The Lunatic Line

Some good railway stories courtesy of Nairobi Railway Museum for you…

The Lunatic Line was the nickname given by the British newspapers during the colonial era for what was seen as the rather mental undertaking to build a railway line from the coast of Kenya right through to Uganda. The railway museum in Nairobi “celebrates” this mammoth feat – although celebrates is a difficult word for something that cost the lives of, on average, 4 men per mile of track… bearing in mind this track is 580 miles long.

What is more, 140 of those lives were lost at the jaws of two fearsome lions known as the man-eaters of Tsavo (Tsavo being the land where the incidents took place). 140 people! Two lions!

Rather terribly the Brits weren’t particularly concerned at first when the mainly Indian workers started going missing, presuming it to be the result of in-fighting over wages. However, when the first British General got snapped up they began to take things a bit more seriously. The result was a lion hunt that served up two remarkable rugs for the captor.

But the highlight of the Railway museum has to be the First Class train coach that one British Sergeant used as his hide-out during a lion hunt. This Sergeant had the grand plan that he would camp out in the coach over night with a couple of buddies, leaving all the windows and doors open so as to spot the lion when it approached and shoot with ease.

Unfortunately, the old boy fell asleep on the job. And his friends could only watch in terror as the hunted became the hunter, sneaking into the coach and dragging his nemesis off into the night. It really was incredible to sit in this tiny coach and think of the massive beast that had once stood in it!