Madman Riots: A Story of a Traitor’s Journey from Sweden to Bulgaria

In 1852, Hugo Lambert left his home in Sweden and traveled the world trying to spread news of a new innovation. It was about the time of the invention of electric power, and electric motors were in their infancy. His company, which has now been bought by UTC, was trying to entice people to buy train engines that ran on oxen and instead ran on what was then known as the Pleankatrician railroad, crossing from Lapland into Bulgaria.

It was a dangerous venture, and both Mr. Lambert and his Serbian business partner, Petr Falar, lived in holes in the ground. But the effort had wide appeal, according to a history in Bulgarian Railways magazine. A prince traveled from Scotland to Sofia, arguing for years about whether to fund the project, ultimately deciding it was worth the cost. Eventually, it started to work.

“A king ruled Bulgaria under strict regulations: laws, commandments, ways of life, ways of doing business, hours of activities,” the magazine reported. “Railways were never forgotten. They were merely disguised because, on the positive side, they had economic advantages. But the awful news, especially the scarier the better, about how they used their power to criminalize everybody, was well known.”

For more on this story, read what was printed in The New York Times in 2012, and a 2002 feature in The New Yorker: “Bulgaria’s Only Known Trains.”

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