People Daily

A ride on Kenya’s historic railway line

There’s a chilled out spot just next to Railways public transport terminus in Nairobi CBD. Unlike the face of the railway terminus that is crippled with loud, honky and noisy matatus, the Nairobi Railway Museum sits cool and serene, a sharp contrast to the city’s mad rush.

The museum is tucked between Technical University of Kenya (TUK) and Kenya Railways headquarters. It houses, among other features, old locomotives and carriages. It isn’t modern in any way, but it feels just so refreshing to take a sneak peek into what it harbours.

Getting there though was mentally tedious, obviously because you have to maneuver and negotiate your way through the chaotic Railways roundabout that’s littered by the menacing Rongai matatus, and a host of young adults, probably college students, that seem to be in no hurry to let vehicles get through TUK’s drive way.

It was a brief hold, however, as we made our way to the establishment after another brief security check by the guards. The perimeter wall leading to the museum is brightly decorated with all sorts of cartoon and historic people paintings.

When we finally arrived at the facility, my colleague and I noticed an art gallery next to the indoor museum. A lot of art was being churned from there and I soon understood why the walls were so alive with art. The receptionist, only introduced to us as Kigen, was a cool and friendly chap.

He handed to us the museum’s catalogue and gave us the go ahead that we should ask him any questions we wished to. We then started our self-guided tour with so much enthusiasm.

There’s nothing like reading about historic artifacts for yourself and taking all the knowledge in, minus the constant — and sometimes disruptive — narratives from guides. No offence though; guides are good people, but sometimes, learning about it yourself goes a longer way and feels better.

As we made our way through the four galleries, we came across an old bicycle. It was an inspector’s bike and was used in the late 1950’s as a quicker method to inspect the locomotives.

Back then, the trains were run by boiler engines and obviously, that was a slow means of transport. When they needed to do the checks, cycling there was faster because, again, the road infrastructure was not quite ticking yet.

Next to the inspector’s modern-day 4×4 pick-up truck was a collection of cutlery comprised of what remained of Queen’s dishes.

The plaque inside the glass casing indicated that the Queen used the porcelain cups and plates on special occasions. Notably, she used them on her trip back to Nairobi from Nyeri, after her honeymoon was cut short at the Treetops Hotel due to her father’s death.

We promptly left the galleries, but not before running our eyes through the Resource Centre. To be honest, what we really wanted was to see the trains — the olden locomotives — and we did.

As we made our way there, there was a group of people that had checked in for a photoshoot session. The facility and its features offer beautiful scenery for photography.

There’s a particular carriage that stood out for us. In the years gone by, it belonged to the Ugandan Railway. It had a kitchenette, a washroom and a living area. The toilet reeked and for sure, we knew it had been in use. The meandering journeys through valleys and hills did take their time.

If you have children in tow, there’s a rainbow city for them at the museum. The play area has tracks where a kiddie train takes them on ‘safari’ as you sit and watch them. We really enjoyed our three-hours visit, and as we left, we stopped by a restaurant just outside the premise because hunger pangs were real.

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