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Old rail timetable to Antipolo

I found this on the internet – a timetable or schedule for trains bound for what are now destinations in Rizal (e.g., Antipolo, Taytay, San Mateo and Montalban). Pasig and Marikina used to be part of Rizal province with the capital at Pasig (thus, Kapitolyo).

From the schedule, one can see that the main line was between Manila and Pasig (Rosario). From Rosarion, the line branched out towards either Antipolo or Montalban (now Rodriguez). Certain trains like Nos. 41, 45, 47, 51 and 56 terminated in Antipolo while others at Montalban. Again, one cannot help but wonder what if these lines were sustained and still operational (of course, upgraded) today. Commuting would have been different for many of us residing in Rizal and along these lines.

On “beautiful” train stations

Here’s another article I am sharing that presents a list of some of the world’s most beautiful train stations. I say some because in my opinion, there are many others that we can consider beautiful according to various criteria and preferences. After all and as they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Funderburg, L., Cott, A. and Cherner, J. (August 1, 2022) “The 37 Most Beautiful Train Stations in the World,” Architectural Digest, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/best-train-station-architecture-slideshow?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_080122_1&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight [Last accessed: 8/2/2022]

I’ve seen many of these stations particularly the ones in the Netherlands, Australia and the US. The wife also sent me photos of other stations in her travels in Europe and the Americas. But there are many else to include in the list depending on your taste. Southeast Asia has many though perhaps for restoration. Japan definitely has many classic and contemporary/modern designs. And Central Asia should also have many that can be compiled into a list. I wonder what we can include or if there’s something in the future to look forward to in the Philippines.

Here are a couple in my list that aren’t in the article:

Den Haag Station, The Netherlands

Santa Fe Station, San Diego, USA

Articles on railway safety

I shared a link to a Medium writer who specialized on articles about air crashes. These were investigative articles that provide details about air crashes especially since these are all tragedies and include those that have remained mysteries like Malaysian Airline Flight 370.

I am sharing today another collection of articles pertaining to transport safety. This time they are about railway or rail safety. Here is the link to the collection of articles from Max Shroeder:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com

And here is an example of what he writes:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com/stressful-schedule-the-2005-amagasaki-japan-derailment-12156ddd488

Again, there is much to be learned about these incidents. The circumstances, factors and experiences need to be examined in order to draw lessons from these incidents and reduce the likelihood of them happening again. In the case of the Philippines, this is especially applicable as the country rebuilds its long distance railways infrastructure with a line connecting Manila and Clark, Pampanga along what used to be called the Main Line North (MLN) of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and another currently being rehabbed and for upgrading to the south in what was called the Main Line South (MLS). Other rail projects are also underway like the Metro Manila Subway and the MRT Line 7. All pass through populous areas, and railway crashes may not just lead to passenger and crew fatalities and injuries but also the same for those residing or working along these rail lines.

Compilation of railway incidents

I found this page on Medium that’s features railways incidents (e.g., derailments, crashes, etc.). It is a good resource or reference for railway safety since the articles provide details about each incident. The writing style is investigative so they make for engaging reads:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com

There’s another site about air crashes that I will also share later.

On women and the railroads in Ukraine

Ukraine has been in the news lately due to what analysts think is an impending invasion by Russia. Ukraine, of course, used to be part of the Soviet Union. However, they have initiated what Russia thought was unacceptable, which is applying to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That constituted a threat to Russia right at its doorsteps. Russia, though appear to be egging for a fight ever since they snatched Crimea from Ukraine and covet resources in that country that would likely benefit the west more as Ukraine moves to closer ties with what Russian leadership still regard as enemies.

The article I am sharing though is not about conflict but of railways in a country rich in railways history and heritage. Ukraine’s railway system date back to pre-communist times, before their inclusion in what was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Here’s a nice read on Ukrainian railroads and the women who help keep their trains running:

Mallonee, L. (May 31, 2020) “The Women of Ukraine’s Railroads Keep the Trains Running,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/women-ukraine-railroads/?utm_medium=social&utm_social-type=owned&mbid=social_twitter&utm_source=twitter&utm_brand=wired [Last accessed: 2/21/2022]

Video share: replacing railroad ties

Here’s a quick share of a video of the modern, ‘state of the art’ way to replace railroad ties (sleepers):

https://fb.watch/asCUATrxEk/

I suddenly recall how satisfying or relaxing it was to watch concrete being mixed manually. I think watching the video above gives a similar feeling.

What they are not saying about UTSMMA and Metro Manila’s first subway line

My social media feed is suddenly filled with shares of articles (the same PR text apparently) from the Department of Transportation, its Secretary and his fans and local rail aficionados about the progress of the Metro Manila Subway Project, which is dubbed as Metro Manila’s first subway line. While these posts start and appear as factual narratives, they are silent about certain facts that the writers conveniently did not include as part of their narrative. Perhaps it is because they are currently allied with the son of the dictator who decided vs. building what could have been the country’s first subway line and a game-changer for commuting in the metropolis.

UTSMMA or the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area was completed in 1973 and was immediately followed by a Feasibility Study on the Manila Rapid Transit Rail Line No. 1 that was completed in 1976. Here’s a nice render of a subway station platform from that FS:

Two things that need to be said:

  1. Marcos decided against the subway line in favor of LRT Line 1 after being heavily influenced by a World Bank report and the succeeding MMETROPLAN (funded by the WB). It is also said that he wanted to have the bragging rights to the first mass transit line in Southeast Asia but Singapore’s first MRT line would finish ahead of Metro Manila’s if the Philippines pursued the subway. The latter was a late and fateful decision because commitment to the RTR Line 1 could have been made earlier and construction could have started ahead of Singapore’s (and likely finished ahead if there were no major delays).
  2. The corruption during the Marcos dictatorship led to succeeding administrations including the current being saddled by debt and unable to put up major transportation infrastructure such as a subway line for decades (this is already well documented so denial or refusal to understand is the burden of the denier – no logic or fact can can probably change such people’s views or beliefs) without piling up more debt.

That said, I would caution vs. delaying the subway project any further. It is already almost 40 years since a subway was due and though the alignment is totally different from what was planned in the 1970s, there’s potential here to revolutionize how people will commute in Metro Manila. It will only become more expensive to build in the future.

On preserving railways – an example in Bulgaria

Here’s a quick share of an article about saving Bulgaria’s last narrow gauge railroad:

The article is relevant as it discusses the plight of railways amidst shrinking ridership and escalating costs of operations and maintenance. The railways in the article is not a isolated case. It is quite common for many railway systems. The difference of this example from another similar service like those in Japan is that Japan Railways or private companies can probably absorb the costs and maintain the line not just as a service but to show their commitment. Historically, there are many railway lines, branches if you prefer, of the Manila Rail Road Company (later the Philippine National Railways) that had to be discontinued due in part to a combination of diminished ridership and escalating O&M costs. The Main Line South, for example, had several branches including an extension from Albay to Sorsogon that had to be discontinued. Nowadays though, the topic should also be considered as the railways in the country is being expanded again. There is still the issue of ridership and this will always be in competition with road-based transport as well as aviation.

Is it really a golden age for railways in the Philippines? Or is it just a great catch-up?

The government and many railway fans in the Philippines have dubbed the construction and rehabilitation of railway lines as a “golden age of railways in the Philippines.” Many, especially those who have aspired for railway development in the country agree with this monicker.

But is it really a golden age or are we just playing catch-up due to the backlog of railway projects in the country? Rehabilitation, after all, means there was a period of deterioration, even neglect by the government (i.e., across several administrations starting from Marcos) that led to poor or discontinued services.

A “golden age” is defined as “a period in a field of endeavor when great tasks were accomplished.” Indeed, by definition we can qualify the current one as such but let me point out the facts from history that railways development in the country (both long distance and urban transit) started in the late 1800s before the revolution that led to declaration of Philippine independence from Spain in 1898, and while many of our revolutionary leaders were abroad, mainly in Europe where I’m sure they took the trains and trams to move about. Here’s a link to the website developed by a research program in the University of the Philippines that focused on mass transit development in what is now the Metro Manila area:

Website for the UP-EIDR program on railways development in Metro Manila

Since railway development in the late 1800s started from scratch, perhaps the current development is more of a “second” golden age for railways, and not ‘The’ golden age for railways. This wouldn’t have happened or won’t be necessary if we rehabilitated the tranvia after WW2 or allocated resources to preserve and maintain the PNR and other lines like how our Southeast Asian neighbors did to their own railways. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have enviable railways including preserved, operational steam locomotives that are now practically moving museum pieces. But since we are into catching-up and there’s been significant progress on this end, perhaps the right term shouldn’t be “Golden Age” but “Renaissance”. It’s actually quite a catchy phrase “Railway Renaissance,” if you bother to consider it.

On preserving old transit systems

Many old cities have either retained or phased out their old road-level transit systems. I am referring mainly to rail-based streetcars rather than road-based ones such as buses. Even the indigenous types of road-based public transport may be phased out and usually in the name of modernization. Some though, like Singapore’s rickshaws and Manila’s calesas are still existent but you will find them either during odd hours or in tourist areas.

A good example of a city that has retained and preserved its transit system that is San Francisco in the US. The city still has a running cable car system, and its street cars maintained and operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). These are practically operational, traveling museums. The streetcars, for example, are of different models – a collection of streetcars from various cities around the world that have phased out this transit systems a long time ago. So it should not be surprising to see a different street car every time. And one could try to ride each one in operation while staying in city.

San Francisco’s cable cars are still operational and are used by people on their commutes

Here is an article about Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) trams:

Schmall, E. (September 2, 2021) “Kolkata’s ‘Fairy Tale’ Trams, Once Essential, Are Now a Neglected Relic,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/world/asia/kolkata-india-trams-calcutta.html?smid=url-share [Last accessed: ]

What are your thoughts about preserving or phasing out these transit systems?