Do not miss out this extraordinary place in Nairobi
This is a fascinating place – and should not be missed by locals and visitors. My friends and I got to visit Nairobi Railway Museum for the first time in 2015- the memorabilia and photographs of the extraordinary endeavor that building this railway represented, and the hardships of those involved are a significant part of the history of the country and come to life here. This museum literally catalogs the birth of Nairobi and Kenya in general. It gives the history of how the Kenya-Uganda railway was built and with it the nation of Kenya defined. It is full of history that every Kenyan should know. You get a chance to see the various train engines used over the years including the hand-pushed train wagons. The Museum is dated and worn around the edges, but they do a good job on a meager budget. Rail history is well-articulated and its significance to the growth of Kenya and relevance within the British Commonwealth is clearly presented. Exterior exhibits (e.g., trains) are unfortunately not comprehensively labeled; it’s minimal. But one gets the idea. Entry fee for residents is 400ksh and none residents 600, photography charges 3000ksh, this is charged separately if you are doing a commercial shoot.
The museum spreads out across four rooms and the large yard outside. The first room is the largest, and the most interesting. Before we started, a museum staffer conducted us to a relief map of Kenya and gave us an introduction to the history of the Kenyan railways: how the system was designed by the British primarily to allow them access to the Nile in Uganda; how Indians were brought in to work as supervisors while local Kenyans provided most of the labor; the progress made; and important landmarks and incidents related to the railways, such as the infamous Tsavo maneaters.
Another highlight of this room is three claws of one of the Tsavo man-eaters that disrupted work on the ‘Lunatic Line’, as the Mombasa-Nairobi line was known. The claws are kept safely in a little plastic box, at the staff’s office: we asked to see these and were shown them readily enough. The second room is much smaller and contains signaling equipment and other communications equipment used by the railways, from bells and lamps and early typewriters to telephones of various vintages. In the third room are items related to ships and water transport: models of ships associated with Kenya, and a good bit about a German cruiser named Konigsberg, which was sunk off the coast during World War I. This room contains a fine sideboard and the captain’s table salvaged from the Konigsberg.
The last room is about modern railways in Kenya, most of which are being developed with Chinese collaboration. After these four rooms, we went off to the large, graveled yard outside, where are stationed several engines, coaches, and related railway equipment. Several of these are open, and you are allowed to climb in to look around and take pictures, ooh boy! we took loads of them! For me, the most interesting piece of history here was stationed inside the pale blue shed near the gate: here stands Coach #12, a first-class coach inside which a British police officer, Superintendent Charles Henry George Ryall, had decided to sit up, armed with a gun, to try and kill one of the Tsavo man-eaters. Unfortunately for Ryall, he fell asleep—and was killed by the lion, which entered the coach. A little outside the shed and close to the gate of the yard is a locomotive which was used in the filming of the movie ‘Out of Africa’. A fascinating museum!