MONDAY, MAY 24: Get your ticket to ride, because it was 180 years ago today that the first passenger railroad in the United States began service. On May 24, 1830, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began service between Baltimore and Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. According to the B and O Railroad Museum, the Railroad became the first chartered railroad in the United States when 20,000 investors purchased $5 million in stock to import the rolling stock and build the line. Several managerial methods were established during the process of funding and building the B and O Railroad—many of which became standard and are still used today. (The B and O Historical Society has more.)
Americans may not ride as many steam locomotives as they used to, but railroads remain popular today—in a more modern, high-tech form! Railways are also used by many people around the world, as efficient transportation becomes a necessity. The official website of railway technology reports that, among other things, a recent study found that Brazil must invest $22 billion to meet the growing demand of its people for freight transportation in the coming years. Southern Sudan is planning to build a $7 billion high-speed railway to Uganda, and Railways Africa keeps up to date on the growing railway industry across the continent.
Religion is often intricately connected with people’s lives around the world. As technologies advance, religion is often a part of them. On the railroad front, the Mahaparinirvan Express is a specialized tourist train that transports passengers on a spiritual tour through Buddhist India. The Mahaparinirvan Express journeys to several pilgrimage sites, including the place where Buddha was born, the location of his enlightenment, the place where he preached and the place where he passed away. The train derives its name from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which contains Buddha’s final explanation of his teachings.
The British developed a mission in 1881 known as the Railway Mission, a chaplaincy service for their rail industry. Through the Railway Mission, any railway employee who desires “spiritual advancement” or aid is contacted by a chaplain; prayer groups, Bible study groups and conferences are all a part of the organization. The Railway Mission is also the primary partner of the National Rail Chaplaincy Service, an organization created to provide chaplains England, Scotland and Wales. Israel, too, is a hub of railway activity, and in 2008, it was reported that more than 35 million passengers traveled by train. A new route from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem is expected to open in 2015, for which travel time is cut to 30 minutes. (Read the full article on Aish.com, a Jewish site.) The Railway Museum at the Haifa east station in Israel is a neat site, too: the museum is host to Parlor car #98, a railway car that was built in 1922 for figures such as Winston Churchill, Ethiopian Emperor and Rastafarian Messiah Haile Selassie and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium.
Want to enjoy an inspirational story about a railroad trek across India? Read Shahina Begg’s story of circling the world, then crossing India by train, in the hope of connecting her family that appeared to be divided between two faiths.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)