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BEIRUT, Lebanon — There aren’t many obstacles in the way of exploring Lebanon’s crumbling train stations. But at St. Michel, once the hub of the nation’s now-defunct rail network, a man eyeing my camera says I need permission to look around.

“OK, where?” “Over there,” he says, pointing to an office across the tracks that bisect the station. The door is ajar but the cramped room is empty. So I go back. “Nobody’s there?” asks the gentleman of uncertain authority. “Go ahead.”

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