“My heart bleeds to see Kenya’s heritage going into oblivion. As we embrace technology and development, let’s not forget to conserve our heritage,” that is a plea by Phyllis Kaluma, a loyal user of the Rift Valley Railways metre gauge rail trains. Kaluma, 69, has travelled with these trains to Mombasa since the 1970s.
Ms Kaluma was one of the passengers on board as the Rift Valley Railways metre gauge train made its last trip from Nairobi to Mombasa. Like her, many passengers had no clue this would be the final trip.
“What! I never knew this was the last trip. I just boarded the train as I always do because I’ve been using it since the early 1960s. How come nobody from the management informed me yet I’m a regular traveler?” that was her reaction when this journalist broke the sad news.
The train used to make two daily trips from Mombasa to Nairobi.
But with this new development, the train will only operate on special request by clients.
A ride on the first class costs Sh4,400 inclusive of dinner and breakfast, 2nd class, Sh3,335 bed and breakfast while 3rd class passengers cost Sh450 without meals.
The passenger trains were also popular with international tourists because it gave riders an experience. Myra Maass, a tourist from Germany was shocked to receive the news while on board, that the train was making its last trip.
“This is such a cool and memorable experience, it’s really sad to learn that there will no more such an experience in Kenya. The Kenyan government should keep this train service alive, at least for those who would want to use it,” said Maass.
A Rift Valley employee who didn’t want to be named, confirmed the news and said they still don’t know the fate the workers.
The long journeys from Nairobi to Mombasa allowed travellers to enjoy beautiful natural scenes of nature and wildlife as the train snaked through the countryside.
Traveller from 1960s
Gibson Mugwero, 65, also mourned the end of the rides. He has been using the train since he was a teenager.
“I love this mode of travel because it is fairly safe and there is no traffic,” said Mugwero.
Though he welcomed the entry of the new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), he urged the government to maintain the old trains for heritage.
Joyce Kinagwi, who was seated next to her daughter Ruth Kirwa during the final trip, was sad there will never be such trips again. She has used the train since the 1960s.
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She remembers the travels with nostalgia: “The experience is nostalgic, the site seeing, the landscape our country, the wildlife through our national parks is just breathtaking.”
The railway was built during the British rule in the 1890s.