The International Steam Pages

Steam News from Kenya, 2009 

Graham Roberts who was heavily involved in the steam revival in Kenya a few years back reports on a recent revisit to his old haunts:

The museum was a pleasure to see clean, busy with tourists, with well-informed guides explaining the exhibits. Preserved ED1 class tank loco 327 has been repainted in KUR graphite, more accurately than previously and is now protected by a neat steel shelter.

The parts of the Museum building previously occupied by the weighing machine and refrigeration maintenance groups have been vacated and are to be filled with new museum exhibits.

The platform and loop line adjacent to the building on its south side are also now part of the Museum, with the intention of running heritage trains from it one day. Composite Buffet Bogie 4600, dating from 1948, has been added to Museum stock and is in the adjacent sidings awaiting shunting.

I spent time talking to both the curator, Maurice Barasa, and his deputy Tom Nyika, and they clearly have interesting plans including the revival of steam-hauled excursions. 3020's November 2008 steaming was meant to be in connection with the second anniversary of concessioning, and a trip had been scheduled to Naivasha with a platform full of expectant people ready for the trip early one morning! RVR staff threw a spanner in the works at the last moment by saying they hadn't been consulted and weren't ready to sign off on the scheme without further consideration. Maurice Barasa was left with an angry crowd to calm down, and 3020 was dumped unceremoniously a few yards away from its shelter in the workshops, where it still lies two months later, awaiting shunting back into the shed.

Barasa has plans for steam excursions from Voi to Maktau on the mothballed Taveta branch, in connection with a museum planned by a German entrepreneur for the WW1 battle site there. This would be a wonderful journey - the branch's 56lb rail should be adequate for 3020 and the ruling gradients of 2.5% (1 in 40) would produce some spectacular noise if the loco was kept in good condition. Don't book your air ticket yet, though some of the rails on the branch have been stolen by scrap merchants ... My favoured scheme of a tourist train from Nanyuki to Naro Moru with snow-capped Mount Kenya in the background is also on Maurice's list. It's a challenging task and I hope he succeeds. Meanwhile, the three steam locos are in the workshops, filthy but intact as far as I could tell from a rapid but fairly extensive inspection. They are under the eyes of RVR's private security staff.

I'm glad to say that Joe Kamau Gakunga, who headed the team which brought steam locos 5918 and 3020 back to working order, is in good health. Now in his 70s, he and his wife welcomed me to their new house in Kitengela on the edge of the Athi Plains. I also met up with three of the fitters who did most of the work in bringing 2409 back to working order, and with Fred Anyasi, their former supervisor.

Rob Dickinson