Railway Museum in Cairo Reopened

Egyptian Railway Museum renovation construction. May, 2013.
Egyptian Railway Museum renovation construction zone. May, 2013.

 

 

train-leaving-cairos-ramses-station
Track #1 Ramses Station, Cairo. May, 2013

In March, 2016 the Egyptian Railway Museum reopened.

Photo Gallery of the renovated museum.

 

 

 

 

Nearly three years ago, during May 2013, while visiting Cairo, I planned to see the Egyptian Railway Museum which occupies a portion of Ramses Station on the edge of a vast area of traffic flyovers, market stalls and vehicle congestion.

Ramses Square, Cairo. Mosque in background.
Ramses Square, Cairo. Mosque in background.
street-scene-cairo
Elevated roadways in Cairo.

A colossal statue of Ramses in the busy plaza is a visual landmark if you arrive by taxi.

 

 

 

locomotive-in-front-of-ramses-station-museum
Historic locomotive at Ramses Station rail museum. May 2013

 

At the time I visited, an antique locomotive, part of the Egyptian rail network built by Scotsman Robert Stephenson, was displayed in front of the train station.   The Stephenson family produced notable civil engineers, designers of railroads and bridges. The other Stevenson family — of writer Robert Louis Stevenson —  were lighthouse designers and engineers.

Signs in the plaza pointed to the museum inside the station.  As I walked closer, I saw the railway museum was in a state of deplorable ruin with massive piles of rubble outside, windows broken out, and an abandoned dozer tilting on piles of broken stones and tile.   The museum building was a wrecked shell.  Was a renovation project placed on hold because of the disruption caused by deep-seated unrest back in early 2011? Or was the building destroyed as a byproduct of cultural editing and property destruction undertaken during the “Year of Morsi” ?   I could only wonder.

Fast forward a few years.  A follower of this blog named Davy posted a comment with the photos of the reopened museum.  I haven’t had the opportunity to return to Cairo since 2013, but the freshly opened railway museum offers an incentive.

street-vendor-cairo
Street vendor in Cairo. May 2013
platforms-ramses-station
Train platforms at Ramses Station, Cairo. May 2013
Interior Ramses Train Station, Cairo. May 2013
Interior Ramses Train Station, Cairo. May 2013

 

 

Pedestrians cross tracks at Ramses Station platform.
Pedestrians cross tracks at Ramses Station platform.

 

 

 

 

 

The world’s first national rail networks began in Britain, with the inter-city line connecting industrial midland Manchester with the port of Liverpool in 1830.

Egypt forged a national rail network next. France had short rail lines in place, but not an network that could move goods long distance overland. Egypt’s rail system connected ports on the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea until the Suez Canal was opened in 1869.

Egypt’s initial railway track was built between Cairo and Alexandria. By 1856-1858, Egypt had a functioning railway network, which fitted the British interest in keeping the region stable and to secure faster communications and transport routes to India, the crown jewel of British colonial resources.

Britain tended to support the Ottoman Empire (which in theory ruled Egypt at the time) against all challengers, while British merchants nosed out commercial opportunities in the Nile Valley and Suez.  An overland route opened between the port of Alexandria and the Gulf of Suez and the rolling stock and engine designed by Stephenson improved the route.

Plaque describing historic Stephenson locomotive.
Plaque describing historic Stephenson locomotive.
platforms-ramses-station
Train platforms at Ramses Station Cairo. May 2013
railways-museum-in-distress
2013 Renovation construction of Egyptian Railway Museum.
locomotive-in-front-of-ramses-station-museum
Stephenson locomotive at Ramses Station, Cairo.
Plaque states this is the original 19th c. locomotive of the Egyptian rail system.
Plaque states this is the original 19th c. locomotive of the Egyptian rail system.

Exploring Female Adventurers at London’s Women of the World Festival

Great concept to pull together successful women of the world and learn from their adventures.

Nellie Bly in the Sky

Sunday 13 March, 11.30 a.m.  SOUTHBANK CENTRE, London   

wow logo 4As part of the Women of the World Festival 2016,  I am inviting women to ignite their own adventurous spirits through the journeys of  women explorers — past and present — who defied convention, pushed limits and travelled into the unknown.

In this era of shrinking comfort zones and glitzy role models, I’ll be celebrating women adventurers — women who take a walk on the wild side and explore the world. I’ll be paying tribute to those before us who left inhibition at home and journeyed through a man’s world on awe-inspiring voyages;  as well as today’s ‘adventuresses’ who challenge themselves on foot, bikes, skis; in boats, vans, planes…in the true spirit of adventure.

Today's female explorers (l to r) Felicity Aston, Rosie Stancer, Jacki Hill-Murphy, Lois Pryce, Ann Daniels and Arita Baaijens at the Women's Adventure Expo 2015. Today’s female explorers (l to r) Felicity Aston, Rosie Stancer, Jacki Hill-Murphy, Lois Pryce, Ann Daniels and Arita Baaijens at the Women’s Adventure Expo 2015.

The…

View original post 166 more words

Falcon Dam :: Rio Grande

Falcon Dam on Rio Bravo Norte (Rio Grande) forming Falcon Lake, on the border of Texas and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States) Image from National Archives and Records Administration NARA.gov
Falcon Dam on Rio Bravo Norte (Rio Grande) forming Falcon Lake, on the border of Texas and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States)
Image from National Archives and Records Administration NARA.gov

The 1953 dedication of Falcon Dam created a massive reservoir on the Rio Bravo del Norte, aka Rio Grande. Farmers and villagers were displaced on both sides of the river.

A city on the Mexican side was flooded, the inhabitants relocated to new homes built for them by the Mexican government.

Map of Falcon International Reservoir bordering Zapata County, Texas
Map of Falcon International Reservoir bordering Zapata County, Texas

Towns and farms on the U.S. side were also flooded, the inhabitants had to sue for relocation assistance and compensation, resolved — perhaps not equitably — years afterwards.

Reference: U.S. Congressional hearings on the dam.

 

 

Forest Glen :: National Park Seminary

Once upon a time the land surrounding Washington, D.C. was forested. Residents escaped the summer heat of the city for the highlands of Forest Glen just over the border between Washington and Montgomery County Maryland. In 1894, a  posh boarding school for young ladies was shaped out of a rustic country inn. The private school flourished until 1942, but women’s expectation for higher education evolved from sororities and social status — the finishing school atmosphere — to professional degree programs in science, education, medicine, design and the humanities. The posh school for girls closed.

During the post Viet-Nam war era, the buildings were converted to a U.S. Army research facility and recovery home for soldiers.  The structures were neglected during the Army’s ownership.

Now the buildings at National Park Seminary are offered for sale as spiffy condominium apartments and row houses.

Photographs displayed on this blogpost by L. Peat O’Neil © 2009-2016

All photographs displayed on this blogpost © L. Peat O’Neil 2009-2016

Caribbean Island Hopes to Use Steam for Electric Power

Will There be Geothermal Electricity for Nevis?

On April 28, 2009,  the St. Kitts and Nevis Democrat, a newspaper published in Nevis at that time, reported that the West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. was issued a Geothermal Resource Concession  by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) and signed a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Nevis Electricity Company Ltd.  The Geothermal Resource Concession is for a renewable 25 year term and grants West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. (WIPN) the right to develop and produce electricity from the geothermal resources on (or under) Nevis.
Geothermal power generation in volcanic areas. Image from www.mhi-global.com
Geothermal power generation in volcanic areas. Image from http://www.mhi-global.com

In that 2009 article, it was reported that Kerry McDonald, CEO of West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd., said  “West Indies Power will now be able to start building the geothermal power plants that will supply Nevis and the other islands in the northern Caribbean with low cost, reliable, renewable, clean energy for the foreseeable future.”

 

They were off to a great start, but the momentum failed. In 2012, Time Magazine reported the project was stalled. By 2015, geothermal resources development for Nevis had advanced to the point that the Caribbean Development Bank was considering financial support.

Nevis plans to use its geothermal resources to generate electricity which could power air conditioning systems.  Hot water could fuel cool air in resort hotels. As the IADB reported in 2013, tourism is the reliable artery that feeds the Nevis economy and hotels on the island consume a stunning amount of electricity powered mostly by oil with limited wind-generated power.

Hot Water :: Cool Air

People have been tapping into geothermal energy for cooking and heating forever. Settlements near geyser fields made good sense to Stone Age ancestors. Think of geothermal as steam power sourced from Earth’s interior.  The thermal energy is drawn from beneath Earth’s crust, at various distances below the surface.  Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” spins a story about traveling on the hot rivers of the surface deep into the earth’s molten rivers called magma.

Geothermal springs in the Zhupanova River area of Kamchatka. Image from en.kamchatka.info
Geothermal springs in the Zhupanova River area of Kamchatka. Image from en.kamchatka.info

Volcanic areas produce reservoirs of steam and hot water.  In Iceland, steam is tapped for residential heat and hot water.  Steam geysers are for visitors to enjoy in remote areas of Iceland, as at Yellowstone National Park in the USA and the Valley of the Geysers north of Zhupanovo on the Pacific coast of the Kamchatka peninsula in Siberia.  

 

 

 

People Met on the Road

One of my an indelible travel memories is listening to a guy on the beach at Playa Manuel Antonio, in Quepos, Costa Rica in late December, 1981.  Travelers from France, Canada, Asia, the USA and locals from San Jose were gathered at the nightly campfire and sipping on Heineken green stubbies.  He told our spellbound group about working in [somewhere in the Middle East] assembling grenades that would be shipped to Iraq via Israel.  This was during the Iran-Iraq War. The work was through a sub-contractor and well paid, enough to fund his flight to San Jose from [that factory place] and months of living on $10 a day which, at the time,  covered beachside rustic lodging, excellent meals, beverages and even bus rides to the capital city.

 

Playa Samara, Costa Rica
Playa Samara, Costa Rica

At another beach in Costa Rica, I believe it was Playa Samara,  there was a Canadian fellow who worked as a gold miner during the warm season up in the Yukon or NWT and spent his winters in Central America.  He said gold mining was one of the worst jobs in the world, coughed violently to prove it, then tapped another Marlboro from the red pack.  The villas, cabanas, swimming pools and restaurants depicted on tourism websites in 2016 did not exist at Playa Samara in 1981-1982.

And who could forget Max, the French-Canadian chopping every day at  a massive tree stump on the shoreline which he shaped into a throne facing the water?

Playa Manuel Antonio

Other folks enjoying the low-key, sustainable lifestyle in Costa Rica back before the tourist masses changed Costa Rica’s coasts forever financed  their Winter travel by working in Alaska’s salmon canning factories.  They headed down the Pacific Plate to trade savings gleaned during double-shift work all summer for relaxing months of winter sunshine on the Pacific Coast of Mexico or Costa Rica.  At the time, many of the other Central American countries were too dangerous for nomads because of civil wars and external paramilitary interventions like the illegal activities paid for by American taxpayers through the nefarious acts by US government officials and their myrmidons in the  Iran-Contra scandal.

Another memorable encounter was the terrifying hostel owner at Simanindo on Samosir Island  in Lake Toba, Sumatra.  He tried to imprison my friend and I in his very scary hostel. As a precaution, I always ask to see the room before agreeing to rent a room.  As we walked through the dim rabbit warren of dirty cement-floored stall-like spaces,  I noticed the rooms had peep-holes and spotted English phrases scratched on the walls that indicated previous “guests” had been prisoners.  We beat a determined path to the exit and chatted tensely with the owner until he reluctantly moved aside and let us leave.   Was this guy renting rooms in the town jail or extorting money from hapless backpackers?

We hiked at top speed for more than an hour. In the dark, we set up the tent in a cow  pasture. In the morning, the kind lady-farmer invited us to have coffee and bananas at her airy house.

Local map of Lake Toba and Samosir Island.  Simanindo is on the north-east coast of Samosir Is.

Greenbriar River Bike Trail, West Virginia

Greenbriar River, West Virginia

Crossing the river on the Greenbriar Trail. Image from www.local.wv.gov
Crossing the river on the Greenbriar Trail. Image from http://www.local.wv.gov

 

Cruise along the Greenbriar River Bike Trail and you ride the roadbed of steel rails that no longer exist.  Building bike trails on railway beds creates an easy gradient for cyclists, with smooth climbs, easy descents.

The Greenbriar River Trail runs beside the river of the same name for a stretch of 77 miles (124 km) from the settlement of Cass to North Caldwell.  One hundred years ago the towns along this railway line were active, the communities thriving, or even bustling fueled with enterprising immigrants from faraway countries and newly or almost-free slaves from the nearby Southern states.  Proclamations and edicts such as the end of slavery in the U.S. may have been issued, but the reality of freedom would need decades for real effect.  All along the river, people made a living harvesting local resources  for those who owned land — cutting trees, mining coal and grinding corn on water mills. And the resources rolled on the river or the railways to markets in other places.

Imagine what an amazing network would exist if every decommissioned stretch of railway in North America was converted to a bike trail!  We could bike safely across the continent, easy peasy!

Don’t forget to wear blaze orange or hot pink jackets or vests during hunting seasons in West Virginia.  When I rode this trail a stretch of months ago, I could hear hunters taking pot shots in the woods.  Did they know the bike trail exists?

Wikipedia states “the Greenbrier is the longest untamed (unblocked) river left in the Eastern U.S.”  which is a sad thing to learn.  Culverts, dams, spills, canals, diversions steal the vitality of the other long rivers in the Eastern U.S.