Train on Fire

October 22, 1906

In the issue of Monday, October 22, 1906 in the Egyptian Gazette there was a short article on page three written about an express train, heading from Luxor to Cairo, that caught on fire due to an exploding lamp in one of the first-class cars.

This article gathered my attention for several reasons, the first of which being the words fire and exploding lamp. The only other blog post with an explosion was larger scale, but it was done on purpose. Read more about this military-style explosion. Lamps actually exploded fairly often in 1906 because electricity was fairly new and the light bulbs must not have been built properly. Read more about the quality of light bulbs in the early 1900s. Apparently to deal with this burning train car, the best plan of attack was to detach it from the rest of the train and send villagers to put out the fire, which makes sense so as to not allow the fire to spread all around the train, but what about the people inside the car that was on fire?? This brings me to my last point of curiosity, which is certain members of the crew that helped put out the fire. According to the paper “Three Italians distinguished themselves by the coolness and the effectiveness with which they worked.” This just proves that Italians must’ve been cool all throughout history and still are to this day because I’m just imagining three big guys with slicked back hair in suits named Tony communicating wonderfully with each other and the other villagers to put out this train fire. This brings to mind a different blog post about close knit communities in Egypt, because the community of Kift must’ve been close with one another to put out this random train fire. Read more about the togetherness of the Egyptian community. The article concludes with the fact that there were no injuries in this fire, which is pretty miraculous considering the assumed lack of experience among the villagers who worked to put out the fire.

Unfortunately, flaming trains are not a thing of the past in Egypt. In the early 2000s a train caught fire due to an illegal use of a gas stove. The passengers of this train weren’t so lucky as there were at least 373 confirmed deaths. Read more about recent train disasters in Egypt.

Gavin Clark
Gavin Clark

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in spring 2018.