In the mid-20th century, Costa Rica had one of the most modern railway systems in the region: a railway powered by hydroelectric sources that connected the two coasts. Decades later, that image resembles a distant past, and we are left with a frail train that’s far from being the solution to urban mobility. Why did we let our train system fail? Who condemned the country to traffic chaos and non-efficient public transportation? Those were the questions that we tried to answer with our project.
What makes this project innovative?
We embarked ourselves in a three-month investigation that collected hundreds of documents piled in institutional archives. We also looked for the people who had worked for the railway, had been involved in its history and knew firsthand how it all fell apart. Finally, we traveled across the country to follow the tracks that the railway had left behind, to portray how easily can a country forget its past glories. The result was a multimedia story that explained how specific political decisions in the eighties combined with a lack of vision and pressure from international agencies were responsible for the train’s decay, and the deficient service we have today. The different formats used to tell the story (documentary, audio, text and images), aim to submerge the user into a unique experience that brings memories back to life, combines history with facts and debunks myths to tell the truth.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
We used chartbeat and Google Analytics to measure the visitation. The investigation had 28,161 views, and an average time on site of 5:20 minutes.
Source and methodology
We examined all the minutes from the National Railway since 1950, interviewed former railway workers and executive presidents, traveled to the coast to visit abandoned railway infrastructure. We also team-up with the video department to create a documentary about the railway.
Journalists: Mercedes Agüero, Camila Salazar. Documentary: María Luisa Madrigal, Adrián Soto, Kenneth Barrantes, René Valenzuela and Mariana Artavia. Design and programming: Pablo Robles and Bryan Gutiérrez. Editor: Hassel Fallas. Photograph: Rafael Pacheco. User experience: Freddy Guzmán