Kenya: Bridge Linked to Man-Eater Lions Turns 120

Kenya: Bridge Linked to Man-Eater Lions Turns 120

Motorists driving through Tsavo West National Park on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway marvel at the giant bridge on the modern railway line at Man Eaters near Manyani Township.

The 1900-metre-long concrete and metal behemoth standing on thick concrete pillars across Tsavo River was installed by Chinese engineers as they built the standard gauge railway (SGR).

The railway line, whose construction started in 2014, was commissioned two years ago.

The super bridge dwarfs a humble bridge on the old and narrower railway line installed across the same river, which starts at Mzima Springs and moves deeper into the park.

Simply known as Tsavo Bridge, the metallic installation has been in existence for 120 years.


Indian engineers working for the Imperial British East Africa, the company, tasked with building the old railway line, built the bridge. Though a little rusty, the metallic installation on robust concrete pillars looks as strong as ever.

The bridge that was completed in 1899 opened up the dreaded section of the park, known for deadly lions, to sightseers, enabling travellers to soak in the beauty of the park.

A pair of lions roaming the region frustrated the building of the railway line. They killed about 28 and mauled more than 100 railway workers within a year before they were gunned down. That is how the place earned the name Man Eaters.

The terror the lions visited upon the poor workers is amplified in the book The Man Easters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures published in 1907 by Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, the head of the bridge construction project, who hunted down and killed the lions.