Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gnien l-Istazzjon, Birkirkara

One of the greatest inventions ever to come about during the Industrial revolution was the steam engine. The first commercial steam engine appeared in 1698. Here, in Malta, this great invention took a long time to reach our shores. In fact almost two centuries passed since the introduction of the first trains. The Malta Railway was officially inaugurated on February 1883 and lasted for a period of around fifty years.

The train was lovingly known by the Maltese, as 'Il-Vapur tal-Art', meaning the land steamer. The dark green carriages were constructed out of wood and framed in steel chassis. There were only first and third class carriages. Prior to the introduction of electricity, carriages were simply illuminated by candles. After 1900 the carriages were lit up by electricity.

Trains were expensive to run and the introduction of trams and buses adversely affected the Malta Railway. Buses soon became popular. After almost 50 years the train performed its last service on the 31st of March 1931 . Unfortunately, from a total of 10 engines and about 34 passenger carriages, nothing is left to remind us of the existence of a railway system except for one surviving carriage which can be found in Gnien L-Istazzjon in Birkirkara.

The carriage that is in the garden is very dark, with no windows at all. I wonder why they were constructed in this way. Was it because they were third class carriages or for safety measures?

The Railway station at Birkirkara, is one of the most well preserved buildings in Malta. For a number of years, the station was used as office for the Local Council. Now it is presently being used as a childcare centre. The building is surrounded by pleasant gardens.