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Reporters on the Job

Riding Africa's Rails : Staff writer Abraham McLaughlin, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, admits he's a sucker for a good train ride. In 2004, he took an overnight journey into the lush hills of northern Cameroon on the way to Chad to interview Darfur refugees. "My cabin- mate was a tax collector who spent most of the trip talking to his beer bottle. A strange trip," he notes wryly.

At the other extreme was a recent five-star journey around South Africa on a train run by Rovos Rail. It provides white-glove service in Victorian-era coaches.

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So, when Abe learned - during his reporting about three East African countries forming a common trading area - that a train ran through it, he jumped on the opportunity, literally. His only regret was that his Uganda train ride was his shortest in Africa - 10 minutes. But he was impressed by the crew's intense efforts to change a faulty braking system and get the train moving. "If that same effort is applied to integrating the three countries, East Africa will be rolling in no time," says Abe.

David Clark Scott
World editor