The International Steam Pages

Steamy Wedding Bells and Whistles in Kenya

This report by BILLY MUIRURI appeared in the Kenya Daily Nation and was posted on their site on August 11th 2010. I have made no attempt to edit it, note that GBP 1 = Kenya Shillings 125 approximately as of the date of publication.

"You can now have your wedding aboard a moving train. Alternatively, you and your family can have fun using the new services aboard a vintage locomotive.

Weddings on the vintage engine will cost about Sh200,000. "The couple can choose to sit at the foot plate (driver's cabin), or in front of the engine (from outside) on a historic seat known as the "cow catcher", says the curator of the Kenya Railways Museum, Maurice Barasa.

Mr Barasa explains: "The seat was used by former American president Theodore Roosevelt when game hunting. "He would sit in front of the engine as it moved and shoot animals in the wilderness," he adds.

Such couples can be accompanied by their guests in an 1899 vintage couch for the ride and photo shoot," says Mr Francis Waweru, the proprietor of Mawenzi Gardens, the hotel that hired the engines.

The leisure rides on historical steam engines are here courtesy of Kenya Railways and a hotelier. The two engines, Class 3020 and Class 2409, have been hired and started working last weekend.

Families will be boarding the steam engine at the Railway headquarters for a 50 kilometre ride to Athi River, Embakasi, Thika or Limuru.

The first ride last Sunday was met with excitement when more than 60 families took the "slow ride" to Athi River. "It is a great treat. I thank dad for bringing me here," said Janet Akinyi, 11.

Her classmate Eric Kamau, 12, said he had never been so close to a train. "I only see them in pictures. I like the slow speed as I am able to watch things outside," he said as the locomotive roared towards Athi River.

Records show about 62 such engines found their way in Kenya from England during the colonial period to boost transport between Mombasa and Kisumu. "We have seven coaches that can be mounted on the engine, and each has a capacity of 72 comfortably seated passengers," said Waweru.

Mr Waweru said Nairobi residents love unique things. "More parents are reserving Sundays for families. I wanted a family day out that does not have to be in a bar," said Mr Waweru. The engines move at 25 kilometres per hour. "It is meant for leisure and sight seeing, so there is no hurry," said Mr Barasa.

A music system has been mounted, the seats are clean and there is someone to teach riders the history of the 1896 Kenya-Uganda Railway, then known as Victoria Lake Railway. "We also want to teach people how the railway line was built in Kenya," said Mr Barasa.

Mr John Mwangazi said he brought his two sons aged 10 and 12 to have fun and learn something about the history of the country. "I used trains to and from school in the 1980s and I have an attachment to railway transport. I also want the children to enjoy the ride and munch snacks," he said, and added: "For me and my wife, the ride is romantic."

According to a schedule the Nation saw, a 50-kilometre ride will cost Sh1,700 for adults and Sh1,300 for children. After South Africa, Kenya is the only other country in Africa to adopt a leisure steam locomotive."

Rob Dickinson