History of Railways in Sardinia
It was around 1860 that persistent talk began concerning the railways construction in Sardinia.
In order to relieve Sardinia from its isolation, a railway internally crossing the island and bringing together all carters was built, linking them to the two main ports, Cagliari and Terranova.
Not only that: this railway system was also more convenient for exchanges with Africa and with the rest of the world.
De Pretis and Sella 1862 entrust to mr. Gaetano Semenza and his London-based company the tender for railways construction and operation in Sardinia.
“Sardinia’s conditions, its scarcity of population and production could not entice capitalists, if the state didn’t intervene with subsidy or with products guarantees.”
The subsidy: 200,000 hectares of state-owned land, as well as all railways, will remain under concession to the Company for 99 years, and the state will provide a guarantee (net annual revenue) of 9,000 lire/km (subsequently 12,000 lire/km).
Semenza: “I will not molest the government”…
1863: Vittorio Emanuele II: concession agreement to Compagnia Reale di Semenza in London (notary William Webb Wenn J – partners: 5 British 4 Italians ? Projects by Benjamin Piercy)
1864: 4 CA/OR/SS/PT construction sites with 5,000 workers
Meanwhile: early mining railways.
The first one went from the iron mine of San Leone (Santadi) to the La Maddalena (Capoterra) docking bay, with a gauge of 60 cm (2 May 1865).
Main mining railways were:
|2 maggio 1865||1952||San Leone – Maddalena||km 14,5||600 mm||Animale|
|23 novembre 1887||dopo la II guerra mondiale||Pantaleo-
|km 27,8||600 mm||Animale|
|1 gennaio 1871||1963||Monteponi – Portovesme||km 21,0||1000 mm||Animale|
|Monte Onixeddu – Monte Barega||km 3,0||600 mm||Animale|
|Terras Collu- Caput Acquas||km 6,0||600 mm|
|Bacu Abis – Serbariu||km 13,2||600 mm||Animale|
|Sa Duchessa (Domusnovas)||km 2,5||600 mm|
|1916||Masua||km 9,0||600 mm||Elettrica|
|ottobre 1904||Acquaresi –Cala Domestica||km 4,8||600 mm||Elettrica|
|Buggerru – Malfidano||km 4,4||600 mm||Vapore|
|1 giugno 1873||Ingurtosu – Piscinas||km 7,8||600 mm||Animale|
|16 novembre 1865||Anni ‘50||Montevecchio – San Gavino||km 18,2||600 mm||Vapore|
|Saline (Cagliari)||km 4,0||600 mm||Elettrica|
|Anni ‘ 50||Porto Torre – Canaglia||km 20,0||950 mm||Vapore|
Total: km 156,2
The decision to pay the Company in nature, by transferring land in use to Municipalities, led to delays and disputes (the agreement was reformulated a total of 5 times).
L’impresa costruttrice era la Smith-Knight e, finalmente, il 1° maggio 1871, il primo treno circolò sui 25 km tra Cagliari e Villasor. La trazione era ovviamente a vapore, garantita da locomotive tutte di produzione inglese erano del tipo Stephenson, Hawthorn, Sharp Stewart, e la n°1 e 2 si chiamavano “Cagliari” e “Ichnusa”.
Le signore che viaggiano sole possibilmente in un compartimento a parte; i fumatori dovranno desistere dietro il reclamo di altri; le armi da fuoco non potranno essere introdotte nei treni
The construction manager was Benjamin Piercy, after working on similar railway constructions in India.
1872: Cagliari ? Oristano, Decimomannu ? Iglesias e Porto Torres ? Sassari
1872: Cagliari ? Oristano, Decimomannu ? Iglesias and Porto Torres ? Sassari
In the meantime: any other changes to the government – Royal Company convention: no Oristano Ozieri Sassari and Terranova, waiting for the first completed railways to become productive: it was unfortunately a vicious circle, because they would only be productive if completed.
Various mayors and Deputy Giuseppe Garibaldi intervened, pursuing these reasons: “roads, connections, are daughters of civilization, but they are also its mothers”.
On July 1, 1883, after approcimately 20 years of projects and works, with the inauguration of the Terranova Pausania (now Olbia) – Golfo Aranci section, the “Compagnia Reale delle Ferrovie Sarde” network was concluded.
The tracks were the same managed by Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato or FS), from 1922 to today.
Despite what above, many areas of the island remained without any connection, among which the most impervious and difficult ones to reach, such as Barbagie, Ogliastra, Nuorese, Gallura and Sulcis. Connections with the ports – and therefore with the rest of the world – were practically non-existent.
Thus, the main railway network had to be completed with a “secondary” or “complementary” network, built around economic criteria.
Particularly, the flat – altimetric trend of the land would have been followed, and the narrow gauge would have been adopted, which by reducing the width of the railway seat, would have allowed for considerable savings, also in the implementation of works of art and in expropriation costs; this technique has also made it easier to penetrate the mountainous protuberances of the inner part.
The state allegedly paid the manufacturing company through a ‘mileage subsidy’.
Consequently, even the rolling stock was necessarily smaller and lighter.
Nonetheless, all drawbacks due to transhipment with FS trains and reduced speeds were inevitable and negligible for those times, and largely compensated by the achievable financial profits.
The expected armament was 21 kg/m.
On March 22, 1885, law No. 3011 was approved, which gives the government the right to make secondary railways concessions on the island of Sardinia”.
– Cagliari – Isili
– Macomer – Nuoro lines from the 1st period to be completed by 1889
– Macomer – Bosa
– Mountains – Temple
– Sassari – Alghero
– Ozieri – Chilivani lines from the 2nd period to be completed by 1893
– Isili – Sorgono
– Iglesias – Monteponi
|Lines from the 3rd period to be completed by 1897|
from Arbatax to the meeting point with Cagliari – Sorgono
– from Ozieri to the meeting point with Macomer – Nuoro
On 1st August 1886, Royal Decree n° 4041 was approved “for the concession of construction and operation of Secondary Railways on the island of Sardinia”. The tender for the concession was won by a consortium of Italian capitalists [the “Società Italiana per le Strade Ferrate Secondarie della Sardegna” (SFSS)], only the Iglesias – Monteponi line was granted to the Royal Company, while the third competitor, the Belgian Societé de chemins de fer economiques, was rejected entirely.
It is surprising to see how the SFSS project by Neapolitan engineer Alfredo Cottrau was preferred to Piercy’s project. The aspects which contributed to this choice were many, including:
an ostracism press campaign from Cagliari newspaper “L’Avvenire di Sardegna”, which presented British capitalists as avid foreign speculators.
the state did not like that an English company had the entire railways management of an island in the middle of the Mediterranean; in those years, railway construction was generally considered necessary for the state, and strategic in times of war.
The Cottrau consortium had the powerful Italian Bank of Turin behind it, the Marsaglia brothers enterprise, and on the island, engineer Vivanet.
Cottrau was a skilled Neapolitan engineer who owned metalworking industries (Impresa Industriale Italiana Costruzioni Metalliche) in Castellamare di Stabia, as well as another factory in Savona, which had been in crisis for some time due to lack of orders. The latter factory was sold to anonymous company Tardy and Benech, who transformed it into an important steel mill, which produced most of the rails for the secondary network of Sardinian railways.
One may think that Cottrau facilitated the sale by promising this important industrial order to the purchasing company.
Apart from all technical assessments (Piercy foresaw a more linear path along a hypothetical meridian from Cagliari to Chilivani; it did not include the curve towards Belvì, but the passage to Atzara; bridges and not viaducts) with the approval of Olivieri’s project – of the Cottrau consortion -Sardinia consortium had an unnecessary, if not harmful, dualism in railway operations.
The precision and speed of the works, as well as an effective press campaign, mitigated any controversy: on 15 February 1888 already, meaning 17 months after the concession was signed, Cagliari –Isili and Monti-Tempio were already in operation, and on 26 December the Bosa-Macomer-Tirso was also active.
1889 (06 February) the railway reaches Nuoro. (01 March) the Sassari-Alghero line is inaugurated; the same day, the railway continuing from Isili reaches Meana Sardo, finally arriving to the Sorgono terminus (03 December).
1893 (01 April) the Ozieri-Tirso line is inaugurated); on the same day, the Mandas-Nurri and Gairo-Arbatax section was inaugurated; (November 16) the railway goes up to Villanovatulo on one side and to Ussassai on the other; at the same time, the Gairo-Jerzu branch is inaugurated.
1894 (20 April) inaugurates the entire 160 km stretch from Mandas to Arbatax.
In total, the SFSS has a railway network of approximately 590 kilometers.
Except for the Iglesias-Monteponi section built in the ordinary gauge in 1898, all planned lines were built three years ahead of schedule; after seeing which works of art were created on these lines, one cannot fail to appreciate this speed of execution, considering that these appear to be among the most spectacular and daring in all of Europe.
The exercise started with 30 running Winterthur locomotives 1 – 3 – 0 and 3 Henschel & Kassel 0 – 2 – 0, followed later by 3 Schwartzkopf (Mallet type) 0 – 2 2 – 0 (year 1909) and 4 Orenstein & Koppel 1 – 4 – 0 (year 1915).
In 1911 the “Società per le Ferrovie Complementari della Sardegna” (Society for the Complementary Railways of Sardinia, SFCS) was set up, which set out to build and manage, under concession, the new planned Villacidro–Sanluri–Villamar–Isili railway and the Villamar–Ales branch.
On March 21, 1912, Royal Decree No. 684 was approved, with which the concession for construction and operation of the Isili-Villacidro railway, with the Ales-Villamar branch, was awarded to SFCS.
However, this railway did not come to Isili, but to the SFSS station of Sarcidano, which is about 5 km away from that. The Sarcidano-Isili section was therefore in common with the “Secondaries”.
The operation of the lines began on June 21, 1915 with 7 Breda locomotives with 3 axles coupled with a steering axle (running gear 1 – 3 – 0).
1921 (01 January) the “Società per le Ferrovie Complementari della Sardegna” absorbs the “Secondary”.
In the meantime, the “società anonima Ferrovie Meridionali Sarde” (established in 1914) was also established, which in 1915 entered into an agreement with the State for the construction and management of the Sulcis railways; however, due to the First World War, works only began in 1923 and ended in 1926, with the inauguration on May 23, of the following sections:
– Siliqua – San Giovanni Suergiu km 59
– Palmas Suergiu – Sant’Antioco – Calasetta km 21
– Palmas Suergiu – Carbonia – Monteponi – Iglesias km 34
For a total of 114 km, including the Iglesias-Monteponi section which was until then managed by the Royal Company, and transformed from the ordinary gauge to the reduced gauge in just 4 days. 8 Breda steam locomotives and 15 passenger carriages and 80 freight wagons were used. The great development of coal mining in Sulcis and the founding of Carbonia led to an increase in traffic. In 1936, 4 FIAT Littorine and 2 Winterthur locomotives, 10 Mallet and 22 Reggiane, and 180 wagons for coal transport, also arrived. In 1939, the Carbonia-Sant’Antioco section was doubled.
Still, in 1960, 6 diesel electric railcars and 4 towed vehicles arrived.
In September 1974, all lines closed permanently.
In 1922, “Ferrovie dello Stato” took over from the “Compagnia Reale” in management of the main network.
On March 27, 1927, Royal Decree n °656 was approved, with which concession for the construction and operation of the Sorso-Sassari-Tempio and Luras-Palau branches was entrusted to the “Società anonima Ferrovie Settentrionali” (SFSS), through use of the already existing Tempio-Luras-Monti by the “Complementari”, for allowing connection between Sassari and Palau.
The project is by engineer Diego Murgia, who later became CEO of the SFSS.
1930 (12 May) the Sassari-Sorso line opens.
1931 (16 November) the Sassari-Tempio line opens.
1932 (18 January) the Luras-Palau line opens.
In total, the extension of the secondary railways – also considering the Southern Sardinian Railways (112 km) – reached almost 1,000 km.
1933 SFSS is sold to “Strade Ferrate Pugliesi – Società Anonima” with headquarters in Genoa (concessionaire for other railways in that region), which, the same year, changed its name to “Strade Ferrate Sarde – Società Anonima” ( SFS.).
This financial group also purchased the majority of shares of “Complementari”: from that moment on, the two companies, with managing director, Count Ugo comm. adv. Pasquini will always march in parallel, exercising a total of 846 kilometers of lines.
In 1934, diesel railcars arrived: 3 Emmine between Macomer and Bosa and, in 1936, the Littorine, always in the Macomer compartment.
At that time (1930s), Sardinia effectively had 958 km of narrow gauge railways and 418 km of ordinary gauge railways, with one of the highest railway/inhabitants ratio in Italy!
Further establishing this favourable situation came the first “Littorine” and “Emmine”: the old steam engine was starting to give way to the more modern diesel engine. They were the first Italian secondary railways to adopt these new vehicles, while 3 new “Reggiane” locomotives had been put into operation on the Cagliari lines.
Ten years later, at the end of the Second World War, the railways were in serious condition, after allowing thousands of Sardinians to flee from the cities to the interior countries: the stations of Cagliari, Macomer and Arbatax had been bombed, not there was no naphtha or coal and, at times, recovered wood had to be used along the line to feed the steamers. Add to this that the fixed systems, the rails and most of the rolling stock had exceeded half a century of operation, and were therefore worn out.
Normal activity was painstakingly resumed, while plans and hypotheses for modernization for the purpose of an organic-general restructuring of the island’s railway system were rife.
Road transport began to become competitive, for speed and convenience, and the railways had to be adapted to the new situation by modernizing them: this however did not happen, if not in part.
From the 1950s, the process of replacing railway operations with trucks began on the following lines:
1956 (01 July) Isili-Villacidro and Villamar-Ales; (September 14) Gairo-Jerzu;
1958 (July 21) Luras-Monti.
1969 (December 31) Chilivani-Ozieri-Tirso.
Still in 1956, new traction vehicles finally arrived: 20 self-propelled, 10 towed and 15 locomotives, with electric diesel or mechanical diesel traction, circulating on the remaining lines which got modernized with armament replacement, track adjustments and major maintenance works.
Speeds increased and steam traction declined more and more, until it completely disappeared in the early 70s.
By then cars were dominant: trains throughout Italy could only try and survive in silence, as due to the fact they were considered outdated, no efforts were being made for modernizing them in the face of new technologies.
In 1968, the Cagliari station and workshops (Viale Bonaria), surrounded by the city, were dismantled and transferred to Monserrato, while the terminus moved to Piazza Repubblica.
In 1971, the private company was replaced by Government Management run by a Commissioner.
In 1972, passenger trolley cars were purchased from the “Circumvesuviana” which, although second-hand, after careful overhaul work, were more modern and comfortable than those used so far.
1974 saw the complete closure of the Sulcis “Southern” lines. On 15 June 1981, the railway operation on the Tresnuraghes-Bosa line was replaced with auto-racing.
In 1989, from the merger of “Ferrovie Complementari della Sardegna” and “Strade Ferrate Sarde”, the ‘Gestione Governativa Ferrovie della Sardegna’ was born’.
On May 10, 1995, the Tresnuraghes-Bosa Marina section reopened for tourist railway operations, recovered with EU and Sardinia Region funding, through ESIT.
On December 12, 1996 the ‘Museo delle Ferrovie’ is inaugurated, at the Monserrato plants. Since January 1997, the FdS have been entrusted to Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato).
On January 1, 2002, Ferrovie della Sardegna was once again ruled by a Government Commissioner appointed by the Ministry of Transport.
On June 10 2008, all assets belonging to FdS were transferred to the Autonomous Region of Sardinia and transformed into ARST Gestione Fds s.r.l., which was totally controlled by regional company ARST S.p.A.
Finally, on November 1 2010, ARST Gestione FdS was definitively incorporated into Regional transport company Sardinia ARST S.p.A.
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