History of Train & Rail Travel in Greece Page 1 (see Greece train map)

Greece was one of the last European nations to develop railways, the first train, a Piraeus-Athens one in 1869, more than forty years after the British had its first train line. Not long afterward, however, trains began running in northern Greece, with the 1872 line from Thessaloniki to the present FYROM border and into Alexandhroupoli from Edirne (the latter in Turkey, formerly Greek Adrianople).

These northern lines were funded by the new Greek state, established after the first stages of the Greek War of Independence. The trains running into Greece from the declining Ottoman Empire, were an attempt on the part of that empire to link together the last fragments of its crumbling territory. Railways in Greece radiated from three major population centers: from Athen/Piraeus to the north, east and west; from Volos towards Ipiros and the west as well as east into the Pilio peninsula; and in all directions from Thessaloniki into easternmost Greek Macedonia and Thrace, north into Bulgaria, and south and west into northern and central Greece.

During the late 1860s, Prime Minister Alexandhros Koumoundouros envisioned the railways as a link between West European markets and Near Eastern sources of raw materials, and in 1881, contracted for standard gauge railway construction radiating from Athens. Harilaos Trikoupis, who had become Prime Minister in 1875, had a different orientation, seeing the development of Greek railways as the means to inclusion of Greece in the international railway system, and a year later, cancelled those contracts and signed others for a narrow gauge network starting in the Peloponnese. Trikoupis had spent fourteen years in London during the 1860s and 1870s when the railways were developing there, and, seeing how they could benefit the new Greek nation, struggled to see them developed as part of his program for economic development.

The first 700km/434 miles of rail were from Athens to Corinth, Patras and Pyrgos, with a branch from Pyrgos to Kataolon; and another from Corinth through Argos to Nafplion with a branch with a branch from Argos to Mili. Plans were made also for the construction of 202km for the basic metric gauge system of Thessaly, from Volos through Farsala, Karditsa, Trikala and Kalambaka with a branch from Velestino to Larissa. The plan for the 76km Attic system was for connedtions from Omonia Square in Athens to Lavrio with a branch from Iraklio to Kifissia and during the years between 1883 to 1890, these lines began opening. Though many more contracts were signed by Trikoupis between 1887 and 1891 for 1100km more, various factors kept those lines from being built-troubles with Turkey in 1887, economic bankruptcy among them. Building resumed between 1900-1909 under Prime Minister Theotokis (Trikoupis r having died in 1896, bringing the national network to a total of 1600km/ 992miles, and then the First Balkan War interrupted railway progress once more.

Greek Train History Page 1 | 2

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