About – Save The Railway
Save The Railway is a project that aims to document and help preserve Kenya’s antique railway stations in the wake of their dilapidated state and the impending demolition of some.
Given the unfortunate decline of the Kenya – Uganda railway infamously known as “The Lunatic Express”, most of the railway stations along the line have been closed down and remain in piteous states.
Now, with the construction of the SGR, a few of the stations have been demolished with more set to come down as the construction of the new railway progresses.
As we replace this railway that so many died building, from which so many people earned their living, this same railway that moved us across the country and built cities in its wake, we need to ask ourselves, what stories do these stations, these rails, and these trains hold for Kenya? What do they say about our history , our decisions and ultimately our future ?
” ..I owe my existence today to the fact that my Grandfather the Late Arapu Okwelle Noah was one of the few Africans who joined in the construction of the railway from Kisumu, through Tororo and towards Pakwach. The last he ever spoke to me about the work he was doing was his first time exposure to houses built using blocks – notably the railway stations. …..Today I have cousins who have Asian-African blood, I love them so much, they are grown ups and also have children, they make our clan very unique among all clans around us in Soroti Uganda. “
Comment by Joe Davis on Thee Agora
Started in 2013, Save The Railway aims to journey across the country, visit each and every remaining station and document its story.
The aforementioned documentation involves, taking photos / videos of the stations and carrying out interviews with people who previously worked or lived around them.
As a movement, #SaveTheRailway also hopes to keep individual stories alive, by encouraging people from all walks of life, to share their memories and sentiments about the railway.
There are more than 100 railway stations spread across this country. Some were established as temporary stops during the construction of the railway and some were intended as permanent stations. The first mainland station to be opened in the country was Changamwe Station opened on 15th December 1897, the station still stands to date.
In October of 2015, Phase 1 of the project was implemented with transport provided by Kenya Railways and Nairobi Railway Museum. This involved visiting nearly 50 railway stations between Mombasa and Nairobi ( including those on the Voi-Taveta line ) . In 10 days, covering a target of 5 stations a day we were able to visit most of the stations, although some of them had already been demolished .
— Thee Agora (@TheeAgora) October 14, 2015
The second phase of the project ( Nairobi – Kisumu ) was carried out in March 2016. Travelling with Bettina Ng’weno director of Last Dance of Kaloleni and transport by Makau Mutua we managed to visit nearly 20 railway stations along this line. Among them Longmont, Naivasha, Molo, Elburgon, Chemilil and more.
We were also able to visit the Kisumu – Butere line which was opened in the 1930’s. Some of the stations along this line included Luanda, Kisian, Lela, Yala and eventually Butere.
Phase 3 of the project ( 2017 ) hopes to visit the alternate branch lines that were laid after the main railway line to Kisumu was completed. These lines include Nakuru – Malaba, Gilgil – Thompson Falls and Nairobi – Nanyuki.
After its completion in 1901, the railway went on to live a life of servitude and earnest devotion to this country and its citizens. For more than 100 years it would serve several generations of men. It would draw people towards it and it would watch cities grow around it. But above all else, it would remain living proof that once men have set their minds to something, no obstacle is too huge to overcome. Anything is possible.
I strongly believe that Saving The Railway is indeed possible.
I’ll certainly continue to update any progress made on this site. Once the project is complete, I will also look into the possibility of holding a photo exhibition showcasing the journey and publishing a photo book on the same. To all those who have supported this project since it began, thank you. And if you’re reading this , thank you too. 🙂
Special thanks to Nairobi Railway Museum, Kenya Railways, Bettina Ng’weno, Njane Mugambi .
Tayiana Chao – Project Founder