Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by george matthews »

rogerfarnworth wrote:
george matthews wrote:
rogerfarnworth wrote:Before we return to Nakuru to follow the main line towards Kampala, one further post about the Kisumu line. There was a short branch which left the Kisumu to Nakuru line within the confines of Kisumu city. This post focusses on that line.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... -to-butere" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I suspect that the Butere line was originally intended to lead to Uganda. It used to have a third class only train and was of use to local people. But the failure to connect with Uganda rendered it less than useful. Probably the intention of going further was abandoned when the mainline was continued via Eldoret and connected to Uganda that way. I assume that at least in colonial days the line was busy enough to keep going, even though the intention of going to Uganda was abandoned.

BTW all your pictures show the steam engines. All these were withdrawn a long time ago and replaced with modern diesels.
Thank you George.

Yes I have seen some maps with a dotted line on them suggesting a possible route north from Butere.

You are right about the diesels as well. I think there are a few shown within the images I have found. Perhaps I should have been a little more balanced in my selection of pictures! :-)
I hope that there will come electrification to all the mainlines in East Africa. As electricity mostly is derived from falling water and from wind and solar, it would not add to the climate problem - largely kicked off by the enormous use of coal for steam engines, and later by the inefficient use of oil. For these reasons I do not admire the obsessive insistence on coal and oil powered steam. I am glad they are being replaced by electrification.

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

Back at Nakuru, we prepare ourselves to travel on to Kampala. This post takes us to Eldoret.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... to-eldoret" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by george matthews »

rogerfarnworth wrote:Back at Nakuru, we prepare ourselves to travel on to Kampala. This post takes us to Eldoret.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... to-eldoret" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Nakuru had a very nice modern station, probably built in the 1950s - when Kenya was still seen by the British as a settler colony, along the lines of Rhodesia and South Africa. As with the other stations along the line it was convenient for the town. The Chinese seem to have a different view and prefer to place stations out of towns, requiring road transport to connect. When travelling from Kampala to Kisumu in 1966 I had changed at Nakuru and waited for several hours for the train to Kisumu. I took my motor bike down to the lake and observed the birds and crocodiles.

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

george matthews wrote:
rogerfarnworth wrote:Back at Nakuru, we prepare ourselves to travel on to Kampala. This post takes us to Eldoret.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... to-eldoret" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Nakuru had a very nice modern station, probably built in the 1950s - when Kenya was still seen by the British as a settler colony, along the lines of Rhodesia and South Africa. As with the other stations along the line it was convenient for the town. The Chinese seem to have a different view and prefer to place stations out of towns, requiring road transport to connect. When travelling from Kampala to Kisumu in 1966 I had changed at Nakuru and waited for several hours for the train to Kisumu. I took my motor bike down to the lake and observed the birds and crocodiles.
George, thank you once again for your comments.

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

Eldoret is a junction station. The branch-line service to Kitale set off from Eldoret. We follow its route.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... -to-kitale" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

We really are now almost in Uganda! The is the last post focussing on the Uganda Railway in Kenya. It takes us from Eldoret to the border with Uganda at Malaba.

Sadly, in this post there is little evidence of locomotives. The line has seen little use over the years. I was very fortunate to be able to travel 1st Class all the way from Mombasa to Kampala in 1994. I had no idea at the time how fragile that service was.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... -to-malaba" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by george matthews »

rogerfarnworth wrote:We really are now almost in Uganda! The is the last post focussing on the Uganda Railway in Kenya. It takes us from Eldoret to the border with Uganda at Malaba.

Sadly, in this post there is little evidence of locomotives. The line has seen little use over the years. I was very fortunate to be able to travel 1st Class all the way from Mombasa to Kampala in 1994. I had no idea at the time how fragile that service was.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... -to-malaba" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Although Kenya has escaped the worst of extreme instability and bad politics the reverse is true of Uganda where there have been political problems at least since 1966 - which I observed myself while a postgraduate student at Makarere University. Thus Uganda has not been an ideal site for rail traffic. The railways have decayed there, losing most of the through trains from Kenya and a decay of the northern line and the western branch to Kasese. I think there must remain considerable doubt whether the Chinese line being proposed, and perhaps beginning to be built - have you seen any sign of it? - will have any useful result.

Theoretically, I can imagine an electrified line, powered by Uganda's abundant power from the Nile (needing no energy imports and no carbon pollution). But given the political instability and lack of exports how likely is such a development?

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

Hi George

The most telling time will be when Museveni decides that it is time to step down. If there can be a peaceful transition to another leader then there is some hope. Road conditions have improved considerable in the last few years and Uganda, although still not as stable as Kenya, is unrecognisable from my first stay in 1994. I too am unsure what will happen in the next few years, although stuttering steps are being taken in improving infrastructure.

In the last few years, for instance there are significantly more traffic lights in Kampala and a good proportion of traffic complying with the signals - although not all!

Best wishes

Roger

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by george matthews »

rogerfarnworth wrote:Hi George

The most telling time will be when Museveni decides that it is time to step down. If there can be a peaceful transition to another leader then there is some hope. Road conditions have improved considerable in the last few years and Uganda, although still not as stable as Kenya, is unrecognisable from my first stay in 1994. I too am unsure what will happen in the next few years, although stuttering steps are being taken in improving infrastructure.

In the last few years, for instance there are significantly more traffic lights in Kampala and a good proportion of traffic complying with the signals - although not all!

Best wishes

Roger
There is a question of whether Museveni himself has had any lasting effect on Uganda, apart from suppressing conflict. The ethnic divisions are probably rather fundamental. He is a Bantu (but not a Muganda) and rules from the opposite ethnic pole to Obote, who was Nilotic. Has he kept the northern Nilotics satisfied or do they still feel deprived? Will the Nilotics of the north ever feel like leaving Uganda and joining up with their linguistic cousins to the north - in South Sudan? More effective railways might improve the situation - a Standard link into the north, at least to Juba. My feeling is that the SG link should follow the eastern Nile from Kasese to Juba, rather than replacing the moribund Metre gauge route. In the 1960s Obote was keen on building the northern route, but I doubt if he received proper advice assuring him of its success. At best there was a hope that traffic might appear. I don't think it did. The same might be true of a SG line into south Sudan. Are there any potential exports for such a line? Possibly some cotton.They could import goods via Mombasa instead of the now unavailable trade from the Red Sea. Does that add up to sufficient justification?

Uganda's strength is the very fertile lands of the Baganda and other Bantu areas, where agriculture is so well-watered and prolific. But the Nilotic north is drier. It has only seasonal agriculture. In Uganda as a whole there are some potential energy resources: wind power from the convection winds generated by the lake, biogas from the agriculture, solar power, and above all, huge potential hydropower from the fall in the river from the Lake. It is unfortunate that they have found oil. For railways the hydropower points the way to electrification and energy that does not affect the world climate.

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

With this post we have crossed the border between Kenya and Uganda. Just across the border in Tororo the mainline divides to give a Kampala/Kasese route via Jinja, and a Pakwach and Aria route via Soroti. The more northerly route through Soroti was perceived as the branch but it has been the route which has been refurbished first (in 2013).

We will follow the branch first.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... -to-soroti" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;.

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

Two more posts about the branch-line to Gulu and Arua. The first takes us from Soroti to Gulu.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... ti-to-gulu" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by george matthews »

rogerfarnworth wrote:Two more posts about the branch-line to Gulu and Arua. The first takes us from Soroti to Gulu.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... ti-to-gulu" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Your pictures confirm my impression that the northern rail line is essentially defunct. Obote was mistaken in thinking it would have been an essential link to the Nilotic north. There just weren't the goods to be transported. He ordered it as a vanity project for purely political, not economic, reasons.

The same conditions might attach to the SG link to the west. Will there be any demand for transport west of Kampala?
Last edited by george matthews on Sun Jun 03, 2018 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

The second covers the length to the end of the branch-line.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... lu-to-arua" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

rogerfarnworth
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:33 am

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by rogerfarnworth »

george matthews wrote:
rogerfarnworth wrote:Two more posts about the branch-line to Gulu and Arua. The first takes us from Soroti to Gulu.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... ti-to-gulu" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Your pictures confirm my impression that the northern rail line is essentially defunct. Obote was mistaken in thinking it would have been an essential link to the Nilotic north. There just weren't the goods to be transported. He ordered it as a vanity project for purely political, not economic, reasons.
Hi George,

Yes, and it is interesting that there might now be a better justification with possible oil supplies from even further north in South Sudan?

Roger

george matthews
Posts: 4818
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 9:07 am
Location: Britain

Re: Uganda Railways - Metre Gauge

Post by george matthews »

rogerfarnworth wrote:
george matthews wrote:
rogerfarnworth wrote:Two more posts about the branch-line to Gulu and Arua. The first takes us from Soroti to Gulu.

https://rogerfarnworth.wordpress.com/20 ... ti-to-gulu" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Your pictures confirm my impression that the northern rail line is essentially defunct. Obote was mistaken in thinking it would have been an essential link to the Nilotic north. There just weren't the goods to be transported. He ordered it as a vanity project for purely political, not economic, reasons.
Hi George,

Yes, and it is interesting that there might now be a better justification with possible oil supplies from even further north in South Sudan?

Roger
If oil is exported from S Sudan it might come via a pipeline rather than a rail line. But in any case I doubt if it would be via a metre gauge line. The Standard gauge line would be the best export line. Perhaps a pipeline to the SG terminal at Kasese - if that is ever built. The condition of the former metre gauge line shows that a rail line should only be built if there is something that needs transporting. In the case of Uganda Obote was mistaken. He caused the line to be built without understanding the need for something to transport. The British had observed there was no demand for transport and so didn't build a line there. They were right. Obote couldn't provoke any demand for transport, and nor has anyone else.

When railways were developed in Britain there was an obvious urgent need for better and quicker transport. That was not the case in Uganda. The line to Kampala was obviously useful and necessary, but in the north there was no large town and no obvious need for transport. The western line to Kasese depended on one single source for its freight, and no other need for transport developed. When the mine at Kasese closed what was the point of the rail line?

Return to “Worldwide Railfan”