Lunatic Line’s Passenger Train Retired

As an old adage goes, ‘all that is well ends well’. This can be interpreted to mean that something that has a good ending makes up for any problems encountered along the way. It best describes the passenger service on Metre Gauge Railway line in Kenya.  For many years, the passenger trains traversed Kenya’s landscape shuffling between destinations lying along the Mombasa and Malaba stretch covered by the railway line and lately only between Mombasa Nairobi.

A steam locomotive pulling passenger coaches

A steam locomotive pulling passenger coaches

However, the Kenya – Uganda Concessionaire Rift Valley Railways (RVR) has halted the passenger service operations completely. The move will lock out hundreds of passengers who preferred the train to the numerous bus firms that ply the Mombasa – Nairobi route. In his communiqué to media houses, the RVR Group Chief Executive Mr. Isaiah Okoth said the passenger train service has ceased forthwith.

“We wish to bring all our esteemed customers and stakeholders to notice that the Nairobi-Mombasa long distance passenger train service will be suspended forthwith. This development is to enable us reorganize our services,” he said.

On April 29, 2017 the train heaved out of Mombasa Railway station as it embarked on its last ever journey. It belched out plumes of smoke as it swooped past the creeks of Mombasa Island gaining speed every second. Shortly after, the glow of Mombasa city faded behind the train as it sped towards its retirement. The passengers riding the first class were summoned to the dining car where attendants dutifully went about their task. Eventually it crossed Tsavo River atop the bridge and ominously approached its final destination in Nairobi to mark the end of the passenger train service on the Metre Gauge Railway line.

The passenger train service was an ideal way to move for a cross section of travellers ranging from the small scale trader transporting their wares; students going back to and from school; the happy family travelling upcountry for holidays; the employee on assignment; to the tourist undertaking the journey for the fun of it. The overnight train stood out as a classic and enjoyable experience where occasionally one would not only spot big-game along the way but periodically the train would stop because wild animals were blocking the track.

“With nostalgia I will remember those long rides and beautiful sights. The peace and serenity in the cabin, no traffic no rowdy heckling but total harmony. For me it was, and will always be more than a journey. I cannot help but feel sad. I can only compare this feeling to that of losing something so close to me. For me the riding this train is nothing less than sentimental,” said Mrs. Brooke Harmon, one of the frequent travellers on the train.