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Visit Nairobi railway museum to get a dose of history

A train ride through various Nairobi settlements and stops to the famous Nairobi Railway Station may not seem like a big deal to many city dwellers.

But it offers the best chance to sample the city’s rich history.

And what a better way to remember your journey on a train than to visit the adjacent Nairobi Railway Museum located on a neatly maintained compound at the corner of Haile Selassie Avenue and Uhuru Highway.

At the entrance, one is greeted by a commemorative plaque as a tribute to members of the Uganda Railways staff who gave up their lives in World War I.


And as you walk around the museum, it feels like you are turning the pages of a good history book about Kenya’s railway system.

Sadly, very few Kenyans, other than tourists, visit the museum despite its rich history. It is made up of the main building, an annex and an outdoor display area.

Each relic on display in the main building has a story to tell. There are realistic models of trains and ships.

You might wonder what are ships doing in a railway museum. The ships show that the Kenya Ports Authority was once part of the railway, under the East African Railways and Harbours. Most of these ships sailed in Lake Victoria.

On the museum’s walls are photographs and maps that showcase the slow and challenging progress of the railway line construction across Kenya, which began on May 30, 1896.

Inside the early trains and ships are brass lanterns, huge clocks, an old typewriter, and plates and cutlery from the dining cars. You will also find a menu advertising lunch for just Sh3.


At the Annexe, where old engine parts are kept, you will find many interesting things like a bicycle, which was designed to drive on a railway track. The railway inspector used the bicycle.

A dining table and a wall unit salvaged from the wreckage of Konisberg, a 3,400-tonne World War I German warship that was scuttled at the delta of River Rufiji, Tanganyika, as Tanzania was then called, is also on display.

But a visit to the museum would be incomplete without posing for a picture besides the coach christened Kima Killer. It reminds you of the savagery the builders of the rail line had to contend with.

It is from this coach that, on June 6, 1900, a lion snatched Charles Henry Ryall, a railways superintendent, and dragged him to his death in the Nyika plains. Ironically Ryall had stopped at Kima railway station intending to shoot the lion.

The museum contains a fascinating historic record of life in early Kenya and it is a must visit for all patriotic Kenyans.