest to what was the station and port area.

The site of the port and station is shown as a larger scale image below.

Namasagali was once a significant inland port. Not only did it provide for movement of freight but also for passenger travel in the interior of Africa. Tourism was  welcomed as an article in the East African Railways and Harbours Magazine makes clear. [4]

The author describes a tour of the heart of Africa which started on board the ‘Stanley and used a variety of differnt modes of transport to visit “Masindi Port on the western shore of Lake Kioga, … Butiaba on the eastern shore of Lake Albert, [a cruise up] Lake Albert and the Nile to see Murchison Falls, back down the Nile and across Lake Albert to Pakwach on the paddle steamer ‘Lugard II’ to Nimule, … backto Pakwach … Butiaba … Masindi Port … Namasagali and by train back top Nairobi. All in 10 days!” [4]

An interesting description of  the first arrival at Namasagali follows … “When we reached the ‘Stanley’ at Namasagali she was lying alongside the quay waiting to give us breakfast. These stern-wheelers have to be seen to be believed. They are reminiscent of the romantic Mississippi ships, but of course more modest. There is no champagne and caviar; no slick Northern style gamblers with their thin cheroots. But there is for the passengers a lazy old-fashioned air about the ship which sets the pace for the whole tour.” [4]The name board welcomes visitors to Namasagali Railway Station. [3]The Stanley. [4]The Stanley at Namasagali. [6] The three images above show another stern-wheeler, EAR& H steamer SW GRANT at Namasagali, (c) Neville Webb. The image below shows the same steamer en-route on the Victoria Nile. [3]A busy port scene at Namasagali, loading cotton (c) EAR&H. [2]The Stanley at Masindi Port taken 18th May 1929, (c) A. Weatherhead. [5]


  1., accessed on 10th June 2018.
  2., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  3., accessed on 12th June 2018.
  4., accessed on 12th June 2018.
  5., accessed on 12th June 2018.
  6., accessed on 12th June 2018.

Uganda Railways – Part 21 – Kampala to Kasese

This final length of our journey takes us along what is now the defunct line to Kasese. The first part of this line in the Kampala suburbs still exists but further west there are only remnants of the line. In 1994, I attempted to travel to Kasese and I might have been able to do so if I was prepared to wait in Kampala for the possibility that a train might run. In the end my trip to the South West of Uganda was much better served by a road journey via Masaka, Mbarara and Kabale.

The picture above shows one of those sporadic passenger trains to Kasese which in the end I missed! [1]

The Western Extension, as it was known, was built and opened in the mid-1950s, its main target was to reach the Kilembe Copper Mines in the west of Uganda. Kasese was built alongside the Mines and has grown since then into a reasonable size town with industry and tourism building its economy.

Official sanction for building the railway to Mityana was given in 1951, and for the continuation to Kasese in 1952. The decision rested upon a guaranteed source of traffic at Kilembe, and was prompted by the fact that mining development was dependent on some positive step to improve communications. There seemed little doubt that the line would attract some Congo traffic, which would provide new revenue for E.A.R. & H., while the Uganda Government was much encouraged by the very favourable report of an Economic Survey Committee. The concluding sentence of the report reflects the tone of the whole: ‘The committee desires to record its firm conviction that this project will prove eminently successful. and contribute materially to the welfare and prosperity of the people of Uganda”. The capital cost of the extension was £5.25 million, and the Uganda Government provided the Railway Administration with a loan to cover this. The government also guaranteed to meet any operating losses incurred on the line, although the chances of such losses were reduced by the policy of crediting to the line any profits on traffic also passing over the Kampala-Mombasa section. [9]

In the last post we left Kampala Railway Station and travelled the very short distance into the suburbs to Nalukolongo, the main workshops for the Railway system in Uganda. It is 2018 when this blog is being written. To be reasonably sure of getting a passenger train towards Kasese we probably need to go back to the mid 1990s, and even then we probably need to be ready to leave within a week of our intended journey date and expect to take at least 36 hours on the journey. Back in the heyday of the line the journey to Kasese could be achieved overnight with an evening departure from Kampala and a morning arrival in Kasese.

OpenStreetMap in 2018 shows the railway extending only to Nalukolongo. Later we will see that the approximate route through to Kasese often appears as a dotted line on OpenStreet Map.

Beyond Nalukolongo, the line is shown on OpenStreetMap as a short stub serving industrial premises to the West of the Lubigi Channel. The mainline bridges the channel before becoming disused. A spur enters the premises of Ntake Bakery Co. Ltd. and a further short spur serves Roadmaster Cycles premises.

Google Maps shows the route of the old line to Kasese. The route runs to the south of the Lubigi Channel past the Kabawo Market and on through the Kampala suburbs, until it crosses the Masaka Road southwest of Busega. Continuing in a westerly direction, the line passes to the south of Buloba and then turns North-west before reaching the halt at Bujuko, 28 kilometres from Kampala Railway Station. The probable location of the halt is on the right of the satellite image below, adjacent to the Kakiri-Bujuko Road.

The next halt is at Kawolongojo, according to the adjacent map. There is a primary school of this name close to the route of the railway and it seems most likely that the satellite image below shows the location of the station.The next stop is at Mityana. The station is shown on the adjacent satellite image, the railway route is just about visible running from bottom right to top left of the image. On the map below, the station location is marked by the blue square.

When the route of the line was planned in the 1950s a full survey had already been undertaken of the route from Kampala to Mityana some years before. The route beyond Mityana was a matter for debate. The railway could either follow the Katonga valley or pass further north through Mubende. The exact terminus was also a matter of debate, although the line obviously had to pass as close as possible to Kilembe. The 1930 survey committee had recommended a route via Mubende in order to serve that District most effectively, but in the 1951 report this was rejected as being unduly costly, and approval was given to the Katonga route. This provided the most direct link between Kampala and Kilembe. and was expected to provide a service for Ankole as well as Mubende. After reaching Mityana in 1953, the line was therefore extended to Musozi in 1954 and Nkonge in 1955. Four possible termini were considered, out of which Kasese, that involving least expenditure, was finally chosen. The rejected proposals were for extensions beyond Kasese 8 miles to the western arm of Lake George, 22 miles to the Kazinga Channel or 31 miles to Lake Katwe. The country offered few problems for construction, yet the cost of each proposal (£0.1, £0.4, and £0.55 million respectively) was considered too high in relation to the probable benefits. The Congo authorities agreed that for transit traffic a road haul to Kasese would be as satisfactory as one to Lake Katwe, and preferable to lake transport, which had been considered in relation to the other possible termini. [9]

For the first fifty miles from Kampala the line passed through country with very fertile soils and a rainfall of 40 to 50 inches evenly spread through the year. The land was originally under forest, but although patches survived in the 1950s, most was used for the perennial crops, bananas and coffee, or for a rotation of annual crops and short fallow periods. A population of 200 to 250 per square mile was supported almost entirely by agriculture. Conditions become progressively less suitable for cultivation as the Lake Victoria zone was left behind. Rainfall became much less rekiable and only ossasionally exceeded 30 inches in a year, while the soils were among the least fertile in Uganda. Over large areas the density of population was below 25 per square mile, and most of the country was occupied by the natural savanna woodland vegetation and by numerous buffalo, antelope and other types of game. Much land was suitable only for extensive grazing, and west of Nkonge even this form of land use was precluded by tsetse-fly infestation. [9]

After Mityana, the next halt is at Myanzi. The station was a distance south of the town close to the shores of Lake Wamala. The station is again marked with a blue square on the map below and the line of the Kampala to Kasese railway is shown dotted. While the route of the line is clearly visible on the satellite image, the only evidence of the station is the access road which runs south from the town and then turns west-southwest close to the railway line.On down the line, our next stop is at a station named for Lake Wamala. Wamala Railway Station is not evident on Google Maps or OpenStreetMap although the line itself continues to be visible on both running in a west-southwesterly direction. The most likely station location is shown below.Further along the line we come to Musozi. The line continues to appear on OpenStreetMap as a dotted line and the station location is shown as a blue square. The town of Musozi is some distance to the Northwest of the station.

Kasambia comes next! It is south-west of Musozi. The railway station is some 2 kilometres or so to the northwest of the village of Kasambia. The exact location of the station or halt is not visible on Google Earth but is marked by a blue square on OpenStreetMap. The route of the railway is still marked by a dotted line.

Nkonge and Kabagole are noted on the adjacent route map as the next halts on the line. Nkonge appears only on the most close up map view on OpenStreetMap, otherwise it appears as Kabunde. The railway line appears  as a dotted line on OpenStreetMap but, while it is possible to identify the line on Google Earth, it is impossible to find the location of the station at the place marked on OpenStreetMap. In fact the most likely location is some kilometres to the west and I have chosen to show a satellite image of that location as the most likely location of the station.The railway route followed the swamp-filled channel of the Katonga River beyond Nkonge. Kabagole is also marked on OpenStreetMap close to the Katonga River.The quality of satellite images in this part of Uganda is poor. However, in our recent visit to Uganda (April/May 2018) we stayed for 10 days very close to the location of the station in a village called Kijongobya. We drove past the station location as we were leaving the location and had an evening close to the location in the Katonga Wildlife Reserve. Sadly, there is little evidence of the station on the ground and the line of the railway is difficult to identify. The story of those 10 days can be found elsewhere on this blog, along with pictures of the location as well, ( [2]

Next on the line comes Bihanga Station, at the Western end of the Katonga Wildlife Reserve and some 2 or 3 kilometres from the village with the same name. The satellite imagery at this end of the park is of very low quality and roads and railway lines are not distinguishable from the green of the countryside.The line reached Kabuga – the railway line is shown in red. The station was probably to the west of the bridge over the Mpanga River. The road and the railway shared the bridge and the causeway to it.From Kabuga the railway continued to Kamwenge. As elsewhere on the line from Kampala to Kasese, the line of the railway has sometimes been taken over by a road. This has sometimes happened by default and at other times as a result of planning by the immediate local authority.

The formation of the railway often provided a suitable ready formation for a road and usually for a road that would sustain heavier demands than other murram roads in the vicinity of the old railway.

The dotted line shown on some of the OpenStreetMap plans is an approximation to the route of the line rather than a detailed following of the route. This is evident on the plan of the area around Kabuga and continues to be the case between Kabuga and Kamwenge.

The actual route of the line is shown in red on the first map below. Travelling west, towards Kamwenge, the country becomes more hilly, the rainfall rises to 50 inches and the soils are of rather greater fertility. The land is of higher potential productivity than that the line has just travelled through, and around lbanda, twenty miles to the south, there is some relatively dense agricultural settlement: but the land near the railway was, in the mid-1950s, as yet almost entirely undeveloped, and very sparsely populated. [9]Kamwenge Railway Station was just to the northwest of the village.Recently laid track at Kamwenge, 172 miles from Kampala and the second last station before Kasese at Mile 208. Dura River at Mile 190 was the last station before Kasese, (c) James Lang Brown. [3]

From Kamwenge westwards the dotted line fairly represents the route of the railway which snakes around seeking to provide the shallowest possible grade through the topography of the West of Uganda.

The construction costs of the whole line from Kampala were very greatly affected by the difficult nature of the country in the final forty miles before Kasese. Severe problems were presented by the descent of the escarpment, which involves a spiral at one point, while from the foot there is an 18-mile crossing of papyrus swamp through which a causeway had to be built, entailing a vast amount of labour‘.

Some of the EB1s ran in black and were duly converted to oil burners is shown here as a 22 and 24 Class haul empty ballast wagons along the extension, (c) James Lang Brown. [3]

Near Nkongora the topography necessitated that the line should gain height relatively quickly and to achieve this the engineers designed a spiral, the fourth on the line from Mombasa. It can be seen to the left of the map immediately above and in the image below.Aerial view of the 1.18% (1 in 84 approx) spiral which was cut round a hill between the Mpanga and Dura Rivers, (c) Brian Kingston. [3]The line wound its way westwards through the landscape to the edge of what is now called the Queen Elizabeth National Park and the bridge across the Dura River on the East side of the park.

The Dura River flowed through Queen Elizabeth National Park into Lake George and then to Lake Edward before becoming part of the Nile.Crossing the Dura River Swamp (adjacent), (c) Geoffrey Parsons. The sign is a Momentum Board, which refers to the opposing gradient being steeper than the ruling gradient. The figures mean that the driver should achieve a speed of 18 mph at a distance of 4 furlongs (8 half furlongs) from the sign. The train’s maximum speed was 25 mph. [4]

After crossing the Dura River, the railway headed northwards until it reached Kitogo and then turned west following the northern border of the Game Reserve to cross 18 miles of swampland before encountering a branch line which served the Hima Cement works north-east of Kasese. Hima Cement Works near Kasese. [6]

The mainline continued to follow the northern border of the Game Reserve all the way to Kasese Railway Station.Kasese Station was not the end of the line, but we will look round the station before heading on.The arrival of the all classes all stations mixed goods train arriving at Kasese in the morning after leaving Kampala the previous evening. The main purpose of the line was to facilitate the export of copper from the mine at Kilembe There were great plans for Kasese and a grid of tarmac surfaced roads was laid out. But the roads, like the great plans led to nowhere, (c) Harry Dodge. [4]The Ruwenzori Range form a backdrop to the Class 60 Garratt as it leaves the train to take on water and head for the small motive power depot where a second Garratt has been stabled, (c) Harry Dodge. [4]Kasese station looking west towards the old loco shed and Ruwenzori Mountains beyond. It is midday and the pilot loco, 73u08, waits for the arrival of the overnight train from Kampala, which was due several hours earlier, 30th March 1984, (c) torgormaig on the National Preservation Forum. [16]

The picture immediately above shows the station at Kasese in relatively good condition. The photos that follow tell a very different story!Tracks laid in 1955 when the Western Extension was laid from Kampala to Kasese to service the copper mine at Kilembe and a few buildings are all that is left of Kasese station in the early 21st Century, (c) Roger Steedman. [5]

Above, Kasese Humanist School taken across the tracks at Kasese MPD. [7].

Right, those same tracks being removed by the railway company. [12]A view from the station platforms towards the MPD with the Humanist School visible in the left background. [8] Various Station images follow. [15]

The opening of what was officially termed the Western Uganda Extension.   A special train conveying the Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen, and HH the Kabaka of Buganda travelled overnight from Kampala behind a 30 Class locomotive which was named Batoro by the Omukama of Toro on its arrival at Kasese .  The train is seen arriving at Kasese – the “defaced” blue ensigns are the official flags of the East African Railways and Harbours.  The second coach back from the locomotive is a special vehicle which may have formed part of the “royal” train stock used by visiting royals and colonial governors of the time, © EAR&H Magazine, December 1956. [4]

The route of the line beyond Kasese Station  is shown as a black line on the map below. The line first turned north and provided access to sidings for industry on streets to the north-wet of the railway station. It then turned sharply back on itself and travelled in a generally south-southwest direction. Immediately off the southwest corner of the map is the location of the Kilembe mines. The site is shown on the second map below.The immediate area around Kasese is shown on the satellite image below. The line of the railway can just be picked out entering the image in the top right-hand corner and running to Kasese. Kilembe Mine is shown towards the bottom left of the image close to the town of Kasese.

Kilembe Mines: In July 1950, two Canadian mining companies, Frosbisher Limited and Ventures Limited, formed a joint venture, named Kilembe Mines Limited (KML), whose objective was to mine copper from under the Rwenzori Mountains near Kasese. [10] KML built and operated a copper smelter in Jinja and maintained offices in Kampala, the country’s capital.

In 1962, KML was acquired by Falconbridge of Africa, who sold it to the Government of Uganda in 1975. Copper extraction ceased in 1982 due to dilapidated equipment, high inflation and insecurity. [10]

In 2013, after nearly 30 years of dormancy and after several failed attempts to privatize the mine, a consortium led by Tibet-Hima Mining Company Limited, won the competitive bid to manage, rehabilitate and operate Kilembe Mines Limited for 25 years from 2013 until 2038. In exchange for those rights, the consortium paid a cash down payment of US$4.3 million and is expected to make an annual payment of US$1 million until the end of the concession.

The consortium agreed to invest US$135 million into rehabilitating and improving the mine and to increase the capacity of Mubuku I Power Station to 12MW. In addition to the cash payments above, royalties were promised to the Ugandan government as were taxes on Kilembe Mines Limited business operations.[10]

Sadly, little or nothing of this had materialised by July 2017. [11] And by the end of the year, the concession had been withdrawn by the Ugandan Government. Above, Kilembe Mines access tunnels, [13] and below, a view across the mine complex. [14]The following are a range of views of the Kilembe Mines site. [15]


  1., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  2. (26th April to 4th May 2018).
  3., accessed on 9th June 2018.
  4., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  5., accessed on 10th June 2018.
  6., accessed on 10th June 2018.
  7., accessed on 10th June 2018.
  8., accessed on 8th June 2018.
  9. A. M. O’Connor; East African Studies No. 18; East African Institute of Social Research, Oxford University Press, 1965 p51ff, accessed via OpenDocs ( on 9th June 2018.
  10., accessed on 11th June 2018.
  11., accessed on 11th June 2018.
  12., accessed on 11th June 2018.
  13., accessed on 11th June 2018.
  14., accessed on 11th June 2018.
  15., accessed on 11th June 2018.
  16., accessed on 12th June 2018.

Uganda Railways – Part 20 – Kampala

The final posts of our journey take us along what is now the defunct line to Kasese. The first part of this line in the Kampala suburbs still exists but further west there are only remnants of the line. This post focusses on what remains in Kampala.

In 1994, I attempted to travel to Kasese and I might have been able to do so if I was prepared to wait in Kampala for the possiblity that a train migth run. In the end my trip to the South West of Uganda was much better served by a road journey via Masaka, Mbarara and Kabale.

The picture above shows the facade of Kampala Station in the late 1980s. [1] The adjacent picture shows one of those sporadic passenger trains to Kasese which in the end I missed! [1]

Before we take one of those intermittent passenger services from the last century, we take a good look round Kampala Railway Station. The pictures below show the station buildings, the low level and high level platforms, the loco shed and some of the goods sidings. Where possible, images are credited.A Class 58 Giesel equipped Garratt sits at the Low Level platform at Kampala. The locomotive has just arrived from Nairobi, © Geoff Pollard.[2]Shunting and unloading in the Ministry of Works sidings at Kampala Station. The locomotive is EB3 No. 2458, © Geoff Pollard. [2]Unique in that it was the only locomotive to have  “EAR&H” on the tenders, No. 5804 prepares to depart Kampala with the Mail Train in October 1962, just after Uganda gained independence, © Jim Fowler. [2]With a water column still standing sentinel, the engine sheds at Kampala with abandoned KR derelict diesel locomotives, (c) Iain Mulligan. [1]111528: Kampala Uganda Locomotive Depot No. 3114 Banyala (c) Weston Langford. [3]111517: Kampala Uganda Locomotive Depot No. 3114 Banyala, © Weston Langford. [3]There was never a problem wandering around the shed at Kampala in the late 50s.  This picture shows Class 60 Barratt No. 6001 Sir Geoffrey Archer.  This locomotive was renamed Umoja [Unity] in 1962 and after independence in Uganda was the only Class 60 still to be named. Until 1960 both Mail Trains and School Trains were invariably headed by Class 60 locomotives between Kampala and Nakuru.  Class 60s were also used between Kampala and Kasese on the daily overnight service.  However it was only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays that first and second class was carried – this working connecting with the first and second class only Mail Trains.  The return working for all these passenger trains left Kasese at 1640hrs, © Malcolm McCrow. [2]111516: Kampala Uganda Locomotive Depot No. 1316, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111520: Kampala Uganda Locomotive Depot Class 60 Garratt No. 6016, (c) Weston Langford. [3]An unidentified Class 60 Garratt on shed at Kampala, © Malcolm McCrow. [2]111526: Kampala Uganda Locomotive Depot No. 1316 with breakdown crane and Kampala City Skyline in background, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111522: Kampala Uganda Locomotive Depot Loco. No. 1316, (c) Weston Langford. [3]The Mail Train for Nairobi departed at 1715 on alternate weekdays. Here the train is standing at the single high level platform used until the early 60s, © Malcolm McCrow. [2]Mail Trains and passenger trains to and from Kasese often also used the single track high level platform, by 2004 this had become a car park. Goods wagons occupy the low level covered platforms, (c) Iain Mulligan. [1]111534: Kampala Uganda Mixed from Kasese No. 6012 © Weston Langford. [3]111532: Kampala Uganda Mixed from Kasese No. 6012, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111530: Kampala Uganda Mail from Nairobi, Diesel No. 8706, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111512: Kampala Uganda Shunter No. 2417, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111514: Kampala Uganda Shunter No. 3131 ‘Kenyi’, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111536: Kampala Uganda Shunter No. 1310, (c) Weston Langford. [3]111535: Kampala Uganda Mail to Nairobi Diesel No. 8706, (c) Weston Langford. [3]The then daily 16.00 train to Kasese stands ready in Kampala station for its overnight journey west with loco 73u05 on 26th March 1984, (c) torgormaig on the National Preservation Forum. [4]

After what is a significant collection of photographs of Kampala Railway Station and its immediate environment we set our sights on getting to Kasese. It is 2018 when this blog is being written. To be reasonably sure of getting a passenger train towards Kasese we probably need to go back to the mid 1990s, and even then we probably need to be ready to leave within a week of our intended journey date and expect to take at least 36 hours on the journey.

OpenStreetMap in 2018 shows the railway extending only to Nalukolongo in Kampala’s Western Suburbs. This is the location of the main railway workshops.But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As the train leaves Kampala Railway Station heading west, it is noticeable that the ride is more uncomfortable as the track alignment has deteriorated over the years. We pass the locomotive depot on our left to the south side of the line, and, if we are reasonably observant we see the triangle used for turning the large Garratt locomotives. On our right, to the north of the line are a series of freight sidings which supplement the marshalling yard alongside the passenger station.The train crosses the Nakivubo Channel and the Nsambiya Road and then runs alongside the Entebbe Road, which at this point is only for traffic flowing out of the city and has been given the name Queens Way. Our regular lodgings when in Kampala these days are at the Whitecrest Guesthouse on Lebowa Hill, some kilometres out down the Entebbe Road.Passing under the beginning of the Entebbe Road proper, the line then heads west on the south side of the Masaka Road to Nalukolongo and the end of the line (in 2018).On 5th April 1984, the 16.00hrs overnight train to Kasese sets out from Kampala behind 73u08. Taken from the Entebbe Road bridge (c) torgormaig on the National Preservation Forum. [4]Nalukolongo Railway Workshops are a modern facility serving the whole of the railway system in Uganda, they were rebuilt by Rift Valley Railways duringvtheir tenure of the network from Mombasa to Kampala.

Beyond Nalukolongo, the line is shown on OpenStreetMap as a short stub serving industrial premises to the West of the Lubigi Channel. The mainline bridges the channel before becoming disused. A spur enters the premises of Ntake Bakery Co. Ltd. and a further short spur serves Roadmaster Cycles premises.


  1., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  2., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  3., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  4., accessed on 12th June 2018.

The Menton to Sospel Tramway Revisited Again! (Chemins de Fer de Provence 61)

I have already mentioned that my wife has purchased two books for me as a birthday present. They are written in French by Jose Banuado. They cover the tramway network of the TNL, the Tramways de Nice et du Littoral. In the first volume there is a section about the tramways which meandered into the hills behind the Coast, one of which was the tramway from Menton to Sospel.

Among a whole series of different pictures, mainly old postcards, were some pictures of the line showing the operation of steam locomotives on the line and others of goods wagons in use between Menton and Sospel, particularly to deliver material to the construction work on the PLM Nice-Cuneo line..

The pictures and text below come primarily from Jose Banuado’s book. [1] The French text has been translated with the help of Google Translate. …….The Menton-Sospel line is the only one in the TNL network to have seen steam locomotives. In the above photograph, a small 0-4-0T No. 212 is shown. The manufacturer and the owner are not known. The locomotive is pulling a bogie truck and a wagon. The condition of the ballasting of the line suggests that this view is prior to the commissioning of the line, (c) Jacques Schopfer, the TCA Collection.The upper of the two photographs in the image above shows one of several locomotives destined for the construction sites of the PLM Nice-Cuneo line which were transported by tram to Sospel. This German-built 0-6-0T was partly deconstructed to be transported on a TNL wagon in September 1912, for the Gianotti Bros. public works company, (c) Maurice Bouvet, the Jose Banuado Collection. The second photograph in the image above is taken in 1914. The 0-6-0T Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 6871 of the Francois Mercier Company is about to leave the goods station at Carel in Menton, coupled with the shunter No. 13 of the TNL, (c) Jacques Schopfer, the TCA Collection.Engineer Jacques Schopfer photographed the 0-6-0T Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 6871 of the Francois Mercier Company coupled with the shunter No. 13 of the TNL on numerous occasions in 1914 – on the Viduc de Monti, on the approaches to the Viaduc du Caramel, and stationary on the viaduct, (c) Jacques Schopfer, the TCA Collection.The Menton-Sospel tramway was used for the transport of material fro the construction of the PLM line from Nice to Cuneo. In the pictures above we can see shunter No. 7 with a load of tubes on a flat wagon at the goods station at Carel in Menton; sunter No. 13 with a load of rails on two wagons before the stop at Villa Caserta, (c) Jaques Schopfer and Maurice Bouvet, collections of the TCA and Gerard de Santos.The bogie motor-trams of the 213-216 sub-series with more powerful engines and braking systems were also used for goods traffic on the Sospel line: above on the right with a wagon loaded with a small steam locomotive at Castillan, and immediately above with a load of long poles on the Caramel viaduct, from the collections of André Arutur & Jean-Jacques Stefanazzi.Caramel ViaductThis postcard dates from around 1914 and shows the viaduct at Caramel, with one of the bogie trams pulling a goods van. [2]

Goods trains were a feature of the line from the start, but there was a serious runaway of a goods service at Monti on 12th September 1912 which destroyed tractor 4 and killed its two crewmen. From 16th June 1913 a new service was started with two tractors 6, 7 (and 13 added in 1914) in the form of motorised box cars (known as fourgons in French), which were fitted with the same powerful equipment and brakes as the bogie passenger cars, and which pulled a variety of goods wagons.

In 1914, four passenger trips and three or four goods trips were made on the line each day, but like the rest of the T.N.L. network traffic fell off in the 1920s. During the building of the P.L.M. main line railway from Nice to Breil via Sospel, the line had a boost of goods traffic carrying many construction materials, but once complete in 1928 there was huge drop in traffic.


  1. Jose Banuado; Nice au fil du tram Vol.1 published by Les Editions du Cabri, p59-61.
  2., accessed on 8th June 2018.

Uganda Railways – Part 19 – Jinja to Kampala

We start this next portion of the journey at Jinja Railway Station, Jinja sits on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, near the source of the White Nile.[1] Lonely Planet says that Jinja is “famous as the historic source of the Nile River, Jinja is now the adrenaline capital of East Africa. Get your fix of white-water rafting, kayaking, quad biking, mountain biking and horse riding in a gorgeous natural setting with crumbling colonial architecture. The Nile River’s world-famous rapids are under threat, however. In 2011 the Bujagali Hydroelectric Project buried around half of the rapids under a giant reservoir. Although the government has pledged to not further dam the river, Uganda still needs energy and so a new hydroelectric plant is planned for Kalagala Falls. Though worker strikes and faulty construction have it behind schedule for now, it’s expected that the Isimba Dam will flood some key rapids and even an island lodging as early as October 2018. It’s not the end of rafting though. Meanwhile locals keep pushing to keep Jinja’s tourism industry alive with offerings that have wisely begun to diversify.” [2]Before 1906, Jinja was a fishing village that benefited from being located on long-distance trade routes. The origin of the name “Jinja” comes from the language of the two peoples (the Baganda and the Basoga) that lived on either side of the River Nile in the area. In both languages “Jinja” means “Rock”. In most of Africa, rivers like the Nile hindered migration, this explains the ethnic boundaries along the Nile as one moves north from the river’s source on the northern shores of Lake Victoria.

However the area around Jinja was one place where the river could be breached due to the large rocks near the Ripon Falls. Here, on either bank of the river, were large flat rocks where small boats could be launched to cross the river. These rock formations were also accredited with providing a natural moderator for the water flow out of Lake Victoria. For the original local inhabitants, the location was a crossing point, for trade, migration and as a fishing post.

This might explain why, despite this barrier, the two tribes have very similar languages, and the more powerful Baganda had an enormous influence on the Basoga. The area was called the ‘Place of Rocks’ or ‘The Place of Flat Rocks’. The word for stones or rocks in the language of the Baganda is ‘Ejjinja (Plural Amayinja), and in the Basoga dialect this became Edinda. The British used this reference to name the town they established – “Jinja”

In 1954,with the building of the Owen Falls Dam, (later renamed Nalubaale Power Station, the Ripon Falls were submerged. Most of the ‘Flat Rocks’ that gave the area its name disappeared under water as well. However a description of what the area looked like can be found in the notes of John Hanning Speke, the first European to lay eyes on the Source of the Nile:

“Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected, for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of hill, and the falls, about twelve feet deep and four to five hundred feet broad, were broken by rocks; still it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours. The roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the fishermen coming out in boats, and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake, made in all, with the pretty nature of the country—small grassy-topped hills, with trees in the intervening valleys and on the lower slopes—as interesting a picture as one could wish to see.”

Cotton-packing, nearby sugar estates, and railway access all enabled Jinja to grow in size. By 1906 a street pattern had been laid out, and Indian traders moved in starting around 1910. The Indians were Catholic Christians and English-speaking, and originated in the former Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India.

The town was founded in 1907 by the British, as an administrative centre for the Provincial Government Headquarters for Busoga region. This was around the time that Lake Victoria’s importance in transport rose due to the Uganda Railway linking Kisumu, a Kenyan town on the lake, with Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, 900 miles (1,400 km) away. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) established a tobacco processing factory in Jinja in 1928. [3]

Jinja is a major station on the Uganda Railway and a port for Lake Victoria ferries since the early 1900s, when access to the railway was by ferry to the railhead at Kisumu. [4]

Before we get on our train, here are a few pictures from Jinja, taken in different eras and culled from a variety of different websites.Ripon FallsRipon Falls HotelOwen FallsOwen Falls Dam in the early 1960s.

Enough of the City of Jinja. [5] ….. We return to the railway station and get ready to depart for Kampala.In this picture, it is January 1956 and a School Train for Eldoret has just arrived at Jinja – still in daylight. Until 1961, trains departed Kampala at 1500, as opposed to 1715, and thus arrived in Jinja just before sunset. The Class 60 Garratt is taking on water, (c) Malcolm McCrow. [6]

And below, a series of photos around the station site. [10][11]

As we leave Jinja Railway Station, we cross unmetalled roads and head on towards the Victoria Nile. On the way, close to the Station throat, we pass two branch-lines, the first travels east and is no more than a factory access to the railway system. The second travels south alongside Nile Crescent to sidings and a pier on Lake Victoria. On the map immediately below, the main line turns to the west. In a very short distance the line switches to the south and heads directly for the Nile Bridge.A sharply curving alignment of the railway approaching the bridge from the east shows it in good light.

The Nile River Bridge at Jinja was built in the late 1920s. It is perhaps the iconic structure for the whole of the metre-gauge railway system from Mombasa to Kasese.

The first railway in Uganda ran from Jinja to Namasagali on the Victoria Nile where a steamer service ran on to Masindi Port.  From there passengers travelled by road through Masindi to Butiaba on Lake Albert. From there they could travel on by steamer to the Belgian Congo or north to Juba in the Sudan.

Train passengers from Kenya reached Uganda by steamer from the railhead at Kisumu and across Lake Victoria to Entebbe or Port Bell.  In the mid 1920s the main line in Kenya was extended from Nakuru through Eldoret, and Tororo to Mbulamuti where it met up with the original Jinja to Namasagali line.  The new line to Kampala then crossed the Nile at Jinja by a bridge carrying both the railway and a roadway underneath.

Ramsay Nicholson with the assistance of his younger brother Pearce Nicholson was responsible for supervising the construction of the bridge in 1926 and the following historic photographs were copied from their family’s photograph album in 2010. There are more in the album. [13] Both above and below (in colour) – looking east:  Classic scene with Class 60 Garratt heading a Mail Train bound for Kampala over Jinja Bridge. The photograph was taken after 1958 as the dining car (last vehicle in photograph) has acquired the all cream livery which was introduced after the Queen Mother’s visit that year when several of the the aluminium coaches were painted cream to give a uniformity to the royal train consist. By 1961 all passenger coaches had acquired the dark maroon and cream livery which had previously only appeared on 2nd and 3rd class stock, (c) East African Railways & Harbours. [6]Again looking east, A diesel in charge of a train on Jinja Bridge. [8] The Nile Bridge at Jinja looking west. Jinja is still a very important railway centre with wagons being mustered for despatch by to Kenya – by rail via Tororo, or by rail ferry to Kisumu. Another possible destination for the wagons is Mwanza in Tanzania. Vague about what decides a wagon to go by rail via TRO or by Lake via KSM or MWZ, but thought to be customer who decides, (c) Iain Mulligan. [9]Again looking west, the photographer climbed up on to the Bridge and then walked back eastwards along the tracks. Once past the bridge itself, but still on the elevated approach, joy of joys, a “train” came over behind him. Not a real train, but the works train, and what that meant was a Class 62 decorated with palm leaves pulling a LSB, with a crowd of workers on their way from the stations to the west to a union meeting at Jinja. To the photographer’s horror the sides of the LSB were open flat, and there was only just room for him between them and the railings. Anyway, a great cheer from the passengers as they went past. (c) Iain Mulligan. [9]Happy days and homeward bound, the train is travelling toward Kampala. Most school pupils tended to get to a window for the crossing of the White Nile just after the train left Jinja. At primary school, many boys would carve “propellers” which they held out the window as the train went along at around 25 to 30 miles per hour, (c) Malcolm McCrow. [6]The Nile Bridge looking West in 1994. Our train has just moved on after a 6 hour delay at Jinja Railway Station.The Nile Bridge in 1994 looking east, on my return journey to Nairobi from Kampala.View from the Jinja Bridge at dusk in 1994.From a distance! [12]River Nile Bridge at Jinja looking west. [7].

There is (June 2018) a new road bridge being constructed across the Nile between the railway bridge and the old road bridge which should be open in 2018. It is a strikingly modern cable-stayed bridge! [14]

Once the railway has crossed the Nile it travels on in a southerly direction towards Bulamba and then swings gradually round to the south-west. On its way to Kampala the railway passes through the following Stations:

Buikwe (Buyikwe): as far as I can tell, this is the first station/halt beyond Jinja Railway Bridge when travelling towards Kampala. The first map and satellite image below show its location and I believe that it is likely that the monochrome picture which follows was taken at the Station in the early 1950s.

Lugazi/Kawolo: is 45 kilometres (28 miles) east of Kampala by road. There is a Station close to the centre of the town as shown on the map and satellite image below. The Station also served the hospital at Kawolo which is shown on the map of Lugazi just to the east of the town.

A Guide To Uganda” (Crown Agents, Curwin Press 1954) shows a Class 56 Garratt No. 5603, at a station between Kampala and Jinja. The 56s were replaced by the 60s in 1954-5, (c) East African Railways and Harbours. [6]School Trains ran to the same schedule as the Mail Trains, but on days when the Mail did not run.  The consist was virtually the same, although there was often only one, or no first class coach at all, on many of the School Trains.  Here a Giesel ejector fitted Class 58 Garratt heads a Kampala bound Mail Train through Kawolo, 226 miles from Eldoret and 31 miles from Kampala.  The oil fired furnace is clearly visible.  A Kampala bound freight is headed by a Class 60 Garratt still to be fitted with its Giesel ejector, © A J Hudson.[21]

Lugazi Railway Station runs north-south near to the centre of the map above.

Seta: The next Station is at Seta. It was on the south side of the small village bearing the same name.






The EAR&H had few serious accidents, but on 3 January 1963, just 23 miles from Kampala and not far from Seta, a freight train with a caboose and 6 tank cars of high octane aviation fuel for Entebbe Airport stalled on the gradient. After setting back, the driver made a run at the gradient which the engine cleared with ease and tore off down the other side where it derailed. The escaping fuel was ignited by the Garratt’s oil furnace and the driver and firemen were killed. After three days of continuous round-the-clock working the single track line to Nairobi was re-opened, (c) A J Hudson. [6]Kampala bound Mail passing a Tribal headed freight at Seta, 21 miles from Kampala, © Malcolm McCrow. [21]

Mukono/Kyetume: The next Station is close to Mukono at  Kyetume as shown on the adjacent map. Work on a new railway station [15] and a Railway Inland Container Depot (ICD) was completed in 2015. [16]

The ICD project was funded by World Bank and managed by the Ugandan ministry of works and transport in line with the East African trade facilitation program.

Its current capacity is 1,644 containers with an average of 6,500 annually, with enough parking space for container trucks. Construction of the depot was undertaken by Chinese company China Jiangxi International. [16]The Mukono railway station contracted by CJIC has significantly alleviated the traffic pressure in the capital Kampala and greatly cuts down the cost of local transportation of goods in Mukono, which, in turn, boosts the local economy. [15]Mukono Railway Station Building completed in 2015. [15]Mukono Railway Inland Container Depot was also completed in 2015. [16] The associated siding is shown in the adjacent image. [17]

From Mukono, the railway travels North-west towards the Kampala-Jinja Road and then westwards into Kampala and its railway station which can be seen to the bottom left of the map below. before reaching Kampala Station the railway passes through Kireka close to the point that the Northern By-Pass leaves the Jinja-Kampala Road. Sporadic communter services are provided. Four pictures below show the railway at Kireka. [22][23] The map also shows the old railway from Port Bell joining the mainline just before it reaches Kampala Station. The line to an from Port Bell was constructed to provide access from the Lake Victoria Steamers which brought passengers to Uganda from Kisumu. The full length of that line is shown on the next map.The track arrangement at Port Bell is shown on the next map and satellite image.An 11 Class tank engine on the  Kampala to Port Bell branch, © Iain Mulligan

The motor vessel SYBIL unloading at Port Bell which was at the end of the six mile branch line from Kampala.  Mixed passenger and freight trains ran three times a week to and from Kampala to meet the round the Lake service which by 1962 was operated by the motor vessel VICTORIA.  The train journey between Kampala and Port Bell took 20 minutes and only 2nd and 3rd class was provided  © Malcolm McCrow

The station at Kampala is the end of this part of the journey. A Class 58 Barratt arrives at Kampala Station (Low Level) with a train from Kenya © Geoff Pollard. [20]

Kampala Railway Station in the 1980s. [18]Kampala Railway Station was built by 1940. It is shown here in the 2010s, © Morgan Mbabazi. [19]


  1. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (13 January 2014). “Profile of Lake Victoria, East Africa”,, accessed on 5th June 2018.
  2., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  3., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  4., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  5., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  6., accessed on 1st June 2018.
  7., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  8., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  9., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  10., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  11., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  12., accessed on 5th June 2018.
  13., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  14., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  15., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  16., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  17., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  18., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  19., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  20., accessed on 6th June 2018.
  21., accessed on 31st May 2018.
  22., accessed on 8th June 2018.
  23., accessed on 8th June 2018.

Uganda Railways – Part 18 – Tororo to Jinja

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

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

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

Tororo Cement Limited (TCL) is the largest manufacturer of cement in Uganda,[4] producing an estimated 1.8 million metric tonnes annually.[5]  In July 2015, TCL began an 86 billion UgSh expansion to increase annual production to 3.0 million metric tonnes.[6][7] Production on the newly completed production line began in March 2018. [8]Umeme upgrades Tororo Cement Industries power, plant doubles productionOn 4th June 2018, Umeme upgrades Tororo Cement Industries power, plant doubles production. [9] An earlier image (2009/2010) of the plant, taken from the south-west with Tororo Rock in the background, is shown below. [10]

After having had a good look round Tororo, we set off for Kampala.111469: Tororo Uganda Passenger for Pakwach 6023 Class 60 Garratt No. 6023 in Tororo in 1971.The line to Kampala is on the left. The line to Pakwach is on the right!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









  1., accessed on 3rd June 2018.
  2.,44672213p, accessed on 4th June 2018.
  3.; &, accessed on 4th June 2018.
  4., accessed on 4th June 2018
  5., accessed on 4th June 2018.
  6., accessed on 4th June 2018.
  7., accessed on 4th June 2018.
  8., accessed on 4th June 2018.
  9., accessed on 4th June 2018.
  10., accessed on 1st June 2018.