The Devil's Railroad
At the end of the 19th Century, the development of the vulcanization process to extract rubber from the native Amazonian Hevea Brasiliensis transformed rubber in an important raw material for the newborn automobile industry. Around 1903, the Amazon was responsible for almost the entire rubber output of the world, and foreign investments triggered major transformations in the region, giving birth to a short-lived period called the jungle belle époque.
The need to absorb areas distant from the main production centers gave birth to the idea of building a railroad to help the outflow of items produced in western Brazil and Bolivia to the Amazon River waterway. It would be the first major engineering enterprise of its kind undertaken by the United States abroad. A railroad built at the heart of the most wild, obscure and remote tropical forest in the world. Its construction claimed more than eight thousand lives and became the greatest epic of the Amazon in the 20th Century.
British success cultivating native Amazon rubber trees in their Asian possessions plummeted rubber production in Brazil. Like the epic railroad, the entire western Amazon region was sunk in deep lethargy.
A Century after being built and four decades after its deactivation, the railroad which was once the backbone of western Brazil and the founding myth of cities in the jungle reveals an unknown part of the Amazon. A witnesses of troubled times which has withstood the test of time, survived the steady march of the forest and outlived the solitude surrounding its tracks.