The Lunatic Express Author:Charles Miller On December 11, 1895 a young Englishman name George Washington arrived at the sultry east Africa port of Mombasa. His assignment there: to perform an engineering miracle, the building of a railway from the coast to Lake Victoria in Uganda-a 600 mile route that was largely unmapped and barely explored. Directly behind Mombasa lay a scorched, w... more »aterless desert, one that caravans wisely skirted but that the railway must cross. Beyond, a horizon less scrub country climbed toward a jagged volcanic region bisected by the Great Rift Valley-half a mile deep in some places. A hundred miles of sponge like quagmire marked the railway's last lap. The entire right of way bristled with hostile tribes, teemed with lions, whined with tsetse flies and breathed malaria.
What, asked many of Whitehouse's fellow countryman, was the purpose of this gigantic folly"? Why was the railway needed, and whom would it benefit? Was it an effort to shore up an insolvent private trading company with public funds? Was it to exploit the rumored wealth of little-known central African kingdoms? Was it to destroy the slave trade? To encourage commerce and settlement? Or was it simply an imperialist maneuver, aimed at enabling Britain to control the upper Nile and this maintain her hold on Egypt and the Suez Canal?
The Lunatic Express, in brief is a tale of high adventure at the high noon of imperialism.« less