EAR 59 class

The EAR 59 class was a class of oil-fired 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) gauge Garratt-type articulated steam locomotives. The 34 members of the class were built by Beyer, Peacock & Co. in Manchester, England, for the East African Railways (EAR). They entered service in 1955–56, and were the largest, heaviest and most powerful steam locomotives to operate on any metre gauge railway in the world.[1]

East African Railways 59 class
5902 prior to being named Ruwenzori Mountains
5902 prior to being named Ruwenzori Mountains
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderBeyer, Peacock & Co.
Order number11164, 11168
Serial number7632–7658, 7700–7706
Build date1955
Total produced34
 • Whyte4-8-2+2-8-4 Garratt
 • UIC(2′D1′)(1′D2′) h4
Gauge1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Driver dia.54 in (1,372 mm)
Length102 ft 11 in (31.37 m)
Adhesive weight157 long tons (160 t)
Loco weight248 long tons (252 t)
 • Firegrate area
72 sq ft (6.69 m2)
Boiler225 psi (1.55 MPa)
Heating surface3,560 sq ft (331 m2)
 • Heating area745 sq ft (69.2 m2)
Cylinder size20.5 in × 28 in (521 mm × 711 mm)
Performance figures
Maximum speed43 mph (69 km/h)
Tractive effort83,350 lbf (370.76 kN)
OperatorsEast African Railways
Preserved5918, 5930


The locomotives had a 4-8-2+2-8-4 wheel arrangement, weighed 252 tons, and delivered a tractive effort of 83,350 lbf (370.76 kN). They were designed to haul 1,200-ton trains on 1.5% gradients and were the mainstay of freight services on the 330-mile run from Mombasa to Nairobi until the late 1970s.

During normal service the locomotives were manned by two regular crews on a 'caboose' basis, one working and one resting in a van with sleeping accommodation, changing over at eight-hour intervals.

The engines, many with Sikh drivers, were kept very clean and the cabs were polished and immaculate. The most famous was 5918 Mount Gelai with a devoted crew known as the 'Magnificent Foursome' who worked her for 16 years. The two drivers, Kirpal Singh and Walter Pinto, simply took their holidays when the locomotive went into the works at Nairobi for scheduled maintenance.

According to railway photographer Colin Garratt (in 1975), 'the overall condition of Mount Gelai is possibly unrivalled anywhere in the world today. Her cab interior is more akin to a Sikh temple than a locomotive footplate for its boiler face abounds in polished brasswork, embellished with mirrors, clocks, silver buckets and a linoleum floor'.[2]

Withdrawal started in 1973 with the last locomotive (Mount Gelai) removed from service in April 1980 when it was driven by its long time driver, Kirpal Singh directly to the railway museum. Mr Singh retired from railway service the same day. Together with Mount Gelai, Mount Shengena was also saved from the scrapyard and both are now preserved by the Nairobi Railway Museum.

In August 2001 Mount Gelai was removed from the Railway Museum and towed to Kenya Railways main works for overhaul to operating condition. Between November 2001 and September 2005 the locomotive made three round trips to Mombasa hauling excursion trains. It was also used on a least one occasion to haul a freight train to Nairobi due to a diesel locomotive shortage. However, it has not operated outside the confines of Nairobi since 2005 and is unlikely to do so again due to operational restrictions and the at least partial replacement of Kenya's meter gauge (1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)) rail lines with standard gauge (1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)) lines.

In fictionEdit

In the 2018 Thomas and Friends special Big World! Big Adventures! the new character Kwaku is based on the EAR 59 class.


The locomotives were named after mountains in East Africa:


  1. ^ Ramaer 1974, pp. 72–73.
  2. ^ Garratt, Colin (1974). Steam Safari.


External linksEdit