Series 1 - Episode 1: Republic of the Congo

Episode 1: Republic of the Congo

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Tue 22:00 29 Apr

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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Comments (31)

  • Nigel Gullam

    11 months ago

    Nigel Gullam

    Great I worked in west africa for a few years and things are differant but well you do get to your destination and its interesting to see how resourcefull the rail staff are to get it running & its a lifeline for this country

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  • sigdes

    over 1 year ago

    sigdes

    Great programme, but dont for a minute think that some of the archaic technology used on this line is exclusive. There are plenty of those Tyers key token instruments still in use on our railways, and the majority of our mechanical signal boxes are early 19th century equipment. Many are still using lever frames from the 1860's.

  • Dave Stephen

    over 1 year ago

    Dave Stephen

    marian, to enlighten you, there are TWO Congos, the one you refer to as being an ex Belgian colony is actually the country up until recently called ZAIRE, The Congo Chris travelled through IS an ex French colony and one time part of French Equatorial Africa which included Gabon and Central Africa

  • roy wilmot

    over 1 year ago

    roy wilmot

    THE 3 PROGRAMMES In this series was truly amazing i wonder did CHRIS TARRANT enjoy the journeys somehow i dont think so,

  • NORMAN WOOD

    over 1 year ago

    NORMAN WOOD

    THERE IS NOT MUCH THAT WILL WRENCH ME AWAY TO WATCH A TELEVISION PROGRAM THESE DAYS..BUT CHRIS TARRANT HAS PROVIDED A BRILLIANT SERIES WITH FABULOUS SCENERY AND SOME NERVE WRACKING TRAIN JOURNEYS....BRILLIANT VIEWING.

  • Jamie McLeod

    over 1 year ago

    Jamie McLeod

    Bernard Try using hotspot sheild>

  • Rod

    over 1 year ago

    Rod

    Sick of watching opening ads everytime my computer hangs. Never again channel5

  • spacehulk

    over 1 year ago

    spacehulk

    yes does not play only opening adverts such a shame as i have been trying to watch this a for the best part of three consecutive nights. :(

  • Richard B

    over 1 year ago

    Richard B

    Would be great if it played anything but the opening adverts.

  • W. Shaw

    over 1 year ago

    W. Shaw

    Chris Tarrant , extreme railways episode 2. Only plays opening adverts.

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  • malcolm jowsey

    over 1 year ago

    malcolm jowsey

    excellant programme really enjoyed it book or dvd to follow?

  • Christopher Dean

    over 1 year ago

    Christopher Dean

    Come off it Tarrant, you can't beat good old Portillo/Bradshaw, streets ahead of you, whinging and whining about the train being late!

  • Tony G

    over 1 year ago

    Tony G

    Great programme but glad I am watching by my fireside than havein to go through with it myself.....well dun Chris

  • Torqueback

    over 1 year ago

    Torqueback

    What a knockout programme. It beats weary old Palin and snooty Portillo into a cocked hat. It hit just the right balance of location, personality and a genuine regard for trains. Just the ticket - can't wait for the next one (don't tell me - it's delayed and I'll have to go to another platform...). And, yes, this Congo was a French colony. The railway in the former Belgian Congo has succumbed to the jungle.

  • Alain Mabika

    over 1 year ago

    Alain Mabika

    This is easy to understand ok! There are 2 Congo: French Congo refer as Congo-Brazzaville and Belgium Congo formerly known as Zaire under Mobutu leadership. So stop confusing people with your rhetoric. Chris Tarrant documentary took place in Congo-Brazzaville former French colony. I was happy happy happy to see that. Well done Chris

  • Matthew

    over 1 year ago

    Matthew

    Marian - the Democratic republic of Congo was a former Belgium colony however the republic of Congo, where the programme was filmed and the railway is located, was a former French colony. Do your research before criticising. Great Programme I must add.

  • Steve

    over 1 year ago

    Steve

    Marian, Possibly because there were more than one "Congo" colony; one was Franch and one Belgian. Brazzaville was in the French. Further, there were bits given to the Portugese as well

  • Marian Beaver

    over 1 year ago

    Marian Beaver

    I have just watched Chris Tarrant's programme about railways in the Congo. He referred more than once to the Congo as a 'former French Colony'. How could this ignorance have not been edited? I am just watching Michael Portillo on BBC2 travelling by rail in Belgium, and correctly. thank goodness, pointing out that Belgium grew rich on the basis of its former colony The (Belgian) Congo. It is well documented that ' Of all the Europeans who scrambled for control of Africa at the end of the 19th Century, Belgium's King Leopold II left arguably the largest and most horrid legacy of all. ... he turned it into a massive labour camp..made a fortune for himself..and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million people' (Mark Dummett BBC) How could you possibly have allowed Chris Tarrant to waltz around complaining about how long he had to wait for a train, so ignorant of a country's history, that just because French is spoken he assumes wrongly that it was formerly a French Colony. I believe a correction is in order before the next episode.

  • Marian Beaver

    over 1 year ago

    Marian Beaver

    I have just watched Chris Tarrant's programme about railways in the Congo. He referred more than once to the Congo as a 'former French Colony'. How could this ignorance have not been edited? I am just watching Michael Portillo on BBC2 travelling by rail in Belgium, and correctly. thank goodness, pointing out that Belgium grew rich on the basis of its former colony The (Belgian) Congo. It is well documented that ' Of all the Europeans who scrambled for control of Africa at the end of the 19th Century, Belgium's King Leopold II left arguably the largest and most horrid legacy of all. ... he turned it into a massive labour camp..made a fortune for himself..and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million people' (Mark Dummett BBC) How could you possibly have allowed Chris Tarrant to waltz around complaining about how long he had to wait for a train, so ignorant of a country's history, that just because French is spoken it was formerly a French Colony. I believe a correction is in order before the next episode.

  • Marian Beaver

    over 1 year ago

    Marian Beaver

    Why oh why was Chris Tarrant allowed to refer to the Congo as a 'former French Colony' more than once - so ignorant, I couldn't bear to watch it all. I'm just watching Michael Portillo on BBC2 visiting Belgium and pointing out correctly, thank goodness, that Belgium grew rich on the back of its former colony The (Belgian) Congo.

  • Phil

    over 1 year ago

    Phil

    Well done Chris. Excellent first program. Makes you appreciate our railways all the more. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  • Ron Perry

    over 1 year ago

    Ron Perry

    The first episode was surprisingly good and I enjoyed it immensely. Chris Tarrant proved a good choice of presenter for what promises to be a fascinating series for the armchair traveller. One thing is for sure and that is that when the train broke down in the tunnel Mr.Tarrant would not have been able to phone a friend!

  • Jam

    over 1 year ago

    Jam

    Good show will tune in for next weeks episode. The only negative point I have to make is Chris's childish narrating

  • Berthie Matona

    over 1 year ago

    Berthie Matona

    The bad thing with africans story is that so many ignorant people who don't know anything about african history are basically in the positions of Power,More over if they seem to know anything ,They just usedit in a wrong way, i can a such rich country potentially could end up with such antimodern railway system,if You think about ; Oil,diamonds etc... We have got urselves to blame..

  • Alain Mabika

    over 1 year ago

    Alain Mabika

    As I am from Congo Brazzaville, I was happy to see my country and very pleased that the <> has spent his time to show us the real Congo railways. Thanks

  • Norbert MBU-MPUTU

    over 1 year ago

    Norbert MBU-MPUTU

    Thanks for such programme. As African (from the other Congo), such programme could and needs to help us to think about why the normal and basic modernities are not working? Not question about the colonisations, but about the post-colonisation: how we have been managing; and as we failed, what need to be done, seriously... They seems to be an unfinished business somewhere... We are the part of the problem; but we are also the part of teh solution...

  • Bernard Dodd

    over 1 year ago

    Bernard Dodd

    Thank you for a wonderful programm if ony there was some way my friend in South Africa could see it. Please is it possible?

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