Sir George Washington (1857- 1938)

Sir George K.C.B was known as the Knight Builder of the Uganda Railway-the railway that exercised a paramount influence on the history of East Africa. An educate at King’s College London, a Civil Engineer employed in construction of Railways in Natal, Mexico, India and Peru and Chief Engineer of the Central Argentine Rail.


Being a gentleman who had long and varied experience of railway construction in tropical countries, and holding excellent testimonials from some leading members of the profession, he became Manager and Chief Engineer, directing the building of the railway from the Indian Ocean to the Lake Victoria Nyanza at the age of 38.

Following his arrival at the port of Mombasa on 11th December 1985, Sir George was assigned the duty of examining and making careful surveys of the coastal section, in arranging for the landing of stores, and generally in organizing the base of operations at Mombasa to ensure that the works inland proceeded expeditiously and economically a task that he carried out diligently, despite the fact that this was not part of what he had signed up for, in his job description as an engineer.

“From what I have seen and know of the country, I can recommend no other plan than water trains for the first 100miles, until Voi is reached” was Sir George’s first remark when asked for his views on how the project would be initiated. In under the first year of the construction works, he directed the building of a viaduct that joined Mombasa to the mainland, wooden bridges across the Mazeras and Majichumvi ravines, in addition to many small bridges and culverts; an indication of how good George K.C.B was good at what he did.


He suggested that the line ascend the Mau Escarpment almost at once, reaching a summit level of about 8,330 feet; and to descend to Lake Victoria by the Valley of the tributaries of the Nyando River. This suggestion was implemented after several changes on his plans by his team players.

Sir George’s decision to move the railway headquarters from Mombasa to Nairobi resulted in the subsequent growth of Nairobi as a commercial and business hub of the then British East Africa protectorate.

Having dedicated 7 years of his life to the initiation and development of the railway under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty, Sir Charles Elliot, Commissioner of the East Africa protectorate then recorded a notable tribute to the manner in which Whitehouse drove the railway across the Taru plain.

No part of the construction were the indomitable courage and perseverance of Sir George Whitehouse more conspicuous or more useful than in driving the line through this monotonous, unhealthy scrub.In March 31st 1903, he handed over reigns.


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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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