The 600-mile railway line from the Kenyan coast to Uganda became known as The Lunatic Line for the astronomical financial and human costs of construction.
Built by the British between 1895 and 1901 through hostile tribal lands and malarial swamps, it was an enormous engineering challenge. Thousands of workers died during the railway's construction, mostly from disease, although the man-eating lions of Tsavo also devoured many. Little wonder then that it was opposed as a gigantic folly.
In the first of two programmes, Ayisha Yahya looks back at the history of the railway that transformed East Africa beyond recognition.
Producer: Ruth Evans
A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.