1902 Encyclopedia > Germany > Germany - Roads, Railways and Canals

(Part 7)


Roads, Railways and Canals

Roads.—The construction of good highways has been well attended to in Germany only since the Napoleonic wars. The separation of the empire into small states was favourable to road-making, inasmuch as it was principally the smaller Governments that expended large sums for their network of roads. Thirty years ago the best roads were found in Hanover and Thuringia: the Thüringer Wlad has been almost transformed into a park by its splendid road. But some districts suffer even still from the want of good highways. The introduction of railways for a time diverted attention from road-making, but this neglect has of late been to some extent remedied. In Prussia the circles (Kreise) have now themselves undertaken the charge of the construction of the roads; but they receive a subsidy from the public funds of the several provinces. The total length of the public roads is now estimated at 72,000 miles.

Railways—The period of railway construction was inaugurated in Germany by the opening of the line from Nuremberg to Fürth in 1835, but the development of the system was slow. The want of a central government operated injuriously here, for it frequently happened that intricate negotiations and solemn treatise between several sovereign states were required before a line could be constructed; and moreover the course it was to take was often determeined less by the general exigencies of commerce than by many trifling interests or desires of neighboring states. The state which was most seeking in its railway politics was Hanover, which separated the eastern and western parts of the kingdom of Prussia. The difficulties arising to Prussia from this source were experienced in a still greater degree by the seaports of Bremen and Hamburg. Until 1866 there was only one railway from Bremen into the interior of Germany, while now there are four. Prior to 1865 the construction during the years from 1840 to 1865 having been from 340 to 370 miles per annum. Germany was at that time far outstripped in the extent of its railway system by England, Belgium, and Switzerland, and even by France. A new period of railway construction begins with the year 1866, and is closely connected with the economical political progress of Germany. Numerous great undertakings were then set on foot, partly to remedy the defeats of the existing system. Everywhere it became a primary object to establish the most direct lines of communication between important places f industry and commerce. As a consequence the German railway system was immensely enlarged, and from 1865-75 it has nearly been doubled. In 1872, 2000 miles were opened, the average from 1869 to 1877 being 1080 miles annually, so that Germany now owns a greater length of railways than any other state in Europe. On the 31st December 1877 Germany had 18,830 miles, Great Britain and Ireland 17,092, France 14785. As regards proportion to the area and population, however, Belgium, Great Britain, and Switzerland are still in advance. In 1877 Belgium had 320 miles of railways to every 1000 square miles, Great Britain 273, Switzerland 155, and Germany 147. The following table exhibits the development of the German railways, including those of Alsace-Lorraine:—


In recent years the multiplication of competing railways has greatly reduced the receipts of the older lines. The total amount of capital sunk in railway construction is estimated for the year 1876 at £373,558,000, or just about half the capital invested for the same purpose in Great Britain (£741,800,000). From the subjoined table it will be seen that the working expenses have considerably advanced during late years, and dividends accordingly have experienced a great decline. Railways formerly paying 15 to 18 per cent. have hone done to 5 to 6; the average dividend, which in 1870 was still 6 per cent, in 1876 has fallen to 4·4 per cent.


The making of railways has from the outset been regarded by some German states as exclusively a function of the Government. The South German states, for example, possess only state railways. In Prussia numerous companies have in the first instance constructed their systems, and the state has contended itself for the most part with laying lines in such districts only as were not likely to attract private capital. Yet, in order to establish a preponderating influence over the administration of all German railways, the Government has for some time been buying up private lines. Saxony not long ago purchased all the Saxon railways belonging to private companies. The following table gives the proportion of state and private railways at 31st December 1877, the minor North German states being classed along with Prussia. Of these Oldenburg alone possesses a greater length of railways belonging to the state than of those in the hands of private companies. The railways of Alsace-Lorraine are the property of the empire. The number of independent management in 1878 was 67.


Canals.—Germany cannot be said to be rich in canals. In South Germany the Ludwigs-canal was until the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine the only one of importance. It was constructed by King Ludwig of Bavaria in order to unite the German Ocean and the Black Sea, and extends from the Main at Bamberg to Kelheim on the Danube. Alsace-Lorraine had canals for connecting the Rhine with the Rhon e and the Marne; the coals of the Saar valley were conveyed by canals to Lorraine. The North German plain has several canals, of which only the more important need be named. In the east a canal by which Russian grain is conveyed to Königsberg joins the Pregel to the Memel. The Netze canal unites the Vistula and Oder. The Upper Silesian coal-field is in communication with the Oder by means of a canal. The greatest number of canals is found around Berlin; they serve to join the Spree to the Oder and Elbe. Smaller canals are found also in the north-west. The Meuse and the Rhine are also connected by a canal. The 70 canals in Germany have a total length of only 1250 miles, a very small extent when the other canal systems of western Europe are compared with it.

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