Series 1 - Episode 1: Republic of the Congo

Episode 1: Republic of the Congo

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This week, Chris is in the Republic of the Congo to experience one of the greatest surviving African railways of the colonial era. Built by French colonists at a cost of tens of thousands of African lives, this railway connects the capital of Brazzaville, far inland on the Congo River, to the coast 310miles away. It has remained a vital lifeline for both people and freight in a country with few roads and thousands of square of miles of jungle.

Since its opening in 1934, the Congolese have done everything in their power to keep the railway open, even during the civil wars of the 1990s when the railway was deliberately targeted by guerrillas. Chris sets off from the overcrowded station at the port of Pointe-Noire to travel through the jungle to Brazzaville. With a few stops along the way, Chris is prepared for a gruelling two-day journey. Six days and a whole series of setbacks later, he finally arrives at his destination.

Along the way, Chris experiences the best and worst of this jungle railway, including the beauty of the narrow gauge line snaking through the dense forest and the macabre carnage at a notorious accident black spot. He discovers ingenious engineering that is over 100 years old, but suffers a rude awakening in the heart of a tunnel in the middle of the night, before enduring a white-knuckle ride on a disused section of line where thousands of construction workers died.

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