All hands helped me to dress and all were lined up to see me off
in all my glory - the suit was a perfect fit! I had been a little
apprehensive about being stopped and questioned about the suit and
my young age as one couldn't possibly match the other. I departed
to cries of laughter and such shouts as, "Mind no Zulu asks about
Eventually I arrived at the railway station where, for the first
time in my life I saw a Bayer Garet loco which is an engine that
ran in two parts separated by a tender. The front engine goes forward,
followed by the tender and the rear engine points backwards with
all the carriages behind - a train that never ran tender first!
As soon as I had stowed my gear on board I was back to the loco
at the front and was called to the engine by the driver, an English
man. After a short conversation I was invited onto the cab - it
was great! After shaking his hand I climbed back into my coach where
my shipmate asked me what I had been doing but my reply elicited
no interest, leading me to sense already that this joker was going
to be a pain. He was a Londoner and to him no life existed outside
the Capital, but he turned out to be no hindrance at Molo.
One thing that enchanted me about this train and on many I have
travelled on abroad since, is that no one stopped me from sitting
on the carriage steps where one could take in the landscape and
enjoy the cool passing air. We passed through the coastal strip
of forest and then onto huge plains that ran all the way to Nairobi.
Our first stop was at a place called Tsavo, where the original construction
of the railway had been halted for some considerable time as the
local lion wildlife took a considerable liking to the Indian workers
constructing it. The terrified Indians were pinned into the half-built
station buildings where some were even clawed out - a state of affairs
that continued until a white hunter was engaged to wipe the beasts
Then we were onto the Veldt, a slowly ascending plain of bushland
that rolled ever upward towards Nairobi and Central Africa. Scattered
Acacia trees and low scrubby bushes were its main cover with the
occasional river running seaward as the sun rose over this interminable
waste until it stood in furious splendour. To my delight a group
of giraffes were reaching up to nibble at the trees in a storehouse
of game of all sizes with rhinos, lions and innumerable species
of grazing animals taking absolutely no notice of the passing train.
I then realised that we must be rolling across the Athi Plains national
park, before we continued on into the environs of Nairobi.
During this last stretch, still sitting on the steps of the coach
I saw small figures by the side of the track some thirty to forty
miles from the town and when the train drew abreast they had stepped
off the track and were standing silently together. They were a man
and woman together with two small children, their sole apparel being
two loincloths. As the train approached I raised my hand in salute
to which the man replied by raising the long spear he carried -
a salute from a couple who seemed to be walking across the heart
of Africa. It gave me cause to think. As the train thundered past
I saw that she carried all their possessions and one of the children,
while his only possession was the spear. Strange sight.
The train eventually pulled into Nairobi in the late morning. It
gave the impression of being an American cow town with a mixture
of other architectures thrown in. We were met at the platform, or
should I say ground (Britain, up until then, seemed to be the only
country which provided railway platforms) by some ladies who were
most kind to us and took us to a large hall where we and other military
travellers were to be given a late breakfast the likes of which
I have never been given before or since.
We were offered about six different types of porridge, including
maize meal, then dishes of eggs meats and bacon - a veritable cornucopia.
Then a list of sweets that was unbelievable, followed by tea, coffee
and all sorts of tropical fruits - I had given up long before the
end and was only able to pick at the fruit. After wishing thanks
and leaving our gear we covered the town which was populated by
blacks, some whites and a surprising number of Indians who seemed
to be the relics of those brought over as indentured labourers,
but most of them seemed to have become shopkeepers. There were other
professions such as doctors etc., but the usual colour bar remained.
About mid-afternoon we and other passengers assembled to board
the train for the last leg of the journey towards Lake Victoria.
Molo, our destination was on the hump of Africa before the descent
towards the lake and the land had now changed to something very
like Britain with rolling fields of grass, big trees and a climate
very like that of a typical hot summer's day. Near our destination
the train ran over a huge valley which had been caused by a volcanic
eruption and was known locally as the Rift Valley. The eastern side
had slipped downward for many feet leaving a huge cliff face and
at the bottom were fumarols, steam vents, lakes of tar and all sorts
of volcanic phenomena.
The train stopped at the bottom for about twenty minutes during
which time we had a little stroll at he side of the beautiful Lake
Naivasa, a fairly large body of water alive with birds. The poor
old loco seemed as if it was regarding the ascent with a groan but
she manfully thundered her way to the top even though at one stage
the engineer driving could have looked straight at the rear of the
train beneath him.
We passed through the town, or rather station, of Equator, which
showed exactly where we were before the train arrived at Molo after
dark, by which time we had consumed all the delightful products
of the ladies of Nairobi. At the station we were met by the lady
of the hotel, situated about five miles away, at which we would
There were virtually no lights to be seen during our journey but
the sky was a vast velvet orb netted with stars, but what I noticed
mostly was the biting cold. Mine hostess noticed me shivering violently
and seemed to be quietly amused. "You'll be alright when you get
to the hotel", she said, "but you'll have to put on warmer clothes."
- too right.
Our room at the hotel with its two beds seemed quite comfy as I
took off my shirt etc. and quickly donned Old Jocks suit and took
a quick look at a long glass for reassurance. The suit with golden
badges and stripes looked splendid and was a perfect fit - the dining
room for our evening meal was the next step.