The idea of a railway in this part of Africa comes about in the late 1880s when both Germany and Britain were actively interested in acquiring territory in the region. In July 1890, Germany and Britain signed the treaty of Berlin and divided the region then ruled by the Sultan of Zanzibar and now known as Kenya and Tazania, into British and German East Africa. Shortly afterwards booths colonies began surveying routes from the coast to Lake Victoria the source of the River Nile.TheGermans started a line from Tango towards Mount Kilimanjaro, while the British served a route from Mombasa. In December 1895 ,George Whitehouse stepped ashore at Mombasa in may 1896,the first rails were laid of the project that would become known as the’ Lunatic Line’’.Its name was coined in speech in Parliament in London regarding the ever increasing costs of what appeared to what appeared to be a futile exercise.
Meter gauge track and rolling stock came from India together with large numbers of craftmens.Constuctoin was plagued with numerous difficulties including man eating lions, hostile tribes wild animals that attacked the trains ,mosquitoes ,flies, locusts and caterpillars that caused locomotive to slip on the rails. Torrential rains washed away bridges and track and derailed trains. When the line reached a level area at the place known as Nyrobi, a workshop was built and preparations made for the difficult upcountry construction. This area eventually grew into what is now the capital of Nairobi. When the railway reached the edge of the Rift Valley, Whitehouse built an inclined line in four stages down the side, at an angle of 45 degrees. This enable construction to proceed along the valley floor while a gentle slope was cut down the side, numerous wooden bridges, later replace by steel, had to built to carry the track across deep ravines. The line reached Lake Victoria in December 1901.On reaching the lake at kisumu passengers would take a steamer to Port Bell in Uganda before preceding by road to Kampala the capital
It was named the Uganda Railway which remained in use until 1926, when it was the Kenya Uganda Riilway.In 1948 the Tanganyika Railway and the K.U.R. amalgamated to form East Africa Railways and Hardours.When the three countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and Uganda borders become Kenya Railways.
Important Dates In the Railway History
- 30th May 1896: Beginning of construction of Uganda Railways.
- 1899: Rail head reach Nyrobi, name later changed to Nairobi.
- 1900: The line reached Nakuru
- 19th Dec,1901: Rail line completed and reached Port Florence now named Kisumu.
- 1915: Completion of Konza to Magadi line.
- 1920: Voi to Taveta line completed
- 1924: The line reached “64” (Now Eldoret)
- 26th Feb 1926: Name Uganda Railway changed to Kenya and Uganda Railways
- 27th Dec 1927: Became Kenya and Uganda railways and harbours.
- 12th Aug 1929: Present Headquarters Building opened.
- 1930: Nairobi to Nanyuki line completed.
- 14th Jan 1931: Jinja Kampala line opened connecting through to Mombasa.
- 1932: Kisumu to Butere line completed.
- 1st May 1948: Became East Africa Railways and Harbours
- 1950: Nairobi made city.
- 1st June 1969: East Africa Railways Corporation established.
- 1977: End of East Africa Railway Corporation Administration.
- 20th Jan 1978: Present Kenya Railway Corporation was formed through an Act of Parliament.
- 1st Nov 2006: Kenya Railways goods and passenger services conceded to Rift Valley Railways.
- 1st Jan, 2015: Actual construction of the Nairobi – Mombasa Standard Gauge Railway lien Commenced
- 30th May, 2017: Commissioning of the SGR Freight Service at Port Reitz Freight Station
- 31s May, 2017: Commissioning of the Passenger
- November 10, 2020: Commissioning of the Diesel Multiple Unit trains and Refurbished Nairobi Central Railway station