The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Vol 106 / Issue 20

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Rolling history Nairobi, KeNya – At the end of the workday, businessmen in suits join schoolboys in uniform as they rush toward the station to board commuter trains. Tourists, small-time merchants, and oth- ers join them on the platform for a different kind of trip: the an- cient line that connects Kenya's capital to the Port of Mombasa. Construction of the railway began in 1896 to carry freight and passengers to the coast and back. The journey has changed little in the century since. Normally 15 hours long, the 330-mile over- night trip often stretches to 24 hours, as passenger trains must pull onto sidings and wait for freight trains to pass. The rail gauge is so narrow that the cars bobble from side to side, and up and down, as the train crawls down the track. It was once known as the "lunatic line" for all its derailments and mishaps. Most Kenyans sit on benches in decrepit "lower-class" cars at the front. In the "upper-class" cars, tourists sleep on Pullman beds. Their children run up and down aisles so narrow that adults must traverse them sideways. Uniformed waiters serve Kenyan and British dishes on white tablecloths in a midcentury dining car. These will be among the last passengers. Last April, Kenya's government announced that a Chinese company will replace the historical railway with a faster, wider, modern one. The $3.8 bil- lion venture will be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Kenya's history and will eventually run all the way to Kampala, Uganda. Across the continent, Chinese companies are modern- izing old roads and railways using loans from state banks that African governments must repay. The huge projects are helping to sustain the rapid growth of nations such as Kenya. It may be a small price to pay for progress, but the replacement of this historical line will mean the end of a charming train trip. in pictures PHoToS aND STory by Jacob KuSHNer / Contributor 1 tight squeeze On the train to Mombasa, Kenya, 'upper-class' accommodations include Pullman beds for the overnight ride. A first-class cabin (two beds) costs US$50 per person. Dinner and breakfast are included. 24 The ChrisTian sCienCe MoniTor Weekly | april 7, 2014

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