1902 Encyclopedia > Railway, Railways (Railroad) > Railways - Europe

Railway, Railways
(Part 44)


Railways - Europe


A few unimportant tramways were opened in France in 1826-32. In 1833 the Government began a comprehensive system of surveys, and laid down the general plan of railway development for the whole country; and in 1842 Thiers devised a scheme by which the state was to furnish half the cost (about £10,000 per mile), while private companies were to lay the lines at their own expense and equip and work them for a term of years. In 1857 six great companies were working their lines with profit; but the state found it necessary (1859) to guarantee them the interest on the additional lines which were needed. By subsequent legislation the construction of local railways on a cheaper scale was encouraged, and in 1875-76 unsuccessful efforts were made by speculators to unite these local lines into systems which should compete with the old companies and break their monopoly. Since that date some have been absorbed by the great companies; others have passed into the hands of the state. After more than one scheme for a comprehensive system of state railways had been formed by leading statesmen and then for one reason or another abandoned, in 1884 agreements were made by which some 7000 miles of railways were to be constructed in addition to the 17,000 mile then in operation, the money to be supplied by the six great companies and ultimately repaid by the state, which meanwhile guaranteed the shareholders of each company a dividend equal to the average of recent years (in no case so low as 7 per cent.). The profitable system of monopoly has been favorable to the development of enterprise in railway management in France. Scarcely any of the so-called express trains run at as high a speed as 40 miles an hour. The time allowed for the dispatch of goods is very long. The average rates (0·78d. per passenger-mile, 0·82d. per ton-mile) are somewhat higher than those of Germany. The long-distance traffic especially has received but little encouragement. On the other hand, many of the technical arrangements of the French lines are excellent. Although the state owns so few railroads, it has reserved extensive rights of regulation, both in matters of business and in engineering; there is a body of Government engineers organized with almost military precision.


Soon after 1830 plans were laid for a Belgian system to be owned and managed by the state, and work was actively begun in 1833. The Government lines were arranged in the form of a cross, the point of intersection being at Malines. By this means the Government was able to develop the traffic of Belgium itself, and at the same time to secure a large share of the transit trade between Germany and England which had formerly gone via Holland. Having obtained control of the main lines with a length of about 300 miles the Government left the rest to private enterprise. Between 1850 and 1870 the private lines had increased from less than 200 to 1400 miles and competition between the state and private railways soon became active, and for ten years after 1856 rates were in consequence reduced to the lowest possible point. The state railways, however, had certain advantages: they had been well laid out and economically constructed; their organization was admirable and the very keenness of private competition was sufficient to guard against serious abuses. Nevertheless about 1870 the Government decided to purchase most of the competing lines, and by 1874 it owned more than half the railways of the country. It now (1885) owns three-quarters; there is only one large private system which could by any possibility compete, and with this there is a joint-purse agreement. The charges in general have not been raised as a result of the new policy, and they are still the lowest in Europe.


The first lines in Holland were constructed by private companies in 1840-56. In 1860 a state system was begun, which included at one time nearly two-thirds of the mileage of the kingdom. It was not, however, managed by the state directly, but leased to a private company. But the financial results were not satisfactory to either party, and the commission of 1881-82 reported strongly against the arrangement. The absence of connexions or of mutual accommodation between the different systems elicited severe criticism.


The first German line was opened in 1835. While most of the states were too small to have a comprehensive policy, Prussia from the very outset encouraged railway development, giving pecuniary assistance, and in return reserving important rights of state control. About 1848 the Government began to construct railways of its own, at the same time purchasing shares of stock in private companies. After 1870 the same policy, which had been for a time suspended, was again pushed forward in the direction of creating a German imperial system; but the jealousy of the smaller states proved fatal to its success. The Prussian Government, however, began to extend its own system on a large scale. In 1878 it owned only 3000 miles of railroad and managed 2000 more, while 6000 were in the hands of private companies. Now (1885) there are 13,000 miles of state railways and only about 1000 in private hands. The prices paid by the Government were, as a rule, high (in one instance the sellers secured an income of more than 16 per cent.), but the lines are nevertheless managed with reasonable profit to the state. The passenger-train service is prompt and comfortable. The speed attained is greater than elsewhere in Continental Europe, the maximum being about 45 miles. The passenger rates are low, averaging not quite 0·7d. per mile for all passengers carried. There are comparatively few accidents. The freight service is rather slow, and the charges are not relatively so low as those for passengers. On the other hand, they have for the most part avoided preferential rates; something very like a system of equal mileage rates prevails, through not always quite consistently carried out. In addition to this rate there is a fixed terminal or "Grundsatz"; but it is put, almost purposely, too low, so as not to interfere with the very short-distance traffic. The result is that the mileage rate is relatively too high, and for the long-distance traffic it reaches a very high figure. Down to 1880 this result was evaded by a system of special tariffs for export, import, or transit traffic, but during the last five years a strong effort has been made to do away with them. It has not been altogether successful, owing to the competition of water-routes.


In Austria a tramway line for general traffic was chartered in 1824 and opened in 1828. But until 1838 the Government positively discouraged the introduction of railways. The policy then adopted, however, guaranteed to each railway a monopoly in its own district during the (comparatively short) period for which its charter was to run. At the same time the state made lines of its own on a large scale. The revolution of 1848 led to financial straits; and in the years following most of the state railways, at least in Austria itself, were sold to private companies for about one-half their real value. But in Hungary the reality of a state railway system was more steadily maintained. The growth of the Austrian system was slow until after the war of 1866; then it began to develop rapidly. The railway speculation which ended in the crisis of 1873, being perhaps more recklessly carried on in Austria than anywhere else in the world, resulted in very severe distress. Since 1876 there have been consistent efforts to increase the importance of the state railway system both by the purchase of old lines and the construction of new ones. At present there are in Austria 2000 miles of state-managed railroad, and not quite 6000 managed by private companies; while in Hungary there are 2000 miles of state railroad and 3000 in private hands, the policy of the state management has been to reduce rates, especially for passengers; but they are still higher than in Germany. In 1883 the average receipt per mile for each passenger was 0·84d.; while the average receipt per ton of freight was 1·09d. Per train-mile the receipts were about 9s.; but the traffic was so light in many parts of the country that the average profit on the investment was only 4 3/4 per cent. The Austrian railways belong to the German Verein and are like the German lines in most of their methods and principles of administration. They have carried the system of traffic agreements, even between the state and private companies, into the same detail; but they have not adopted the system of equal mileage rates in their tariffs; on the contrary, they have (like Belgium) adopted a sliding scale, diminishing for longer distances. Probably no other country is so situated that it has to deal with such perplexing problems of railway tariff policy as Austria. Nearly all the Austrian railways are of standard gauge; but the problem of the economical construction and management of local lines has received most careful attention from the authorities; and the law specially encourages the construction of cheap railways in mountainous districts or for purely local traffic. About fifty such railways were chartered between 1880 and 1883.


The first lines in Switzerland were merely local, and the summer passenger traffic formed a main source of income. It was not until Austria had completed two routes across the Alps and France that the first Swiss route, the St. Gotthard, was projected. It is, however, the greatest work of them all, the main tunnel being over 9 1/4 miles in length. In spite of the character of the country, the Swiss railways are nearly all of standard gauge. They are entirely owned by private companies, through many of them have received aid from the cantons. The rates for freight are somewhat high. There are now about 2000 miles in all.


After 1860 the railways of Italy developed rapidly. There were four main systems—the upper Italian, the Roman, the Calabrian, and the southern system (along the Adriatic). Although this last had in many respects the least promising field, it was the most enterprising and the most successful. The other systems had been arranged more in accordance with the old political divisions than in accordance with the wants of trade. In spite of liberal subsidies from the Government they did not prosper. The lines of Calabria (and Sicily) were the most unfortunate; and the Government in 1870 was compelled to take the railways of this section into its own hands. The gross receipts have been constantly less than the working expenses. In 1873 the Government contracted to purchase the Roman railways for the same general reasons. The financial difficulties were such that the contract was not carried out till 1880-82. Meantime similar contracts, though for very different reasons, had been made for the purchase of the other two systems. But a special commission, which thoroughly studied the question during 1878-81, reported that the Italian Government had better not undertake to work its lines, even though it virtually owned them. Eventually they were leased for a term of sixty years to two main companies, each controlling about 3000 miles of line, with a third, much smaller, in Sicily. The state is to receive about 27 1/2 per cent. of the gross receipts, the companies 62 1/2 per cent.; the remainder is to be divided in a somewhat complicated system of reserve funds. On the whole, the railways of Italy leave much to be desired both in construction and equipment. The rates are reasonable, particularly for local traffic; but the service is always slow, and often quite inadequate to the wants of trade.


The first railway line in Spain was opened in 1848, and the period of most rapid development was from 1855 to 1865. The Government encouraged railways by most liberal subsidies, which had the effect of bringing forward a number of purely speculative undertakings. The indirect results were bad; and for this, as well as other reasons, the years 1869-75 formed a time of most serious depression. Since then matters have improved greatly, on account both of changes in legislation made about 1870 and of the improvement in the country itself. There are now about 5000 miles of railway. One-fourth of the money spent has been advanced by the Government; and of late years the financial results have been reasonably good. The ratio of working expenses to gross earnings is about 45 per cent. The charges for passengers are rather low; but those for freight are extremely high. The gauge is 5 1/2 feet.


The first Portuguese line was constructed by the state in 1853 or 1854. The Government now owns about half the roads of the country,—one system in the north and another in the south, each somewhat less than 200 miles long. The central lines are owned by a company, chartered in 1859, which has been for many years managed by a body of French directors, from whose control it has but recently been freed. The financial results have been far from satisfactory. The railways are built on a 5 1/2 feet gauge.


In Denmark and in Norway railway development has been slow. The greater part of the lines are owned and managed by Government. Most of the Norwegian lines are laid on a gauge of 3 1/2 feet. The running is slow and the traffic very light. Sweden possesses something over 4000 miles in all, of which the state owns about one-third. The capital averages less than £7,000 per mile,—lower than in almost any other country of the world. The railways are in the hands of a number of local companies, which control on an average hardly 30 miles each.


In Russia a short railway—little more than an experiment— was constructed in the neighborhood of St. Petersburg in 1835-37. The first line of any length was opened in 1851 between St. Petersburg and Moscow. This was built by the state, but afterwards sold to a private company. After the close of the Crimean War railway construction was more rapid. The lines were laid down by the Government surveyors, but were constructed and managed by private companies, receiving, however, much help from the Government. Of the 15,000 miles in operation hardly a tenth part belongs to the state, even including the 700 miles of state railway in Finland. Yet about half the capital employed in railway construction has been furnished by the state. Since 1880 the construction of railways in European Russia has moved slowly. Of the greater importance has been the development of the Asiatic lines. The first of these, in the Caucasus, was opened in 1872 to a length of nearly 200 miles. The Trans-Caspian military railway was begun in 1880; the connexion between the Caspian and the Black Sea was completed in 1883. The Siberian railway is being pushed forward as rapidly as the finances of the empire will allow. The administration is in most respects modelled upon that adopted by Germany and Austria. The plan of the Russian railways has been dictated by military rather than industrial considerations. The gauge is 5 feet.


Isolated lines were constructed in Turkey in 1860 and 1866. The first general plan for a system of importance dates from 1869, and was modified in 1872. Foreign companies furnished the capital and received a subsidy from the Government. In return they were to make certain annual payments; but the clauses providing for this were so carelessly drawn that the companies seem to have had an interest in delaying the completion of the work. Some of the lines were lost in the cession of territory which followed the war of 1878. There are now open for traffic about 1000 miles of railway in European Turkey, and 200 more in Asia Minor.

Romania, Serbia, Greece

There is a fairly developed system of railways (1000 miles or more) in Roumenia [Romania], owned by the state; and there are a few lines in Servia [Serbia]. Arrangements seem to be completed by which through communication in these countries will soon be established on a large scale, if the authorities in Turkey and Bulgaria do not fail in their duty. The Government of Greece is also engaged in extending its railway system, which has hitherto amounted to nothing. (A. T. H.)

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