Railway Museum and Art Gallery - portfolio

is no exaggeration to state that the railway line and the trains that graced its 900km expanse are an integral part of
Kenya's historical record even before the country had a name. As a senior British official, Sir Charles Elliot stated in 1903,
"It is not uncommon for a country to build a railway, but it is uncommon for a railway to create a country." The building of
the Kenya Uganda Railway between 1896 and 1901 at a cost of 5.5 million pounds (over 500 million pounds in current value)
literally created the country that became Kenya although it was many years before the nation was given that name.
Florence and Robert Preston laying the final rail
at Port Florence (now Kisumu) on 19th December
1901.
In the late 19th century, a round trip from the coast to Lake Victoria, which today can be
done comfortably within the space of a morning, was an enterprise involving many
months, hundreds of porters and a great risk to life and limb that few would even
contemplate.
No sooner had Britain assumed a Protectorate over Uganda, which itself surrounded a
good half of the lake, did it become apparent that a railway line linking the coast to Lake
Victoria was badly needed to make the territory easier to administer. Remarkably, the
area through which the line was intended to pass was seen merely as a means to an end,
simply an area to get through as quickly as possible with no thought given to its vast
potential. It was not until 1902 when the name Kenya was officially given to the territory.
Disaster struck in 1898 when the mangled corpse of an Indian worker was found
surrounded by pugmarks in the bloodied sand. News that a lion was the culprit spread
like wildfire and for a time, work on the track came to a complete stand still. Over many
months, at least 28 Indian workers and an unknown number of Africans fell prey to these
savage beasts, a pair of lions later nicknamed The Man-Eaters of Tsavo. The lions made
their most audacious kill when they dragged Superintendent of Police Charles Ryall from
his private carriage and ate him. This carriage is now part of the museums's exhibit
inventory.
Col. Patterson posing next to one of the man
eaters which he shot and killed in December 1898.
On 19th December 1901, the last rails were bolted together and the Lunatic Line was complete. Uganda Railways was renamed
Kenya Uganda Railway (KUR) and then to East African Railways and Harbours, then finally split in 1977 to form the respective
railways of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In 2006, the Rift Valley Railways Consortium led by South African companies took
operating control of the Kenya and Uganda railways as part of a contract lasting at least 25 years.

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