Friday, July 07, 2006

Engineers - ya gotta love 'em...

Abandoned railroad tracks in a desperately poor country. What to do? Massive foreign aid, IMF loans, government missions?

Nah - just get outta da way:

Ingenious entrepreneurs in Cambodia saw a need and a way to make a buck:

They have created their own rail service using little more than pieces of bamboo. The locals call the vehicles "noris", or "lorries", but overseas visitors know them as "bamboo trains".

A tiny electric generator engine provides the power, and the passenger accommodation is a bamboo platform that rests on top of two sets of wheels. A dried-grass mat to sit on counts as a luxury.

It would be a white-knuckle ride - if there were actually anything to hold on to.

The bamboo trains reach about 40km/h (25mph), with the track just a couple of inches below the passengers. Warped and broken rails make for a bone-shaking journey.

But the drivers insist it is a safe form of transport.

"We're very careful," said 18-year-old Sok Kimhor, a 10-year veteran of the bamboo trains. "We look out for children and animals running across the lines, and we have to slow down when other trains come along."

This is how you change the world.

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