NAIROBI NEWS: 1920 “WHEN COW CATCHERS AREN’T ENOUGH. TRAINS VS WILDLIFE IN 1920’S KENYA”
East Africa had its own problems with wildlife and trains. From the beginning, the Uganda railways (or “lunatic line” as it came to be known) had wildlife problems. One only has to read Lt. Colonel J. H. Patterson’s THE MAN-EATERS OF TSAVO to know about the lion problems. But even after the line was completed, wildlife got in the way. In most cases, a good blast of a whistle sent herds of giraffe (whose necks sometimes broke telegraph lines), zebra, and various antelope scampering for safety. More problematic were rhino and elephants.
Rhino were known for poor eyesight and quick tempers. Puffing locomotives sounded like a threat and “from time to time (get) in the way of trains with unfortunate results to themselves.” The August 1, 1920 issue of The Leader of British East Africa reported that Thursday’s up-train from Mombassa, “met with an exciting adventure at mile 161/2 near Muito Andei Station.” The time was three a.m. on a moonlit night. The train was “careering along at about 25 miles an hour” when “a terrific jolt” knocked it to a standstill. The problem: a half-grown elephant with foot-long tusks lay dead alongside the tracks after it struck the train.
Such an event made for lively talk among the colonists and by the following week, a tale was in circulation regarding the train’s guard. He’d seen “some obstruction near the window (and) enquired what the ‘flap’ was for and how it came to be there. On proceeding to lift it, he found it was the elephant’s ear.”
Read TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH for another, albeit fictional, encounter of a train with full grown elephants. It’s available September 1 at bookstores everywhere. Check the events page at www.suzannearruda.com to see how you can get a signed copy. If you cannot attend an event, just contact the store in advance for a signed copy.
The images and quotes were taken from The Leader of British East Africa August 1, and August 7, 1920.
NEXT WEEK: More East Africa tales from the 20’s.
NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, and The Leopard’s Prey, all available in trade paperback. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009 in hardcover. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda
Labels: 1920, Col. Patterson, Elephants, Jade del Cameron, Kenya Colony, Lunatic Line, Man-eating Lions, Mombassa., Nairobi, The Leader of British East Africa, trains, Treasure of the Golden Cheetah, Tsavo