"Powellite" Bagnall 3ft gauge locomotive at Black Sands, Victoria - 1938. Photograph: P.G. Dow

31 July, 2010

Friday 30 July in Oslo

This morning was heavily overcast and grey in Oslo, with frequent rain. This was annoying as I set out to walk to the former residence of Carl Pihl, at 2 Gustavs Gate, a few kilometers north of Oslo city centre. I put the address into my TomTom navigation device and followed it's directions.

Carl Pihl was an important man - he "invented" the concept of 3ft 6in gauge railways for normal goods and passenger use. He also developed a number of other concepts and ideas to reduce the cost of railways in "rising countries". For some time in the nineteenth century he was in charge of Norwegian railways, and was the highest paid civil servant in the country. Nevertheless he was offered double the salary by a Canadian railway, but declined.

Found his house and photographed it with much difficulty, as the location was fairly confined, and there were lots of large trees about. It was a large two story rendered brick or stone house of a style somewhat reminiscent of the gold rush era mansions of Melbourne, and had a tower. It was amongst many other magnificent houses of the same era. This was the house that Carl Pihl and his English wife, and eleven children, and one cat and one dog lived, no doubt with several servants to help out. It was claimed that Norway was the poorest country in Europe prior to the building of the first Railway there in 1854, but that railway seems to have unleashed rapid development, as these opulent houses show.

Returned back to my hotel using my own navigation, as I knew a more scenic route, through gardens (Slottsparken), past the Royal Palace, past the University, and down Karl Johans Gate (gate means "street" and is pronounced gahta), past the National Theater (I have used Norwegian spelling for theatre), and then past Stortinget (parliament house). Over several kilometers this area was developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century when Norwegian independence was flowering. It includes all sorts of features characteristic of that era, including beautiful buildings, decorative public gardens, plenty of public seating, many statues of famous people, fountains and other water features, and a beautiful long tree-lined avenue (for walking) down the middle of Karl Johans Gate. All of this has been lovingly maintained, and not desecrated to allow cars to drive faster. It is interesting to note that the statues are all, or almost all, of people involved in the arts, such as writers, poets, musicians and dramatists; not politicians or military types, nor scientists or inventors.

At this stage I was reminded of the expensive chore from the past of changing the film in the camera, as I had filled up the memory card in the camera with 333 dng files. This had taken about a week. It is much easier to change a memory card than a film, and more difficult to make a mistake.

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