NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 5 – Kenyans will this Sunday have a chance to take a ride down memory lane on a vintage steam engine train that will transport passengers from Upperhill to Nairobi Park’s Cheetah Gate.
In efforts to diversify its products, the Kenya Wildlife Service on Friday announced a partnership with Kenya Railways and Mawenzi Gardens to link Nairobi National Park with the vintage 1924 steam engine dubbed, Nyaturu, after a Tanzanian tribe.
With an average of 1.4 million visitors to Kenya per annum, Nairobi National Park Senior Warden Mark Cheruiyot said in order to tap into a growing tourism market, the opportunity offers citizens and foreign travellers alike a unique experience of two national heritages.
“We are combining these two heritages, the only steam train taking passengers to the only animal reserve in a capital city in the world. It is something very unique,” he said
The park that was the first gazetted an animal reserve in East Africa in 1946, rests on 117 square kilometres of vast savannah and grass plains featuring four of the world’s ‘Big Five’ animals among other species.
Nairobi Railway Museum Curator Morris Barasa said the 30-kilometer ride will revive a 27-years tradition of steam engines that served the East African region, carrying the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales and the late US President Theodore Roosevelt.
“We want Kenyans to have the feeling of what a steam line locomotive is like. We revived the steam traction with Mawenzi Gardens going to Naivasha in May and Athi River,” he said.
The 147-ton Class 3020 steam engine, first came to Kenya in 1953 and did duty for East African Railways up until 1980.
The train that will ferry passengers from Mawenzi Gardens to the National Park, on Sunday, pulls five coaches with an average of 80 people per coach.
Mawenzi Gardens Managing Director Morris Waweru, said he hopes the new partnership serves as a template for other small companies and parastatals to create projects like the steam engine ride to help move the tourism sector forward.
“We think it can go far. We are in a new era where we are seeing the small companies, the jua kalis meet with the giants and big boys to come up with projects to appeal to the Kenyan public,” he said.
The train ride package will include transportation to and from the National Park, lunch at the Mokoiyet picnic site and a Game Drive.
The official launch is scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 7 at Mawenzi Gardens in Upperhill with ticket rates beginning at Sh3,000 for children and Sh5,100 for adults.