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   To School Behind a Garratt - School Trains and the Locomotive That Hauled Them

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    In 2006, Martin Langley (Nicholson, 1956-61) and I were shunting an idea back and forth for a new feature article on the Old Cambrian Website. It had to do with the Garratt steam locomotive and our memories, good and bad, of riding the school trains that it hauled. I first saw a Garratt in the late 1940s when the old railway alignment still ran close to the Kabete Technical and Trades School where my father taught. A friend at the school and his Dad were acquainted with one of the engine drivers, an affable, turbaned Sikh called Mohinder Singh. Through that fortuitous connection, at the age of eight I got a short but thrilling ride on the footplate of a Garratt locomotive from Kabete Station down to where the line crossed the road leading to the Vet Lab. Martin Langley had also been exposed to Garratts at a tender age. He remembers it this way: “I spent my primary school years in the South African railway junction town of Mafeking (of Boer War fame), with many of those years living in a house close to a railway crossing. Wide-eyed, my friends and I would watch the shunters and main line trains such as the Rhodesia Mail, headed by a Garratt, as it swung by on its way north to Bulawayo. Later on, after moving to Kampala, I experienced the Garratt first-hand on the school train to Nairobi. These early exposures left me with an enduring fascination with steam locomotives and the Garratt in particular.”

    So Martin and I decided that someone ought to write a piece on school trains and Garratts. I had recently returned to work full-time and couldn’t commit, but Martin bravely undertook to be the sole engineer. Thank goodness, because two years later, after a long haul up a steep gradient, he has brought the train, loaded with treasures, into Nairobi Station alongside Platform 1.

    To read this worthy feature is to take a fascinating ride down memory lane. Its contents include schoolboy memories (his own among them), a short history of the Garratt and the East African Railways, superb old train pictures, plenty of notes and technical data to satisfy the railway buff, an engine driver’s personal memoir, and even a couple of sound clips - one of them the Garratt’s distinctive two-beat chuffing, and the other a song called ‘The Good Old EAR&H’ by acclaimed alumnus, Roger Whittaker.

    All aboard, then, for a nostalgic journey back to a more innocent age when we were awestruck by the huge Garratt steam engine (painted maroon, grey, or black depending on your vintage), and when we rode the train with such heavy hearts at the beginning of a school term and with such great joy at the commencement of the holidays.

    (Brian McIntosh, Rhodes, 1953-59)

    To School Behind a Garratt
    School Trains and the Locomotive That Hauled Them

    The School & The Railway

    The roots of the first European school in Kenya, later to become the Prince of Wales then Nairobi School, are closely intertwined with those of the railway system in British East Africa. While the establishment of a European school in the embryonic East African territories was inevitable, the initial impetus came from the railways. They needed a school to educate the offspring of ex-patriates who had come out to build and operate the new railway line from Mombasa to Uganda. The 1987 Impala reports that in 1902 the Uganda Railway Authority established the European Nairobi School, located in the current grounds of the Nairobi Railway Club. In 1916 the school was moved to the hilly grounds of Protectorate Road, currently the Nairobi Primary School. Then, in 1925, at the urging of Lord Delamere and supported by the governor of Kenya, Sir Edward Grigg, planning was initiated for a new boys secondary school to be run on the lines of an English public school. The location chosen for the new school was on railway reserve ground near Kabete (ref 2002 Impala). Thus the Prince of Wales School came into being in 1931.

    The school has always enjoyed a close relationship with the railway. There were visits to the railway workshops, organized by school societies, such as the Scientific Society (Dec 1953 Impala). The Dec 1949 Impala reports that “Mr.J.Collier-Wright and two of his colleagues, gave us much information about careers in the EAR&H”. Sport also figured prominently in relations with the EAR. Probably the school’s oldest competitor in sports (in colonial times) was the Railway Club, a perennial rival in sporting fixtures particularly in hockey, rugby, cricket and soccer.

    A few alumni who have registered on the OC website reminisced on the days when the railway line passed close to the school on its way between Kabete and Nakuru. They relate how coins were placed on the rails to be flattened and collected for later admiration. Grease or butter was applied to the rails and the resulting slipping of the giant wheels of the locomotives no doubt watched with great glee from the concealment of nearby bushes. The June 1952 Impala under “Hawke House notes”, speaks of this practice when looking back to 1942. The article remarks “On one or two occasions, they sallied forth at night to grease the railway line and then to watch the train vainly trying to mount the grade”.

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    As noted by Christopher Collier-Wright (Hawke 1954-1959), “The original line between Nairobi and Nakuru ran by the north side of the Prince of Wales School on its way up to Kabete. The gradient in the vicinity of the school, as in some other sections of the line, was 1 in 50 (2%). This meant that while at the beginning of the term the ‘down’ train bearing pupils from up-country and Uganda could stop to drop them and their luggage on the perimeter of the school, at the end of term the boys boarded at Nairobi station. The general area where the train stopped would have been just north of the hedge, beyond the school hall/swimming pool, outside the school compound. If the ‘up’ train stopped by the school, it would have great difficulty in getting started again. Mervyn Hill in his magisterial work ‘Permanent Way: The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway’ writes ‘Work on the Nairobi-Nakuru realignment, which had been held up during the war, and which was designed to reduce the 2 per cent grades to 1.18 and 1.5 percent, against up and down traffic respectively, was resumed’ (in 1946). The new route which passed by Kibera was opened in about 1948, no doubt to the relief of engine drivers whose locomotives had been known to be brought to a halt as a result of grease spread on the line by recalcitrant schoolboys. True, the new alignment passed the Duke of York School, but its gentler gradient meant that any Yorkists who tried to play the same trick were likely to be unsuccessful.”

    Above - Kenya & Uganda Railways 52 Class Garratt passing the Prince of Wales School – 1936
    Photo supplied by Oliver Keeble
    Left - Offloading Boys' baggage from the train, Jan 1931.
    Photo supplied by Cynthia McCrae (née Astley) and Alastair McCrae (Rhodes 1943-1946). - originating from the photo albums of Bernard Astley (Headmaster 1937-1945)

    Many Old Cambrians still remember those days, when the railway line ran past the school.

    John Cook (Hawke/Nicholson 1941-45) relates how love stopped a train.

    A Passing Kiss 1

        It was 1944. The world was at war but at Kabete, a few miles north-west of Nairobi, the Prince of Wales boys boarding school was a bastion of peace and contented learning.
        The extensive grounds, dominated by the classic structure of the Herbert Baker designed buildings covered many acres of land. On the north-eastern boundary and just over the school fence ran the main line of the East African railway – the metre gauge track that ran from Mombasa to Kampala.
        It was this railway and its trains that many of us boarders depended on to make our way back at the end of term to our homes in Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kitale and many other towns along the way.
        Nearer to Nairobi and quite close to Government House stood another school – The Nairobi Girls High known by us lads as the “Heifer Boma” where many of us had girl friends.
        It had been normal for both schools to break up at the same time and pupils to share the train that took them home for the “hols”. But in December of the previous year the railway authorities reported to the respective principals that a good deal of bad and unruly behaviour had occurred on the pre-Christmas journey home. This led to a decision that the girls would be sent home two days earlier than the boys at the end of the term.
        The lads were devastated by the news but a bunch of about a dozen of us hatched a plan that would allow a swift but amorous rendezvous.
        The rail line alongside the school was noted for its steep elevation and even the biggest and strongest Garratt steam engines struggled up the sloping line.
        For the ten days prior to the day on which the girls were due to pass by, the team endured dry bread with lunch and dinner smuggling our butter rations out of the dining room and storing them in our leader’s locker.
        On the day in question the train carrying the girls was due to pass the school at 4.15 pm at a time when formal classes were finished and sport about to begin. At 4 o’clock the lads rushed across to and over the fence on the boundary and smeared their hard won butter ration on about 30 metres of both rails. Hearing the approaching locomotive they dived into cover in the bushes along side the rail and waited.
        The train was making heavy weather of the steep gradient and no sooner did it reach the buttered section than the main drive wheels of the engine started to spin as the driver applied increased steam pressure and the train came to a steaming, wheel-spinning halt.
        But the turbaned Sikh was prepared for such an event. Quite often in the past early morning rime on the rails in the highlands had caused this skidding event and the answer was to spread sand along the affected line to provide grip for the spinning wheels. He descended from the cabin with a bucket of sand and started providing a cure for the problem.
        Meanwhile from every window of the train passenger heads peered out, curious as to the reason for this unscheduled stop. The fifth carriage from the engine was particularly noticeable for the large number of young female heads that appeared at the open windows.
        No sooner had the driver – now joined by the guard – gone to the far side of the locomotive to apply sand to the track than our group of eager young men broke cover and boarded the coach to the screaming delight of the young ladies.
        The couples had so little time. Lots of hugs and snuggles. Exchanges of small tokens of love and then the sound of increased steam activity as the driver began to get the train under way.
        One final kiss to each of their beloved and the daring dozen leapt from the carriage – standing beside the embankment to wave a fond, but sad, farewell to their sweethearts.
        Giving up our butter ration sure was worth a passing kiss.

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    John Cook’s romantic adventure is confirmed by the self confessed involvement of Redvers Duffy. Could it have been the same train as John’s?

    Redvers Noel Duffy (Clive 1942-47)
    I was involved in the ambushing of the girls high school train at the end of one term which resulted in the train being brought to a standstill due to the fact that the rails had been greased and the train was unable to attain enough traction to traverse the gradient past the school. The greaser of the line was the only one suspended because of his actions, but his identity is better left unspoken. I was one of many who escaped punishment for that little escapade.

    Ray Birch (Hawke/Grigg 1942-46) remembers
    Initiation ceremonies which included the dreaded slide, pushing a coin along the railway line with one's nose, the pill made up of unmentionable ingredients and swallowed by newcomers, duckings, disembarking from the train from Uganda which stopped outside the school to disgorge pupils from Uganda and points en route, greasing said railway lines, waiting for steam engines heading upcountry from Nairobi to lose traction on the gradient and wheels spin uncontrollably (this was a caning offence I think but great fun), putting 10 cent coins (they had a hole in the center) and retrieving the flattened object after it had been run over by the train. At the time, the Kenya/Uganda railway line passed through Nairobi via the DC's office and up past the school. It was later of course re-routed to its present location.

    Ron Bullock (Scott 1948-53)
    It was during my first term that we heard dark rumours of two senior boys getting six from Flakey and then being expelled for having held up the train. I was never able to verify the details, but perhaps someone can at this late date shed some light on the mystery. It seems they had greased the line with butter, which caused the Uganda mail to grind to a halt on what I believe was the steepest rail gradient not only in Kenya, but in the empire (1:52 if I remember correctly). Even when they got the rails cleaned up, it seems the train had to reverse back into Nairobi station to get a good run at the hill - 36 hours late, I heard. And whilst talking about the old alignment, the up-country types will probably remember how the down train used to stop outside school to let us off, and how miserably we dragged our bags or trunks up the hill to our respective houses.

    Tom Palmer (New House 1948-51)
    I also remember the incident where all the guys scraped the butter from their bread, collected it and then spread it on the Railway line, which in those days passed the Prince of Wales School. This caused no end of problems for the train which had to reverse all the way back to Nairobi. This happened several times before the reason was discovered. Severe reprimand for the School by "Flakey" the Headmaster. The train always had great difficulty climbing up to the escarpment.

    Robin Hoddinott (Nicholson 1948-52)
    I used to take the train to school from either Turi or Elburgon, and at least for the first few years, the train used to go right by the school. At the beginning of each term, it would stop at the school to let us students off so the school wouldn't have to send the bus to Nairobi station. Some of the masters and other staff were always there to welcome us back and help pack our luggage back to our respective houses. On one memorable occasion I recall, someone forgot to tell the train engineer to stop, and much to our joy, the train rumbled right on by while the school staff stood by waving frantically. Our joy was short-lived, though. When we arrived at Nairobi station, the school bus was already there waiting for us. At the end of term, we always had to go to Nairobi to embark. I guess the grade beside the school was too much for the old Garratts to get the train started again if it stopped, (there was a story that someone was expelled once for greasing the tracks) or maybe it was just the logistics of getting our tickets and assigning us to specific compartments. If I remember correctly, the train used to be split at Nakuru, one part carrying on to Kisumu, while the other went to Kitale. The ride home was always a joyous occasion. We usually hoped to be assigned to one of the older carriages that didn't have the corridor running down one side. A favourite trick was to hold a roll of toilet paper out the window and let it unravel so that the train arrived at the next station festooned with streamers of paper. In the older coaches, none of the train staff were able to get to us to prevent this. On another occasion, on the way to school, my hat blew out the window just as we were pulling in to Longonot station. When the train came to a stop, I jumped out and ran back to retrieve it, but only just made it back to the guards van before the train took off again and I had to ride to the next station (Kijabe) with the guards. So, as you can see, Roger Whittaker's song about "The good old EAR & H" brings back memories!

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    While the majority of train commuters were from Uganda or upcountry Kenya, many came from Tanganyika, with the journey from the furthest reaches of that country taking nearly four days. Some lads from Uganda and Tanganyika remember their journeys to school.

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    John Nicholson (Scott 1948-53)
    My father worked in Uganda so I was a boarder and travelled to school by train. Most of the boys from Uganda got on the train at Kampala but myself and J J Woods (Hawke) and his younger brother didn’t get on until Tororo. The Kampala boys included John Williams (Scott), Jim Watson (Scott), Peter Overton (Scott) and George ‘Squeaky’ Mowat (Grigg). In the early days before the rail track was re-routed it used to pass by the school before getting to Nairobi station so the train used to stop opposite the school to let us off. The journey in those days from Nairobi to Nakuru was not all that speedy. I say that because in my latter trips home a friend and myself used to jump train at the first suitable stop after leaving Nairobi and hitchhike to Nakuru to pick it up again. The train journey took about 6 or 7 hours and having done the trip so many times before we were often bored and alternative travel was a lot more interesting. We always reckoned to have plenty of time and once on the road the first vehicle that came along always stopped to offer a lift, in fact we were so early in Nakuru on one occassion that we had time to see part of a film show at the local cinema !

    Paul Heim (Hawke/Scott 1946-50)
    For many of us, the introduction to the School started with the journey from our homes. In my case, it was by train from Tabora (in Tanzania), to Mwanza on Lake Victoria, where one spent a day, usually at the Club, waiting for the lake steamer. The club had facilities for swimming in the lake, by way of an old anti-submarine net, intended to keep out the crocodiles. Nobody seemed to think it necessary to point out that a net which would keep out a submarine was not necessarily a deterrent to a croc. If the steamer went clock-wise round the Lake one would go to places like Bukoba, the far end of the world, on the west side, before going on round past Uganda to Kisumu, and if one was lucky, it went anticlockwise, which only took a day and a night. One then disembarked at Kisumu, and had to wait for the next train, which usually came on the same day. Again, we would try to find something to do. On occasions, we jumped over the fence into the Kisumu Club, to use their pool. The train took a night and a day to get to Nairobi, but by then numbers of other boys had joined the train, and the journey was fairly eventful, especially for new boys. Bullying started at that moment. The train did not go very fast. It was possible to get off it, run alongside, and get on again. It was also possible to get on the roof of one’s carriage and jump from one carriage to the other, all the way along the train.

    The train stopped near the school grounds, to allow the boys to disembark, and to stagger up to the school, each carrying the vast regulation tin trunk, usually, in true African fashion, on his head.

    Stuart Thomas (Clive 1952-56)
    I also remember, one of the boarders from Tanganyika, got themselves into serious trouble on the train coming to school, I think. May have had something to do with a young African girl, my memory is not that good, so I had better be careful. Anyhow, as soon as he arrived at School, he went straight to "Flakey's" office & was expelled on the spot, & given you know what, just to rub salt into his stupid wounds. I can only add to that by saying, he must have deserved it, because I believe that our Headmaster was a gem of a man overall, the same as our Housemaster Mr.Fyfe.

    Edward David (Clive 1952-56)
    It took us 4 days to get to school - leaving Dar-es-Salaam on Monday evening @ 10 p.m. traveling by train/bus/train to arrive in Nairobi on Thursday morning!!! I remember it well!!! Years later we would fly on EAAC DC3’s - Nairobi-Mombasa-Tanga-Zanzibar- and finally arrive in what a wonderful place - Dar-es-Salaam in about 4 hours!!!!

    Jeremy Whitehead (Clive 1958-62) with a humorous incident on the Uganda train.
    I can recall attending the first assembly of a new term and listening to the headmaster, Fletcher, lecturing us on appalling behaviour on the school train to Uganda at the end of the previous term. He was unwise enough to describe one particular event when a group of us had set upon a St Mary's boy and hung him out of the train window by his feet, whereupon the whole school erupted in a great gale of laughter bringing the lecture to an end as he was unable to prevent himself joining in the laughter.

    Jeremy also travelled from Kasese in Western Uganda to Nairobi a number of times and he relates an incident on the way to school when the rear end of the train became derailed. He continues – ‘the problem was resolved after a couple of hours by uncoupling the derailed Third Class portion and employing the Third Class passengers to convey the First and Second Class baggage (including my bicycle) to the freight car at the front end. This was done with a good deal of laughter and cheering. The Journey was then resumed leaving the Third Class passengers and derailed carriages to be rescued later’. (Jeremy discovered to his sorrow that the Kasese-Kampala line is no longer operational as are many segments of the original EAR&H network)

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    Trains were very much a feature of school life for those that used them, signaling as they did the beginning or end of a term or year, each trip a segue between the disciplined environment of school and the warm bosom of home or vice versa. The lightly supervised school train usually gave way to mischief that only teenage boys away from home or school can get up to; smoking, girls, rugby songs, practical jokes, initiations etc.

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    In this colourful account of his journey to school from upcountry Kenya, Stan Bleazard provides a lyric description of an arriving Garratt, and his initiation as a rabble.

    Stan Bleazard (Grigg/Rhodes/Scott 1945-48)
    Two dim oil lamps glowed faintly in the mist at each end of the railway platform at Maji Mazuri station. In total darkness between them, I sat quietly waiting on my battered tin trunk. It was cold and I began to shiver. There was no sound, not even a dog barking in the sawmill's labour lines across the valley. Absent also, the occasional scream of a hyrax from nearby forest, with which I always associated home. Just the customary brooding silence that can sometimes pervade a long African night. The minutes hung, leaving nothing to record their passage, until my guardian audibly rummaged his coat pockets. A match flared as he lit a cigarette. Without interest, I watched it glow each time he sucked in the smoke he craved. When he finished, he sent the end tumbling away onto rail ballast, where briefly it continued to glow.

    The familiar tinkling of bells, coming from the control desk in the station office, told us the train was on its way. After about ten minutes, the steam locomotive's bright headlight bored through the mist briefly as it emerged from a cutting in the distance toward Equator station several miles away. Shortly after, I heard the Sikh station master step from his office, his chaplis shuffling in the cinders of the platform's surface. I felt sure he would be carrying a metal hoop that he would somehow, without seeing properly, exchange with one brought by the loco's driver.

    Faint at first, then strongly from just beyond station limits, the Garratt's siren blasted warning of its imminent arrival. The mist that way began to visibly brighten. Turning into the final straight, the loco's beam suddenly exposed the three of us in brilliant light. Blinking, we turned away in response. Underfoot, I distinctly felt the ground shake as the juggernaut approached and rushed past. The moment darkness resumed a blast of heat from the loco's firebox hit us. The screech of iron shoes grinding against steel wheels jarred my teeth as the driver applied brakes to every carriage. Finally the train stopped with a shudder. The Ticket Examiner flashed his torch at us to show me to my reservation. As usual, at 0300 hours I was the only person to board.

    Struggling to shove my trunk through the entrance doorway, I twisted my thumb on its beastly metal handle. Most compartments were still lit, so it was easy to find mine. Entering, I greeted two glum looking young fellows who only grunted a response. The Garratt's siren sounded and we were soon moving. I was hardly settled when shouts of 'Rabble' emanated from somewhere at the end of the corridor. Such address was of course unusual and, ignorant of its meaning I at first ignored it. I felt people were rude making such a lot of noise at this hour. Not many seconds elapsed, however, before I was forcibly seized by a couple of ruffians, manhandled to the far compartment and persuaded to introduce myself to several other aspiring thugs. The air inside was full of smoke and it stank of beer. From their intense questioning, I was soon aware that they wished to find grounds for unfair criticism, or any reason at all to mindlessly berate me. Much of this was demeaning, especially aspersions about my heredity. Having exhausted their verbal assault on me, they then demanded I sing for their entertainment. Not well gifted with this facility, my various attempts brought only displeasure, which brought on physical abuse to encourage me to perform better. What followed need not be recorded in detail. Fortunately my vilification did not last because more pupils boarded at Sabatia, the next station. With my tormentor's attention momentarily diverted, I escaped and made as fast as I could to the furthest end of the train. I spent the next hours until daybreak squatting with difficulty in an oriental style toilet. That was how the journey for my secondary education began, which turned out by comparison to have been typical experience for most of us.

    Brod Purdy (Rhodes 1958-62) travelled from Kitale, joining the Uganda train at Eldoret.

    With a schoolmaster as a father, it was rare that I had to use trains initially as we lived in Embu. However there was one journey that, for some reason, always sticks in my mind. The nearest railhead to Embu was Sagana, and it was at this out of the way halt that I embarked on my first school train journey. As a new boy, fresh from a minor English Public School, I was frequently the butt of those who had been at the PoWS for a much longer time than I. And so it transpired on this particular trip where, although not hung out of the window of a carriage, I was summoned to a senior’s compartment and put through a rigorous ‘Third Degree’. I eventually escaped, but with a crushed fingertip…those EAR&H doors were brutally heavy.

    Some years later with the appointment of my father as the Headmaster of the African Secondary School at Kapenguria which some may remember as the school at which Jomo Kenyatta was famously tried, my school journeys now started and finished at Kitale. We would all embark at Kitale and head to Eldoret where the train would wait for the Kampala train to join…figuratively and literally…us. We would arrive in the late evening and be shunted into a distant siding, supposedly out of the way of temptation. How wrong people were. Most of us would manage to exit the carriages tucked away and cross the tracks and head for the bars of Eldoret where the following term’s pocket money was spent. And then we would attempt to return to our train before the Kampala train arrived. This was not normally a problem, until the occasion when the authorities decided to move our train to a different part of the station. Imagine a crowd of PoWS and DoYS lads trying to find a train in the dark and hoping that it was not already on its way to Nairobi…without us!

    And then I became a prefect and had my own compartment and rabble to do my every wish. However, this arrangement did not have the blessing of EAR&H and I remember being woken in the early hours of the morning to find a rabble sharing my compartment…and the look on his face when he woke up to find he was sharing a compartment with the prefect that had soundly thrashed him the term before for some misdemeanour or other.

    And the journey when some rabble lost my hockey stick and I had to spend the rest of the term using those supplied by the House.

    For some reason I seemed always to return home after everyone else, but memories of dinner (with wine) coming down the escarpment before pulling into Naivasha…and then the overnight stop in Eldoret before continuing to Kitale when I was caught sneaking into Eldoret by, of all people, my father who had driven down from Kapenguria to pick me up. Without telling me.

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    As Stan Bleazard recounts in his story, schoolboy commuters typically boarded the train bearing a battered old galvanized metal cabin trunk, a scuffed veteran of numerous trips, that was made by some fundi in the town they lived in. The trunk had a welded hasp and staple wherein a padlock could be inserted, and two flip handles on the ends and another where the hasp and staple were. In this trunk would be all the boy’s clothes, shoes and “stuff” for the coming term. During term, it would be kept under the boy’s bed in the dormitory.
    The author had an unnerving experience with his trunk. Once, at the end of term, while still a rabble, a senior shoved him into the trunk, latched the hasp and heaved the thus occupied trunk into a bathtub full of water in the Nicholson House bathroom. And there it floated, the occupant in claustrophobic darkness with water slowly seeping in and filling the interior, while he screamed his lungs out in abject terror. Unable to open the thing because it was latched, he thought he was dead, drowned like a rat in a drain. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the lid was opened by the still guffawing tormentor and the prisoner was released, trembling like a leaf. Denis M, I'll get you, you bastard!! (....grin).

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    A Career in the Railways

    A career in East African Railways was a respected vocation for many Old Cambrians. Some entered into the Railway Training Workshops as apprentices in railway maintenance or operations. In addition to trade apprenticeships, others completed University degrees and jointed EAR&H as cadet engineers or commercial management trainees. Mick Houareau and Gerry Beers both had careers with the EAR and their stories follow.

    Michael (Mick) Houareau (Clive 1953-56)

    Left - EAR apprentices in 1958 – Mick is nearest the locomotive

    After school, I joined the East African Railways as a mechanical engineering apprentice. I did time in the various shops including the machine, loco fitting, erecting shop, loco wheel shop, Westinghouse brake shop, foundry, drawing office and copper shop. The apprenticeship was interrupted by National Service in the Kenya Regiment. After doing time in the various shops I was put back in the loco erecting shop where I completed my time. The erecting shop was where all the locos from the smallest 10 class shunter to the largest Beyer Garratt 59 class were completely overhauled. On completion of each overhaul, the locos were taken on a short test run , usually to Athi river.

    Another Old Cambrian apprentice during my time there was Paul Newman (Rhodes 1950-54) who later was to work on the diesel side while I stayed with steam.

    Gerry Beers (Hawke 1948-52) reminisces on his career with the EAR&H

    I joined the EAR&H as a Cadet Engineer in 1957 after I got a degree in Civil Engineering from Trinity College, Dublin. While I remember the Garratt locomotives well – particularly the mighty 59 Class - from my short time in Nairobi, I spent most of my time on new construction in Tanganyika. My first job was the construction of a new dhow jetty in Dar es Salaam and then I worked on the Kilosa to Mikumi spur, which we fondly thought would be the start of the link with Rhodesia and then South Africa. It was, of course, made redundant when the Chinese built the line from Dar which still operates – just! I was also responsible for a time for the maintenance of about 100 miles of the Central Line from Dar.

    I finished as 'Engineer in Charge' of the southern half of the Ruvu – Mnusi link (see map left) between the Central and the Tanga lines but at no time did I ever work with Garratt locos. To the best of my knowledge they never worked in Tanganyika – we were the poor relation. (There were in fact Garratts in Tanaganyika –Ed)

    Reflecting on those far off days I remembered a couple of incidents which were quite nice. After we finished the dhow jetty in Dar es Salaam (1958) I was in the New Africa hotel (not unusual!) when three old wizened Arabs approached me and insisted on buying me a beer. They said that their life was much better now that they could load and off-load their dhows at both high and low tide and were very grateful. Another example of how the EAR&H was appreciated occurred when we were building the Ruvu – Mnyusi link. Every day an engineering train took 500 tons of ballast to the railhead and returned empty. We allowed any of the locals to ride back on the return journey and of course didn’t charge them. One day an old African farmer came up to me in the bush and told me how much his life had improved because he could now get his bananas to market in one day instead of three. I like those two memories.

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    Thus was forged a strong link between the school and the railways. From the very beginning that same railway, over the years, was to ferry thousands of schoolboys (and girls) to and from school, from the furthest corners of East Africa. To school they came, riding the train/bus for up to 4 days, from Dodoma, Arusha and Dar-es-Salaam and from the southern shores of Lake Victoria in Tanganyika, from Mombasa’s white sands, from Kisumu, Eldoret, Thomsons Falls, Nakuru and other points in the upcountry farmlands of Kenya, from the mining town of Kasese in the foothills of the Ruwenzoris and from Kampala, capital of verdant tropical Uganda. One of those commuters was Roger Whittaker who wrote a song about riding the old school trains.

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    Roger Whittaker & “The Good Old EAR&H”

    Roger Whittaker was at the PoW from 1950 to 1954. His alumnus entry says that he is arguably the most famous and well known Old Cambrian. I would argue with “arguably”!! With worldwide record sales of around 55 million, can any other OC be more famous? However, the vast majority of his fans would not connect him with the PoW. Trains clearly made a big impression on Roger the schoolboy, for in later years when he visited Kenya in 1982, Roger the famous singer would recall those train memories in a song he wrote. Thus the East African Railways and Harbours, and their trains, have been immortalized in his song “The Good Old E A R & H”. The song was not one of his hits, and to the author’s knowledge did not make it onto any of his CDs*. It can only be heard on a hard to find video cassette of the BBC TV special that he made of that Kenya visit. Attempts to reach Roger for an input to this train article were unsuccessful, but we did get word from him that it would be ok to reproduce the lyrics to the song. The lyrics could not be found on the internet, so your editor had to listen to the song many times over to get the words.

    Roger introduces the song with a monologue. “When I was a boy, the railway meant so much more to me than the abolition of the slave trade 2 or the opening up of the country, because it was the train that took us up the hills to school and brought us home again or down the hills to the coast and then brought us home again. They were the East African Railways and Harbours or for short the good old E A R & H. No boy ever had a railway quite as fine as mine.

    The song has an up tempo country and western sound with banjo and steel guitar.

          1st Verse/Chorus
          Oh, the good old E A R & H would get me there on time
          Those mighty engines rolling down the line
          And no boy ever had a railway quite as fine as mine
          Oh the good old E A R & H, (oh) the good old E A R & H

          Now when I was a kid I used to play
          While the train would rock and roll and swing and sway
          And as she pulled us up the grade slowing all the way
          Oh, this is what the wheels would have to sing
          We would sing along with what they had to sing
          And they’d sing, no I can’t, no I can’t, (repeated)
          Again they’d sing, no I can’t, no I can’t, (repeated)
          That train, oh that train.


          Now when I was a kid I’d ride a train
          That took me up to school and home again
          At the end of school aboard that train, our only joy would reign
          As down the grades the wheels would keep on saying
          They’d say yes I can, yes I can, (repeated)
          And they’d say yes I can, yes I can, (repeated)


          Now somehow it just don’t seem the same
          They’re using diesel fuel to pull that train
          The old wood burners sitting down in a museum
          You don’t ride on ‘em, just go down and see ‘em
          Oh it’s sad to see them standing in a museum


    The final verse mourns the demise of the steam engine, a sentiment that those of us who used the trains completely empathise with. Such is progress. Perhaps the current generation of schoolboys will harbor similar nostalgia for diesels when they are in turn replaced by maglev (magnetic levitation) trains or whatever the prevailing technology is.

    * In addition to the video cassette, the music was released on an audio cassette entitled 'Roger Whittaker in Kenya - A Musical Safari' issued by Tembo Music Ltd 1982. Reference 8124 494. Info courtesy of Brod Purdy.
    There was also an LP issued called "Roger Whittaker in Kenya: A Musical Safari - Stereo 812.949-1. Released 1-1-1984.
    (Info courtesy of Malcolm McCrow)

    Soundclip (35 secs) of the chorus of “The Good Old E A R & H”.
    Press the Play button. It should play on your installed media player

    EAR 58 Class Garratt.                           Photo courtesy of Kevin Patience

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    Memories of the School Train from Kampala to Nairobi, 1956-1961
    Martin Langley relates his own account of the journey between home and school

    The train journey between Kampala and Nairobi took around 24 hours. There was a lot of emotion in those train trips between home and school, from the euphoric highs of homeward bound out of Nairobi to the depressing despondency of the schoolward journey from Kampala. It was a very testing time for the still raw emotions of an adolescent, from constraining the urge to burst into tears on the one hand to curbing excesses of jubilation on the other. Departing from Kampala in the rabble years was an early exercise in cultivating a good old British “stiff upper lip”, for one did not “blub” in public!!

    A few days before the impending departure for school, the old tin trunk was reluctantly dragged out and slowly filled with the coming term’s clothing, spare shoes, the ubiquitous “tackies” and other footware depending on the sport to be played. Mother would fuss around with her pen and bottle of black marking ink to make sure each item of clothing was labeled according to school regulations. Later the pen and ink gave way to a ball point pen device making things much easier, technology thus reaching the most mundane of chores. Then, like a condemned man’s final meal, there was the de rigeur visit to the local grocery store, affording us the bitter-sweet opportunity to select goodies for the tuck box. Sweetened condensed milk was probably the most prized and sought after delicacy (if one could call it such) at school. Baker’s brand custard creams were high on the list. Other favourites were jelly crystals, Marie and ginger biscuits, Smarties and other forms of chocolate and licquorice. Many were the ways to eat a custard cream, including separating the two halves and eating the bottom half (with filling) last to heighten the enjoyment of the sweet sensation. In Kampala when we lived on Kololo Hill we used Kololo Grocers, the local Asian owned duka, for tuck box requirements. Later we moved to Kyadondo Road near town and shopped at Souza Figureido’s in downtown Kampala, a relatively upmarket grocery, sort of a tropical mini version of Harrods food store. Mr. Figureido, a portly and jolly fellow of Goan descent ran an orderly and efficient emporium, which was popular with the colonials. Kampala boys will remember these and other well known stores such as Draper’s, Men’s Wear and D.L.Patel Press. My Dad used to joke “men swear at Men’s Wear” where he had his uniforms made.

    The train typically departed Kampala station around 3 or 4pm and the morning was spent getting everything together so that by noon when Dad came home from the office for his lunch, we were usually ready. Lunch on departure day was eaten in relative silence, then it was a real lump-in-the-throat “kwaheri” to the cheerful domestic help who were such a big part of our young lives and it was into the Ford Zephyr for the ride to the station. Kampala was such a pretty town in the late fifties, very tidy and well maintained by the PWD (Public Works Dept). Traffic roundabouts, parks and median strips typically had well manicured grass and masses of flowering shrubs and other plants. Bougainvillea, frangipani, hydrangea and hibiscus were ubiquitous and everything was always green in keeping with the tropical climate. It was no wonder that Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa; it was beautiful. As the commercial capital of Uganda, it was quite a bustling town, small compared to Nairobi or Dar es Salaam but full of life. Busy road junctions in Kampala typically had a dais in the middle of the intersection upon which a traffic policeman stood to direct traffic with his white cuffed arms and his referees whistle blowing energetically. The native Uganda policeman with his tall navy blue tassled fez adding to his height, was quite statuesque and always very well turned out, with navy blue cummerbund, shiny black boots and smart starched uniform – us kids were very impressed by them. Some of the policemen on traffic duty put on quite a show with dramatic arm movements and gestures, like a marionette, but they were very effective. Around 1957 the first automatic traffic lights were installed in Kampala, and that caused quite a stir, with the local populace gathering around to watch them change colour. However, everyone adjusted to them very quickly and they soon became passé.

    At the station, the train would usually be there waiting and then came a process of anxious scurrying up and down carriage corridors looking for an empty “comparty” or seeking compatible friends with whom to share. In the late 50s, Kampala boys included the Palin brothers, Mike Pickett, John Quinnell, the Stanley twins, Harry Brice, the Dokelmans, Tim Saben (whose mother was a one time mayor of Kampala), Keith McAdam, Colin Townsend and many others. Already on the train would be one or two boys from the Kilembe copper mines in the foothills of the Ruwenzoris 12 hours west; Winston Shaer was one such boy.

    The Railway Station in Kampala around 1960
    Courtesy Malcolm McCrow, http://www.mccrow.org.uk/EastAfrica/Uganda/Kampala.htm

    The Kampala Railway Station was a typically solid colonial structure of brown sandstone. While not particularly inspiring from an architectural standpoint it was very functional and for those of us who used it, it had (and still has) a special place in our hearts.

    Soon we’d all be on board, hanging out of the windows and waiting for the conductor’s whistle and the shout of “stand clear of the train” signaling the train’s imminent departure. Finally the conductor would give a final blow on his whistle and wave the green flag. The Garratt loco would give a toot and slowly with much chuffing and clanking, as the slack between carriages was taken up, the train would pull out of the station. I’d gaze back at the diminishing sight of my mother, younger brother and sister thinking (of my siblings) “you lucky so and so’s, you’re staying home while I’m off to bloody boarding school”!! Eventually of course bro and sis would also have to endure the misery of the school train to Kenya. As the train trundled through Kampala and suburbs, one would gaze longingly at familiar landmarks as they slowly passed by. One such was the level crossing on the Port Bell road, down which was the Silver Springs Hotel, the location of one of the few swimming pools in town where it was a real treat to be taken for a “goof” (swim) on a hot day. The hotel, not far from Port Bell on Lake Victoria was built to house over-night passengers on the flying boat service from S. Africa to the UK in the 1930s.

    In just over an hour, the train would cross the Nile over the Ripon Falls, just before Uganda’s second biggest town, Jinja, home to the Owen Falls dam and the Madhvani sugar works.

    A School Train approaching Jinja Bridge in 1960 - hauled by a 60 Class
    Courtesy of Malcolm McCrow, http://www.mccrow.org.uk/EastAfrica/Uganda/Kampala.htm

    After Jinja, as night fell, the dulcet tones of the xylophone would echo down the corridors of the train summoning all to dinner in the dining car. The food was served on those solid EAR&H plates that looked like they would survive a tank going over them. Typical menu items included soup of one kind or another, roast beef with gravy and potatos and finished off with a sponge cake and custard for desert. After dinner the train would hit Tororo on the Uganda border, home of the Tororo cement works, in the shadow of the Gibraltar rock lookalike, the Tororo rock. The last of the Uganda boys would get on at Tororo.

    That night on the train away from home was a weird state of limbo where you were neither at home nor at school. It was a time for reflection, as in the quiet darkness, the train trundled onward, swaying to the almost metronomic clickety-clack of the wheels over the rails. From time to time it would stop to take on water or fuel at small sidings or stations in the middle of the night, miles from anywhere. Though the hard green bunks were barely comfortable enough for sleep if you wanted to, invariably the jolting of the train as it came to a stop would awaken one. The silence and the stillness of the African night, as anyone who has lived in Africa knows, is in itself an experience. Apart from the occasional sound associated with the running of a railway, such as hissing steam or the tapping of carriage wheels, the African bush was deadly silent, with only the chirping of insects and the odd animal noise emanating therefrom. On sticking your head out of the window you would be greeted with that clean, fresh bush smell that was even more pervasive after a rain shower.

    A 57 class Garratt, typical of the loco that would have hauled school trains from Kampala. The 58 & 60 classes were also used. The 59 class was too heavy for the Uganda line. Photo courtesy of Kevin Patience

    EAR 1961 route map - Kasese – Kampala - Nairobi.       Courtesy of Malcolm McCrow
    And who can forget the smell inside the train! A wine buff might describe it thus: a preponderance of burnt hydrocarbon and heavy machinery with overtones of old tobacco, dark green leather, human essence and freshly turned earth. Hints of culinary concoctions occasionally assail the senses and all combine to leave a lingering, distinctive and slightly acridic aftertaste.

    One hated the night to be over because when it was, you knew you were over the border into Kenya and drawing ever closer to school and all the uncertainties of the coming term. In the early days, as a rabble you tended to stay put in your compartment. To venture out was to risk crossing the path of a senior who could summarily “invite” you to a compartment full of leering peers for initiation ceremonies. On passing, you averted your gaze and tried not to look him in the eye, for to do so might be construed as insolence and merit unwelcome attention. I once witnessed a scared and pale rabble being made to eat a cigarette (yes, eat, not smoke). His pallor went from white to green as he chewed on the tobacco, his mouth opening between chews to reveal a revolting khaki slime. Fortunately, I would say that most seniors were above tormenting junior boys, but there was always the sadistic or immature minority, perhaps newly ascended to the rank of senior, who reveled in their new found power. One respected those senior boys that did not indulge in that sort of thing.

    A feature of the Kampala-Nairobi train trip was the huge altitude changes encountered en route: from the approximate 4,000 ft elevation of Kampala to a little over 9,100 ft at Summit down to the floor of the Rift Valley at about 6,200 ft then up the Eastern Escarpment to 7,800 ft then down to Nairobi at about 5,400 ft. Those changes in elevation resulted in some spectacular vistas from the train window along the way!

    Graph (modified) courtesy of Kevin Patience from his book “Steam Twilight”

    With Tororo and Uganda now behind us, the train begins the hard slog up the Kenya highlands and you can hear the Garratt labouring as it hauls its heavy load up the steep inclines. Familiar names drift slowly by, Broderick Falls, Turbo are a couple that come to mind, as the train chugs up the grade. The air becomes ever more crisp and clean as altitude is gained. In the dark early hours of the morning the train reaches Eldoret, also known as “64”. The origin of 64 is explained in “Pioneers' Scrapbook. Reminiscences of Kenya 1890 to 1968”. “When Government surveyors pegged out blocks of land for which settlers could apply, each future farm received a number. Number 64, on the Sosiani River, was leased to Willie van Aardt. He found it unsuitable for farming, so it was selected as the site of a Post Office, opened in 1910. Telegrams went by heliograph to Kapsabet, the nearest point where there was a telegraph line. This township in embryo was known as '64' until officially named Eldoret in 1912 by the Governor. By then the European population of the Plateau had grown to 153 males, 96 females and 236 children, half of these under ten.” Another version says it was so called because it was 64 miles from the newly built Uganda Railway railhead at Kibigori. Either way, there would be many sleepy mutterings of “yurra yong” by those awake, in recognition of the town’s “kaburu” (South African) settlers. Many of the descendants of those settlers attended school in Nairobi and boarded the train at Eldoret.

    'Eldoret was also the junction for the short Kitale branch line, from the north, which joined the main line one station west of Eldoret at Leseru; kids for the Hill School were woken at Leseru to get dressed prior to arrival at Eldoret. There would be a number of boys from the Kitale region joining the train at this stop such as Brod Purdy (whose story appeared earlier) and others, who would bang loudly on compartment doors seeking a berth. Because of the noise generated by activity at Eldoret station, most passengers would be half awake as the train left the station and passed the Highlands girls school just outside the town. Some of the girls would break bounds to see the train swing by in the hopes of glimpsing a sweetheart or brother waving from the windows. In the early morning light you could see the girls, evident by their squeals and shrieks, waving frantically. Typically there would be maybe half a dozen brave (or foolhardy!) girls just below the embankment that the train was passing over. Breaking bounds to greet the train was strictly forbidden and penalty if caught was gating for the term and in the case of one girl, demotion from prefect. In the same situation at the POW, the penalty would doubtless have been six of the best from Flakey!

    After Eldoret the train would continue on its upward trek, and soon that evocative bong bong of the xylophone would announce breakfast in the dining car. Next stop of significance would be Timboroa, at 9,001ft, the then highest railway station in the British commonwealth. While the Garratt watered up, a stroll along the platform in the bracing clean air was efficacious and refreshing after the long night. Usually sunny but often misty and chilly, Timboroa seemed an almost deserted little outpost with few people around except railway personnel, passengers and the ubiquitous young hawkers from nearby villages peddling their wares. “Plerms, ahplez, biskwits” (plums, apples, biscuits) they would sing out in their quaintly accented English. Ron Bullock relates an incident with a hawker. “We were at Timboroa I believe - wherever the station with the dining room was anyway. It was dark, I suppose 9-ish. The engine was making those whooshing sounds as resting engines will. The platform was quite lively and the local hawkers were particularly prominent. One fellow passed by our carriage with his mahindi and ndizi and cookies or whatever laid out on a tray held above his shoulder for clients to see in the gloaming that was all that passed for light. Someone - I used to know who it was but that memory is fortunately long lost - someone put a lighted squib on the tray, and of course the bearer had travelled some feet before it exploded. I will not try to relate the ensuing mixture of consternation among the occupants of the platform and mirth on the part of we few dastardly schoolboys. In more recent and calmer moments, I have sometimes wondered what this little prank cost of the vendor's meagre resources.”


    Photos courtesy of Malcolm McCrow

    Not long after Timboroa, a signpost would announce Summit, the highest point on the Kenya-Uganda line at 9,136ft. The photo shows a pair of 50 class Garratts double heading a freight train passing Summit, heading for Nakuru.

Having passed Summit, after crossing the Equator, the train would pick up speed as it headed down the escarpment towards Nakuru on the floor of the Rift Valley. The beat of the locomotive would change and the chimney note would go from laboured individual choof-choofs to a muffled but exhilarating staccato as it sped down the inclines. At this stage, it was an easy canter for the powerful Garratt. When lightly loaded, a passenger train headed by a Garratt would get up to speed pretty quickly, as evidenced by this sound clip of a South African Railways GMA Garratt 3 pulling out of a station. Note the typical Garratt double beat of the stack, clanking and chuffing as she gathers speed, reminiscent of an EAR Garratt descending from Summit, so crank up the volume and have a listen.

Soundclip (53 secs) of a Garratt pulling out of a station.
Press the Play button. It should play on your installed media player
Poking one’s head out of the carriage window into the 25-40* mph slipstream was an invitation to get pinged by a speck of soot. At times, a smut would find its way into one’s eye, a very uncomfortable even painful experience. We all have our favourite memories of the school train, little incidents that stick in the mind. Mine was cruising down from Summit toward Rongai the last big station before the important junction of Nakuru, where the Kisumu line joined the mainline. The sky was blue the sun was shining and the train was loping along at an easy canter. Someone in the compartment had brought in a wind-up gramophone and a Doris Day record was on the turntable. “Take me back to the black hills, the black hills of Dakota” she was crooning in that mellifluous voice of hers. And I remember sitting there thinking gloomily “bugger the black hills of Dakota, take me back to the green hills, the green hills of Kampala!” To this day, hearing Doris Day, reminds me of the school train.
* Author's note- From memory, I estimated that the train cruised at 45-50mph (downhill) but Malcolm McCrow has advised that to his knowledge, the maximum speed permitted between Kampala and Nairobi was 40 mph at Naivasha and that the train normally travelled at between 25 and 30 mph. This is borne out by the 1962 EAR&H timetable where the scheduled total travel time for KLA-NBI was 23hr50min. After allowing for approximately 13 stops @ say 15min each, net travel time was 20hr35min resulting in an average speed of 28mph over the total distance of around 580 miles.

And so before you knew it the train would be pulling into Nakuru station, where a multitude of bronzed farmers and their schoolboy offspring would be thronging the platform. To this Uganda boy the Kenya farming types always seemed to be of sturdier stock than us city boys. While they were out there trying to eke out a living from the sometimes unyielding soil and having to deal with pest and pestilence, wild animals, sick animals, the weather and the vagaries of farm life in general, we were having to make life altering decisions such as “do I ride to town on the pushi or on the piki-pik?” The boys that got on in Nakuru were from the Nakuru area itself and from the Kisumu line that included the farmlands surrounding Lumbwa, Londiani, Kericho, Molo etc. The photo shows the new Nakuru station that was opened in 1957.

After Nakuru, there was Gilgil and Naivasha where a few more got on, then on we chugged across the floor of the Rift Valley and up the Eastern escarpment. Now we were really getting close to Nairobi and as the suburbs merged into the city, most boys were a picture of silent brooding, dreading the moment when the train would come to a shuddering halt. Typically there was a master there to meet us, like Johnny Riddell the PT master, trying hard to be jovial amid the gloomy faces. And so, into the bus or green school lorry we would pile, dragging our tin trunk, for the final silent ride to what seemed like jail and a long way from home.

A 60 class heading a passenger train rounds a bend, probably in the early or mid 1960s. Note the chimney shape, indicating a Giesl ejector has been fitted – see Appendix 4 for an explanation of this modification.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Patience


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The narrative so far has been from a passenger’s perspective, from behind the engine. But how do things look from the engine driver’s cab? An EAR engine driver’s story follows.

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Reminiscences of an EAR Garratt Engine Driver

Archie Morrow was an Irish railwayman who joined EAR in 1954. He ended up driving Garratts and posted his memoirs of those times on the website of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) in the Winter 1998/99 issue of their journal “Five Foot Three”. The title of his memoir, ‘Five Foot Three to Three Foot Three’ reflects the gauge of Ireland’s railways and that of East Africa. Sadly Archie Morrow passed away in 2004 and the following is reproduced with the kind permission of the Secretary of the RPSI

[Around 1951] I applied to the Crown Agents in London for a job as locomotive driver anywhere in the world. I received an application form from the East African Railways and Harbours in March 1954 and I was in Nairobi on my birthday, 24 July 1954.

Archie Morrow in 1954 shortly after arriving in Nairobi.
The picture was taken in front of pre-fab tin quarters that housed railway personnel.
His son Lawrence says the pre-fabs were extremely hot and that later the family moved
to flats beside the local sports ground. Ironically, had the Morrow family remained in Kenya
after independence, Lawrence was destined to attend the Prince of Wales School.
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Morrow

This was a Sunday and none of the railway offices were open and I was taken to be signed into the Railway Bachelors’ Quarters but we never got past the Railway Club. As a new Irish recruit, I was made very welcome and ended up the worse for drink and without lunch. I was told later that I had sung “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” - badly. At dinner that evening I think I was set up and given a very very hot curry but with the drink in me I didn’t turn a hair. Later that evening I went to bed and remember nothing until the next morning when I awoke to the words, “Chai B’wana”, and an African face looking through the mosquito net. For a few minutes I thought I was Sanders of the River!

I attended Nairobi Locomotive Training School to learn about the Westinghouse brake which was used in Kenya because vacuum is difficult to create at high altitudes. After passing the Westinghouse brake test I was transferred to Nakuru which is the capital of the Rift Valley province of Kenya. The Great Rift Valley is an earth fault that runs throughout East Africa from the Red Sea to Malawi and is believed to be the place where man began to walk upright. [In Archie’s case this probably took place some time on the Monday. – RPSI Ed] Nakuru is just south of the Equator and in the Rift Valley but, at an altitude of just over 6000 feet, has a wonderful climate.

Nakuru shed was quite modern steam-wise, servicing a large fleet of rigid and articulated oil-burning locomotives and having a drop pit, wheel lathe and machine shop. It supplied motive power to work Nakuru - Nairobi - Mombasa, ruling grade 1.5%; Nakuru to Kisumu, ruling grade 2%; Nakuru to Eldoret, ruling grade 1.5% plus the Gilgil to Thompson Falls and Rongai to Lake Solai branch lines. (2% = 1 in 50 in old money). After learning routes and being passed by the Locomotive Inspecting Officer (LIO), I worked pick-ups for about three months. The shedmaster, Don Owens, called me to his office and gave me my first Garratt, No.5302, just out of Nairobi workshops after a heavy overhaul. Did I feel some kid?!

Nakuru shed in Archie Morrow's time.
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Morrow

A picture of Archie Morrow’s Garratt, No.5302 was found on the web -

Archie Morrow’s first Garratt, East African Railways #5302. (Chris Greville collection).
This engine was a GA (later 53) Class Garratt delivered to Tanganyika Railways in 1939.

My first trip on 5302 was a night freight to Eldoret, returning to Nakuru after rest the following night with another freight. As we were about to leave, three LIOs (Locomotive Inspecting Officer) appeared out of the gloom and asked me not to rock the boat as they would be sleeping in two coaches at the rear of the train. One of them, as an afterthought, said, “Driver, if you have any problems do not hesitate to wake us”. The trip was uneventful until we were approaching Visoi where the signal was at danger. The signal dropped and I released the brake and proceeded to enter the station. As we passed over the points, to my horror, I could see the pointsman turning points under the boiler unit of the Garratt. I slammed on the emergency brake, thinking that the LIOs would now be tossed out of bed and far from pleased. The train stopped with the front unit of the engine on the main line and the rear one entering the crossing loop. That was my introduction to Garratt working! Fortunately, the incident was held to be not my fault and I received a commendation for stopping quickly.

I had 5302 for about nine months without any more problems. In late 1955 Nakuru shed received an allocation of new 60 class Garratts. They ran like sewing machines. Some wag of a driver said,” The working class can kiss my *** I’ve got a 60 class at last!” I received No.6018 “Sir Charles Dundas”, all this class being named after colonial governors.

One trip I will always remember was when coming back from Kisumu with a mixed train. On a 2% upgrade between Fort Ternan and Lumbwa we ran into a swarm of locusts and slipped to a standstill. The cab was swarming with them and they were frying on the smokebox and hot pipes. Luckily some shrubbery was growing close to the line and we had a panga (African knife) on board. The fireman and I cut some heavy branches with plenty of leaves and pleated them into the cowcatcher so that they brushed the rails. Still slipping, we got away and arrived in Lumbwa one hour down. My fireman was very partial to fried locust and had an excellent lunch, indeed I had trouble keeping him in the cab as he kept making trips to the smokebox to harvest the best cooked specimens. I tried a few but my palate would not accept them.

In 1956 there was a very bad runaway between Lumbwa and Fort Ternan. A double-headed heavy freight with a 57 class Garratt and a 29 class 2-8-2 locomotive left Lumbwa and gained speed very rapidly on the 2% downgrade. In the brake van at the rear the guard panicked and applied the emergency brake which jammed. The driver then had no way of building up air pressure in the train pipe and the train, by then out of control, derailed between Fort Ternan and Koru, killing one Sikh driver, two African firemen and one African guard. Bill Ewart, the driver of 5702, lost a leg and was eventually sent home. I had home leave in 1957 and visited him in Glasgow. He died a few years later.

I worked the breakdown train with a 75-ton crane on this accident with very little rest for over two weeks, although my overtime was substantial. After this accident no driver was allowed to take charge of a train on a 2% grade without at least two years experience on the Westinghouse brake. Fortunately, by this time I had qualified.

At this point, a few words on the Westinghouse Automatic brake might be appropriate. It is operated by compressed air which on the EAR&H was furnished by two Westinghouse compressors controlled by a steam governor to 100 psi. and stored in the locomotive’s main reservoirs. This air is then fed to the train pipe and auxiliary reservoirs on each vehicle in the train through the driver’s brake valve at 80 psi. The air to each vehicle is controlled by a quick acting triple valve and the brakes remain off as long as train pipe pressure is held at 80 psi. Any reduction of train pipe pressure from whatever source e.g. driver’s brake valve, guard’s emergency valve, burst flexible hose or passenger communication cord being pulled activates the triple valves and allows compressed air from the auxiliary reservoirs into the brake cylinders at a rate proportional to the severity of reduction of the train pipe pressure - hence the term “Automatic”. On the long severe continuous down grades on the EAR&H e.g. Timboroa to Rongai (around 60 miles of 1.5% down grade) it was imperative that the train pipe and auxiliary reservoirs were recharged at regular intervals and this could only be done when the driver’s brake valve was in the full release position. During this vulnerable period speed would have increased rapidly and the driver had to use Retainers to maintain control.

On every vehicle on the Kenyan section of the EAR&H the brakes were released through a valve at waist height. When closed, this retainer valve held compressed air in the brake cylinders at 15 psi and exerted a continuous braking effect. This was a more modern version of the procedure of pinning down wagon brakes which used to be practised in the British Isles. Sections of track where retainers were required were indicated by a “R” board at which it was compulsory to stop. The driver then had to decide, after taking into consideration the weight of the train and how effective the brakes had been so far, how many retainer valves he should instruct the fireman to close.

The building of the Kenya Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Kisumu must rank high in the top ten great railway building engineering achievements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Nakuru to Kisumu section being the most difficult with its innumerable steel viaducts over deep chasms and valleys and still keeping to a 2% ruling grade. A great friend of Jane and I in Nakuru was Florence Preston, widow of R.0. Preston, the working engineer who was in charge all the way from Mombasa. Florence had the privilege of driving the mythical Golden Spike when the railway reached Kisumu on 20 December 1901. [Editor’s note: The terminal of the Uganda railway was originally named for Florence Preston viz Port Florence. At the time the Uganda border followed the Rift Valley.]

The Kisumu line started off from Nakuru at an altitude of just over 6000 feet and climbed to Mau Summit at 8700 feet, all 2% upgrade for about 45 miles. Then it was 2% downgrade all the way for about 60 miles to Koru, at an altitude of 4000 feet. After that it was more or less level through the Nyanza sugar fields to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria at an altitude of 3700 feet. Kisumu is the capital of the Nyanza province of Kenya and has the highest dockyard in the world.

In the early part of the century this area was classed as a white man’s grave. Fortunately, when I started to work to Kisumu health conditions had improved immensely. After the rains - and Kisumu got a lot - the grass grew fast and lush. This encouraged the hippopotami of Lake Victoria to come out at night and graze on the grass that grew between the engine shed and Hippo Point. Sometimes I thought that all the cars in Kisumu were there to shine their headlights across this grassy meadow. We drivers and firemen had the problem of getting from the engine shed to the running room without getting between a hippo and the water. Statistically, there are more humans killed by hippos than by any other wild animal in Africa, just because they got between the hippos and the water.

I have lots of fond memories of driving on the Kisumu line but two stand out and are worth recording. One was descending from Mau Summit at night and from a distance seeing an electrical storm over Lake Victoria, a sight I am sure only railwaymen or insomniacs enjoyed. Another one was coming back from Kisumu on the long 2% climb from Koru to Mau Summit when African children of all ages would run out of their huts and do a tribal dance to the rhythm and song of a Beyer-Garratt locomotive with a full load.

In 1957, after coming back from home leave, I was transferred to Eldoret due to a housing shortage in Nakuru. I was there for nine months, learning the road and on caboose workings to Kampala in Uganda. The line between Tororo and Kampala had been built in the 1930s when money was scarce and was momentum graded. This meant that trains were loaded for a 1.5% grade but had to negotiate dips in the line which were graded at 2%. How this was managed was by running fast enough into the dip to gain sufficient momentum to get out of it again. This was not a job for the faint-hearted and one Eldoret driver had such problems as to clock up a record 28 days pay fines in one month. The Chief Mechanical Engineer was in a quandary as if he sacked him he would have to pay his fare back to the UK. The problem was solved by promoting him to Locomotive Inspecting Officer where he could do no more harm. I believe he was the one who told me to wake him if I had any problems on my 5302 incident.

In the late fifties and early sixties some 59 class Garratts were allocated to Nakuru shed. There were thirty-four in the class, the last and largest Garratts ever built, with a tractive effort of 83,350 lbs., an overall length of almost 105 feet and a weight in working order of 252 tons. They were named after the mountains of East Africa.

The Nakuru allocation was to work a daily heavy freight to Mombasa, a four day round trip which meant caboose working with two crews for each locomotive, one working and one sleeping, changing over at eight-hour intervals.

Three incidents worthy of note happened to me when on this run. One morning after leaving Voi at first light my fireman drew my attention to a herd of elephants running along his side of the train and they appeared to be gaining on us. By regulating my speed I was able to keep them alongside for about a mile, a sight I will never forget. Voi is in the Tsavo Game Park and is the junction for Moshi and Arusha in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro which, at 19,340 feet, is the highest mountain in Africa. Despite this, the first of the 59 class was not named after it as one might have expected, that honour going to Mount Kenya, appropriately enough I suppose. The class as a whole seemed to be named in a random manner.

On another trip coming back from Mombasa with Garratt No.5923 “Mount Longonot” we hit and killed a giraffe. There was an African village nearby and the kill had been seen so I knew the giraffe would soon disappear. At the next crossing point I had a clear line and decided not to report it as I did not want to be delayed there after four days away from home. On examination of the locomotive at Nakuru I found a dent high up on the streamlining of the front tank where the giraffe’s head had whiplashed. I still said nothing about it and several months later I heard someone wonder how a dent could get up there!

One Up and Two Down were the upper class express passenger trains that ran daily between Mombasa and Nairobi, both leaving at 1800 and arriving at 0800 after crossing halfway. These two trains were worked by the six senior drivers at Nairobi shed. On one occasion, due to a derailment, Two Down did not arrive in Mombasa in time for the engine to work One Up and we were called in to fill the breach. I felt quite chuffed the next morning rolling into Nairobi on time with thirty five coaches on my drawbar and no complaints of passengers having been thrown out of bed or diners having hot soup in their laps.

Archie Morrow’s second Garratt, #5402. The caption to the original photo reads “KUR class
EC4 4-8-2+2-8-4 EAR No 5402 the last in service, with the down mail at Limuru station”

Photo from “Steam Locomotives of the East African Railways” by R.Ramaer

The 54 class Garratts had been built to a War Department order for service in countries involved in the war effort and seven were delivered to Kenya in 1944. They were an extremely powerful engine with a tractive effort of 58260 lbs., but were lightly built, needing a lot of maintenance and could not stand up to being pooled. They were allocated to Nakuru in 1960 to work heavy freight between there and Eldoret and were given regular drivers. Mine was No.5402 and, after getting some lubrication problems sorted out, we were a dream team.

5402 takes on water. Note the orange/yellow fire burning in the belly of the beast!
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Morrow

The Eldoret line was very interesting to work, having a spiral crossing on the Equator so that on each round trip we crossed the Equator six times. Also, at 9136 feet, the summit at Timboroa was the highest point on any railway in the British Empire. Now that there is no longer an Empire that statistic may have to be revised! Snow fell there quite regularly and it was very cold and foggy at night. Below the Equator line at about 8000 feet bamboo grew profusely and was home to Colobus monkeys, black leopard and flocks of guinea fowl which we saw quite often. One Afrikaner driver carried a catapult on the footplate to kill guinea fowl for the pot. 5402 was the engine I was driving when I finished on East African Railways and I was sorry to hear she was scrapped in 1966.

When we left Kenya in 1964 the East African Railways and Harbours was one of the most profitable and efficiently managed railways in the world. Sadly, the last report I had from Kenya, at Christmas 1997, was that the railway administration were unable to pay staff in full.

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Archie Morrow’s office window. View from the footplate of an EAR Garratt. Archie would have gone through the same departure routine as driver P Kleynhans in the SPEAR article on the right.  
All officials on the “Two Down” from Mombasa to Nairobi were interviewed for a 1961 KBS4 feature prior to departure. Here is the driver’s account. Could this have been the same Afrikaner driver5 that Archie Morrow claims carried a catapult on the footplate to shoot guinea fowl?

Source: Picture and article from August 1961 issue of SPEAR, the EAR&H magazine

Engine driver Archie Morrow (right) in later life. He is seen chatting to Michael Palin
of TV’s Monty Python fame during a visit to Ireland by the latter.
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Morrow

    Royal train bearing TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester approaching Matathia station in the Kenya Highlands, 1950. Photo issued by East African Railways & Harbours.
    Courtesy of Christopher Collier-Wright


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    The Garratt Locomotive in EAR Service

    From 1926 through Kenya’s independence, the mainline locomotive on trunk routes in East Africa was the Garratt, and school trains likely as not were hauled by a Garratt. It was a mighty engine and around 129 Garratts of all classes were delivered to East Africa between 1926 and 1956.

    Christopher Collier-Wright relates how the Garratt and another articulated locomotive, the Italian Mallet, proved ideal for eastern Africa’s unique geophysical conditions.

    “The steep gradients which characterize the railways of the mountainous regions of Eastern Africa led to a requirement for steam locomotives of unusual design. Probably the most dramatic of these lines is the Eritrean Railway which, in just over 65 miles, climbs from Massawa on the Red Sea to Asmara at an altitude of over 7000 feet. The line features a narrow gauge of 95 cm., gradients as steep as 1 in 29, and very tight curves.

    A Mallet locomotive rounds a bend on an Eritrean escarpment
    Photo courtesy of Jennie Street, via Christopher Collier-Wright

    The locomotives used on this line were, and still are, Mallet compounds built by Ansaldo in Italy between 1915 and 1938. These small locomotives have a wheel configuration of 0-4-4-0, signifying that they have two sets of four driving wheels, each on their own bogey, enabling the forward bogey to swivel independently and allowing all the wheels to be flanged and to remain in contact with the rails on the tightest bends. The trains that they haul are very short (not more than 6 wagons), and the absence of air pressure braking means that two brakesmen are required for every three wagons.

    Conditions on the East African Railways system are rather less extreme. The gauge is wider (1 meter), the gradients less steep (not in excess of 1 in 50), and the curves considerably more gradual. Trains are of the same length as one would expect to find in Europe, and air pressure braking is standard. None the less, with lengthy climbs and high altitude working (up to 9136 feet, near Timboroa) and the necessity to carry a large quantity of water due to the distances between water supplies, standard types of steam locomotive proved less than adequate for heavy trains.
    Note: The one meter gauge (3ft 3ins) adopted in East Africa was a direct result of using workers and equipment from the railways of India where the gauge was also one meter. By way of contrast, South African and Rhodesian railways used a slightly wider gauge of 3ft 6ins.

    Accordingly, in 1926 an order for four articulated Garratt locomotives was placed with Beyer Peacock of Manchester by the Kenya & Uganda Railways. These locomotives had a wheel configuration of 4-8-2+2-8-4, indicating that they had two sets of 8 driving wheels. As Kevin Patience writes in “Steam Twilight” (1996), “they were basically two 4-8-2 locomotives back to back powered by a single boiler.” Patience continues “The increased tractive effort with a light axle loading proved extremely successful and resulted in orders for twenty more in 1928. The forward tank provided a large water reservoir and the after tank carried both water and fuel and it was important to keep the tanks relatively full to maintain traction. The locomotives were wood fired beyond Nairobi, but firing a wood burning Garratt appeared to be an exercise in futility especially when working a heavy gradient. Eucalyptus logs when thrown in the blazing firebox virtually exploded and the efforts of the firemen appeared to go straight up the chimney. Coal was reintroduced…” And indeed in 1948 all locomotives were converted to oil firing, with a consequent reduction in operating costs.

    Garratts of increasing size and power continued to be imported into East Africa until 1955/6, culminating in the vast 59 class locomotives which weighed 252 tons, had a length of 104 feet and a tractive effort of 83,350 lbs. However, their days were numbered. During the ‘60s, diesel locomotives started to be used on the main line and by 1980 the last steam engines were withdrawn from regular use. Fortunately, some have been preserved in the Nairobi Railway Museum and the occasional steam safari has been organized by Kevin Patience and other enthusiasts between Nairobi and Mombasa and out of Dar es Salaam on the Central Line in Tanzania.”

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    Arthur Beckenham, who worked for EAR from 1950-62, describes in his book “Wagon of Smoke” the day when the 59 class entered service. ‘Thursday 28 April 1955, although not specially commemorated, was a very significant day in the history of EAR&H. It was the day when the first of the new powerful 59 class Garratt locomotives went into service. The central Mechanical Workshops were working hard to put the locomotives into service as quickly as possible, and on this day, 5902, to be named “Ruwenzori Mountains” was ready for work. A number of us from Headquarters Building strolled the short distance across to Nairobi Shed to inspect the new giant, gleaming brightly in a coat of maroon, with copper and brass highly burnished. The size, especially of the boiler, amazed us.’ ..and.. ‘A new era had arrived. The previous difficult months of operating double-headed trains with 57 and 58 class Garratts (with double watering times and crossing delays) were over. Moreover, the congestion at Mombasa would once and for all be finally cleared.’

    Restored 59 Class Garratt in 2003.

    The massive size of a 59 Class Garratt can be gauged from the above photo, where the big driving wheels look almost as big as the man working on them.
    Both photos courtesy of Kevin Patience


    The detractors of Britain’s colonial legacy are legion, mainly centered in academia and the third world. For sure there were negatives, such as the sometime arrogance of colonial administrators, racism, land appropriations etc etc. But looking past the negatives there were tremendous success stories that benefited the entire community, one of which was East Africa’s railway system. Carved out of the bush at considerable cost and sacrifice, against loud vocal opposition, it opened up the East African territories in ways unforeseen by its advocates. As early as January 1928 the then Governor of Kenya, Sir Edward Grigg in a speech in Jinja, Uganda said, “The results of this railway project of thirty years ago have exceeded the wildest dreams of its originators” … and …” it has been responsible also for the fact that we have been able to prove and establish economic crops over a rich and fertile country, which until its advent had absolutely no external trade.”… and … “ Cotton, coffee, sisal, maize, wheat … without the Railway none of these valuable crops could have been established here for a day.” In 1902, the Mombasa-Kisumu line carried 73,000 passengers and by 1947, the number had grown to no less than 2,989,000; and from 13,000 tons of goods in 1902 to 1,818,000 tons in 1947.

    The railway was certainly the keystone of the commercial success and viability of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika in the colonial era. The EAR&H was a well run and profitable enterprise and you could depend on the trains and ferries on Lake Victoria and elsewhere. They mostly ran on time, were clean and reliable and service was excellent both on board and in all support activity. The EAR&H generated thousands of jobs throughout East Africa, from the lowly platform hawkers to station staff, to technical, commercial and material support and up through the ranks of management. Employment in EAR&H itself peaked in 1955 when total staff numbered 63,51812 of which 1,643(2.6%) were European, 5,580(8.8%) were Asian and 56,295(88.6%) were African.

    To have experienced first hand the last days of steam power as exemplified by the Garratt locomotive, was to leave memories and nostalgia akin to one’s first lover. To stand on a platform waiting for the school train and have a Garratt slowly trundle past was an awesome and unforgettable experience. Hissing steam, a deep throated chuffing from its chimney, it rumbles by, resplendent in its maroon uniform. A magnificent beast with a fire in its belly, the EAR Garratt locomotive!! The emotions stirred by a Garratt passing at close proximity were visceral, a sort of “son et lumiere” experience with heat, steam, smoke, vibration, clanking linkages and a heady odour of soot, grease and metal on metal thrown in for good measure. By comparison, a passing diesel locomotive is a comparatively pale manifestation of tractive power that elicits a muted emotional response.

    And so, with a tip o the hat to all who worked for the EAR&H for a job well done, and with the words of Roger Whittaker, we bid adieu to an era of long ago.

    Now when I was a kid I’d ride a train
    That took me to school and home again
    At the end of school aboard that train, our only joy would reign
    As down the grades the wheels would keep on saying (etc)

    Oh, the good old E A R & H would get me there on time
    Those mighty engines rolling down the line
    And no boy ever had a railway quite as fine as mine
    Oh the good old E A R & H, the good old E A R & H

    Appendix 1
    The Garratt Design Principle

    The Garratt was a compelling and charismatic engine, by far the most successful articulated locomotive. When adapted to narrow gauge railways, they were regarded as the true masters of mountainous terrain. Until Herbert Garratt invented the principle upon which they were based, locomotives had one set of driving wheels surmounted of course by the cab, boiler etc. However the wheels were mounted rigidly to the locomotive chassis, locked in the direction of travel and could therefore negotiate only shallow turns in the railway line. The Garratt however had two sets of driving wheels, one at each end of the boiler, each one hinged in a horizontal plane about a vertical axis (the vertical red lines in the diagram) and therefore able to negotiate much tighter bends than locomotives with a longer single set of driving wheels. It was essentially two steam engines powered by a single boiler. The Mallet, discussed by Christopher Collier-Wright in an earlier paragraph, though articulated, had a slightly different arrangement as shown below -

    Garratt – articulated bogies front and rear                       Mallet – articulated bogie front only
    (Illustrations from wikipedia.com)

    Advantages of the Garratt

    The principle advantages of the Garratt were as follows –
  • The boiler and firebox unit are slung between the two engine units. This frees the boiler and firebox from the size constraints imposed when they are placed over the frames and running gear, as in conventional designs and other articulateds, such as Mallets.
  • The boiler can also be shorter for the same heating area. This results in the smoke box end of the boiler being closer to the fire, resulting in more efficient heating compared to designs with longer boilers and the smoke box further from the fire.
  • When rounding curves, the cab & boiler unit move inward toward the center of curvature of the curve, this reducing centrifugal forces.
  • As the weight of the locomotive is spread over a greater distance and number of wheels than non articulated designs, the loading on the rails is lighter.

    Disadvantages of the Garratt

  • The major disadvantage of a Garratt (shared with all tank engines) is that the tractive weight reduces as the water is used from the front tank and coal/oil from the rear bunker. As the weight on the wheels reduces, slipping occurs. To reduce wheel slippage, a wagon containing water was attached behind the Garratt, and this practice also permitted the engine to operate over longer distances. The weight of the water in the locomotive's tank and weight of coal/oil in the bunker (necessary for the factor of adhesion) was predicted in advance, and this problem was not normally an operational issue.
  • Both power units are controlled by one regulator, thus if one power unit slipped, the steam to both was reduced as the driver tried to control the slip.
  • Should a Garratt stall in a narrow tunnel the crew could be trapped, since there was no route forward or backwards past the hot cylinders. A normal locomotive has hot cylinders at one end only, with an escape route at the other end.

    Who was Garratt?

    Herbert William Garratt, courtesy of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers©.
    Garratt was elected a full member of the I.Mech.E in 1902.

    Herbert William Garratt was born in London on June 8, 1864 and died in Richmond, Surrey on September 25, 1913. Described by Edgar Alcock6  as “a tall, bearded man, and he was not always strictly addicted to temperance”, Garratt’s contribution to the realisation of his invention was minimal. He apparently brought to the Beyer-Peacock works at Gorton, Lancashire only the basic idea illustrated with rough sketches. A young designer by name Sam Jackson6 is credited with developing Garratt’s ideas to fruition.

    Garratt served an apprenticeship from 1879-1882 under J. C. Park at the Bow Works of the North London Railway followed by experience at Doxford's marine engineering works in Sunderland. Following work as an inspector for Sir Charles Fox and Sir Alexander Rendel, Garratt went in 1889 to the Argentine Central Railway where he became Locomotive Superintendent in 1892. Between 1900 and 1906 he worked for railways in Cuba , Lagos and Lima (Peru) and for the New South Wales Government Railways. Garratt was elected to membership of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1902.

    He returned to Britain in 1906 in order to inspect rail-mounted artillery on behalf of the New South Wales Government and this led him to Beyer-Peacock to discuss methods of mounting heavy artillery on railway bogies. From this, his inventiveness led to his design for an articulated locomotive, which was rejected by Kitson & Co. but taken up by Beyer-Peacock. Garratt patented his design on July 26, 1907 and this key patent was subsequently extended to January 26, 1928.

    The photograph shows Garratt (left) in Lagos. The caption reads “H.W.Grratt and some of his staff
    pose proudly by the Lagos Government Rly. Locomotive erected in record time in 1902.”
    Gavin Hamilton Collection

    Garratt's basic invention was developed into a usable locomotive design by the drawing office staff (notably, Sam Jackson) at Beyer-Peacock, which Garratt visited at that time for just a few hours each week. Beyer-Peacock's sales office secured an order for the first two Garratt engines from the Tasmanian Government Railways and these were delivered in 1909 (see TGR K Class). These were at the customer's insistence to a variant design in two respects, and this was not repeated in subsequent orders. The third locomotive, like the first two also an 0-4-0 + 0-4-0, was built for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and conformed more closely to the basic Garratt design. The next six built in 1911 were 2-6-0 + 0-6-2 Garratts for the West Australian railways and these were the first to result in repeat orders.

    When Herbert Garratt died in 1913, the potential of his design was still in the process of being recognised, and he therefore failed to see the great popularity that it achieved during the inter-war years. He did not make very much money out of royalties, though his widow was amply recompensed in the years after 1918 by the increasing number of orders at that time.
    (Ref http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_William_Garratt)

    K1, the world’s very first Garratt built in 1909         Source – Wikipedia

    A Timeline of William Herbert Garratt’s Life (Courtesy Gavin Hamilton)

    1864                8th June, born in London

    1879-1882    Apprentice, Bow Works, North London Railway 

                          William Doxford’s Marine Engine Works, Sunderland (Fitter) 

    1883              3rd/4th Engineer (marine) 

    1885              Douglas Fox (Inspecting Engineer – locomotives for Central Argentine Railway) 

    1886              Abergavenny (unknown reason) 

                          London & South Western Railway until early 1889 (with Vacuum Brake Co.) 

    1890–1897    Central Argentine Railway (C.A.R)

                          1894 Head draughtsman (temp C.A.R)

                          1896 District Locomotive Superintendent Pergamino

    1900              Locomotive Superintendent – Cuban Central Railways 

    1902              Lagos Government Railway  

    1904              Lima Railways (Peru) Resident Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent 

    1905                 returned to UK and assumed to be working on the original patent for the Garratt design

    ? – 1908        Inspecting Officer for New South Wales Government Railways 

    ? – 1912        Lived in Manchester until 1912 

    1913              25th September, died in Richmond aged 49

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    The Garratt was built by factories in England and all over the world, but EAR’s Garratts were built at the Gorton, Manchester works of Beyer-Peacock and were known as Beyer-Garratts to distinguish them from other manufacturers. Founded in 1854, Beyer-Peacock ceased operations in 1966.

    Carl Friedrich Beyer

    Early company letterhead

    Richard Peacock

    Appendix 2
    East African Railways. A Brief History


    The definitive and official history of the East African Railways is the mammoth tome by M.F.Hill entitled “Permanent Way” published in 1949. The book is out of print, is hard to find and is physically intimidating in its sheer size and weight. It is a mass of historical fact and statistics that would daunt anyone but the most ardent of scholars and is everything you would want to know about the history of the EAR and more. A more digestible history is Charles Miller’s “The Lunatic Express” published in 1971. Even Miller’s book takes 600 pages of small type to tell the epic tale though fully half of the book is a history of East Africa leading to the actual construction of the railway. A lighter, more entertaining read is Ronald Hardy’s “The Iron Snake” but it is hard to find. While beyond the scope of this article to give a detailed history, some historical background is germane to the subject at hand.

    The Uganda Railway, an Historical Timeline with Key Garratt Service Dates.

    1884  A concession is obtained that became the basis of the Association of British Merchants whose intention it was to build a railway in East Africa to develop the territory.

    1887  The Association of British Merchants becomes the Imperial British East Africa Company with Sir William Mackinnon as its chairman.

    1888  The IBEA is granted a charter.

    1890  The Brussels conference demarcates boundaries between British and German territories in East Africa. The same conference recognized that the slave trade could only effectively be suppressed by the construction of roads and railways. This and the importance of British interests in Uganda helped pave the way for the Uganda railway.

    1891  Capt McDonald of the Royal Engineers arrives in Mombasa and in ten months surveys 2,724 miles of possible routes the railway could take to Uganda.

    1892  March 4, Parliament votes £20,000 “as a Grant in Aid of the Cost of Preliminary Surveys for a Railway from the Coast to Lake Victoria Nyanza”.

    1895  In July, the charter of the IBEA is revoked after they decide to withdraw from Uganda, and the British government takes over the administration of East Africa. It was then that the decision to build a railway was taken.

    1895  In December, Mr (later Sir) George Whitehouse and an advance party arrives in Mombasa to begin the construction of the railway.

    1896  On 30th July, the London periodical “Truth” ridicules the railway in the famous poem by Labouchere the magazine’s editor.  There was much opposition to the railway which was considered by many to be senseless.  Labouchere summed it up nicely, succinctly questioning the point of it all.

    What it will cost no words can express;
    What is its object no brain can suppose;
    Where it will start from no one can guess;
    Where it is going to nobody knows.

    What is the use of it no one can conjecture;
    What it will carry there’s none can define;
    And in spite of George Curzon’s* superior lecture,
    It clearly is naught but a lunatic line.

    * George Curzon was Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

    1896  By the end of the year the railhead had reached Maria Kani at mile 22.

    1897  December - the railhead reaches Ndi just beyond Voi at mile 121.

    1898  No fewer than 28 Indian labourers lose their lives to lions in Tsavo.  The hunt for the lions is chronicled in Colonel Patterson’s book “The Man Eaters of Tsavo”.

    1899  May 31st, the railhead reaches Nairobi at mile 325. In July of that year Nairobi is established as the capital of the Kenya colony.

    1900  June – the railhead reaches mile 384, just short of Naivasha.

    1901  Dec 20th, the railhead reaches Port Florence (Kisumu) on Lake Victoria, 587miles from Mombasa.

    The original budget for the railway was £3,000,000 but by the time the railway was handed over, it cost the British taxpayer £5,317,000 which, together with the time taken to complete the task, led to severe criticism in the UK.  However its importance to those that could see it was succinctly put by Sir Charles Eliot, the first commissioner of the new East African Protectorate who said “It is not an uncommon thing for a line to open up a country, but this line literally created a country”.

    1926  The name of the railway was changed from the Uganda Railway to the Kenya and Uganda Railway.  Nyeri & Kitale branch lines opened.  The first Beyer-Garratt locomotives enter service.

    1929  Thomson’s Falls line opened

    1931  The line reaches Kampala

    1939  First ‘57’ Class Garratt locomotive in service

    1945  First two ‘55’ Class Garratts in service

    1948  KUR amalgamated with Tanganyika Railways to form East African Railways & Harbours.  Around this time, EAR started converting its wood and coal burning locomotives to run on oil.

    1949  First of eighteen ‘58’ Class Garratts in service

    1954  First of twenty nine ‘60’ Class Garratts in service

    1955  First of thirty four ‘59’ Class Garratts in service

    1960  The first English Electric ‘90’ Class diesel in service

    1965  Diesel replaces steam on Nairobi-Mombasa passenger service

    1968  ‘57’ Class Garratt withdrawn from service

    1969  EAR&H reorganized to become East African Railways Corporation

    1971  Railway museum established in Nairobi

    1973  ‘58’ Class Garratt withdrawn from service

    1976  ‘55’ Class Garratt withdrawn from service.  EARC dissolved when Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika formed their own railway organizations

    1980  ‘59’ Class Garratt withdrawn from service.  Locomotive ‘5918’ delivered to the railway museum in Nairobi

    1982  Steam locomotive name and number plates auctioned in Nairobi

    1993-95      Remaining derelict steam locomotives scrapped

    1996  Centenary celebrations.  Issue of commemorative stamps


    Goodbye Garratt, Hello Diesel!!!

    The very first English Electric diesel delivered to EAR in 1960, loco No. 9001 shown on the cover of the October 1960 issue of The East African Railways and Harbours Magazine.

    Appendix 3
    An Early Traveller’s Account of the Railway in 1905 & 1961 Route Maps

    In the Saturday August 8, 1908 issue of the New York Times, the book section introduced a travel book as follows. “In her book entitled "Some African Highways," Miss Caroline Kirkland describes a journey she and her mother made into Central Africa, starting from Mombasa, which is on the east coast of the Dark Continent, and a later journey from Mombasa to the Transvaal. …”

    The Kirklands began their journey in October 1905 on a steamer that took them from Naples to Mombasa. From there they took the train to Port Florence (Kisumu) and a steamer across Lake Victoria to Entebbe. From East Africa they were to continue to S. Africa, and then back again to East Africa before departing for home. Some excerpts from the book follow.

    Commentary as noted by Ron Bullock (RB).

    RB - It is nice to reflect that in our travels to and from school, we were the beneficiaries already of 50 years of progress on the railway. Among some early and articulate travelers were a couple of American ladies, whose account provides an interesting historical sketch of “our” railway in those early days. Since Caroline Kirkland’s account is available on-line, we venture to quote freely. We make no effort to temper the flavour of those times in so far as the outsider’s image of the “Dark Continent” and its presumed need for “light” are concerned, but the more stereotypical, even racist, aspects of the Victorian view of Africa which Caroline Kirkland reflects have been avoided.

    RB - Kirkland describes the coming of the Uganda railway, and its attraction for visitors, which many of us were privileged to experience, though in lesser degree, even fifty years later:

    The great moment in the history of East Africa and Uganda came when the Uganda Railway, begun in 1896, was completed and opened for traffic in 1903 7.  Then indeed was that part of the Dark Continent flooded with light. Of this as an engineering feat I am not competent to write, except to call attention to that part of the route when the train drops down the eastern lip to the floor of the great Rift Valley in an incredibly short space of time, which cannot fail to impress the veriest tyro in railway engineering. But from the point of view of the tourist I can say that it is probably the most wonderful and interesting railway journey in the world. Where else can you look from the car windows and see herds of zebras, gnus, and gazelles of many kinds grazing within easy gunshot? Where else can you behold wild ostriches teetering across the plains, and giraffes aux naturelles awkwardly scampering away, or hyenas tearing undisturbed at carrion left by some beast of prey? Or where will your train be arrested to hunt a lion crouched in plain sight not seventy feet away? Or from what other car windows will you see a lioness and four cubs loping peacefully by the track?

    RB - As a practical matter, the railway of course revolutionized transportation:

    Before that [completion of the railway] it was a three months' tramp by caravan trip to this part of the Dark Continent; a way heavy with dangers and discomforts. Everything was brought up on the heads or shoulders of African porters. This overland trip annihilated all differences in intrinsic values, making a bottle of beer cost as much as a bottle of champagne. Bulk and weight were the only considerations in fixing prices. Now the railway makes the five hundred and eighty-four miles to Victoria Nyanza in forty-six hours, while a steamer completes the remaining one hundred and seventy-five miles in one or two days, according to the weather.

    The railway is a metre-gauge road, the iron ties being imbedded in red clay, which latter sends up a fine, permeating dust. The road is none of the smoothest, nor are the car springs such as to minimize the rough jolting of the train. In fact, a favorite, though time-worn, jest out there is the assertion that the car wheels are square instead of round.

    The railway carriages are like those in use in India [see picture that follows]. They are divided into two lengthwise compartments opening at the ends, and separated from each other by a couple of triangular, little lavatories, where there is an abundant supply of water to remove the red dust. There are three windows on each side of the compartment, and about a foot outside of these a boarding drops half-way down from the roof to protect one from the glare, the cinders and any but a very lateral rain. Inside there are shutters that can be raised a little over half-way up so that one can shut out the night or day and yet have plenty of air. The finish of the cars is of the plainest, and each traveller carries his own bedding. But two people in one of these simple carriages can travel with more comfort and privacy than in one of our over-decorated, over-upholstered, over-heated Pullman sleepers—always excepting our compartment cars. The engines burn wood, which saves one from the irritating coal dust that annoys travellers in other lands, but, as the cinders sometimes blow in through open doors and burn holes in the hand luggage, a watch has to be kept. Each person carries his own bedding and towels, also a good supply of food to help out in case of not arriving in time at one of the dahk bungalows 8  where meals are served. The third-class carriages are built with the bare wooden seats set across the cars and are generally crowded with a chattering throng of Indians and Africans.

    The building of this road was one of the heroic achievements of engineering, the men who undertook it and carried it through running every kind of danger. Many white men are said to have been killed by lions, while a still larger number of the native workmen met similar deaths 9 . All along the way one still sees the arrow-proof structures, used for housing the workers, great windowless, corrugated iron shanties with protected roof-holes to let in light and let out smoke. Together with the dangers from visible and tangible wild animals and wilder tribes stalked the invisible and intangible danger from fever, which is still the constant menace in tropical Africa.

    Kirkland’s departure from Mombasa station:

    The sun blazed down ferociously on the railway station at Mombasa at the hour of our departure, 10.30 A.M. There was a seemingly inextricable confusion attendant on the setting out of this weekly train. Native porters rushed aimlessly about, shrieking, and reeking with perspiration. English officials, in pith helmets and khaki suits, shouted orders which no one seemed to carry out. The corrugated iron buildings and cement platforms radiated heat, so that it rose in vibrating waves, beating against our faces as we leaned out of the little car windows to watch the confusion and say last words to those of our steamer companions who were staying behind. At last, with a long, shrill toot, the engine started and we pulled out of the clamor and the crowd. We trundled slowly across the island, the whistle constantly screeching to shoo off the tracks the idly lounging natives who seemed to regard the rails as their boulevard. We steamed across the causeway connecting the island with the mainland, and after traveling some distance through thick groves of alternating palms and bananas we began to rise to the plateau, which at this part of East Africa comes near the coast. The dense foliage and plantations dropped below us, and gradually the beautiful panorama of the sea and land spread out beneath us, delighting us at every turn in our ascent with stretches of shimmering blue waters, fierce white coral sands and intensely green plantations.

    The air became fresher and sweeter as we ascended. In a few hours we entirely lost sight of the coast and devoted ourselves to the new and interesting country which lay on either side of the track. After passing through the dense tropical growth of the lower levels we reached a region of thorn-trees, whose cruel spikes must have made the way terrible to the road builders. Gradually mounting we came to the bare, rolling stretches of the Athi Plain. Here begins that wonderful spectacle besides which even the finest modem menagerie dwindles into a little side-show. From the train we saw hundreds of zebras grazing near the tracks, while the grotesque Thomson gazelles—called Tommies—flicked their funny bushy tails as they capered away. The gnus, or wildebeests, big, black, and humpbacked, were also numerous, though the hartebeest was most in evidence. An awkward, ugly creature he is, with a shambling, high-shouldered gait and a head like an elk's. Of the gazelles, the Grant gazelle is the prettiest, with his black and white striped sides, golden back, graceful head and long pointed horns. Giraffes are frequently to be seen, though we did not chance to get a glimpse this time of any. But wild ostriches amused us by their awkward seesawing gait as they ran from the train, balancing themselves by their wings. We saw some huge vultures, a few secretary birds, and many of the strange Kavirondo cranes, flashing black and white, with a dash of crimson. Our best bit of luck, however, was on the second day, when we had an excellent sight of a fine lioness, who, with her four cubs, loped away across a bare tract of land not a hundred feet from the train. Long, agile, dun-colored, she gazed at us over her shoulder with no surprise or resentment as she bounded slowly into the jungle, followed by her very plump offspring.

    RB - Caroline’s final reflections, on sailing away from Mombasa were heavy with that now Edwardian survival of the Victorian age, a pining for the success of the missionary enterprise; yet she was not without a certain insight:

    The sombre power of Africa to remain African in spite of European invasion is unmistakable. The white intruders do not look at home under the heavy mango-trees, or suitable to the landscape of palms and bananas. They may build their railroads and establish their families in the Dark Continent, but they continue to be aliens. They merely scratch the surface of Africa.

    There is much additional material in the Kirkland book that fascinates and resonates with those of us who lived in East Africa, particularly her account of life in Entebbe in 1905. Readers are referred to the ebook listed in the bibliography should they wish to delve deeper.

    Photo from “Steam Locomotives of the East African Railways” by R. Ramaer

    The picture above is of a B Class 2-6-0 locomotive, No 62, shown with its crew in the early 1900s. 36 B Class locomotives with 6 wheel tenders were supplied by Baldwin of Philadelphia in 1900 for use on the Uganda Railway. They were bought from America because in 1897-8 a strike in the British engineering industry paralysed all locomotive supplies to East Africa. The first main line locos on the UR were second hand British made N class 2-6-0s built by Neilson and brought over from India. But it is ironic that the Kirklands, being American, were in all probabality hauled by an American built engine!

    Finally, in the next picture we see an example of the 4 wheeled carriage used by the Kirklands and described in the second Kirkland extract in this Appendix. It is preserved in the railway museum in Nairobi.

    The plaque on the side of the carriage beneath “1st” reads -


    Photo courtesy of Christopher Collier-Wright.

    Early Uganda Railway tourist poster (circa 1905). From Hal Oliver.

    Another early Uganda Railway poster. From Hal Oliver.

    1930's Advertisement for the KUR&H

    Source: T.L. Hately and Hugh Copley, Angling in
    East Africa, With some Account of East African Fish. London, East Africa Ltd., 1933
    Supplied by Ron Bullock

    EAR&H 1961 Nairobi-Mombasa & Eastern Tanganyika Route Map

    EAR route maps courtesy of Malcolm McCrow

    EAR&H 1961 Western Tanganyika Route Map

    EAR route maps courtesy of Malcolm McCrow

    Appendix 4
    Some Interesting Garratt & Other Facts.

  • The technical development of EAR Garratts are summed up in the table that shows how they progressed from relatively small wood burning workhorses to oil fired giants capable of hauling a 1,200 ton train from Mombasa to Nairobi.


    1926 ‘EC’ Class

    1955 ‘59’ Class

    Locomotive weight

    125 tons

    252 tons

    Overall length


    122 ft 7 ins

    Overall height (from rail)


    13 ft 6 ins

    Coupled wheel diameter

    3 ft 7 ins

    4 ft 6 ins

    Max boiler diameter

    6 ft 0 ins

    7 ft 6 ins

    Boiler pressure

    170 psi

    225 psi

    Tractive effort

    40,260 lbs at 75% BP

    83,350 lbs at 85% BP

    Fuel type



    Fuel load

    6 tons

    2,700 gallons

    Water quantity

    4,250 gallons

    8,600 gallons





    As can be seen above, locomotive weight and tractive effort more than doubled between 1926 and 1955, spurred in large part by the second world war.

  • The increase in wheel size from the 3’7” of the earlier Garratts to the 4’6” of the ‘59’ class resulted in a reduction of wheel revolutions per mile of 20%. This in turn lead to a freer running, better balanced engine and a considerable reduction in maintenance cost. The 59s were not without teething problems but ultimately they proved reliable.
  • The need for the ‘59’ Class Garratt was driven by a huge backlog of freight after the second world war. It was used primarily between Nairobi and Mombasa which had a heavier rail, so called 80lb rail 10 , than west of Nairobi which used 50 lb rail.
  • The ‘59’ Class was the biggest and heaviest metre gauge Garratt ever built. According to R. Ramaer 11 ‘they were designed to haul 1,200 ton trains on 1.5% gradients and could do so at 14mph.’
  • The ‘59’ class were named after East Africa’s mountains, with the longest name plate being ‘Ruwenzori Mountains’. The shortest named EAR engine was a ‘30’ class (not a Garratt) named ‘Ha’ after a tribe in Tanzania.
    Ref Steam Twilight, by Kevin Patience
  • The largest steam engine built in Europe was a 4-8-2 + 2-8-4 Garratt for the Russian Railways. This weighed 262.5 tons in working order and produced 90,000 lb. tractive effort at 95% boiler pressure. It was built in 1932 with bar frames 5 ins thick, was 17ft 2ins high, and was tested in a temperature of -41 C, or 74 degrees of frost.
  • Though very popular in other parts of the world, the Garratt was never used in the North American continent. For technical reasons, the Mallet design proved better suited to N American conditions and they were used in large numbers in the USA.
    Ref http://mikes.railhistory.railfan.net/r095.html#3

  • Plans to produce Garratts even bigger than the ‘59’ class were shelved with the introduction of the “Giesl ejector”, invented by a Dr. Adolph Giesl-Gieslingen of Vienna. Traditionally, exhaust steam from the cylinders, was directed straight up through the smoke stack. The system was so arranged as to generate a draft (via tubes running through the boiler) in the firebox, thus causing the fire to burn hotter and faster. The exhaust outlet at the stack needed to be relatively small in order to generate the necessary draught. However, if the exhaust outlet at the stack was smaller than the exhaust outlet at the cylinders, back pressure would result that sapped power from the cylinder itself. Giesl’s invention improved exhaust flow from the cylinders to the stack thus minimizing the back pressure which in turn improved cylinder and therefore tractive efficiency. They were fitted to EAR’s locomotives in the early 1960s.

    The photo is from the August 1961 issue of SPEAR, the magazine of the EAR&H, and the caption reads “Cleaning the sides of a Giesl ejector on a ‘58’ class locomotive in the Nairobi sheds. The unit construction and blast pipe can be clearly seen.” Garratts equipped with the Giesl ejector had a trade mark oblong smoke stack which can be clearly seen in the photo.

    SPEAR further states “As an example of the increased power which is obtained by fitting a Giesl ejector, the load of the Mail Train between Nairobi and Eldoret can be increased by two coaches and the increased load can be hauled at the same speed. A very noticeable feature of the Giesl ejector is the quiet exhaust of the locomotive when compared with the noisy exhaust from a conventional locomotive.”

  • The ‘59’ class utilization averaged 5,000 miles per month with one loco topping 10,000 miles in a 30 day period, in what must have been some kind of endurance test. 5,000 miles is equivalent to approximately 8 Nairobi-Mombasa round trips.
    Ref August 1961 SPEAR
  • The thermal efficiency of the Garratt is estimated at around 6% - 7% (the author is open to argument on this!). In other words, the tractive energy available was only 7% of the energy (from the fuel) required to generate it. Put another way, 93% of the total heat energy from the fuel was lost through the chimney, surface heat dissipation, overcoming friction in bearings and linkages, steam leakage etc. It was not an efficient engine by modern standards, but it was state of the art at the time, and it did the job.
  • By way of contrast to the Garratt, a diesel locomotive has a thermal efficiency of around 30%, ie four times more efficient.
    Ref: http://exotic.railfan.net/dieselfaq.htm
  • There were in fact plans for a final development of the Garratt for EAR which never passed the blueprint stage. At about 18 ft longer and 120 tons heavier, it would have made even the ‘59’ class look decidedly small. Characteristics of the so called 61 Class were to be as follows -


    ‘59’ Class

    ‘61’ Class

    Locomotive weight

    252 tons

    372 tons

    Overall length

    104 ft 1 1/2  ins

    122 ft 7 ins*

    Overall height (from rail)

    13 ft 6 ins

    13 ft 6 ins

    Coupled wheel diameter

    4 ft 6 ins

    4 ft 9 ins

    Max boiler diameter

    7 ft 6 ins

    8 ft 6 ins

    Boiler pressure

    225 psi

    250 psi

    Tractive effort

    83,350 lbs at 85% BP

    115,000 lbs at 85% BP

    Fuel type



    Fuel load

    2,700 gallons

    3,400 gallons

    Water quantity

    8,600 gallons

    10,600 gallons


                                                                                                                     * Over buffers                                  

    An official EAR&H drawing below shows a 61 Class Garratt configuration (from ‘Steam Locomotives of East Africa’ by R.Ramaer).

    According to Ramaer, there were 3 design iterations and the final version, illustrated above, would have been designated ‘61’ class. The final design would have hauled an 1,800 ton train up a 1.5% grade at about 16mph. However, it would have been impractical as amongst other things it would have required longer sidings and bridge strengthening, all of which were not necessary for the diesel engines that were to succeed steam power.

  • The maroon colour of EAR locomotives was introduced during the 1950s and was known as TR-red. It was so called from its use by Tanganyika Railways in the early 1920’s, and adopted by EAR when TR and KUR were amalgamated in 1948. It is the same colour used by the Midland Railway in Britain, also known as Midland red, a crimson lake colour. The UR/KUR graphited all its engines, which resulted in a silvery grey finish. Before the 1948 amalgamation that resulted in EAR, some Garratts were painted black, mainly for special occasions such as royal visits.
    Ref R.Ramaer ‘Steam Locomotives of the East African Railways

    Appendix 5
    A Portfolio of East African Garratt Locomotives

    Courtesy of Gavin Hamilton http://users.powernet.co.uk/hamilton/source.html

    Kenya Uganda Railway class EC #41 (BP 6300/1926). Sold to Indo China in 1939.

    Kenya Uganda Railway class EC1 #66 (BP 6638/1930) later East African Railways 5102 it was withdrawn in 1954

    Kenya-Uganda Railway class EC2 - #68 (NBL 24071/1931) as East African Railways 5202. (Chris Greville collection)

    Kenya-Uganda Railway class EC3 #77 (BP 6905/1939) as East African Railways 5701. (Chris Greville collection)

    War Department Metre Gauge Standard Heavy Garratt #74419 (BP 7076/1943) which became Kenya-
    Uganda Railway class EC4 #90/101, shown as East African Railways 5402. (Chris Greville collection)

    War Department Standard Light Garratt #74233 (BP 7149/1945) was widely travelled,
    becoming Bengal Assam Railway #689, then Burma Railways #867/857 before crossing the
    Indian Ocean to finish up as East African Railways #5509. (Chris Greville collection)

    Kenya-Uganda Railway class EC6 #123 (BP 7281/1949) as East African Railways 5602.
    (Chris Greville collection)

    Kenya-Uganda Railway class EC3 #99 (BP 7300/1949) as East African Railways 5811.
    (Chris Greville collection)

    East African Railways class 60, 6002 (Franco-Belge Raismes 2984/1954, BP7655).
    (Chris Greville collection)

    The final incarnation of the East African Garratts, the 59 class

    East African Railways class 59, 5902 (BP 7633/1955). (Chris Greville collection)

    Restored 59 Class Garratt, 5918 Mount Gelai pride of the Nairobi Rail Museum.
    The familiar maroon dress will resonate with those of us who stood on station platforms in the fifties waiting for the school train. (Note the oblong smokestack indicating that it is fitted with a Giesl ejector)


    Steve Le Feuvre (Clive 1970-75), Webmaster and Secretary of the Old Cambrian Society (U.K. Branch), together with the editor of this feature Martin Langley (Nicholson 1956-61), gratefully acknowledge the kind cooperation and valuable assistance provided by:

    • Brian McIntosh the first to propose the idea and the primary motivator for this story. He contributed the Introduction and provided many editorial suggestions and comments. Without his prodding and encouragement, this feature might never have seen the light of cyberspace.
    • Christopher Collier-Wright & Angele for their hospitality. And for Christopher’s contributions to this article, editorial input and the loan of valuable material including the 1948 EAR&H report authored by his father.
    • Ron Bullock provided editorial input plus numerous tidbits about Garratt locomotives, school trains and the EAR&H. Ron also drew my attention to Caroline Kirkland’s 1905 account of her journey on the then new Uganda Railway presented in Appendix 3.
    • By osmosis, thanks to Roger Whittaker for permission to reproduce the lyrics of his song ‘The Good Old EAR&H’. I still hold hopes of a direct contribution from Roger, should he happen to read this!!!
    • Mick Houareau & Astrid of Port Noarlunga, S. Australia for their hospitality and for Mick’s account of his career with EAR&H. Mick’s collection of EAR&H magazines that I was able to look at were a wonderful source of Garratt related material.
    • Hal Oliver who provided the two early Uganda Railway posters.
    • Thanks to the many Old Cambrian contributors who provided photos and recollections of the school train via direct input or their website Alumnus entries. Of these I would single out Stan Bleazard for his evocative account of the train ride from Maji Mazuri, John Cook for his tale of how love (or lust?) stopped a train and Brod Purdy for his shenanigans in Eldoret.
    • Malcolm McCrow for permission to use photos from his fantastic website, a real pictorial treasure trove of scenes in E.Africa in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, especially the EAR&H and E. African Airways sections. Malcolm, who travelled on the school train from Kampala, also contributed an anecdote of his first day at the Duke of York school.
    • Kevin Patience, author, historian and authority on East African steam engines. Kevin contributed a number of fine Garratt photos and vetted this feature for technical accuracy.
    • Gavin Hamilton for permission to use the EAR Garratt pictures in Appendix 5 ‘A Portfolio of East Africa Garratt Locomotives’ reproduced from his website.
    • Paul McGann, Honorary Secretary of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, for permission to reproduce the Archie Morrow story.
    • Lawrence Morrow, son of Archie Morrow, for the many photos that he has submitted particularly of his father.
    • Dee Worman for permission to use a soundclip from the CD collection ‘Steaming into History’. The fine sounds of South African steam trains were professionally recorded by her late husband Derek Worman between the years 1974 and 1982.

    Bibliography & Internet Links

    • Some African Highways. A Journey of Two American Women to Uganda and the Transvaal by Caroline Kirkland, published in 1908 by Dana Estes & Co., Boston. With a forward by Lieutenant-General Baden-Powell. A digitized copy can be seen at - http://erc.lib.umn.edu/dynaweb/travel/kirksome/@Generic__BookView
      Google Books also have a digitized facsimile; search http://books.google.com
    • Steam Twilight. The Last Years of Steam on Kenya Railways by Kevin Patience. Published by the author. 1996. A pictorial essay of EAR steam trains.
    • A Short Account of the Early History, Development and Plans for the Future of the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours. Booklet attributed to Mr.J. Collier-Wright. Printed by the Government Printer, Nairobi. 1948
    • Steam Locomotives of the East African Railways by R. Ramaer
      David & Charles (Holdings) Ltd, 1974
    • The Lunatic Express by Charles Miller
      Ballantyne Books, New York, 1971.
    • Permanent Way, Vol. I, The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway
      by M. F. Hill. Published 1949, 2nd Edition 1961, by the East African Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam. Copyright 1949, 1961 M. F. Hill.
    • The Iron Snake: the Story of the Uganda Railway by Ronald Hardy.
      G.P.Putnam $ Sons, New York. First American Edition 1965.
    • Steaming Into History. A collection of 3 CD’s of train sounds of South African Railways steam engines. Available from Steamsound SA, P.O.Box 47044, Parklands 2121, South Africa. (contact the editor via the OCS webmaster for email address).
    • Wagon of Smoke An Informal History of the East African Railways & Harbours Administration by Arthur F. Beckenham
      Cadogan Publications Ltd 1987
    • Illustrated Book of Steam and Rail by Colin Garratt and Max Wade-Matthews. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2003.
    • The Man Eaters of Tsavo by Lt.Col. J H Patterson. 1907. McMillan & Co Limited, London. First edition Oct 1907. Ebook at http://robroy.dyndns.info/tsavo/tsavo.html
    • Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa, 1920-1963 by Joan Considine & John Rawlins (Eds.). Bongo Books, 2004. Purchase details at http://www.bongocolonial.blogspot.com/
    • The Garratt Locomotive. Gavin Hamilton’s website http://users.powernet.co.uk/hamilton/source.html
    • The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland
    • The Nairobi Railway Museum
    • Malcolm McCrow’s EAR&H website
    • Beyer-Peacock Garratt website
    • Mikes Railway History for useful information on articulated locomotives
    • Moi University for historical notes on Eldoret referenced in this feature.
    • James Waite’s “Narrow Gauge Heaven” with some very nice EAR Garratt pics

    Key to Footnotes in the article:

    1 From “Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa, 1920-1963” pp 154-155.  See bibliography for book details

    2 The suppression of the slave trade has been cited as one of the main reasons for opening up East Africa by road and rail.

    3 Sunset of Steam CD published by Steam-Sound, South Africa

    4 KBS – Kenya Broadcasting Service

    5 There were a number of Kleynhans at the POW.  Of the 3 listed in the 2002 Centenary Impala, none have the initial “P” so this particular driver appears not to have been an Old Cambrian.

    6Reference http://www.steamindex.com/people/garratt.htm. A mechanical engineer, Edgar Alcock was assistant works manager at Beyer-Peacock. Later he became Managing Director of Hunslet Engine Co.  Jackson stayed with Beyer-Peacock all his life, ending his career as Chief Designer & Works Manager and one of the best locomotive designers in the industry.

    7 The railway actually opened for traffic in 1902

    8 The original dak (dahk) bungalows were built in India to accommodate itinerant inspectors of posts on their tours (dak being mail in Hindi).   This term was used in East Africa for the accommodation (and attached refreshment rooms) provided for passengers at certain junctions and at stations on lines where restaurant cars were not in operation.   These included Voi, Taveta, Lumbwa, and Itigi (on the central line in Tanganyika).

    9 For an historical account, see Lt Col J H Patterson’s “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo” listed in the bibliography.

    10 Rail is identified by its weight per yard and its cross-sectional shape. The rail weight is referred to as its nominal weight per yard or metre. This metric, then determines maximum axle load which in turn determines maximum train weight.

    11 In his book ‘Steam Locomotives of the East African Railways’.

    12 From ‘Wagon of Smoke’ by Arthur F Beckenham

    Webmaster welcomes comments and recollections
    from Old Cambrians and other Readers, and these will be published below.
    Please e-mail webmaster@oldcambrians.com

    More school train recollections & reader comments

    The immediate comments that follow were in response to the ‘beta’ version of the article that was circulated to contributors prior to going public. The author is indebted to them for their encouraging feedback, advice and edits to the original.

  • Oliver Keeble – “I have had a fairly detailed read of this excellent article. My father O J Keeble PoW 1934 - 1939 - had written his recollection of his journey's to and from school, firstly Pembroke House, then Nakuru School and subsequently PoW from his home in Mbarara Uganda. I am trying to locate a hard copy, but neither myself, nor my brother have seen it for a number of years. But we both recollect two things in particular, firstly his crossing of the Nile at Jinja with his school trunk wedged between the gunwales of a dugout canoe and secondly of same trunk being off-loaded trackside at Kabete as in the photo shown ..." and "A great account, a worthy addition to the history of both the KUR and PoW."
  • Malcolm McCrow - "... have had a quick scan through your superb work - you really have put in a great deal of effort which I am sure will be appreciated."
  • Gerry Beers - "You have done a good job and it is a very interesting article."
  • Ray Birch - "Congratulations on a fine piece of research resulting in an outstanding article."
  • John Nicholson -"A great article bringing back very happy memories of trips from Uganda back and forth to school."
  • Paul McGann, Hon Sec of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland - "It's great to see Archie's article again, and in context with other African stories. Please let me know when the piece is publicly available, and its URL, so I can let our members know."
  • Robin Hoddinott - "Congratulations on putting together a piece of history that would otherwise likely just die out as we all get older."
  • Alastair McCrae “ … what a truly magnificent project to have undertaken, and accomplished, with such devotion and care. Having been through the piece, savouring every detail, I can't think when I last had such an evocative read. You've covered everything: from the story of Mr Garratt, through all the important engineering & techy bits ( answering a lot of hitherto pondered-over but unasked questions on the way), to the practical and poetic (your description of the smell of a compartment is superb) the frank reflections on the range of emotions of the travelling schoolboy .... oh just everything - it's a masterly piece and many congratulations on your work which I hope will earn justified praise. We lived at Kiambu and therefore didn't travel to school by train, and it was not until I read Bleazard's notes on the OC website that I learned what a tormented journey it must have been for rabble. Absolutely terrifying. When much younger, we trained between Nairobi and Naivasha where we had a sisal shamba and of course we often went by train to the Coast for holidays - the best train journey in the world.

    Malcolm McCrow – Duke of York School (1958-1962)
    Malcolm’s pictorial essays of East African life in the 50s and 60s on the internet were the source of much material for this article. He also provided valuable input on the some of the practical aspects of the railway, such as the speed limit on the Kampala-Nairobi line. In this anecdote, Malcolm relates how he came to be wearing a PoW uniform on his first day of school at our great rivals (& friends), the Duke of York (now Lenana) school.

    In March 1957 while I was with my parents during their leave in the UK, a letter arrived from the Uganda Government asking my father if he wanted to send me to Prince of Wales or Duke of York. Having gotten into secondary school in the UK on the strength of two years Latin and French at Hill School, there was no question now of my having to sit the Kenya Prelim (KPE) and, since we were all living in the UK I had the luxury of selecting Duke of York . . . oh dear, I hear you mutter.

    Why Duke of York? Well I had seen the maroon blazers at Hill School when some first year had gotten off the school train at Limuru and hitch-hiked to Eldoret. There they told us how wonderful Duko was – but they said nothing that I can remember regarding rabbling. But there was another reason for choosing Duke of York. I knew there were wooden huts at Prince of Wales and, although I had not been at the old Hill School, I had heard all about the tragic dormitory fire in which the boy Latin sadly was killed. I had no idea whether there were wooden huts at Duke of York, but I decided to gamble on there not being any – and I was right.

    But that was not the end of the uniform issue. Mother, in her infinite wisdom, and always keen to get a bargain, purchased horrible pongo style khaki shorts and short sleeved blue shirts in Marks and Spencer just before we flew back to Africa on 3 May 1958.

    During the flight there was at least one Duke of York second former who eyed me with loathing at each touch-down – no doubt the blue shirt didn’t help! On arriving at Entebbe we were met by a nursing sister friend who was very proud of her organizing ability and she announced triumphantly that I was booked on the Mail Train to go off to Nairobi the following day: I was not at all pleased with this arrangement!

    The next day I was duly taken to Kampala Station where the Mail Train was waiting. I was to share a first class compartment with what to me seemed an elderly gentlemen and he said he would keep and eye on me and ensure I got to Duke of York alright.

    At three o’clock the train failed to move. There had been a derailment and the departure was now to be five o’clock. I immediately felt better as I was taken off to afternoon tea at the Imperial Hotel. But by then I wasn’t feeling hungry! At five o’clock, me fighting back tears, it was announced that the train would depart at seven o’clock – again I felt reprieved.

    Seven o’clock came and this time we departed. We arrived at Eldoret at nine o’clock and it was to take a further twelve hours to Nairobi. But a fantastic Indian driver knew how to handle the 60 Class as we made up time and arrived at Nakuru only two hours late instead of four and a half. I did not appreciate his being publicly lauded over Nakuru’s modern loudspeaker system for his superb driving and recovering so much time. The 60 was changed to a 58 in record time and we were off again, and I even saw a giraffe as we passed Longonot.

    We arrived at Nairobi at around 7 pm and the school had sent an African driver with the medical van to pick me up – but of course he wasn’t expecting a kid in khaki shorts and a blue shirt and returned to school saying that the toto hadn’t appeared! So the kind gentlemen took me to Duke of York after checking that it was indeed Duke of York I was supposed to be going to.

    I was met by the headmaster who introduced me to my housemaster and, while the boys were at prep, I was given supper in the junior house dining room. I remember the sweet was sliced bananas and custard, with which I had been so familiar at Hill School. I was allowed to write a letter home and was then taken to the dormitory after lights out. That was just as well. You can imagine the derision that greeted me the next morning as I donned my Prince of Wales school uniform!

    Gerry Beers (Hawke 1948-52)
    Gerry whose career with EAR was related in the main article describes an incident when he was EAR’s Section Engineer on the Ruvu-Mnusi rail link in Tanganyika.

    Gerry writes – “Seeing the word Wami on your map [in the main article] reminded me of an incident during construction. See the attached cutting from the Nairobi Sunday Post of the 12th November 1961. The outcome was that I determined to get to Wami from the south (it took 2 days of difficult driving – see photo) only to find, when I arrived, the site deserted as Tom [Lund] had led his team out to the north – so I drank the medicinal whisky I had taken.

    Nairobi Sunday Post 12th November, 1961

    Gerry Beer’s Landrover stuck in the mud while trying to reach the stranded people in the newspaper article at left.










    John Davis (Grigg 1956-60)                                                     26 Aug 2008
    Wow – what a fantastic article for the website! Very well researched, covering every aspect of the topic and with sound clips too.  The photos are great and you have gone to a lot of trouble to search out historical material.  It brought back memories of my many train trips down to Mombasa - we were incredibly lucky to have experienced all this. But I also remember Shaer telling me where he came from – I had to look it up on a map. Also the horror stories of blokes being subjected to terror on the trains. Happy days!

    Alastair Campbell (Grigg 1961-67)                                            27 Aug 2008
    Alastair recalls that by 1967 the school train was down to only one or two carriages beyond Nakuru. The school train as most of us remember it was probably only a memory by 1968 –Ed..

    What a simply brilliant narrative; so many memories and experiences so well captured and recorded.

    I began my train travelling in 1954, going from Tororo to Turi (on the Kisumu line) to St Andrews Primary  School. I recall that we once had a first class carraige sent to Turi for the home journey- an experiment that was not repeated due to someone putting a banana in the electric fan of the compartment and switching it on- with predictable results.

    In 1961, I started at PoW , doing the same rail journey but to Nairobi, before moving to Kampala for the last few years of travelling before I left school in 1967.  So, I travelled many thousands of miles and I  although I hated going to school, the coming home at the end of each term was looked forward to for weeks in advance! I can remember the train connection at Tororo going to school  being around 12 midnight and the carriage being shunted onto to join the train. I don`t remember having a rabble call on the train, but I did have 2 elder brothers which might have kept me safe!   On the home journey, the arrival in Tororo was about 1 or 2 am; there was not much sleep going home.  Once I and a friend bought a bottle of Vermouth to enjoy on the way home, but someone else must have found it, as the bottle disappeared before we could drink it.  Breakfast on the train always seemed to include fried egg and liver- a combination that I still enjoy. My memory is that in the early 1960s, the school trains seemed to have a great many coaches, but by 1967 it was down to one  or 2 beyond Nakuru. I only once got a ride in a cab of a Garrett and that was at night between Turbo and Broderick Falls; I remember it being hot, oily and noisy- but what child of today could get such a memory!

    Dave Lichtenstein (Duke of York 1955-60)                                        27 Aug 2008
    In an email to webmaster, Dave suggested that Roger Whittaker who actually lived in Nairobi at the time he went to the POW, probably drew on memories of train rides to the Hill School in writing his song “The Good Old EAR&H”. Dave writes -
    returning to "Behind a Garratt" - many of the Hill School students (especially the Uganda contingent) travelled that way to school.  Of course the most famous traveller of all was dual Hiller/OC Roger Whittaker.   As a Nairobi resident Roger would not have travelled by that mode to either Nairobi Primary (which he also attended) and the POWS.    So in a way his song "The good old EAR&H" may indeed be a reflection of his travels to and from (probably more from) the Hill School.  Of course we up-country folk (ie boys) travelled that way to secondary school in Nairobi.   With the railway re-aligned to pass over the DOYS the tradition of flattening the "centi" coins via Garratt and the rest of the train continued.’
    Note - Roger lived in Westlands, and their driveway crossed the track, so he lived cheek-by-jowl with the old KUR&H until its name change and realignment in 1949. (from Ron Bullock)
    Barrie Hailstone (Nicholson 1955-58)                                                 1 Sept 2008
    Read your train article; thoroughly enjoyed it!  Must admit I only used the train service twice to return to Nakuru from school.  Once when travelling to CCF camp, and once when my parents couldn't make it to drive me home.  The CCF jaunt was fun because everyone else was on the train, smoking and generally larking about.  The time that I was virtually on my own, it was a bore.  If I recall I slept the best part of the journey.

    Patrick French  (Scott  1961-5)                                                               2 Sept 2008
    This is so good, it ought to be made into a book!
    A wonderful combination of research, anecdote, detailed knowledge, cross-reference, recall, and rich feeling.

    Michael Fielder (Clive 1954-1958)                                                     3 Sept 2008
    Message to Webmaster Steve Le Feuvre -
    Many Thanks to you and your team of Martin Langley, Ron Bullock, Brian McIntosh and Chris Collier-Wright, (the last two were colleagues of mine at PoW from 1954 to 1958) for the wonderful article on the School Trains of EAR&H. My parents lived at Nakuru while I was at PoW, therefore I had a relatively short 5 or 6 hour train journey to school and back. Whilst living in East Africa I did a number of other journeys on EAR&H, including a trip from Nakuru to Kisumu by train, circumnavigating Lake Victoria by steamer, then returning to Nakuru by train, all as a fifteen year-old escorting my elderly grandmother on holiday. Soon after leaving school, I did the long journey from Nairobi, where I was then working, to Kampala to spend a holiday with my parents, who by then were living in Uganda, this was a 24 hour journey each way. A few years later I took the overnight train from Mwanza on the southern shores of Lake Victoria to Tabora, worked all day in Tabora, then took the overnight train back to Mwanza, a hectic 3 days that my boss didn't understand when I put all the hours worked and travelled on my timesheet! Thanks again for all those memories of Rail Travel behind steam engines in East Africa.

    Angela née Wright (ex- Highlands School, Eldoret);                                          5 Sept 2008
    Message received via author Martin Langley’s sister Diana who attended the Highlands School
    Wow, it's absolutely wonderful. I haven't had time to read it all yet but have dipped in for about half an hour when I should be doing other things! Do you think they might like to put it on the Highlands internet site?

    Patricia née Brooks (ex- Highlands School, Eldoret)                                          5 Sept 2008
    Another note received via author Martin Langley’s sister Diana
    I must have spent the last hour reading that wonderful account of the East African Railways which is absolutely riveting. Your brother has done a fantastic job gathering information and putting it all together. It evoked so many memories of childhood and those journeys to school and back and also trips from Mombasa to Kampala after returning from UK leave by boat on the Union Castle line.

    Malcolm McCrow (Duke of York School)                                              9 Sept 2008
    Martin Langley received an email from Malcolm McCrow advising that he has revamped his superb website on the EAR&H, inspired he says by the School Train article. If you have not visited Malcolm’s website lately, check it out at http://www.mccrow.org.uk/EastAfrica/EastAfricanRailways/indexEAR.htm

    Stewart Currie, Editor of The Railway Society of S.Africa newsletter                                9 Sept 2008
    This feedback is included for OC’s in S.Africa who are train enthusiasts & might like to hook up with the Railway Society of South Africa. Contact webmaster for the mentioned newsletter “On Track”.
    Good Day,
    I have just read your article to school behind a Garratt. It is truly wonderful and I must complement the author. I am in S Africa and am editor/compiler of a local newsletter for my railway club “The Railway Society of Southern Africa” I would dearly wish to reproduce parts in on of my future newsletters, with suitable acknowledgements, and I seek your and the Authors permission to do so. I attach a copy of our latest newsletter “On Track” for your interest. This has a circulation of +/- 150 and is passed on to another 100 or so enthusiasts

    Roger Bond (Hawke 1948-1953)                                                     20 Sept 2008
    Roger’s anecdote about the school train (circa 1946) that nearly wasn’t!!!!
           Thank you for a great feature on the Garratts and the school trains. The authors certainly captured the experience and many, many memories of those times have been revived in my mind. I would like to relate a tale that took place around 1946 when I was travelling from Kampala to attend the Nairobi Primary School as a nine year old. I was sharing a compartment with (among others) Alan Blackie, who was a year or two my senior. Shortly after we had left Kampala, Alan retrieved from his luggage a box of gelignite (25 sticks if I recall), detonators, and a roll of fuse wire. Presumably all this had been purloined from some PWD store. Everyone was suitably impressed with his collection, and before long a plan had been made to test bravado (stupidity) to the limits. A detonator would be plugged into a stick of gelignite and a length of fuse wire attached to the detonator. The fuse would then be lit and a form of 'chicken' played by watching the molten tar exude from the burning fuse and pulling the fuse from the detonator just before setting it off. The stench of suphurous fumes attracted some 'older and wiser' kids from a neighbouring compartment who seized the gelignite and threw it out of the window thereby probably saving many lives and the school train. Deprived of their 'fun' the rest of the trip was a routine journey.
           There was a sequel to the story as somehow the the school authorities had got wind of the events and on our arrival at school we were subjected to a rigorous search. All the fuse wire and detonators were confiscated. At that time the 'boma' used to use the Primary School building for their morning assembly and they would then march passed our classrooms back to their tuition buildings. I noticed that right where they were marching lay a detonator in danger of being stamped on by a one of the marching girls. (Presumably this had been dropped by one of the masters after we had beeen searched). There was no time to think and I dived through their ranks and retrieved the detonator to a chorus of 'You horrid little beast/urchin' or what ever else secondary school girls might call a silly nine year old primary school boy diving into their throng for no apparent reason.
           Was anyone out there on that train?

    Ron Bullock (Scott 1948-1953)                                                 20 Sept 2008
    Ron recalls an OC with a talent for replicating the whistle of individual Garratt locomotives
    It strikes me that no one has mentioned our Garratts' whistles. Every engine had its own distinctively musical whistle, but I don't remember how many tones they had. I remember that Peter Rushworth (Grigg, 1948-1953) was a train buff who could identify and most faithfully reproduce each of these, blowing through his cupped hands. Are you out there Peter? Can you still do it? Send us a sound bite!
    (Should Peter respond with a sound bite, it will be posted as a soundclip –Ed)

    Jennie Street                                                            11 Oct 2008
    Journalist and author of a forthcoming book on the Eritrean Railway, writes
    I've seen the photo of the Eritrean train on the Old Cambrian website, and read a good many of those reminiscences - what a rich tapestry they weave!

    Christine Nicholls (Kenya High School)                                            15 Oct 2008
    Nightingale House, KHS (née Metcalfe, daughter of Kit Metcalfe, teacher/headmaster at the Central School, Eldoret; Nyeri Primary School; Parklands School and Westlands School in Nairobi; and Mombasa Primary School). As C S Nicholls, Christine is the author of ‘Elspeth Huxley: A Biography’ and ‘Red Strangers The White Tribe of Kenya’.
    The Kenya High School on the Mombasa Train in the 1950s
           School train duty was dreaded by teachers, and most apprehensive of all were those new to the torment, particularly if allocated the Mombasa train, reputedly the worst of the lot. A tyro teacher on Mombasa train duty was a person to be pitied. We pupils were fairly well behaved on the end-of-term journey homewards, tired as we were after the high jinks and midnight feasts of the tedious two- or three-day wait for our train after the term had ended and everyone else had gone home. But the up-train at the start of term was a different matter.
           Though the train left Mombasa station at five or six p.m., we insisted on being at the terminus by at least three o’clock, to secure a compartment with friends. Discarded mothers and fathers usually left the station at that point, rather than wait for two hours, though parents of new pupils perched unhappily in the platform cafe. As we pulled out of the station, all eyes were at the windows watching our slow progress across the causeway from island to mainland, past the smelly slaughterhouse, through crowded Changamwe, before the climb up the hills, looping the loop over ourselves to gain height. It was still hot and humid here, but as the train gained the Taru desert, the humidity decreased and the evening chill made the bedding we were given very welcome. Once a girl threw her pillow from the window at elephants in Tsavo. No one ever revealed the culprit because she was the daughter of an official very high in the Department of Education. We sang and misbehaved and shared packed suppers and visited other compartments. Very rarely we shared the train with one of the boys’ schools, creating an excitement more anticipated than realised.
           Darkness came as suddenly as it always did in Kenya, and there we were in the pitch of the African night, travelling far faster than the ancient foot caravans which plied this route in former centuries, trading in ivory and slaves, beads and wire. The stars were startlingly bright and the Southern Cross so clear as we fell asleep before being woken in the middle of the night at the noisy hub of Voi. The early morning found us in the Athi plains, still teeming with game. Then came Stony Athi and Athi River and the meat factory, where our hearts became heavy because school was not far away. The school lorry met us and our tin trunks, articles we were forbidden by one housemistress from lugging up the stairs to the dormitory lest we ruin our reproductive systems. Term had begun.

    Michael Wolff (Hawke 1954-1959)                                                 20 Oct 2008
           May I take this opportunity to thank author Martin Langley and all the contributors, especially my contemporaries and friends Brian McIntosh and Christopher Collier-Wright, for one of the most evocative articles that I have read for a long time - the memories just came flooding back.
           I was a frequent rail traveller from Nakuru to Nairobi and can still smell the steam and the interior of the carriages. Each stop on the way provided us with amusement and mischief. I had a friend - Kenneth McNaughtan [Hawke 1953–1958; now living in Freiburg, Germany] - whose father was a senior train driver operating from Nakuru to Eldoret or Nakuru to Kisumu, and thus on frequent occasions, when we passed the Nakuru workshops, we had a good insight of the locomotives. I have just returned from Kenya and can state that what was once the new Nakuru station is now in a very sorry state as is the whole train service from Mombasa to Uganda - what a crying shame!!
           On one end of term three of us, Kenny McNaughtan, Ian Dewar and myself, decided that the 3 ton Bedford school bus should take our trunks to Nairobi station so that we could cycle the 90 miles home to Nakuru. I have recently gone over that very same route along what is now termed the old road and, relatively speaking, nothing of significance has changed. I remember having a fixed wheel [12 cog] and thus was unable to relax going down the escarpment, but was able to stop for a "fag" at the Italian church which is in pristine condition today, as is the Lake Naivasha Club.
           There was another stop at the Bell Inn Naivasha for samoosas and coke. I was happy to see that this watering hole still exists but is now called La Belle Inn - and then onwards past Lake Elementaita, Gilgil and home. Yes, we beat the train and had to wait at the station for an hour to collect our trunks.

    As Bob Hope used to say, and, I repeat it to all the contributors:-

    Milan Vesely (Nicholson 1955-1959)        In a message to Martin Langley, 30 Dec 2008:
           Having recently read the article re Garrett locomotives on the Old Cambrians web site, I am impressed. Your grasp of the engineering details now falls into place and your love for the subject certainly comes through; making it interesting reading.