Railway Rambling in Kenya, Part 1. In July and August 2009, the Webmaster visited Kenya to undertake a fortnight's work for the charity Classrooms for Kenya. This entailed building classrooms with a group of sixth form students for primary and secondary schools in the upper Rift Valley – a demanding task given the tropical heat, the high altitude and the fact that everything had to be done by hand, including fetching water for the cement and concrete. During his stay, he explored the northern end of the Kitale branch (pronounced Kittarley, with the emphasis on the 'ar') which, officially, starts at Eldoret, although the junction station is actually Leseru, a few miles to the north west of Eldoret. The branch reached Kitale in 1926 but, according to locals, was last used in ca. 1975. However, all of the infrastructure remains in place with the sole exception of the signal cables, which have disappeared without trace; presumably, these were of value to the locals! Railways in Kenya were laid to a gauge of 1 metre, that used in India, since they were constructed using Indian labourers and materials. The following links provide further background information:

In February 2011, we received this interesting addendum from Paul Taylor of Tyne & Wear: 'Enjoyed looking at the pictures of Kitale. This station was in full use for freight in 1983 when I left Kenya after a 2½ year stint of aid work. There was no passenger service by then but much of the supplies, including food, for a major famine relief project in the Turkana district to the north of Kitale came in by rail and was forwarded by road. There was a Barclay 0-8-0 class 46 shunter stationed there and the regular branch engines were EE 1Bo-Bo1 of class 71 or 72.'

Left: This is the first clue that anything of the railway still survives in Kitale – a level crossing that carries the road to Kitale Cathedral across the old line. Typically, all of the railway's signs still remain, including this one which is being used as a clothes hanger! Tarmac roads in rural Kenya are few and far between, and some of them have not been repaired since the British left in 1963. Everything at ground level in this picture is composed of red clay, baked by the sun. July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Right: To be consistent with its metric gauge, distances on the Kenya railway system were measured in kilometres. This triangular 'kilometre post' measures 1.50 kilometres from the Kitale terminus. The margins of the railway are now used by locals as a cycle track, as can be seen from the tyre tracks around this structure. That it leans so probably has more to do with the tropical rain than acts of vandalism – when it rains in Kenya, it hammers down! July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: A typical view along the trackbed, looking north west towards Kitale. The W signs, one facing each way, instruct the driver of oncoming trains to sound his whistle – not for the footpath crossing seen in the foreground, but for the level crossings in front of and behind the photographer. A man with a blue bag of shopping approaches along the permanent way. July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Left: A signal, apparently, protects another level crossing, although this is more likely to be the home starter for entering Kitale station yard. The signal is an unusual combination of British styles, using the lattice structure common on the LSWR but the lower quadrant board common on the GWR. July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The level crossing seen in the background of the photograph above is still protected by this substantial sign, although its neighbour on the other side has begun to topple over (look for the white-painted ends of its arms). Signs like this abound all over the Kenyan railway system, on lines both open and closed. Unusually, this road is made of tarmac and is not full of potholes! July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The turnout to Kitale goods yard. As can be seen, the point lever is still in place, as are all of its counterparts throughout this large yard. Note the cyclist to the left of the rails, who is using the old line as a shortcut into town. Note also the livestock to the right; the locals use every available piece of green space for grazing, whether it adjoins an old railway or a busy modern road. July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The crane in the old goods yard survives, now used by locals as an informal meeting place. Presumably, it is still capable of working, since all the cables and pulleys remain in place – albeit somewhat rusty and in need of lubrication. July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Kitale station, viewed from the goods yard, was equipped with only a single platfom, although it was very long. The station's design is just what one would expect of a colonial structure built in the early 20th century with its elegant arches and colonnades. The departure road is covered in grass but the rails can just be made out, while the rails in the foreground belong to the main running line within the goods yard. The small stone building behind the telegraph pole was the station master's office. July 2009. (Jeff Vinter)