Sakhalia NetPHP PagesGraphics DivisionBaykal.esAcceptance of cookiesAcceptance of cookies

France was one of the first European nations in having railroads, and it seems that during the reign of Napoleon I very audacious projects had been done, but without achieving a concrete realization. Only in 1823 it was built the first line, having about 21 kilometers in length, between Saint-Étienne and Loire, but operating with wagons dragged by horses. The diffusion of the railway in France was largely a merit of projectist Marc Seguin, who managed to prepare some reliable and powerful enough locomotives, with technical resources that were immediately adopted by Stephenson. The first French truly important line was that established by the company Lafitte along Paris, Rouen and Le Havre.

Locomotive Crampton, 1849
Locomotive "Crampton" from 1849, characterized by the large driving wheel. This model operated in the French railways until 1876.

Very different thinking had a part of the public opinion about the new locomotion system. A French academic and scientific pointed that the dense and black smoke would cause severe affections to the lungs. This opposition did not exist only in France; also in England, despite the railways were already spreading, there was a large diversity of opinions and also a great opposition. In London a professor of Physics and Astronomy dictated to his students twelve rules "to be safe against the danger caused by trains". These are two of the most ridiculous ones: "Express trains are much more dangerous than ordinary ones, and those who want to travel with more safety should not use them but in cases of maximum urgency" and "When a hat or a pack flies away, it is mandatory to not jump out to retrieve them."

Later, in Germany, someone had the idea of tying in the fore part of the locomotives the directors of the railway companies, as a warranty of safety for the travelers, believing that this would be the best means to avoid crashes and derailments. Also in Bavaria it found bitter detractors the idea of building railroads, and in fact, despite in 1814 it was thought to build a railway between Nuremberg and Furth for cars towed by horses, the project was not realized and more than ten years passed before the works to install the rails were started. Once the construction was decided, endless discussions started about the election of the locomotion system. There were even who, in 1835, suggested the idea of placing the departure station at the height of the first floor of a house, to have a constant slope along the entire route, avoiding so the use of any kind of locomotive.

However, the 7th December 1835 it was inaugurated with full regularity the line, with convoys dragged by a locomotive acquired from Stephenson and Company and baptized as "Eagle". Also from England was imported the machinist, M. Wilson, who was better paid than the director of the railway company. He used to drive the locomotive dressed with black tie and top-hat. As a measure of prudence, to satisfy the desires of the less daring, between a convoy and the following one towed by steam, were established departures with single cars towed by horses. However, surpassing any expectative, during the course of one year they were more than 450000 the travelers who choose to cover the six kilometers of the line at the fantastic speed of 24 kilometers per hour.

First Italian railway in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

Italy remained delayed in respect of the other main nations, since being divided in small states, none of them was interested in building railroads which would cause the unification of the country. The first state that finally adopted the railway was Naples. Here reigned then Fernando II who, not so friend of the progress as of his own comfort, granted to the French company Bayard & Verges the authorization to build a railroad along the route Naples-Portici-Castellamare. The works, started in the mid August 1838, ended in the late September 1839, and the Thursday 3rd October at 12:30 o'clock - according to the gazette of that time - the stationmaster of Naples, wearing a green frock-coat and with a flamboyant sword hanging from his belt, as uniformity prescribed, gave the departure signal to the Bayard locomotive that should carry Fernando II and his minister Santangelo, along with 200 guests of his entourage, to Granatello, the first stretch completed, of about seven kilometers.

Locomotive Bayard, 1839
Locomotive "Bayard", which inaugurated the first Italian railroad in 1839, between Naples and Portici.

The railroad, provisionally single, had been installed in such a way that a second track could be added. The route effectuated with two locomotives coupled, the first of which was the "Bayard", lasted for seven minutes, speed which was considered "crazy", and to demonstrate that it could be regulated, a second travel was made which took 13 minutes and, finally, a third travel that took 11 minutes, always with the same convoy. After this line the work continued, but very slowly, in other lines in the Neapolitan railway, for the members of the Royal House had special interest in linking their princely estates with the suburban military headquarters. Another railway was that built between Milan and Monza, in 1840, with a length of 13 kilometers, which were covered in just 20 minutes. This line was so favored by the public that the travelers were more than 10000 in the first ten days of service.

First Spanish railway: Barcelona-Mataró and Madrid-Aranjuez

In Spain the construction of the first railway was due to the initiative from a Catalan financier called Miguel Biada, who with determination led to success the project, originally conceived when he lived in Cuba, of connecting his hometown, Mataró, with Barcelona. The official inauguration of this railroad, whose layout was entrusted to two British engineers, was celebrated the 28th October 1848. However, already in 1824, when Stephenson constructed his first locomotives, another Catalan, doctor Salvá, presented to the Barcelona Academy of Natural Sciences a small railway and a dissertation about the advantages of using the steam as prime mover. Unfortunately, the adverse political circumstances of that time frustrated the projects of this precursor of the Spanish railways.

Between 1843 and 1845 they were formed in Spain some companies for the construction and operation of railways, but only that constituted by Biada had complete success. Indeed, in 1844 the recently constituted Spanish Company of the Barcelona-Mataró Railway opened the subscription of its shares. In January 1848, the shareholders were informed about the status of the works and the acquisition in England of locomotives, wagons, cars and the additional equipment; and in August and September of the same year arrived the first four locomotives, which were baptized as Cataluña, Barcelona, Besós and Mataró. The layout of this first railroad was simple, it had a length of 28 kilometers and ran along the coast, without strong curves or slopes.

Continue reading...