Brazil: Mad Mary



David Fleischer has kindly sent me from Brazil a review in Portuguese of Trem-fantasma – Ferrovia Madeira-Mamoré e a modernidade na selva, by Francisco Foot Hardman.  I have forwarded it to Clyde McMorrow, our expèrt on the subject, the building of the Madeira-Mamore Railway, known popularly in English as "Mad Mary".  

It is an extraordinary story of the great period of railroad building, of which Leland Stanford is a representative.  We here much about the difficulties which the building of the trans-US railroad faced, but the story of Mad Mary is more comparable to the failed attempt of de Lesseps to build a Panama Canal. Mad Mary too was a failure. It involved jungle country similar to that Teddy Roosevelt encountered when he explored the River of Doubt in Amazonia, now renamed Rio Roosevelt after him. Roosevelt's death was hastened by the ailments he picked up on that trip. One man on the expedition went mad, killed someone and fled into the jungle. The name Mad Mary was therefore appropriate for the railroad project which involved tragedy for thousands from all over the world, not just a handful like Roosevekt's expedition.


Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: February 27, 2005