Trains are a major means of transportation, and why not learn a little about them while waiting to board one at the Cairo train station. Many of us use trains every now and then to go from one place to another. Some people use the metro everyday to go to work in Egypt, and that is itself a modern train system. Haven’t you ever wondered, while traveling by a train, who invented this complicated machine, where did the idea of the train come from, and what did the first train look like? You can find the answers to all these questions and more in the railway museum in Cairo.
Located at the far right hand side of Misr Railway station in Ramsis Square, lies the Railway Museum. There is a vast difference between the atmosphere surrounding the museum and the world inside it. Noises of cars, trains, and people shouting are clearly heard outside. This is because Ramsis is considered one of the most crowded areas in Cairo. However, inside the museum everything seems calm and quite as if we are still living in the good old days. Even the employees working there seem as if they belong to the past century.
The Railway Museum was founded in 1933. It was finished on the 26th of October, 1932 and first opened on the 15th of January, 1933. It was originally built to celebrate the international railway conference which was held in that same year in Cairo. This allowed the conference members to experience the first railway museum in the Middle East.
The museum contains more than seven hundred pieces of models in addition to a collection of statistical documents and maps that demonstrate the development of transportation through the last decades. Therefore, the Railway Museum is considered the most important institute to collect information about transportation in the Middle East.
The History of Railway
James Watt's invention of the steam engine in the seventeenth century was the major motive for scientists to think of inventing a machine to enhance transportation means. William Murdoch was the first to invent a pioneer train wagon in England in 1784. After this attempt, many scientists tried to invent useful trains. One of them was Richard Nerfietik, who tried in 1814 to build the first railway route in history in the south of Wales, but the rails were not strong enough to hold his wagon "Catch Me If You Can” and they broke down. In 1825, George Stephenson was able to use his wagon “locomotion” to transport passengers from Seketon to Lingenton in England. The attempt was so successful that it encouraged the owners of the train to build another route from Liverpool to Manchester. This was truly the first railway ever invented. After its success in England, other countries all over the world started building trains and routes. The United States built its first railway in 1830 and other European countries started building their routes in 1832.
Railways in Egypt
The first railway built in Africa was in Egypt in 1853. The idea of building a railway goes back to 1833 when Mohamed Ali consulted his Scottish chief Engineer, T. Gallway, about building a route between Suez and Ain Shames to become the link between Europe and India. Mohamed Ali started initiating the project as he bought the rails in order to start building the route and the stations. However, France was able to prevent this from happening because the French government wanted to substitute this project with building a canal between the Red and the Mediterranean Seas. Mohamed Ali found himself shattered between the two ideas, so he refused to carry out any of them.
When Mohamed Ali died in 1849, England wrote to his successor, Abass Helmy I, asking him to build a railway in Egypt. He agreed and he signed a contract with Robert Stephenson, on the 12th of June, 1851. The contract asserted that the work should start in September of the same year and that Stephenson should be responsible for all the matters of the project.
The first railway route in Egypt was built in 1854, between Alexandria and Kafer Eassa, and it reached Cairo in 1856. In 1858, the route between Cairo and Suez was built, but it was taken off in the year 1878 after digging the Suez Canal. A new route was built in 1867 to connect Cairo with southern Egypt and Imbaba Bridge was built in 1891 to enable the trains to pass over the Nile near Cairo. And from this point on, the railway has become one of the most important means of transportation in Egypt. You can use the railway to go as far as Matrouh in the west and as far as Aswan in the north. Passengers can depend on the railway service to travel all over Egypt.
The museum mainly consists of five sections
Transportation before steam engines section: This section demonstrates the evolution of transportation from the period of the pharaohs until the invention of steam engines. It has interesting models of the ancient boats that the pharaohs used. This is besides other models and pictures of wooden horse wagons that the pharaohs used in transportation and in the army as well. Ancient gadgets that were vital for the pharaohs are also displayed to show how civilized these people were.
The trains section: The second section is the train section, which is considered the most important in the museum. It shows the development of trains from the first ever built wagon till the modern trains that we use in the present time.
The stations sections: Includes many models of train stations all over Egypt.
The bridges section: It contains models of all railway bridges all over Egypt. Pictures on the walls demonstrate the notion of the bridge and how men thought of it. The story says that there was a monkey who twisted his leg and wasn’t able to pass the river to go and eat from a tree. Each monkey held the legs of the other monkey in his hands and they all together constructed a bridge. The wounded monkey was able to pass the river moving on the bodies of his friends. When men saw this happening, they started to think of building bridges in order to help them pass rivers and seas.
The airplane section: This section gives a brief history of the development of airplanes from Wright till the present day. The section contains information about the airplane motors as well.