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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”.
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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
The song has an up tempo country and western sound with banjo and steel guitar.
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
Memories of the School Train from Kampala to Nairobi, 1956-1961
Martin Langley relates his own account of the journey between home and
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,
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,
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.
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
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.
Reminiscences of an EAR Garratt Engine Driver
FIVE FOOT THREE to THREE FOOT THREE by Archie Morrow
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
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.
|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
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
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.”
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
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
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.
K1, the world’s very first Garratt built in 1909
Source – Wikipedia
A Timeline of
William Herbert Garratt’s Life
(Courtesy Gavin Hamilton)
June, born in London
Apprentice, Bow Works, North London Railway
William Doxford’s Marine Engine Works,
3rd/4th Engineer (marine)
Douglas Fox (Inspecting Engineer – locomotives for
Central Argentine Railway)
Abergavenny (unknown reason)
London & South Western Railway until early
1889 (with Vacuum Brake Co.)
Central Argentine Railway (C.A.R)
1894 Head draughtsman (temp C.A.R)
1896 District Locomotive Superintendent
Locomotive Superintendent – Cuban Central Railways
Lagos Government Railway
Lima Railways (Peru) Resident Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent
returned to UK
and assumed to be working on the original patent for the Garratt
? – 1908
Inspecting Officer for New South Wales Government Railways
? – 1912
Lived in Manchester until 1912
September, died in Richmond aged 49
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
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.
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.
The Association of British Merchants becomes the Imperial British
East Africa Company with Sir William Mackinnon as its chairman.
The IBEA is granted a charter.
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
Capt McDonald of the Royal Engineers arrives in Mombasa and in ten
months surveys 2,724 miles of possible routes the railway could take
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”.
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.
In December, Mr (later Sir) George Whitehouse and an advance party
arrives in Mombasa to begin the construction of the railway.
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
By the end of the year the railhead had reached Maria Kani at mile
December - the railhead reaches Ndi just beyond Voi at mile 121.
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”.
May 31st, the railhead reaches Nairobi at mile 325. In
July of that year Nairobi is established as the capital of the Kenya
June – the railhead reaches mile 384, just short of Naivasha.
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”.
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.
Thomson’s Falls line opened
1931 The line reaches Kampala
First ‘57’ Class Garratt locomotive in service
First two ‘55’ Class Garratts in service
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.
First of eighteen ‘58’ Class Garratts in service
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
Diesel replaces steam on Nairobi-Mombasa passenger service
1968 ‘57’ Class Garratt
withdrawn from service
EAR&H reorganized to become East African Railways Corporation
Railway museum established in Nairobi
‘58’ Class Garratt withdrawn from service
‘55’ Class Garratt withdrawn from service. EARC dissolved
when Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika formed their own railway
1980 ‘59’ Class Garratt
withdrawn from service. Locomotive ‘5918’ delivered to the railway
museum in Nairobi
Steam locomotive name and number plates auctioned in Nairobi
Remaining derelict steam locomotives scrapped
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.
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
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
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
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 -
IT WAS FROM THIS COACH THAT SUPERINTENDENT CHARLES HENRY RYALL WAS DRAGGED AND KILLED BY A MAN EATING LION AT KIMA STATION ON 6TH JUNE 1900.
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
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
122 ft 7 ins
Overall height (from
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
40,260 lbs at 75% BP
83,350 lbs at 85% BP
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
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.
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
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
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 -
104 ft 1 1/2 ins
122 ft 7 ins*
13 ft 6 ins
13 ft 6 ins
4 ft 6 ins
4 ft 9
7 ft 6 ins
8 ft 6
83,350 lbs at 85%
115,000 lbs at 85% BP
An official EAR&H drawing below shows a 61 Class Garratt
configuration (from ‘Steam Locomotives of East Africa’ by
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
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-
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 -
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
- 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
- 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
- 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:
“Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa, 1920-1963” pp 154-155. See
bibliography for book details
suppression of the slave trade has been cited as one of the main reasons for
opening up East Africa by road and rail.
Sunset of Steam CD published by Steam-Sound, South Africa
The railway actually opened for traffic in 1902
For an historical account, see Lt Col J H Patterson’s “The
Man-Eaters of Tsavo” listed in the bibliography.
Webmaster welcomes comments and recollections
from Old Cambrians and other Readers, and
these will be published below.
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
Landrover stuck in the mud while trying to reach the stranded people in
the newspaper article at left.
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
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
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
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
Patrick French (Scott 1961-5)
2 Sept 2008
Michael Fielder (Clive 1954-1958) 3 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.
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
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”.
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
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:-
THANKS FOR THE MEMORY.
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