Visit to the railway museum in Jinja

The entrance of the Uganda Railway Museum in Jinja. The facility was opened in March  2022. PHOTO/ Cross-cultural Foundation Uganda

What you need to know:

  • Uganda Railway Museum is housed in one of Jinja’s oldest and historical buildings constructed in 1928. 

Travelling with friends brings utmost joy and imaginations of how the trip will advance, but personally travelling in the night got me thrilled.

We had made plans from January to tick Jinja off our 2024 travel bucket list. On our itinerary included tubing the Nile, water sliding and visiting the railway Museum in Jinja. On March 14, I boldly took a step of enjoying a night trip with my friends. Prior to the trip, I was not sure if I would go because of my night travel phobia. I started packing my bags on the night of departure.

Off we go

Heavy traffic delayed our departure from Kampala, but deep down I had unstoppable excitement. We left the city at 11pm and we opted to use the Gayaza-Bukoloto-Njeru route to beat jam and of course stay away from the heavy trucks in Mabira Forest. We finally arrived in Jinja at 2am on March 15.

We were welcomed by the bright lights that glow throughout the night at the new Jinja Bridge. At the Jinja roundabout Shell petrol station, we stopped to refill fuel. And just like any youth trip, we decided to hang out at the supermarket to grab some refreshments. Usually most youth will pick  beers or whiskeys, but we opted for soft drinks, juice,  smoothies, and beverages such as tea and coffee accompanied by snacks to  take us through the night.


The rooms that had been booked were at Kabalega Guest House. Despite our late arrival, we were thrilled by the alertness, lovely and warm welcome of the staff. Since we were only a group of four people, we decided to share a three-bedroom quarter. As soon as we settled in, we had our snacks and prepared to rest looking forward to the long day that we had been awaiting.

The guest house offered services  such as breakfast and a mini-bar. The interior and exterior space were neatly organised for people that are on a budget to enjoy.

The museum

The  Railway Museum that was officially opened in 2022 is located a few miles after the new bridge along the Jinja-Iganga highway and this took us a 15-minutes-drive to reach our destination.

On arrival, my friends and I were ushered in by a warm receptionist whom we paid to Shs 5,000 per head for the tickets to access the museum. At the back of mind, the picture that I had fathomed is that of a museum that stores the old things such as archeological artefacts; talk of animal bones, skulls, but here it was different. Being a former railway station, the Railway Museum which opens from Tuesday to Sunday is an educative place that entails the history and the use of the railway from 1928.

At the entrance of the Museum is thus the written and artistic explanations that are designed to support learning in order to appreciate the history of Uganda in regard to the era before the railway establishment, its inception and the colonialists’ effects. The illumination of natural light and soft lit lamps hanging at the back of the corridor at the ceiling endear one to keep advancing and touring the museum.

The museum also features a black man that seats in the corner of the last room, and if not careful, might frighten you at first encounter. He is a representation of the train conductors  back in time. Train conductors issued tickets to rail passengers and make sure that their journeys are safe and comfortable.

While I was advancing to another room which I thought was the same as others. I did not expect to find anyone on my way. I was panic-stricken when I entered the room and to my left in the corner was a sculpture of a man seated at the table. I laughed at myself for being so scared, and I did not warn any of my friends who were also scared by the sculpture.

We were shown the different routes of the train throughout Uganda although most have become non-functioning, the cargo measuring scale of those days and so much more. The tour through the museum took us more than 25 minutes and were led to the Jinja locomotive and coaches.

The train

While on social media platforms such as TikTok or YouTube many will recommend visiting the train at the railway museum. I could not wait to get into the train. The train is situated on the right hand of the Jinja locomotive and coach.

The entrance of the Uganda Railway Museum in Jinja. The facility was opened in March  2022. PHOTO/ Cross-cultural Foundation Uganda

The restored locomotive is the section of the train where the engine man and his assistant used to operate the train to transport people to their destinations. Although passengers were not allowed to enter the locomotive, we were let in by our tour guide to mimic the deeds of the former engine men.

Acting as the engineman, I was assigned to ensure that my right foot did not leave the brake pedal, see through the front and right window to check for any obstacles along the way, and also control the speed of the train and its direction when riding on the rails.

Immaculate interior

At the back of the locomotive is the coach that was used by the first class passengers in the former times. The clean, aerated spacious cabin with eight medium beautifully coloured seats gave an aesthetic environmental appeal from the natural light through the windows caught me by surprise. It is like the cabin is still functioning and has not been used before despite the outmoded design.

Just like the clean and new blue, yellow and black paint on the exterior of the train, when I asked the tour guide about the appearance of the interior, he said that the station has staff that ensure the proper cleaning and maintenance of the train to attract people.

The train also entails a television that keeps passengers entertained while on board. Similar to watching a film in a cinema, we made ourselves comfortable to watch the train carriage short film that explained the history of the train in Uganda.

It is from this I learnt that the name of the place ‘Kalerwe’ comes from people back then referring to the place where the train connected to Bombo ‘Ku railway’. The train was a comfortable and satisfactory place to sit, watch and appreciate the social and cultural ways of the past during the full operation of the railway in Uganda.