TASK: In it, you have to do some research on the development of the railway network in Argentina (as influenced by the English) in the 1800. Provide also a map of the network at the time. (You can/should establish a comparison with the network nowadays and/or with the network in England in the 1800).
The Argentine railway network consisted of a 47,000 km network at the end of the Second World War and was, in its time, one of the most extensive and prosperous in the world. However, with the increase in highway construction, there followed a sharp decline in railway profitability, leading to the break-up in 1993 of Ferrocarriles Argentinos (FA), the state railroad corporation. During the period following privatisation, private and provincial railway companies were created and resurrected some of the major passenger routes that FA once operated.
Dissatisfied with the private management of the railways, beginning in 2012 and following the Once Tragedy, the national government started to re-nationalise some of the private operators and ceased to renew their contracts. At the same time, Operadora Ferroviaria Sociedad del Estado (SOFSE) was formed to manage the lines which were gradually taken over by the government in this period and Argentina’s railways began receiving far greater investment than in previous decades. In 2014, the government also began replacing the long distance rolling stock and rails and ultimately put forward a proposal in 2015 which revived Ferrocarriles Argentinos as Nuevos Ferrocarriles Argentinos later that year.
The railroad network today, with its 36,966 km size, is now somewhat smaller than it once was, though still the 8th largest in the world.
The importance of foreign capital in the construction of the Argentine railways is perhaps overstated, with initial construction of the network beginning in 1855 at first with Argentine finance, which continued throughout the network’s development. The Buenos Aires Western, Great Western and Great Southern railways (today the part of the San Martín, Sarmiento and Roca railways respectively) were all commenced using Argentine capital with the Buenos Aires Western Railway being the first to open its doors in the country, along with its Del Parque railway station.
Following the adoption of liberal economic policies by president Bartolomé Mitre, these railways were sold off to foreign private interests, consisting of mostly British companies, in what would be the first of many acts where the ideological climate of the time would define the fate of the Argentine railways. These sales also included Argentina’s first railway, the Buenos Aires Western (by now 1,014 km long), which was sold in 1890 to the British company New Western Railway of Buenos Aires for just over 8.1 million pounds (close to £500 million in 2005 money). This sale, and others that came after it, was heavily criticised at the time for being far lower than the actual value of the railway, and prompted many anti-British protests. In later years, this was also criticised by historians:
During the 27 years in which it belonged to the Government of the Province of Buenos Aires, the Western Railway was the line which was most luxurious, least wasteful […] and offered the most economical fares and cargo rates. It was a model company which was the pride of Argentina, in relation to which all the English railway companies established in our country were, without exception, second-rate…[But after the sale] the unnecessary growth in spending, largely due to the disproportionate increase in employees, the resulting decrease in returns and the rise in ticket prices made up a definite intent to sabotage: the Western Railway would quickly be discredited in the public opinion.
In the years that followed, there were numerous cases of undervalued sales to British investors, including the 1,000 km long Andean Railway, which provoked much anti-British sentiment in the country. By 1910 the network had been monopolised by British companies, owned by large finance firms such as J.S. Morgan & Co. in London. Nevertheless, major development of the Argentine rail network occurred up to this period. and the Argentine state also played a large role, financing ferrocarriles de fomento (development railways) in rural areas not attractive to private interests, while the Argentine State Railway had a 9,690 km network.
By 1914, the Argentine rail network attained significant growth having added 30,000 km to the network between 1895 and 1914, which positioned the country as having the tenth largest rail network in the world in that year, at a point where the country had the tenth highest per-capita GDP in the world. Its expansion accelerated greatly due to the need for the transport of agricultural products and cattle in Buenos Aires Province. The rail network converged on the city of Buenos Aires and was a key component in the development of the Argentine economy as it rose to be a leading export country. However, with the advent of the First World War, then subsequently the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression, the rail network of the country experienced a much lower rate of growth after this period and had mostly ground to a halt by the beginning of the Second World War.
Whereas the British network in 1800:
The start of the modern railway age is usually marked by the opening in 1825 of the Stockton & Darlington line. Other, mostly local, lines followed, the most important of which was the Liverpool and Manchester of 1830, famous for Robert Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive. With its multi tube boiler, blast pipe exhaust, pistons connected directly to the driving wheels and its ability to haul its train at over 30 miles per hour, this machine set the standard for locomotive design. The first long distance lines were opened in the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign, the London and Birmingham in 1838, part of Brunel’s London to Bristol route the same year and the London and Southampton in 1840. A railway boom and mania followed during the 1840s, with promoters and speculators planning lines all over Britain.
Like the steamship, the railway predates the Victorian era.
By 1845 2441 miles of railway were open and 30 million passengers were being carried. The railways, offering as they did new opportunities for travel and commerce, and breaking down social barriers in the process, were immediately popular, a popularity encouraged by acts of parliament that ensured that trains conformed to standards of speed and comfort and offered rates that were affordable by all. The spread of the railways also brought about, through time-tabling, a regularisation of time throughout Britain. Excursions and day trips, particularly to the seaside, became a familiar part of British social life. In 1851 many of the six million visitors to the Great Exhibition travelled by train to London in organised excursions. Queen Victoria made her first train journey on 13 June 1842 and then became a regular user of the rail network, for speed and convenience and because it gave her ample opportunity to show herself and her family to her subjects.
Expansion of the rail network was rapid and continuous. Between 1861 and 1888 the mileage grew by 81 percent and the traffic carried by 180 percent. By 1900, 18,680 miles were in use and over 1100 million passengers were being carried, along with huge quantities of freight. From 1852 the carriage of freight provided the railway companies with the bulk of their income. Safety standards, at first almost non-existent, gradually improved with advances in signalling and vehicle technology. By the end of the century trains ran regularly, and with complete safety, at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Comfort also improved. The first lavatories appeared in family saloons in the 1860s, the first proper sleeping cars were introduced in 1873 and dining cars came into use from 1879.