All Press Releases for October 12, 2006

The Railroad to Nowhere in a Race with the Lunatic Express - Brandylane Publishers

The Railroad to Nowhere proposed by Mississippi evokes memories of another railroad built in Africa in the 1890's, called the Lunatic Express, it had many problems to overcome before becoming a reality, a story told in a new novel by John Gaudet to be released by Brandylane Publishers this fall.

    /24-7PressRelease/ - RICHMOND, VA, October 12, 2006 - The tag line, "Railroad to Nowhere," caught on recently when Mississippi's powerful Senate delegation attempted to slip a line item into the emergency spending bill for $700 million. The largest earmark in history was to support a plan to rebuild a freight line along the Gulf Coast to allow the state instead to use the right of way for a new highway. Not so far back in history a parallel can be found in the "Lunatic Express," so wonderfully described by Charles Miller in a book of that name. Also known as the "Lunatic Line" by the tabloids of the day, it was conceived of in order to confront an emergency. Does that argument sound familiar? But in 1894 it was neither Katrina nor Iraq; the subject was a railroad from the East African coast at Mombasa to Lake Victoria in the interior.

The case was put by Sir Gerald Portal in a report to the British Parliament. All the right reasons were there, the need to ensure protection of the source of the Nile from Britain's enemies, a great potential market for British goods, the huge traffic expected, and a revolutionary effect in settling the region. Not far off from Mississippian hopes this year to turn the struggling Gold Coast into 'Las Vegas South,' and provide a safe passage for rail cargo during hurricanes and floods.

Like the Mississippi earmark, political resistance to the 1894 venture surfaced immediately, including the Liberals pronouncement that the Government had no right to drive a railway through country owned by the Masai. And by what right did England have to assert mastery over thousands upon thousands of unlettered African tribesmen? Such arguments along with the claim that it would be a waste of taxpayers' money were easily brushed aside with a grand Tory flourish, after all if England were to step away from its manifest destiny, they would by default leave it to other nations to take up the work which England would be seen as "...too weak, too poor, and too cowardly to do ourselves." Not far from what Trent Lott would come up with perhaps in a pinch.

And the cost? Estimated at 3 million pounds in 1894 or $432 million in today's currency, which, when near completion in 1902, had climbed to - guess what - 793 million dollars!

Did it deserve the moniker, Lunatic Line? The wild nature of it - shaky looking wooden trestle bridges, enormous chasms, prohibitive cost, hostile tribes, men dropping by the hundreds from diseases, and man-eating lions pulling railway workers out of carriages at night - Lunatic Line seemed to fit. However, an early traveler, Winston Churchill, had the last say, "The British art of 'muddling through' is here seen in one of its finest expositions. Through everything - through the forests, through the ravines, through troops of marauding lions, through famine, through war, through five years of excoriating Parliamentary debate, muddled and marched the railway."

This fall Brandylane Publishers, an independent press in Richmond, VA, will publish "The Iron Snake," a new novel by John Gaudet based on the saga of this railroad and the people affected by it ([email protected], $16.95 plus shipping, $5.95).

By the way, the railway is still in use today. The Kenya Railways Corporation runs passenger trains between Mombasa and Nairobi, leaving in the evening and arriving the following morning after a journey of around 13 to 14 hours.

Media contact: Brandylane Publishers, 5 South First St. Richmond, VA 23219 Mary Tobey, Publicist or Robert Pruett 804.644.3090; FAX 804.644. 3092 or [email protected]
For details about the book: see

Brandylane is a small independent press that has been has been publishing books since 1985. Media contact: Mary Tobey, Publicist or Robert Pruett at 804.644.3090 or [email protected]
For book details see:

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