The Kenya – Uganda Railway was built by the Imperial British East Africa company back in the 1890s. Construction of the line began at the Kilindini Harbour in Mombasa in 1895. Around 1900, the line arrived at the present site of the city of Nairobi. Indeed, Nairobi owes its existence to railway engineers who drained a vast swamp, thus enabing the construction of permanent buildings. Indian labourers began commercial activities to cater for railway crews and colonial administrators. The railway arrived at Port Florence (Kisumu) around 1901.
Eventually, the British Government took over the territories of Kenya and Uganda from the Imperial British East Africa Company. In 1920, Kenya became a colony of the Crown under direct administration of the Colonial Office in London.
The railway was expanded from Eldoret to Kampala, bypassing the use of ships on Lake Victoria from Kisumu. Additional branch lines were built from Nakuru to Nyahururu, from Nakuru to Rongai and from Konza to Magadi. The invasion of Ethiopia by Italy during World War 2 forced the British to build a railway from Nairobi to Nanyuki in order to supply its forces. British troops forced the Italians out of Ethiopia and restored Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne.
After independence in the early 1960s, railway and port operations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were administered by a single body: the East African Railways and Harbours. The break up of the East African Community in 1977 marked the beginning of the end for the region’s railway system. Each of the three East African countries took up running its own system. In Kenya, railway and port operations were split between two state-owned corporations: Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority. The railway became starved of funds.
In Uganda, civil war between 1979 and 1986 paralyzed railway transport which is yet to recover to this day.
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