Yesterday, my first full day in Madrid, I decided to walk to the Railway Museum. I’ve been in Madrid several times, so I had already seen such sights as the Prado Museum, the Royal Palace, the Plaza de Sol, the Plaza de España, etc. My father was a railroad worker on the Pennsylvania Railroad in Western Pennsylvania when the company was still using steam engines, so I have a love for old railroad engines and cars. I used to enjoy going down to the freight yard in South Fork, Pennsylvania with my father, sitting in a caboose or climbing up to visit the engineer and fireman in a parked steam locomotive.
This morning after breakfast, I walked from the hostel to the museum, a distance of about two miles, mostly through a long park called the Parque Madrid Río or the Madrid River Park. It was a pleasant walk away from the traffic noise most of the way. However, the river is not visible from the park. Where could the river be?
I snapped this picture of the park as I walked through it.
My walk took me toward Madrid’s downtown area, although I didn’t walk quite that far. However, I could see the buildings of the downtown area ahead of me. In the photo below, the figure to the left of the path in the distance is a fellow pedestrian. There were not many people walking in the park although there were a fair number of cyclists.
I kept wondering where the river was. Finally , after I left the park, I found it. The river, more of a stream in reality, runs down the median strip of an expressway. I snapped this picture of the river from a pedestrian bridge that crosses the busy highway. The river is well hidden from view. Instead of putting expressway lanes on either side of the stream, I think the city should have incorporated the river into the park.
As I approached the museum, it was time for a coffee stop with a small sandwich for brunch. Then I found the museum down a side street. In front of the museum stands this ancient steam engine. I don’t believe it was used for mainline train travel. It was more likely used at a mine to haul ore to the main rail line.
I entered the museum and purchased a discounted senior citizen’s ticket. I asked at the ticket counter if the receptionist wanted to see my passport to prove my age, but she said that wasn’t necessary. I joked that I guessed it was obvious that I qualified to an old person’s reduced entry fee, and she replied, “No! No! it’s just that I trust what people say.” it was a very polite white lie. 🙂
There were scores of old steam engines, a few old diesel-electric engines and a number of old passenger cars in the museum as well as items such as station clocks, switch levers, etc. I could have easily filled my camera’s memory card with pictures of them all. However, I’ll post only a few.
The steam engine below has the side cut away so that visitors can see the inner workings of the boiler. The tubes that carried water into the firebox to be boiled into high-pressure steam are colored in blue.
I snapped the following picture of a dining car through its window. Did people really travel in such luxury by train? In the days before private jets, yes they did. Very rich people had their own railway cars that would be attached to trains for travel. I am old enough to remember when President Truman had a private rail car instead of two 747 airplanes and traveled during campaigns from city to city by train, stopping to give speeches from the back platform of the train at “whistle stops.” I remember that when I was a child, my parents drove the ten miles to Johnstown, PA to see president Truman give such a speech. I’m sorry they didn’t take me with them. I would like to have that memory.
I also snapped the following picture of a train bathroom through the window of one of the passenger cars. What looks like a toilet beyond the sink is actually a bidet. The toilet was right under the window and didn’t fit into the shot. This bathroom is certainly much larger and more comfortable than the cramped bathrooms on today’s trains.
Below is a bank of control levers for switches, probably from the control tower of a freight yard. I remember when many of the switches along the Pennsylvania Railroad were connected by a series of rods and joints to a control tower where the yard master could watch the trains being assembled and remotely throw the switches to switch the freight cars onto the correct sidings as freight trains were being made up.
Naturally, I had to get into the action. Here I am pretending to be the only passenger in a spacious passenger car traveling though Spain. Of course, the car was fixed in place in the museum and didn’t move. it was much more pleasant sitting there than sitting in cramped conditions on a modern train. Riding in a newer European train is almost as uncomfortable as flying economy class in a plane. it’s good to remember that trains were once more comfortable, even if they were slow.
Yesterday evening I was a bit sick in the stomach for some reason. Naturally, my Greek roommate, with whom I speak Spanish, was trying what it was that I had eaten that caused the problem. I don’t think it’s possible to know. In any case, I feel fine this morning.
I still haven’t planned what I am going to do today. All I can say is that it will involve a lot of walking, and I will document it in tomorrow morning’s blog entry.