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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Ramesses II

Ramesses II was the third king of the 19th dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor". Dubbed Rameses the Great by the Egyptologists of the 19th century, his reign from 1279 to 1213 BC marked the last peak of Egypt’s imperial power. However, his reputation in part can be attributed to his flair for self-publicity.

Ramesses is remembered principally for the colossal statues he commissioned and for his huge building program.

One of the four external seated statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. By Hajor 

Ramesses, born around 1303 BC, was made captain of the army by his father Seti I. aged just ten.
He was appointed regent four years later.

Becoming king in his early 20s, Ramesses expanded his empire, leading an army north to recover the lost provinces his father had failed permanently to conquer east of the Mediterranean (the location of the modern Israel, Lebanon and Syria). He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, part of which is now in northern Sudan.

During Ramesses's reign, the Egyptian army may have included about 100,000 men, a force that he used to strengthen Egyptian influence over neighboring lands.

In Kadesh, Syria, Ramesses was fed false information by two captured enemy spies, which saw the Egyptian pharaoh and his small corps of household troops surrounded by some 2,500 enemy Hittite chariots. He was saved by reinforcements and although he had failed to take Kadesh, Ramesses had a long poem about his proud last stand carved on temple walls in Egypt.

The Battle of Kadesh is generally dated to 1274 BC and is the earliest battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It is believed to have been the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving between 4,500 and 5,600 chariots in total.

Ramses II at Kadesh

The Hittite Mursili III fled to Egypt, after being usurped as king by his  uncle, Hattusili III. When Ramesses refused to return Hattusili's  nephew back to Hatti, the two empires came close to war. Eventually, in 1258 BC, Ramesses decided to make an agreement with Hattusili III, to end the conflict. The document they agreed is the earliest known peace treaty in world history.

Tablet of treaty between Hattusili III of Hatti and Ramesses II . Picture taken by deror avi 

Ramesses II built six temples in Nubia including Abu Simbel, whose image of his face cut into the rocky sides of the Nile Valley may have inspired the vast depictions of American presidents at Mount Rushmore.

Ramesses' building projects included the Great Hypostyle Hall, with its roof supported by columns, at Thebes – part of modern-day Luxor – and his own funerary temple, known as the Ramesseum, across the Nile from Luxor.

He established the city of Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta as his new capital and used it as the main base for his campaigns in Syria. According to the latest estimates, the city was spread over about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi) or around 6 km (3.7 mi) long by 3 km (1.9 mi) wide., Ramesses himself lived there surrounded by gardens and orchards.

Ramesses kept a harem of 100 women and had more than 100 children. The most important and famous of Ramesses' Queen consorts was discovered in 1904. The tomb of Nefertari is extremely important, because its magnificent wall painting is regarded as one of the greatest examples of ancient Egyptian art.

Tomb wall depicting Nefertari

Experts say he understood that visibility was central to the success of his reign, and built bombastic structures to project his strength as a leader.

Ramesses II lived to about 90. He was originally buried in the Valley of the Kings but his mummy, which has the face of an old man with a long, narrow face, striking nose and large jaw, was moved to the nearby Deir elBahari to thwart looters. Still with its hair, some skin and teeth, it was rediscovered in 1881 and is kept in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

Mummy of Ramesses II. By Wolfman12405 -  Wikipedia

Nine subsequent pharaohs took the name Rameses, as it was seen as an honor to be descended from him.

Ramesses II is one of the more popular candidates for the Pharaoh of the Exodus. He is cast in this role in Thomas Mann's 1944 novella Das Gesetz ("The Law") .

Ramesses was portrayed by Yul Brynner in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 biblical movie classic The Ten Commandments.

Source Daily Mail

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Walter Raleigh


Little is known about Sir Walter Raleigh's birth. The date favored by the majority of historians is January 22, 1552.

He was born at a thatched house (now a farmhouse) near the village of East Budleigh, not far from Budleigh Salterton in Devon.

Walter was the youngest of five sons born to Catherine Champernowne in two successive marriages. Catherine Champernowne was a niece of Kat Ashley, Queen Elizabeth I's governess, who introduced the young men at court.

John Everett Millais, The Boyhood of Raleigh (1871)

One of his half brother's was Sir Humphrey Gilbert who founded the colony of Newfoundland.


In 1569, Raleigh left for France to serve with the Huguenots in the French religious civil wars

Raleigh registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford in 1572, but he left a year later without a degree.

Raleigh returned to London and proceeded to finish his education  at England's law school, the Inns of Court. Many English gentlemen spent a year or two there, especially if they expected to own landed estates in the future, because lawsuits were ubiquitous.

In 1578 Raleigh set out with his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert to raid Spanish ports in the West Indies but they ran into bad weather and turned back.

Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh took part in the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions in Ireland. In 1580 he captained a force of 100 foot soldiers to put down a Munster revolt.

Raleigh was presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1581 and quickly became one of her favorites. In his role as Elizabeth's favorite, Raleigh was quick to seek benefits and rewards.

In 1585, Raleigh was knighted and was appointed warden the tin mines of Cornwall and Devon, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, and vice-admiral of the two counties. He sat in parliament as member for Devonshire in 1585 and 1586.

Raleigh also controlled Crown monopolies in wines and exports of cloth, which added to his considerable fortune.

Having been granted a royal charter to establish a colony in Virginia, Raleigh organised several expeditions, attempting to establish a settlement there. Raleigh himself never visited North America. Instead, he sent others to found the Roanoke Colony, later known as the "Lost Colony"

In 1588, England was threatened by the Great Armada of Spain, the largest fleet ever assembled in Europe, and Raleigh was given responsibility for the defense on land of the channel ports

After the Armada was defeated, Raleigh led a reprisal raid at Cadiz.

Raleigh temporarily fell out of favor with the Queen in 1593 and spent the mid 1590s travelling extensively, including an expedition to the Caribbean coast of South America searching for El Dorado, the legendary gold mines of Guiana.

In 1597 Raleigh was chosen member of parliament for Dorset, and in 1601 for Cornwall. He was unique in the Elizabethan period in sitting for three counties.

Sir Walter Raleigh by William Segar

From 1600 to 1603, as governor of the Channel Island of Jersey, Raleigh modernized its defenses.

Raleigh's last great adventure was a second search search for El Dorado in 1617 at the age of 65.


On March 25, 1584, Queen Elizabeth granted Raleigh a royal charter authorizing him to found a colony in North America in return for one-fifth of all the gold and silver that might be mined there. Raleigh and Elizabeth intended that the venture should provide riches from the New World and a base from which to send privateers on raids against the treasure fleets of Spain.

Raleigh put together a persuasive brochure encouraging Europeans to move to the New World. Eventually, a voyage was created, and the ships landed at Roanoke Island. They dropped the 225 settlers off on August 17, 1585 promising to return a few months later with supplies for them.

Ten months passed with no sign of the relief fleet. However, Sir Francis Drake was on his way home from a successful raid in the Caribbean, stopped at the colony and offered to take the colonists back home. Many accepted and on this return voyage, the Roanoke colonists introduced tobacco, maize, and potatoes to England.

Raleigh's First Pipe in England from Frederick W Fairholt's Tobacco, its history and associations

The relief fleet arrived shortly after Drake's departure with the colonists. Finding the colony abandoned, it returned to England with the bulk of his force, leaving behind a small detachment of fifteen men both to maintain an English presence and to protect Raleigh's claim to Roanoke Island

In 1587, Raleigh dispatched a new group of 115 colonists to establish a colony on Chesapeake Bay.
This time, a more diverse group of settlers was sent, including some entire families, under the governance of Raleigh's friend the artist John White, who had accompanied the previous expedition to Roanoke.

The group were ordered to stop at Roanoke to pick up the small contingent left there by Grenville the previous year, but when they arrived on July 22, 1587, the English garrison had disappeared.
Rather than proceeding to their original Chesapeake Bay destination, the colonists decided to establish the new colony on Roanoke.

Governor White attempted to re-establish relations with the Croatoan and other local tribes, but they refused to meet with him. The colonists persuaded White to return to England to explain the colony's desperate situation and ask for help. Left behind were the remaining men and women who had made the Atlantic crossing plus White's newly born granddaughter Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas.

Roanoke Island has many bugs and mosquitoes and is covered with very thick woods. It was not the ideal spot to leave the colonists. Because of the continuing war with Spain, White was unable to mount another resupply attempt for an additional three years.

When the ships eventually returned to Roanoke Island with supplies, they couldn't find any of the colonists, but there was no sign of bloodshed. Adding to the mystery, they found the word "CROATAN" carved into a tree.


Walter Raleigh was 6 ft tall, and blessed with good looks. He had brown eyes, a lofty forehead and well into his middle age thick dark, curly hair.

Sir Walter Ralegh, by 'H' monogrammist (floruit 1588)

Walter Raleigh loved to wear the richest fabrics adorned with strings of pearls. His typical apparel was short, stiffly padded hoses, crisp ruff round his neck and shoes with small bows to match his suit.(44)

He once quipped: "No man is esteemed for gay garments, but by fools and women."

A renaissance gentleman, Raleigh was bold but quick tempered, proud, arrogant, outspoken, intellectual and reckless. He had the talent to dazzle, excite and persuade, but made many enemies because of his pride and arrogance.

Raleigh spoke in a broad Devonshire accent. The Queen called him "Water" teasing his accent and the way he pronounced his name.


Raleigh's family was highly Protestant in religious orientation and had a number of near escapes during the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary I of England. In the most notable of these, his father had to hide in a tower to avoid execution. As a result, Raleigh grew up with a hatred of the Catholic Church and when Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, he was not reluctant to express his views.

Raleigh made many enemies because of his pride, arrogance and religious skepticism.


Raleigh has been widely speculated to be a key figure in introducing the potato to Ireland. It is said, he planted them at his Irish estates but the people were unimpressed. It was generally agreed that Raleigh's potatoes were a health hazard leading to consumption, flatulence and unnatural carnal lust.

The arrogant Raleigh only ate white bread as believed brown bread was only fit for lower orders.


In 1591, Raleigh seduced one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton and got her pregnant. They got secretly married the same year (Nobody at court could marry without Elizabeth’s permission).

Portrait of Bess Raleigh, ca. 1600 by Robert Peake the Elder

Bess gave birth to a son, believed to be named Damerei, who was given to a wet nurse at Durham House, but he died in October 1592 of plague. Bess resumed her duties to the queen.

In 1592 the unauthorized marriage was discovered and the Queen ordered Raleigh to be imprisoned and Bess dismissed from court. Both were imprisoned in the Tower of London in June 1592. By early 1593 he had been released

Raleigh and his wife remained devoted to each other. They had two more sons, Walter (known as Wat) born in 1593 and Carew in 1605.

Raleigh and his son Walter in 1602

There is as a tradition that Raleigh first caught the attention of Queen Elizabeth by laying down his cloak over a large puddle for her highness to step over.

As a newly fledged courtier wanting to woo Elizabeth but not daring to Raleigh scratched with a diamond the following on the window of the Royal Palace "Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall." The Queen completed the couplet "If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all."

Raleigh soon became close with the English monarch, who was attracted by his intelligence and knowledgeable conversation.


In 1580 Raleigh was twice arrested for duelling.

Raleigh was thrown into the Tower of London for a time in 1593 with Bessie Throckmorton by Elizabeth I due to his love affair with Bessie. He was released after one of his ships brought back a huge treasure from the captured Spanish vessel "Madre de Rios”.

After the death of Elizabeth I, James of Scotland came to the throne. The Scottish monarch was not impressed by Raleigh's anti Spanish sentiments and Raleigh was arrested on July 19, 1603, three months after the death of the queen.

When taken from the Tower of London to Winchester in 1603 to stand trial for treason the mob stoned Raleigh and jeered him all the way. (The trial would normally have been held in London itself but at that time plague was rife). Raleigh's sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment in the tower.

On one occasion during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, Raleigh grabbed a knife during dinner and plunged it into his chest. It glanced off his rib cage and he survived.

The Tower of London was Raleigh's home for thirteen years during which he lived in two small rooms. His wife and son were often permitted to stay there with him, coming and going freely and he was visited by many great scholars and poets.

Raleigh's cell, Bloody Tower, Tower of London. By Kjetil Bjørnsrud -

In 1616 Sir Walter Raleigh was freed from the Tower of London to allow him to lead a gold-seeking expedition in South America.


Raleigh wrote prose on matters historical, nautical, geographical and military. His writings were amongst the most widely-read and best of his time.

His 1596 pamphlet Discovery of Guiana implanted in English minds the dream of El Dorado, the city of God.

Raleigh embarked on a History of the World whilst in the tower. He didn't complete it, he got as far as the Second Macedonian War in 130BC.

Raleigh was also a noted poet, including many poems written in the Tower.


Wherever he traveled Raleigh took a large trunk of books with him.

Raleigh had a black greyhound named Hamlet.


Raleigh's childhood home Hayes Barton was a typical Devon farmhouse of its period. It was built in 1484.

Raleigh received 40,000 acres in south Ireland, as a reward for putting down the Munster revolt. This made him one of the principal landowners in Munster, but he had limited success inducing English tenants to settle on his estates.

Raleigh made the town of Youghal his occasional home during his 17 years as an Irish landlord, frequently being domiciled at Killua Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath.

During his time as Warden of Cornwall Raleigh stayed at Raleigh Court, South Quay, Padstow.

In 1592, Raleigh was given many rewards by the Queen, including Durham House in the Strand and Sherborne Castle, a Dorset estate he had long coveted. Bess commissioned the latest craftsmen and architects to transform it into a masterpiece. It was probably the first house to be rendered on the outside.

Raleigh later lost Sherbourne Castle when he was in the Tower. King James gave it to one of his male favorites.


Raleigh was fascinated by medicine and would often make up his own remedies.

Whilst exploring the River Orinoco in South America, Raleigh reported on the arrow poison which paralyzed the victim. It was a syrup from a creeper, an early anesthetic.

In his 50s whilst in the Tower of London Raleigh suffered a partial stroke and for a time he could barely walk.


Raleigh's 1616 expedition to the Orinoco failed miserably. The aged adventurer stayed in Trinidad sick whilst the rest of the expedition carried on and annoyed the Spanish, who killed Raleigh's son, Wat. King James I wanting to keep friendly with the Spanish put Raleigh back into the tower and reinstated the fifteen-year-old death sentence against him.

The day before his execution Raleigh wrote the following epitaph:

Ever such is time, that takes on trust
Our Youth, our joys, our all we have
And pays us but with age and dust
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days!
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
The Lord shall raise me up. I trust!

Raleigh was executed outside the Palace Yard, London on October 29, 1618. He defiantly took a pipe of tobacco to the scaffold against the wishes of the anti-smoking King James and just before his execution Raleigh had a smoke to settle his spirits. He actually died with a pipe in his mouth.

Raleigh just before he was beheaded – an illustration from circa 1860

On the scaffold Raleigh tested the axe's edge quipping "It is a sharp remedy but a sure one for all ills." Someone protested that the block should be placed so that his head should point towards the east. “What matter how the head lie, so that the heart be right” said Raleigh.

Raleigh led the crowd in prayer for a full 15 minutes. His last words were "I have a long journey to make and must bid the company farewell."

After his execution, Raleigh's widow Bess had his head embalmed and carried it in a red leather bag wherever she went until her death 29 years later. It was then buried at West Horsley.

Raleigh's body is buried on the south side of the altar at St Margaret’s church next to Westminster Abbey.

Sources A History of Fashion by J Anderson Black and Madge Garland, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Monday, 26 June 2017


A raisin is a dried grape.


In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, the word "raisin" is reserved for the dark-colored dried large grape, with "sultana" being a golden-colored dried grape, and "currant" being a dried small seedless grape originating from Greece.

In the USA and Canada, the name "raisin" is applied to all dried grapes, so that the breakfast cereal known as "sultana bran" in Australia and the United Kingdom is called raisin bran in the United States and Canada.

The currant is one of the oldest known raisins. The first written record was in 75 AD by Pliny the Elder, who described a miniature, juicy, thick-skinned grape with small bunches grown on the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante).

Sun-drying of currants on Zakynthos. By Robert Wallace -  Wikipedia

In the 14th century, currents were sold in the English market under the label Reysyns de Corauntz.

In California the commercial potential of raisins was discovered by accident. An unusually hot spell.  in 1873 withered the grapes on the vine. One resourceful San Francisco grocer advertised these shriveled grapes as "Peruvian Delicacies" and these raisins proved to be very popular.

William Thompson, a Scottish immigrant to the United States, is credited with introducing in the mid 1870s a seedless grape variety that was sweet, thin-skinned, and seedless. By 1920 the Thompson Seedless variety had replaced the seeded Muscat of Alexandria grape as the preferred raisin variety in the US and today American sultana grapes are almost invariably Thompson Seedless.

In 1915 a raisin company executive spotted a teenage girl called Lorraine Collett (December 9, 1892 – March 30, 1983) drying her curly brown hair and wearing her mother's red bonnet in the backyard of her family's home. They hired her for a stunt promotion that had her dropping raisins from an airplane. Soon Collett became the company's first mascot called, "Sun Maid."

Original painting of Collett as the Sun-Maid Girl, ca. 1915

Backed by an aggressive marketing push throughout the 1920s, Sun-Maid managed to triple American consumption of raisins by the end of the decade.

In the old holiday game of Snap-Dragon, players grab raisins out of a bowl of burning brandy, then pop the flaming raisins in their mouths.

A variety of raisins from different grapes. By Paweł Kuźniar wikipedia

If you drop a raisin in a glass of real champagne it will bounce up and down in the glass.

One cup of grapes has the same amount of calories as one-quarter cup of raisins.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Raining cats and dogs

Several explanations have been given for the description of a heavy downpour as "raining cats and dogs." Here are some of them:

In the 1500's English houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. Pets would sit on the roof in cold weather to get warm. But if it rained, the roof became slippery and sometimes the animals would slide off the roof. That's how the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs" came to be.

The phrase "raining cats and dogs" originated in 17th century England. After a cloudburst and flash-flooding, drowned cats and dogs used to float down London streets. The situation gave the appearance to the simple minded that it had literally rained "cats and dogs" and led to the current expression.

The phrase goes back to German migrants to America who had settled in south-eastern Pennsylvania. Their English was at times difficult to decipher. Heavy showers reminded them of a popular saying "back home." It spoke of raining so much that it kept in the cats and brought out the ducks. In their strong German accent the ducks sounded very much like dogs. Those listening to them, puzzled by what they were talking about, misunderstood them to say that it was raining cats and dogs.

Just like Americans and British say "It's raining cats and dogs," South Africans and Namibians say, "It's raining old women with clubs."

Source Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999

Sunday, 25 June 2017


In 1823 the Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh (December 29, 1766- July 25, 1843) came up with a method of producing waterproof cloth by binding together two layers of fabric with india rubber dissolved in naphtha. He achieved this after experimenting with waste rubber products from Glasgow's new gas works.

Portrait of Charles Macintosh. Before 1843, painted by J. Graham Gilbert, R.S.A

He used the waterproof cloth to make the first ever raincoats. Macintosh began selling his waterproof garments on October 12, 1823.

Macintosh was anxious to protect the secret of his new waterproof cloth so he chose Highland workers to work in his Glasgow factory as they only spoke Gaelic.

The Scottish chemist's novel "macks" proved a welcome protection against the wet. However, a flaw soon became apparent. Though the rubbery substance was resistant to rain, when exposed to extreme cold and changes of weather it became brittle, stiff and smelly.

Macintosh raincoat

In 1830 Macintosh's company merged with the clothing company of Thomas Hancock in Manchester. Hancock had also been experimenting with rubber coated fabrics and production of rubberized coats soon spread all over the UK.

Hancock further improved his waterproof fabrics, patenting a method for vulcanizing rubber in 1843 which solved many of its problems caused by changes in weather.

Hancock continued to make waterproof clothing into the 20th century. In 1925 the company was taken over by Dunlop Rubber.

Former marine Noel Bibby of Peter Storm Ltd. invented the cagoule in the early 1960s. The light water proof coat could be rolled up into a very compact package and carried in a bag or pocket. The style became very popular in the United Kingdom during the 1970s.


Source Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.


A rainbow is a full circle of light, however, due to most people viewing it on the ground we only see the rainbow's semi-circle or arc.

You can only see a rainbow with your back to the Sun.

Rainbows can be formed at night. They are called 'Moonbows'

The colors of a rainbow can only be seen when the angle of reflection between the sun, the drops of water, and the observer's line of vision is between 40 and 42 degrees

The record for longest lasting rainbow is a full three hours for a bow that persisted over North Wales on August 14, 1979.

When two rainbows form at the same time, the second, bigger rainbow will have its colors in reverse.

A fire rainbow is one of the rarest of all naturally-occurring atmospheric phenomena. It looks like a cloud made of rainbows.

Rainbows span a continuous spectrum of colors. For colors seen by the human eye, the most commonly cited and remembered sequence is Isaac Newton's sevenfold red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, remembered by the mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.

Newton originally divided the spectrum into five main colors: red, yellow, green, blue and violet. He later included orange and indigo, so there would be seven colors to match the seven notes on the Western musical scale.



A low-pressure system that redeveloped off the New South Wales coast dumped a record 328 millimeters (13 inches) of rain in a day on Sydney, Australia in 1986.

The most rain ever recorded in one minute was 1.23 inches in Unionville, Maryland, on July 4, 1956.

In 1923 it rained on the Hebridean island of Islay for 89 days in a row — a British record.

Surprisingly, the continent that receives the lowest amount of rain and snow is Antarctica.

The largest raindrops ever recorded, between 8.8 mm and 1 cm, were observed by scientists in the clouds above Brazil (1995) and the Marshall Islands (1999).

The wettest spot in the world is located on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.. Mount Waialeale consistently records rainfall at the rate of nearly 500 inches per year.


The phrase 'take a rain check' originated in the custom of issuing spectators with a ticket for another game if the baseball match for which they had paid was interrupted or cancelled because of rain.

"Petrichor" is a term for the way it smells outside after rain. It was coined in 1964.


The "petrichor" smell is caused by oils secreted by plants becoming trapped in bubbles which form and then explode as the rain hits the ground.

The average raindrop falls at 7 miles per hour.

Very hard rain would pour down on you at the rate of 18-20 mph.

On average Monday is the least rainy day of the week. This is thought to be a result of man-made pollution decreasing over the weekend.

That odor after rain is caused by bacteria called actinomycetes.

Rain contains vitamin B12.

In Nova Scotia, it’s illegial to water the grass while it’s raining outside.

Sources Daily Express, Europress Encyclopedia.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Railway station


Early train stations were usually built to handle passengers and goods.The world's first recorded railway station was The Mount on the Swansea and Mumbles Railway in Swansea, Wales, which began passenger service in 1807, although the trains were horse drawn rather than by locomotives.

The two-storey Mount Clare station in Baltimore, Maryland first saw passenger service as the terminus of the horse-drawn Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on May 22, 1830.

The oldest terminal station in the world was Crown Street railway station in Liverpool, built in 1830, on the locomotive hauled Liverpool to Manchester line. The station was demolished six years later as the Liverpool terminal station moved to Lime Street railway station. Crown Street station was converted to a goods station terminal.

Broad Green station, Liverpool, which opened on September 17, 1830, is the oldest station site in the world still in use as a passenger station. When the Liverpool and Manchester passenger railway trains set out on the first day from the Crown Street terminus, the second station on the line was the original Edge Hill railway station (decommissioned in 1836), the third was Broad Green station.

A broad view of the two platforms. By Rept0n1x - Wikipedia

Elaborated by Augustus Pugin and endorsed by John Ruskin, the 600 year-old Gothic architectural style dominated Britain in the mid-19th century. Railway stations were often disguised as cathedrals or monasteries.

London Waterloo station, Britain's busiest railway station by passenger usage, was opened by the London and South Western Railway on July 11, 1848. It was named after. the nearby Waterloo Bridge over the Thames.

William Henry Smith saw the opportunity to take advantage of the railway boom by opening news-stands on railway stations. His first chosen site was Euston, the London terminus for the London North-Western Railway. The vendor in situ, an ex-LWNR messenger called Gibbs, was moved aside and the first WH Smith railway bookstall opened on November 1, 1848.

The London Necropolis Company opened a vast cemetery at Brookwood, near Woking, Surrey in 1852. It had a private railway station, adjoining Waterloo, its own trains, and two stations in the cemetery itself, with the name Necropolis.

The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak had a life-long love of trains. He never lost an opportunity to visit a railway station when he was on tour to indulge in a bit of transporting and chat with the drivers and engineers. During his final years he visited Prague's railway stations on an almost daily basis.

The French banned kissing at railway stations in 1910 as they claimed it delayed train departures.

Russian author Leo Tolstoy died of pneumonia in 1910 at a Astapovo train station waiting room siding, after a day's rail journey south.

New York's Pennsylvania Station, the largest railway station in the world, opened to traffic on November 27, 1910. Pennsylvania Station, more fondly known as Penn Station, was one of the first grand buildings of the 20th century.

New York City's Grand Central train station officially opened at 12.01am on February 2, 1913 with the departure of a Boston Express train; the first arrival occurred a minute later. Even though construction was not entirely complete an estimated 150,000 people visited the new terminal on its opening day.

Postcard of Grand Central Terminal circa 1915

One of the first bombing missions took place early October 1914 when British planes, taking off from Dunkirk, bombed Cologne railway station.

Tama (April 29, 1999 – June 22, 2015) was a female calico cat who gained fame for being a station master and operating officer at Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line in Kinokawa, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan.


The world’s busiest railway station is Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan, with a reported 3.64 million passengers passing through its 200-odd exits every day.

The world's largest station by floor area is Nagoya Station in Nagoya, Japan (410,000 m²). It houses the headquarters of the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central).

JR Central Towers. By JKT- Wikipedia

The busiest station in Europe is Clapham Junction in south London, UK. Each day about 2,000 trains, over half of them stopping, pass through the station.

New York City's Grand Central terminal has 44 platforms, the most in any railway station in the world


English-language Wikipedia reached its one millionth article, Jordanhill railway station in 2006.

London's Kennington tube station, opened in 1890, is a listed building and the only one from the world's first underground electric railway to retain its original appearance.

Grand Central Station emits more radiation than a nuclear power plant.



The Surrey Iron Railway, arguably the world's first public railway, opened in south London, England on July 26, 1803. It was a toll railway on which carriers used horse traction travelling between Wandsworth and Croydon via Mitcham. The chief goods transported were building materials, coal, corn, lime, manure and seeds.

Watercolour showing the Surrey Iron Railway passing Chipstead Valley Road

The Swansea and Mumbles Railway, then known as the Oystermouth Railway, became the first passenger carrying railway in the world on March 25, 1807. Originally built under an Act of Parliament of 1804 to move limestone from the quarries of Mumbles to Swansea and to the markets beyond, it carried the world's first fare-paying railway passengers three years later.. It moved from horse power to steam locomotion in 1877.

Horse-powered train on the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, Wales

The first self-propelling steam locomotive was built by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick in 1804. Ten years later the engineer George Stephenson persuaded the manager of the Killingworth colliery where he worked to allow him to build a steam-powered machine. By 1820, some 400 miles of steam powered railway existed,

The world’s first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, opened in 1825. using George Stephenson's No. 1 engine, called Locomotion, It was the first to use steam locomotives and connected various collieries in the North of England.

The horse-drawn Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1827, becoming the first railroad in America offering commercial transportation of both people and freight.

On September 15, 1830, the president of the UK board of trade William Huskisson attended the grand opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Visitors boarded the Northumbrian, which had stopped to take on water. Against instructions, the passengers disembarked to hobnob. Seeing the Duke of Wellington, Huskisson walked across the adjacent track to speak to him just as another locomotive came barrelling down the line.

Huskisson stumbled and fell beneath the wheels of the oncoming train. He became the world's first railroad passenger fatality.

One of the first Scottish railways was opened between Edinburgh and Dalkeith in 1831. It contained Britain's first railway tunnel stretching 350 yards under the southern edge of Holyrood Park. The carriages were originally horse-drawn as it was thought steam engines to be dangerous. Though originally built to transport coal the public rapidly took to this convenient novelty and soon 400,000 passengers were being carried per year. It became known as the Innocent Railway because of its safety record, as no one was ever killed.

The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway opened on May 3, 1830. It was the first steam hauled passenger railway to issue season tickets and include a tunnel.

The first recorded railroad accident in U.S. history occurred on the Granite Railway near Quincy, Massachusetts on July 25, 1832.  A wagon containing Thomas B. Achuas, of Cuba, derailed as he and three other tourists were taking a tour. The occupants of the carriage were thrown over a cliff, approximately 35 ft (11 m). Mr. Achuas was killed and the three other passengers were badly injured.

The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company was the first American railway to use steam locomotives regularly beginning with the Best Friend of Charleston, the first American-built locomotive intended for revenue service, which traveled the 6-mile (9.7 km) line west from Charleston, South Carolina in 1830. The railroad ran scheduled steam service over its 136-mile (219 km) line from Charleston, South Carolina, to Hamburg, South Carolina, beginning in 1833

Belgium was the second country in Europe, after Great Britain, to open a railway and produce locomotives. The first line, between the cities of Brussels and Mechelen opened on May 5, 1835.

Painting of the opening of the Brussels-Mechelen railway on 5 May 1835

Grand Junction Railway, the world's first long-distance railway, opened on July 4, 1837 between Birmingham and Liverpool. The London and Birmingham Railway opened the following year providing a link between Liverpool, Manchester and London.

The first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world opened on July 31, 1865 at Grandchester, Queensland, Australia.

In America the first railway dining car (named Delmonico in honor of the New York restaurant) was introduced in 1868.

The first American transcontinental railway was completed west of the Rockies at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869 when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads met. The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold "Last Spike" with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit. It was a moment of vast symbolic significance. With this transcontinental link completed, the American nation was in a real sense now a single unit from coast to coast.

At the ceremony for the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah

About 12,000 laborers on each side (mainly Irish in the east and Chinese in the west) had worked steadily towards a meeting point. There were financial bonuses for whichever railway company moved faster.

The Central Pacific and Union Pacific raced to get as much track laid as possible. On one memorable occasion, not far from Promontory, Chinese and Irish laborers for the Central Pacific Railroad working on the First Transcontinental Railroad laid 10 miles (16 km) of track in one day, a feat which has never been matched.

The introduction of the railway system throughout Britain and America meant that food could be carried hundreds of miles and arrive at their destination still fresh. In America the network of railroads, this meant that meat and produce from the West and Midwest could be shipped to densely populated Eastern cities.

Volk's Electric Railway along the Brighton, England seafront was completed in 1879. It is the oldest operating electric railway in the world. Although it was preceded by Werner von Siemens's 1879 demonstration line in Berlin and by the Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway of 1881, neither line is still operational.

The Berlin-Baghdad railway was completed by the Germans in 1940, 52 years after work had started on the project. The Germans wanted to establish a port in the Persian Gulf from Baghdad.

The Empire of Japan completed the Burma Railway on October 17, 1943 to support its forces in the Burma Campaign of World War II .  More than 180,000—possibly many more—Southeast Asian civilian laborers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on the railway. 12,621 Allied POWs died during the construction.

Malayan Tamils during the construction of Death railway 

The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow-gauge preserved railway in Wales running for 7.25 miles (11.67 km) from Tywyn[a] on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. The line was opened in 1865 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn, There was severe under-investment and in the early 1950s the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society effectively took control of the railway. The Talyllyn Railway re-opened under the control of the Society for the first time on May 14, 1951, making it the first railway in the world to be operated by volunteers.

Locomotive No. 4 Edward Thomas stands at Tywyn Wharf station. By © Optimist on the run, 2005 

The New York, Ontario and Western Railway made its final run in 1957, becoming the first major U.S. railroad to be abandoned in its entirety.

The 1T57 'Fifteen Guinea Special' was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail on August 11, 1968 before the introduction of a steam ban that started the following day. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion from Liverpool to Carlisle and back.

The Fifteen Guinea Special at Barton Moss on the last leg  By RuthAS

Amtrak went into service in the US on May 1, 1971, combining and streamlining the operations of 18 intercity passenger railroads. All Amtrak's preferred stock is owned by the U.S. federal government.


Shanghai Transrapid set a new world speed record (501 kilometres per hour (311 mph)) for commercial railway systems in 2003, which remains the fastest for unmodified commercial rail vehicles.

The Qinghai–Tibet Railway, the world's highest railway and the only railway line to the Tibet Autonomous Region, was inaugurated on July 1, 2006.

A train pulled by an NJ2 locomotive travels on the Qingzang railway in 2008. By Jan ReurinkCamera 

The Metro Alpin, in the Swiss town of Saas Fee, is the highest funicular railway in the world.

China officially opened the world's longest high-speed rail route in 2012, linking the capital Beijing with the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou. The 2,298 kilometer (1,428 miles) route has 35 stops.


The Trans-Siberian railway crosses exactly 3901 bridges.

In the 1890s service on the Empire State Express rail service between New York City and Buffalo was about 1 hour faster than Amtrak's service in 2013.

Friday, 23 June 2017


Ragtime is an Afro-American music that first appeared in the 1890s, and was composed for the piano. Each rag is a composition with several themes. The leading ragtime composer was Missouri native Scott Joplin.

Ragtime descended from the jigs and march music played by black bands. As more and more American families bought pianos for their homes during the late 1800s, the song-publishing industry grew larger. Ragtime pianists, players who added strong syncopations and rhythmic effects to the songs they played, began to appear. The first ragtime compositions were published as sheet music in 1895.

Ernest Hogan (1865–1909) was the first composer to have his ragtime pieces (or "rags") published. In 1895 Hogan composed several popular songs in a new musical genre, which he named ragtime. The term is actually derived from his hometown Shake Rag, a district in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Ernest Hogan

The emergence of mature ragtime is usually dated to 1897, the year in which several important early rags were published.

Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" was published on September 20, 1899. It demonstrated more depth and sophistication than earlier ragtime and was a huge hit. Joplin's future works would be prefixed as by the composer of the "Maple Leaf Rag".

Second edition cover of Maple Leaf Rag, one of the most famous rags

By the start of the 20th century, ragtime had become widely popular throughout North America and was listened and danced to, performed, and written by people of many different subcultures. The dance crazes that went with it were the Cakewalk and the Turkeytrot.

In 1911 Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" became an international sensation, launching a vogue for popular ragtime songs.

:Irving Berlin - Ragtime

Rudyard Kipling referred to the musical craze of ragtime, which was sweeping the UK as "this imported heathendom. One doesn't feel very national when one is hummed at nasally by an alien."

When The Titanic sunk in 1912, the band played ragtime until the ship's bridge dipped underwater, then the bandmaster led his men in the Episcopal hymn, "Autumn".

Jazz largely surpassed ragtime in mainstream popularity in the early 1920s, although ragtime compositions continue to be written up to the present day.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Radium is a chemical element with the atomic number 88 and symbol Ra on the periodic table.
It is found in pitchblende in small quantities and in other uranium ores.

Radium is an almost pure-white alkaline earth metal, but it readily reacts with nitrogen (rather than oxygen) on exposure to air, forming a black surface layer of radium nitride (Ra3N2).

Radium under light

All isotopes of radium are radioactive, and it glows faint blue because of this.

Radium was discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in the form of radium chloride in 1898. They extracted the radium compound from uraninite and published the discovery at the French Academy of Sciences five days later.

"My beautiful radium", Marie Curie called the element she discovered in 1898. She was in thrall to it: it stirred her, she wrote, with "ever-new emotion and enchantment."

Marie and Pierre Curie experimenting with radium, a drawing by André Castaigne

Radium was isolated in its metallic state by Marie Curie and André-Louis Debierne through the electrolysis of radium chloride in 1911.

As Curie shared her discovery with scientists, and radium was found to be capable of destroying human tissue, it was enlisted in the battle against cancer.

By the 1910s, radium—now known to be radioactive and carcinogenic—was being sold as a health tonic for fever, gout and constipation. Some claimed it could restore vitality in the elderly. Others took to drinking radium water, or visiting radium clinics and spas.

Hotel postcard advertising radium baths, c.1940s

Radithor was a health drink in the 1920s that contained radium and slowly killed its customers. But it didn't cause a public health crisis as it could only be afforded by the wealthy (unlike cheaper, safer knockoffs)

When radium-dial-painting ‘studios’ were set up in Newark, New Jersey, and Ottawa, Illinois in the 1910s, hordes of working-class girls, some as young as 14, applied for jobs painting luminous numerals on watch faces. The girls would then apply the same paint to their teeth, nails and skin to give a glowing appearance. Their remains are still highly radioactive and glow to this day due to the 1600 year half life of Radium.

A lawsuit was filed in the 1920s against the United States Radium Corporation by five "Radium Girl" dial painters who had painted radium-based luminous paint on the dials of watches and clocks. These five women suffered from serious health effects which included sores, anemia, and bone cancer because of the prolonged exposure they had to the element.

Radium watch hands under ultraviolet light

As a result of the lawsuit, the adverse effects of radioactivity became widely known, and radium-dial painters were instructed in proper safety precautions and provided with protective gear.

Marie Curie's premature death (at the age of 66) has been attributed to her extensive work with radium.

Radium E (bismuth-210) became the first radioactive element to be made synthetically on February 4, 1936. This happened when. Dr. John Jacob Livingood was bombarding several elements with 5-MeV deuterons at the radiation lab at  University of California, Berkeley. He noted that irradiated bismuth emits fast electrons with a 5-day half-life, which matched the behaviour of radium E.

Radium 223 is a mildly radioactive form of the metal radium. It used to be called Alpharadin and now has the brand name Xofigo (pronounced zoh-fee-go). Doctors use radium 223 to treat prostate cancers that have spread to the bones.

Source The Spectator