Railway age notes

Railways Development in France:
In France, railways were first operated by private coal companies: the first legal agreement to build
a railway was given in 1823 and the line. Much of the equipment was imported from Britain. Trains
became a national medium for the modernization of backward regions. One writer hoped that
railways might improve the lot of "populations two or three centuries behind their fellows" and
eliminate "the savage instincts born of isolation and misery." Consequently, France built a
centralized system that radiated from Paris. This design was intended to achieve political and
cultural goals rather than maximize efficiency. After some consolidation, six companies controlled
monopolies of their regions, subject to close control by the government in terms of fares, finances,
and even minute technical details. The central government department of Ponts et Chaussées
[bridges and roads] brought in British engineers and workers, handled much of the construction
work, provided engineering expertise and planning, land acquisition, and construction of
permanent infrastructure such as the track bed, bridges and tunnels. It also subsidized military
lines along the German border, which was considered necessary for national defence. Private
operating companies provided management, hired labour, laid the tracks, and built and operated
stations. They purchased and maintained the rolling stock—6,000 locomotives were in operation
in 1880, which averaged 51,600 passengers a year or 21,200 tons of freight. .
Financing was also a problem. The solution was a narrow base of funding through the Rothschilds
and the closed circles of the Bourse in Paris, so France did not develop the same kind of national
stock exchange that flourished in London and New York. The system did help modernize the parts
of rural France it reached, and help to develop many local industrial centres, mostly in the North
(coal and iron mines) and in the East (textiles and heavy industry). The railways probably helped
the industrial revolution in France by facilitating a national market for raw materials, wines,
cheeses, and imported and exported manufactured products. Yet the goals set by the French for
their railway system were moralistic, political, and military rather than economic. As a result, the
freight trains were shorter and less heavily loaded than those in such rapidly industrializing nations
such as Britain, Belgium or Germany. Other infrastructure needs in rural France, such as better
roads and canals, were neglected because of the expense of the railways, so it seems likely that
there were net negative effects in areas not served by the trains.
Railways Development in Germany:
Political disunity of three dozen German states and a widespread conservatism made it difficult to
build railways in the 1830s. However, by the 1840s, trunk lines did link the major cities; each
German state was responsible for the lines within its own borders. Economist Friedrich
List summed up the advantages to be derived from the development of the railway system in 1841:
1. As a means of national defence, it facilitates the concentration, distribution and direction
of the army.
2. It is a means to the improvement of the culture of the nation. It brings talent, knowledge
and skill of every kind readily to market.
3. It secures the community against scarcity and famine, and against excessive fluctuation in
the prices of the necessaries of life.
4. It promotes the spirit of the nation, as it has a tendency to destroy the Philistine spirit arising
from isolation and provincial prejudice and vanity. It binds nations by ligaments, and
promotes an interchange of food and of commodities, thus making it feel to be a unit. The
iron rails become a nerve system, which, on the one hand, strengthens public opinion,
and, on the other hand, strengthens the power of the state for police and governmental
Lacking a technological base at first, the Germans imported their engineering and hardware from
Britain, but quickly learned the skills needed to operate and expand the railways. In many cities,
the new railway shops were the centres of technological awareness and training, so that by 1850,
Germany was self-sufficient in meeting the demands of railroad construction, and the railways
were a major impetus for the growth of the new steel industry. Observers found that even as late
as 1890, their engineering was inferior to Britain’s. However, German unification in 1870 stimulated
consolidation, nationalisation into state-owned companies, and further rapid growth. Unlike the
situation in France, the goal was support of industrialisation, and so heavy lines crisscrossed the
Ruhr and other industrial districts, and provided good connections to the major ports of Hamburg
and Bremen. By 1880, Germany had 9,400 locomotives pulling 43,000 passengers and 30,000
tons of freight a day, and forged ahead of France.
Adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport#France