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Monday, 25 January 2010

Cairo Railway Museum

STOP PRESS 29th MARCH 2011 - THE RAILWAY MUSEUM IS CURRENTLY CLOSED as Ramses Station is undergoing a lot of building work.  We were informed that it will probably reopen in a couple of months. I hope so, because it would be a shame to lose this treasure.

I have been dying to visit this museum for many moons, and finally, at the start of an extended day out on Saturday, myself and two friends (also female - surprise :D ) decided to visit the Railways Museum situated at Ramses Station (Cairo's main station).

This is one of Cairo's more quirky museums (as is the Agricultural Museum which I must revisit one day, it being almost 5 years since my last visit.) a little off the usual tourist track. If you like trains and other mechanical things, then allow around an hour for a visit - it can be done in less, we actually thought we would be in there for around 20 minutes but were pleasantly surprised!

The entrance to the Museum is halfway down Platform 1 from the main station concourse. Admission is currently 10LE Saturday through Thursday (closed Monday I believe) and 20LE on Fridays.

The opening hours are currently 0800 - 1400. However, this appears to vary sometimes, so maybe aim for 0900 at the earliest.  (Some sources say it is open in the afternoon as well but I was certainly not given this impression at any time!)

A catalogue is available, I think it cost me 8LE but I wasn't really paying attention. Visitors are allowed to take a maximum of 3 photographs. I am wishing I had taken the trouble to read the catalogue while there, but actually our time was limited. I shall certainly be making another visit at some point.

The railways in Egypt have an interesting history, George Stephenson himself having been involved in the initial construction in the 1850s. Heavy British influence is evident in the exhibits from the number of items stamped with the names of British manufacturers from the Golden Age of manufacturing.

The museum is on two levels and we went upstairs first. The museum manager and guide are both female. The guide accompanied us on and off for our visit.

The photo shows a shot across the whole first (second for US) floor. There are a variety of exhibits, mainly to do with the railways but also some other transportation-related exhibits. We spent a good half an hour up there peering at everything. There is a scale model of the former Royal train which the guide informs us parts are still used by the President and most of it is in the railway workshops.

Downstairs, there are larger exhibits including the Khedivial engine built in 1862 for Saied Basha and a cut-away diesel engine.

This photograph shows the view across the ground (first US) floor of the museum from the Khedivial engine.

I asked permission from the Manager to take the guide's photo next to the engine and explained I would be posting it on the internet.

Our guide, Madam Nahed El Katteb, has been working at the museum for 20 years. She graduated with a philosophy degree from Zagazig University. Her father was a railway worker and she inherited his love of trains and so chose to join the railways for her career. The day we went was her 18th wedding anniversary!

After inspecting everything and looking at the model layout (awaiting repair), we were taken to the Annex.

This small side building contains one main exhibit,  a six-wheeled coupled goods engine supplied by Stephensons between 1865 and 1868.  There are a number of other smaller exhibits, signal lanterns and so on in there as well.

This is a fascinating little museum dating back to 1933 and definitely worth a visit.

Egyptian National Railways Museum Page

Egyptian National Railways Wiki page

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