The Uganda Railway (known colloquially as The Lunatic Express) is a railway system and former railway company linking the interiors of Uganda and Kenya with the Indian Ocean at Mombasa in Kenya.
The official approach, British and local, to both slavery and free porter labour included a genuine belief that the man doing the work had real interests which deserved concern and protection. No such concern was evident among parliamentarians, missionaries or administrators for those at work on the construction of the Uganda Railway. It was decided to build the railway as quickly as possible; its construction was viewed almost as a military attack—casualties were inevitable and might be large if the objective was to be attained and momentum not lost.
Built during the Scramble for Africa, the Uganda Railway was "a truly imperial project, built by the British government with little purpose other than to cement its colonial power". 2,498 workers would die during its construction.
The Uganda Railway was named after its ultimate destination, for its entire original 660-mile length actually lay in what would become Kenya. Construction began at the port city of Mombasa in British East Africa in 1896, and finished at the line's terminus, Kisumu, on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, in 1901. 200,000 individual 30 feet rail-lengths and 1.2 million sleepers, 200,000 fish-plates, 400,000 fish-bolts and 4.8 million steel keys including steel girders for viaducts and causeways had to be imported, necessitating the creation of a modern port at Kilindini in Mombasa. With their new steam-powered access to Uganda, the British could ferry people and soldiers about to ensure their domination of the region.