Remembering the old railway

Reflecting the period’s social, economic and political history, a photography exhibition that focuses on the country’s first major railway network, located in Thessaly, central Greece, is to open in Thessaloniki on January 17 at the National Bank Cultural Foundation’s cultural center (108 Vas. Olgas St). The old regional railway network, a 204-kilometer transport facility whose construction began in 1881 soon after the Thessaly prefecture was annexed to the modern Greek state under the political leadership of Alexandros Koumoundouros (1817-1883), was eventually integrated with the Athens-Larissa-Thessaloniki line in the mid-1950s. It was unable to continue functioning independently following severe damage incurred during the Nazi occupation of Greece. The exhibition, titled «Railway Network of Thessaly (1881-1955),» sheds light on a range of facets of the railway, including the project’s early construction years, contractual aspects, and train stations along the way. Trikoupis heritage The network constituted an important part of Prime Minister Harilaos Trikoupis’s (1832-1896) infrastructure policy. The political leader sought to connect Greece’s fertile central plains with the country’s ports, and beyond that, Greece with the Balkans and Western Europe. The network ran from the coastal provincial city of Volos to nearby Velestino, northwest of the seaside location, before branching off into two directions. One headed northwest all the way to Larissa. The other route went westward, through the towns of Farsala and Karditsa, where it took a northwesterly direction to Trikala and Kalabaka, the final stop. Work on the project had begun under former prime minister Koumoundouros, but it was not until a year later, in 1882, when his successor Trikoupis had assumed power, that construction work hit full swing. The network contributed significantly to the region’s development. But state revenues generated by the project’s operation fell short of official expectations. Most of the merchandise transported was agricultural, a weather-sensitive sector. The wars waged over the years, beginning with the Greco-Turkish war of 1897, added to the network’s problems. But, ultimately, its biggest setbacks came via the country’s alternative transportation options, beginning with the faster Athens-Larissa-Thessaloniki (SEK) line. Later on, cars and buses rendered the old line obsolete. The end The Thessaly network suffered its final blow during the Nazi occupation of Greece. By the early 1950s, the Thessaly train network was no longer able to operate independently. In 1955, it was annexed to the SEK line. Today, a segment of the old route serves as part of the line linking Athens with the northern port city of Thessaloniki. The network’s remainder continues to function as a slow-moving and outdated service.

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