Uganda Railway

  • Uganda Railway. This was the railway line that was built from Mombasa (Kilindini) harbour at the coast of Kenya through Kenya to Kampala and then extended to other parts of Uganda.
  • Construction began on 30th May 1896 and Sir George White House was the chief engineer.
  • Labour was mainly provided by the Indian Coolies.
  • From the start, the line was called the Uganda railway because the British wanted to effectively exploit the economic resources of Uganda since Kenya offered less prospects.

Reasons for the construction of the Uganda railway

  • The British constructed the line to establish effective control over Uganda and Kenya.
  • The railway line also intended to ease the transportation of Military personnel, Colonialists, arms or weapons and administrators in Uganda.
  • The line was built purposely to open the interior for trade and commerce i.e. to enable East Africa carry out trade with the outside world.
  • The line was built to help in the elimination of Slave trade because it would enable the abolitionists move into the interior of Uganda and Kenya.
  • The line was meant to encourage cash crop growing like cotton, tea e.t.c which would lead to the economic development of Kenya and Uganda.
  • The line was built to provide a cheaper quicker and easier means of transport to replace the slave trade that involved moving long distances on foot.
  • The line was constructed to ease the work and movement of the missionaries who wanted to spread Christianity and civilize Africans
  • The British built the line in order to conform to the doctrine of effective occupation as demanded by the Berlin conference of 1884 – 1885.
  • The line was also constructed in order to stop other powers like the Egyptians who had also shown interest in controlling Uganda because of the source of the River Nile.
  • The British wanted to provide employment opportunities for the people of Uganda and Kenya through the construction of the railway e.g. people were to be employed as cleaners, mechanics and in the loading and off loading sections.
  • The line was constructed because the Imperial British East Africa company (IBEACO), had recommended it and it had even surveyed its route.
  • The line was intended to make Uganda and Kenya self reliant and enable them to pay for their own administration.
  • After the signing of the second Anglo – German agreement of 1890 (Heligoland treaty), the British had no fear of investing their money in Uganda and that’s why the line was constructed.
  • The line was intended to open up the remote areas of E.Africa to develop them into urban centres.
  • It was constructed to link the landlocked Uganda to the East African coast.

Extension of the Uganda railway (1896 – 1965)

  • The idea of building the railway line was introduced by William MacKinnon of IBEACO.
  • In 1892, a survey of the route was done.
  • On 30th May 1896, the project eventually began at Kilindini (Mombasa).
  • Sir George white house was the Chief engineer.
  • Over 32,000 Indian coolies were recruited for the job since Africans were not interested in the work.
  • In 1898, the railway line had reached Voi.
  • By 30th June 1899, the line had reached Nairobi and this is where the central store of materials was located.
  • By 1900, the line had reached Nakuru.
  • By 20th December 1901, it had advanced to Kisumu where it was connected to Uganda through a steamer service ship (ferry) across Lake Victoria.
  • In 1913, the Nairobi-Thika line was extended to the European farms of Nyeri and Nyahururu.
  • From 1921, there was a major expansion of the line in Kenya e.g. in 1926 the Nakuru to Solai line was constructed and then it was extended to Eldoret during the same period.
  • In 1913, the Naivasha-Gilgil-Thomson’s falls line was also constructed.
  • From Eldoret, the line was extended to Kitale to the European farms in the area.