Borovniški viadukt 1850 – 1944


By Andrej Klemencorovniški viadukt 1850 – 1944


Shortly after the Second World War, road traffic began replacing rail traffic in the developed world. The century of railways that had symbolically began in 1825 with the first successful train ride between two nearby English cities, began coming to an end. The railway, with its rigid rolling stock that have to run on specific timetables and cannot be used for door-to-door transport, cannot be compared to the modern (motorway) road network in terms of time and space flexibility, neither can the train be compared to personal cars and trucks.

Although the train can still carry more freight than a few dozen tugtrucks (and long-distance railway transport can still be significantly faster than the one on overcrowded roads), in the second half of the 20th century, the railway gradually gained a touch of something obsolete. As the railway had to build and maintain its own infrastructure in most countries (while the construction and maintenance of roads were taken care of by governments) and since the cost of destroyed environment and global warming is (was) not included in the price of fuels, railways have been loosing their competitive advantage even in transports at longer distances where otherwise they would have still been competitive.

However, car traffic has become a victim to its success; therefore, it gets stuck in severe congestions much too frequently. For this reason, on the one hand, and for the environmental concerns (especially concerns about devastating consequences of global warming originating from human activity), on the other hand, the railway started regaining its momentum at the beginning of 21st century. More and more passengers take trains to overcrowded major cities (and continue there on foot), use city or own bicycles, (electric) scooters and/or public transport. The European Union encourages countries to modernise their rail networks and rolling stock to enable them to be competitive to air transport, including in terms of time, at distances of up to 500 km and more. China has been investing heavily in modernising and expanding its rail connections to largest urban agglomerations in Europe, in order to enable exports of its products to be faster than by ship and significantly cheaper than by plane. After decades of neglecting, Slovenia has been also investing a lot of own and European funds in the railway network modernisation and the purchase of modern train compositions and locomotives.

Although railways will never again be the “locomotive of modernisation”, their modernisation and integration with other transport modes into modern inter- and intramodal transport networks is one of the key areas of environmental modernisation. Therefore, the time is right to remember railway beginnings and heroic pioneering achievements, which includes at both European and global levels the construction of the railway line that connected Vienna and Trieste, the first “mountain line” in the Continental Europe. It included the largest, most attractive, and the most beautiful facility, the Borovnica Viaduct.

In the following chapters you can learn more about its planning, construction, operation, maintenance problems, impact on the municipal development, and its sad collapse and the construction of the line that replaced it. But before that, we will briefly and in a popular manner present the construction of the Southern Railway in the context of a general political and economic development of the Austrian Empire or the later Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. We will learn about political and financial challenges of the railway network construction at that time, in the territory with a majority of Slovenian population. We will also try to briefly present and explain why the railway network construction in our territory failed to meet most of the expectations, and what we are actually saying when talking about the Southern Railway.


In technical terms, the Southern Railway is the line built by the Austrian Empire or respectively, by the Imperial-Royal Southern State Railway Company (Kaiser-königlicher Südliche Staatsbahn – SSsB, in short: Southern State Railway) between Gloggnitz below Semmering and Trieste, between 1842 and 1857. Construction of the line began in Mürzzuglsag, on the south side of Semmering. In 1844, it reached Graz, two years later Celje, and in 1849 Ljubljana, from where it headed further to Trieste through Brezovica, Notranje Gorice, Preserje, Borovnica, Verd, Logatec, Rakek, Postojna, Pivka, Sežana, Opčine, and Nabrežine.

In 1843, the Southern State Railways took over the section between Vienna and Gloggnitz completed in 1842 (by the private company Wien – Raaber Bahn). Between 1848 and 1854, a 42 km long section was built across the Semmering Mountains between Gloggnitz (459 m above sea level) and Mürzzuslag (271 m above sea level). These places are only 21 km away from each other, but the line ascends and descends as a serpentine, run through numerous tunnels and across high bridges and viaducts. It reaches its highest point at 898 m above sea level. This is why the line is considered to be the first normal-track mountain line in Europe. The line section across Semmering is recorded in the UNESCO World Heritage List.[1]

When considering that, we should not overlook the fact that the construction of the so-called Karst Line, i.e. the Southern Railway section between Ljubljana and Trieste, was also as demanding or even more demanding construction undertaking as the construction of the line across Semmering, due to the very demanding embankment across the Ljubljana Moors between Notranje Gorice and the foothills of Žalostna gora, the bridging between Goričica and Verd (of which the mighty Borovnica Viaduct was part), the slopes between Borovnica and Postojna and from Trieste to Divača, the construction of water supply systems to provide water supply in the Karst terrain poor in surface water, and the protection of trains against the Karst bora (which required the construction of tens of kilometres of stone-made protective walls). If we knew how to appreciate this heritage (to the extent it can be restored and properly presented), the Karst Line could have also become an official part of the world’s cultural heritage. Unfortunately, our attitude towards it is neglectful.

The original length of the Southern Railway route was 577.2 km. Today, the line still runs entirely along the original route. An exception is the line built in the municipality of Borovnica, which replaced the Borovnica Viaduct destroyed during World War II. Therefore, the current line is more than 5 km longer, of which 3.2 km due to the new line between Preserje and the Old Borovnica Station, and the remaining part due to the construction of the station and relocation of tracks in Opčine, including some minor changes on the route from Opčine to Trieste.

In terms of its ownership and administration, the Southern Railway may be a synonym for:

The state owned Imperial-Royal Southern State Railway (Kaiser-königliche Südliche Staatsbahn – SSsB) Company, which had built most of the line between 1842 and 1857, and owned and operated it between 1842 and 1858.

The private company called Imperial-Royal Privileged Company of the Southern State, Lombardo-Venetian and Central Italian Railways (Kaiser-königlicher priviligirter Südliche Staats – Lombardisch-Venezianische und Central-Italienische Eisenbahngeselschaft), founded in 1859 as an international public limited company, with its registered office in Vienna, and a majority interest owned by shareholders from France. In order to connect the Southern Railway with the Company’s railway network in Italy, the Company built the Nabrežina–Tržič (Monfalcone)–Gorica–Krmin–Videm (Udine)–Casara line in 1860. A year later, the Company completed the Nagykanisza–Kotoriba–Čakovec–Ormož–Ptuj–Pragersko line, and thus connected Budapest with Trieste. The Company also undertook to complete the construction of already started and the construction of the missing railway lines between Milan and the Papal State.

The private  ltd. company called Imperial-Royal Privileged Southern Railway (Kaiser-königlicher priviligirte Südbahn Gesellschaft, for which we use the shorter name of Southern Railway Company) as it was the name of one of the two independent company parts above that had taken over operations of the Austrian part of the Company’s network and the ownership function in 1862, after Austria lost Lombardy. After Austria lost Venice in 1866; however, the state was also forced to sell its lines in Veneto. In 1862, the Company took over and completed the construction of the Zidani Most–Zagreb line and took over the Zagreb–Sisak line. It also took over and completed the Maribor–Klagenfurt line, and established a large company in Maribor to maintain its rolling stock, lines, and equipment. With the construction of the lines between Villach and Innsbruck and from there to Bolzano, the Company also had a completed railway network with South Tyrol. With the construction of the Sv. Peter na Krasu (Pivka)–Rijeka line, the railway had reached the port of Rijeka (Fiume) on 25 June 1873, namely four months before the Hungarian State Railways managed to reach this important port by their Karlovac–Rijeka line. The company built fashionable hotel facilities in Semmering and Tyrol, and transformed the fishing village of Opatija into a world-famous fashionable seaside resort.

After the First World War, by the Treaty of Rome, and with significant difficulties, the Company’s rolling stock and obligations were divided among the countries that succeeded Austria-Hungary and its territory or parts thereof, where the Company had its railway network and rolling stock: Republic of Austria, Hungary, Kingdom of Italy, and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS). In 1923, the Company in Austria was transformed into the Danube-Sava-Adriatic Railway Company (Donau-Save-Adria Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft – DOSAG), which was taken over in Austria by Austrian State Railways. It existed as a legal entity until the concession expired in 1968, and was deleted from the Austrian business register only at the end of December 1982. In Hungary, the Company existed as Duna–Száva–Adria–Vasúttársaság until 30 June 1932, and was then merged with the Hungarian State Railways.

The agreement, dictated by the Kingdom of Italy, was very unfavourable for the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes regarding the payment of annuities; consequently, requests for its revision were more and more frequent. However, there was no revision, as World War II had broken out earlier. After the collapse, Nazi Germany imposed a new agreement on the Company, the parties to which also included the puppet Independent State of Croatia, and fascist Italy and Hungary.

The so-called Brioni Agreement was annulled after the war at the request of France under the peace agreement with the defeated Germany. The Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was supposed to pay additionally 40 million US dollars to the Company for unpaid instalments for its railway network in the Yugoslav territory (in addition to the Šentilj–Sežana line, also the Sisak–Zidani Most, Kotoriba–Čakovec–Pragersko and Pivka–Rijeka lines). Yugoslavia, however, opposed the payment, arguing that the amount was too high considering the destruction of lines during the war, and that an exact amount could not be determined. In 1962, Yugoslavia agreed with shareholders on a lump sum compensation, the last instalment of which was paid in 1967. Therefore, a year before the 90-year concession granted by Austria-Hungary ended, the rights of the successor to the Imperial-Royal Privileged Southern Railway Company in Yugoslavia expired.

[1] When the tunnel under Semmering is completed, as expected, in 2025, all freight and most of passenger traffic in this section will run on the new line.


In historiography, the phrase “long 19th century“ describes the period of time between respectively the end of the Napoleonic Wars or the Congress of Vienna that followed, and the end of World War I. Therefore, the time between 1814 respectively 1815 and 1918. The railway era began in the 19th century approximately one decade and a half after the great powers at the said Congress set up the foundations for territorial division, and security and political architecture in Europe. Despite some wars and major changes, such as the unification of Germany and Italy, this architecture maintained political stability and predictability until the outbreak of war following the assassination of Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. As already mentioned, railways played a leading role in land transport until the end of the first decade after World War II, i.e. until the mid-1950s. In terms of transport, however, we can say without hesitation that the 19th century was the century of remarkable expansion and technological development of railways, including the construction of lines, design and construction of locomotives, railway stations, warehouses, signalling devices, and everything else that belongs to the railway system. Large railway stations built in second half of the era are not called “19th century cathedrals” in vain. Contribution of railways to popular music is somewhat less known; however, they contributed not only to the occurrence and expansion of brass bands, but also to the spread of accordions as folk instruments that fostered the emergence of popular (folk) music.

On 27 September 1825, in Stockton, England, a small “Locomotive” (this was the name of a simple steam locomotive made according to the George Stephenson’s designs), surrounded by a double line of gapers, and in the atmosphere of expected fiasco, pulled off in panting, and much to a general surprise, it pulled the train composition with 450 passengers and some cargo in total weigh of approximately 70 tonnes. In slightly over an hour, it transported them to Darlington, 12.7 km away. That was the beginning of a new era; of course, looking from today’s perspective. It was the era of railways, mass production and laying railway tracks, construction of locomotives and wagons, and rapid expansion of coal mines, mines, and smelters of iron and other metals. First in England and Britain, then in France, Belgium, Germany, Russia, and also in the Austrian Empire, part of which were then the countries where our ancestors used to live.

“The railway as a revolutionary discovery changed the people’s mind; it awoke from the Biedermeier’s introspection; ‘vertical’ thoughtfulness shifted to ‘horizontal’ expansion of thinking; the railway network has proved to be a realisation of a network intertwining and connectivity; it was only the railway industry that revived the industrialisation and set it in motion”.[1]

What is the construction of Internet networks today, it was the construction of railway networks more than a century and a half ago. Most people guessed that it was bringing significant change and had great potential to improve their lives, although at first, only few imagined how radical and painful these changes would be for many. And no one had even guessed that a massive use of coal, both required and made possible by railways, will be an introduction to the drama of human-induced climate change that we are witnessing now. Already first locomotives (slow and incapable if measured by today’s standards) were able to transport several tens of times more cargo almost ten times faster than horse-drawn carriages. Hence, it was quickly clear to all craftsmen, entrepreneurs, merchants, city and provincial authorities that without railways they would become non-competitive and doomed to live in the middle of nowhere, as it was once said.

Just as they are striving for the fastest possible Internet network today, villages, squares, towns and countries were once frantically striving to have at least side, sometimes even narrow-gauge lines built to their locations. Even more, of course, was preferred a main railway network, which would have connected the largest cities as soon as possible, primarily industrial centres with riverports and especially seaports. In this movement for railways, new networks of interest emerged, where a common interest in railways prevailed over class, ethical, religious, and other differences. Alliances were formed between the aristocracy, experts, high officials, and bankers both in the Empire and beyond, where the latter led to the establishment of large supranational corporations, which, as we will see, formed an empire stronger than the Empire itself, based on the construction and operation of railways.

It turned out quickly that the need to build railways exceeded the capacity of even the richest state treasuries and large individual banks. In order to keep up with the requirements to build railways, at least to some extent, it was necessary to raise funds through public limited companies from almost everyone who had some wealth. Although many of such companies were originally established to fund the construction of railways, their basic purpose, however, soon turned into investing in the most profitable businesses and creating speculative financial transactions, promising fabulous profits for certain businesses. But too excessive expectations had broken all too often. Consequently, in Austria-Hungary in 1873, they caused not only the collapse of a single public limited company, but the crash of the stock market, from which the whole economy had not recovered for a long time. Many had to go abroad to find a job. Expansion of railways therefore coincided with the birth of financial capitalism, the consequences of which from the most recent crisis are still being felt today.

In less than a century, railroads crossed all continents, and in the decade after World War II, they still carried most of cargo and passengers. In order to turn a technical invention of steam traction of rolling stock into a massively desirable innovation, it was necessary not only to make strong propaganda, but also to have a growing general belief that the development of science and technology would create a paradise on earth and be a major innovation in infrastructure financing.

Rulers had long been aware of the importance of good roads for the development of trade and economy in general, and for the fastest possible movement of armies. Therefore, a large part of tax inflows into the state treasury was earmarked for the construction of roads, while their maintenance was left to local feudal landlords. Feudal landlords forced their villeins to carry out this work, and they performed part of their work duties to landlords by repairing roads after each major rain using simple picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. If or because there was never enough money in the state treasury, rulers borrowed it from the largest merchants and bankers.

In the Austrian Empire, the development of railway infrastructure was initially financed by the state treasury. But the need for railways, however, quickly exceeded capacities of the treasury and the banks of that time also in Habsburg Monarchy. To fund such an epoch-making undertake as was the idea to cover the entire Empire by a network of railways (for which the first systematic plan was prepared as early as in 1828 by Franz Xavier Riepl, professor at Vienna’s Imperial-Royal Polytechnic Institution, with a generous help of banker Salomon Mayer von Rotschild), it was necessary to attract savings of wider social strata of the population. Over a quarter of a century later, this method proved to be the right one.

Interest-bearing bank deposits were not sufficiently attractive for this idea. Namely, bank funding was a necessary, but not sufficient condition for rapid development of railway infrastructure. Public limited companies promised investors to increase their money faster and better if they invested in “bitcoins” of the time. Therefore, it was better to invest in “steam horses” or railways than in deposits in banks. Without public limited companies, such a rapid and impetuous construction of railway infrastructure would not be possible.

Max Weber, one of the classics of sociological thought, wrote of the railways and said that railways were “the most revolutionary means that marked history not only in terms of transport, but the economy as a whole. Railways paved the way for industrialisation; they were the ‘engine’ of extensive social change (an opposite force to the feudal, pre-industrial social, authority, and economic system)”.[2]

The condition, however, that part of well-off people invested (sometimes not only their only savings, but also borrowed money) in seemingly low-risk railway businesses were the imaginations of travel and related business and personal opportunities that were believed to lead to a better life. Only when popular speech and images spread through the mass press, the emergence and spread of contemporary popular music of various genres created a representation, based on which investing personal savings (own or of others) in public limited railway companies seemed to be preferably self-evident. The representation, in which space is either just a cost in time or the subject of contemplative aesthetic pleasure of seeing the greatness of Nature, and no longer basically unsurpassed physical reality, is one of the immanent conditions of modern society.

The railway would not succeed without participation in a complete transformation of images of what a good life is supposed to be, what it is supposed to look like, and how it is supposed to be reached. This is why the locomotive became a metaphor for modern progress in developed countries, and for a revolution in those that lagged behind. Even today, politicians use somewhat outdated “railway allegories”, such as the one about the “French-German train”, which we have to jump on if we want to be (become) part of the “core Europe”.

However, these new imaginations about that it is possible to travel anywhere and succeed everywhere with the help of railways, if only you are diligent, persistent, and have a touch of creative spirit, and that family ties, patronage of local magnates or the Church are comparable less important, struggled at political level with the notions that the only legitimate source of power was God, that the Emperor rules by the grace of God, that high representatives of authorities and government officials can only come from the nobility, and that peasants are still obliged to do soccage for their landlords. The spirit of people’s capitalism that started blowing simultaneously with the railway network expansion based on a private initiative and actually enabled this expansion, was in sharp contrast to the political culture of obedience, where the main guide was to serve faithfully and diligently and keep the mouth shut. It was also in contrast with the spirit of the Constitution of 1811, which had basically already recognised that all people were equal before the law.

The ubiquitous denunciative state created with ingenious patience by Prince Metternich (a man who, better than the “enlightened” Emperor, knew all about everyone who was anyone in the country, and much about everyone who aspired to become anyone) was by its spirit in irreconcilable contrast to the Austrian Empire as an emerging railway empire. That state was the state governed by the rule of law in terms of equality before the law, and since Empress Maria Theresa, it had increasingly becoming the state of public servants faithful to the ruler, and the Emperor no longer considered himself the incarnation of God on earth but the first servant of the Empire. But the state defended the privileges gained by birth and/or inherited wealth, and kept a majority of the population in shackles of villeinage. Those who were willing to invest in the lucrative yet risky business of building railways, however, wanted and legitimately demanded to be ruled not only by the grace of God and the interests and whims of the high nobility, but at least within a constitutional monarchy, if not a republic. In such an arrangement, people or the part of the male population that was not dependent on anyone and paid sufficiently high taxes, were supposed to have the first and the last word through their representatives elected by free elections.

But when the construction of railways started expanding in the Continent in the early 1930s, even the most conservative magnates clearly understood soon that without railways, the Empire was doomed to collapse. If for no other reason, it was due to the threat that the mighty Prussia (with its ambitions to become the leading state in the German-speaking area) and France (as a Habsburg rival for centuries) would be able to develop faster with the help of railways. Later, however, a fear occurred that both countries would move their troops from the hinterland to the border much faster. If an infantry regiment was able to cover a distance of 50 km a day during a several-day march at best, with the help of a train, it could have moved by 300 km and more in the same time already in the early era of railways.


The Austrian Empire needed railways for its economic development at least as much as for its military power. With a faster development and growing significance of trade, crafts, and industry, a generally inappropriate topography of its territory became even more obvious. Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, its territory expanded to northern Italy and Dalmatia, with a growing importance of its north-south transport connections and vice versa, where its territory was intersected by high Alpine and Dinaric mountain chains. Before the railway era, traffic mainly ran on rivers, and most of rivers suitable for navigation were located in the east-west direction of the Empire. The main mining and industrial centres were located north of the Alps, in the areas of today’s Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lower Austria, and the most important ports, Trieste and Venice, were south of the Alps.

At the time when it was believed, even in professional circles, that normal railway lines could not be built across the hills, the mountainous topography of the terrain posed a technical, financial and political challenge to the Austrian Empire or its “Austrian part”. First, with the construction of the line between the capital Vienna and the largest port of Trieste, which are separated by several Alpine ridges was a huge technical challenge, because the locomotives of that time were not able to pull cargo even on gentle slopes, where they would have ascended by a few meters per one km. Financial challenge, because it was necessary to build much longer lines with many tunnels, viaducts, and bridges accros the hills. And finally, a political challenge, because any line between Vienna and Trieste that did not cross the mountains would have to run at least in the immediate vicinity of Hungary, if not directly through its territory, while relations between the Hungarian and Austrian parts of the then still unified Empire were very tense.

It should be remembered that in March 1848, not only a revolutionary upheaval occurred in Vienna and other, especially occupied Italian cities, where rebels demanded the abolition of censorship, extension of voting rights, introduction of a constitutional monarchy, and resignation of the hated Prince Metternich. Namely, in Lombardy, Venice, and Hungary, a national uprising against Habsburg supremacy and demands for independence also occurred that year. In Hungary, it resulted from the gesture made by the newly crowned eighteen-year-old Emperor Franz Joseph who, with no legal basis, abolished the recognition of the package of laws by which Hungary in March established its guard and state budget and abolished the villeinage. These freedoms had been acknowledged to Hungarian citizens by the Emperor’s abdicated predecessor, the benevolent but weak-minded Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg-Lorraine, otherwise the Emperor’s uncle.

This was the reason why in Hungary, under the leadership of Lajos Kossuth, a general national-democratic uprising broke out in June of the same year, which introduced a representative parliamentary form of government. The uprising was suppressed as late as in 1849, with the help of 200,000 regular and 80,000 auxiliary soldiers of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I. In political terms, the situation stabilised as late as in 1867, with the Treaty on the basis of which the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was established. In this Treaty, Hungary strived for the maximum economic independence and the development of its own railway system, as little connected with the Austrian system as possible, which had negative consequences for the development of the railways in our country. But this will be discussed later.



With the enthronement of Franz Joseph as Emperor, the Austrian Empire urgently needed a railway connection between the capital and the main port, which, however, could not run through the Hungarian territory or its immediate vicinity. The young Emperor decided on a bold move. Regardless of the professional circles arguing that a normal railway line could not be built across the Semmering Mountains, and these could only be crossed by cog railway or cable cars, the Emperor supported the plan that had been prepared already in 1844 by engineer Carlo von Ghega who designed the line boldly and elegantly across the Semmering mountains. Ghega who was 46 years old at that time, already had extensive experience in both mountain road and railway construction and was considered one of the leading experts of the Empire in this field. He knew that in the United States, a line had been built between Chicago and Baltimore across smaller hills. During the construction of the line across Semmering, Ghega and his team of mechanical engineers travelled to the United States to study the then state-of-the art locomotives, and brought three different types of dismantled locomotives on their return.

In 1854, based on a thorough study of uphill traction properties of those locomotives, engineer Wilhelm von Engerth built a locomotive that was able to tow over Semmering and almost twice exceeded the required tow speed, thus refuting the Imperial-Royal Chamber of Engineers. He integrated the tender or coal storage into the locomotive, thereby slightly reducing the total weight of the locomotive and tender. With this extra weight, he provided additional pressure on the wheels, thereby increasing their grip. Such a locomotive with a built-in tender was also shorter, which made it easier to manoeuvre along winding lines that had to be built on long ascents and descents through the mountains.

When deciding to build a normal line across Semmering, the Emperor could count on the support of  his  grand uncle, Archduke John, who ruled Styria and was well aware of the economic and general importance of the railway. He was also largely responsible for the course of the Southern Railway route from Graz in the direction of Celje, i.e. through Lower Styria and not through Carinthia.

The construction of the line across Semmering was also politically important, as it enabled jobs for a large number of unemployed workers from Vienna and its surroundings. At the beginning, they were able to reach the construction site by train travelling along the already built line from Vienna to Gloggnitz, which is located at the very foot of Semmering. To strengthen his personal power and prestige, the young Emperor, of course, could make use of the great construction undertaking (construction of the world’s first mountain line).

Giving this railway the name of “southern” was quite logical considering the fact that it was supposed to connect the symbolic, political, administrative, and to a large extent, also financial centre of the Monarchy with its largest port in the south. Given that it had not yet been proven that locomotives with sufficient capacity could tow trains through the hilly sections of the line, and considering generally high constructing costs of the line in such a demanding route, it was logical that even the largest private company with the greatest privileges would not be willing to take all the risks and build the line. Therefore, it was built by the state, with a significant intervention in the state treasury and large loans taken from the then largest European banks. During planning the line, heated discussions took place about its course through the Slovenian provinces, and especially the route from Ljubljana to Trieste.

If the railway was supposed to run as close as possible to ironworks, blast furnaces, and other industries in Gorenjska, the most developed part of the Slovenian territory at that time, then the route would have run from Ljubljana through Škofja Loka and Poljanska dolina, to the Idrijca Valley (and in the vicinity of the then economically very important mercury mine in Idrija) and further, at Sv. Lucija or today’s Most na Soči, along the Soča Valley in the direction of Trieste. Nevertheless, according to calculations, the route across Karst would not be only about 50 km shorter, but also over 9.5 million florins cheaper. During the construction, however, it turned out that the assumptions of building the line through the poorly examined Ljubljana Moors and the Karst World were too optimistic.

When detailing the Karst Line route, they had not opted for a shorter and less demanding construction from Ljubljana along the northern margins of the Ljubljana Moors to Vrhnika and further to Logatec, but for the route that crossed the Ljubljana Moors, only partially reclaimed at that time, from Brezovica through Notranje Gorice to the foot of Žalostna gora or Preserje, and then ran along the slopes of the Rakitnica plateau to Borovnica. Here the line crossed the valley across the mighty Borovnica Viaduct, and further across the Jelenova dolina Viaduct or Dolina bridge, which is still used for railway traffic at present, and ascended further towards Verd and Logatec. It remained unclear until today why they had chosen this variant of the route between Ljubljana and Logatec. Protests of freight carriers and carters of Vrhnika who knew that the railway would make them jobless, could hardly be considered an explanation, as such protests took place elsewhere, but did not prevent the railway construction. Did Ghega, the self-confident master line planner, as a Venetian believed that swampy terrain could not pose any major problems to the construction? Did he find an opportunity to erect a monument for himself and the Emperor by bridging the Borovnica Valley with a mighty viaduct? Did even banking circles drop a hint that a seemingly cheaper, but in fact more expensive option should be chosen, because it would require even larger amounts of high interest-bringing money to be borrowed?

It turned out that the construction from Logatec onwards was also much more expensive than planned. To supply locomotives in the Karst terrain, it was necessary to build a long and expensive water supply system, and to fill in and harden numerous sinkholes. From Postojna onwards, and especially between Pivka and Nabrežina, it was necessary to provide protection against bora and snowdrifts made by bora in winter, in addition to adequate water supply. However, the line ran through the forests owned by the powerful and politically influential Baron Windishgrätz. Yet another fact that trigger speculations about the dominance of political over professional decision-making on the route?

The line was officially opened with a great celebration at the Trieste railway station, in the presence of the Emperor, whose train had stopped at all major stations between Vienna and Trieste on 26 and 27 July 1857, with all the ceremonial tumult. Including in Borovnica due to its mighty Viaduct. Only one track had been in place, and not all the work had been completed. The final invoice, however, instead of the originally planned 16,828,413 florins, amounted to as much as 129.6 million florins, or 8 times more.

[1] Herman Glaser, 1994, p. 8, quoted according to Janez Cvirn/Andrej Studen; 2001, p. 4

[2] Quoted according to Cvirn, J.; 2001, p. 4


It turned out already during the Southern Railway construction that the state simply was not be able to construct all the necessary lines in a foreseeable future. If the state were building the planned railway network at the same pace as the railways until 1854, it would have taken four decades to complete it.

On 14 September 1854 (i.e. still during the construction of the Karst Line), by passing the law on granting concessions for railway constructions, the state made a turn, and under its own conditions, entrusted the construction of railway lines to private capital. By obtaining a concession, the concessionaire acquired an exclusive right to build between the line starting and ending points, to all connections to the line, except in the event of connecting strategically military or economically important places. According to the provisions of the law, such a concession was in effect for 90 years, and afterwards, the concessionaire was supposed to transfer the line to the state free of charge, where the line had to be in the condition to operate. In order to facilitate and accelerate establishment of companies capable of building longer lines, concessionaires were allowed to issue railway shares and bondsupon prior approval of the Ministry of Finance.

Thereby, the state – after being the only railway builder – completely withdrew from the construction of railways, and reserved only the rights to guide the traffic and railway policy in general terms, to withdraw concessions in case of exceeded deadlines or non-compliance with the conditions on which they were granted, and to approve transport tariffs. The state also published its general railway network construction plan comprising 32 lines throughout the country. These included the following routes partly or entirely running through the today’s Slovenian territory: Velika Kaniža–Čakovec–Ormož–Ptuj–Maribor; Maribor–Klagenfurt (and further through Villach to Udine in Friuli), and Št. Peter na Krasu (Pivka)–Rijeka.

Public liability railway companies were being established and prepared so quickly that concessions for all the 32 lines were granted already within two years after the law was published. The liberalisation of railways pulled off, like a locomotive, a general liberalisation of the economy (but not politics in terms of universal voting rights for adult citizens, and the decisive role of parliament in drafting legislation), which lasted until the Vienna Stock Exchange crash in 1873. This period is known as the period of “Austrian liberalism”.

The state went even further than building new lines exclusively with private capital, whereby granting credit guarantees for the lines that were considered most interesting for the state. Namely, it also began selling off its own already completed lines very quickly. In 1854, the length of the state-owned lines was 994 km or just under two-thirds of the entire railway network of the Austrian Empire. Only four years later, the network length was already 2,401 km, and only 13 km of them were state-owned.

One of the reasons for the sale of state lines were growing needs for military funding due to military conflicts with the Kingdom of Sardinia for supremacy in northern Italy, on the one hand, and conflicts with Prussia for supremacy in German area, and growing appetites for Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand.

By selling the main state lines, the state wanted to agree with representatives of large financial companies to commit, in exchange for favourable purchases or long-term lease of profitable lines, to build new strategically important (but less profitable) lines, thereby help establishing a comprehensive railway network. However, for influential industrialists and financiers originating from senior aristocracy or having good connections with the state, this was an excuse to enter into very favourable deals with the state.

The sale of the Northern and Southern-Eastern Railways was followed, already during the Karst Line construction, by the sale of the northern Lombardy and Veneto lines (with the exception of the military and strategically important line between South Tyrol and Verona) to an international financial consortium dominated by French banks. The consortium had to undertake to build the lines from Bergamo to Monza, from Milan to Piacenza and Pavia, and to Udine, Krmin and Nabrežine (the connection to the Southern Railway). When building railways through Veneto towards Trieste, the Lombard-Venetian and Central Italian Railways Privileged Public Limited Company had to comply with the Emperor’s explicit wish to move the planned route from the seaside further inland, as he was concerned about its exposure to military attacks from the sea, and to provide a connection to the Austrian railway network also through Gorizia. The Company also arranged for the right to import necessary materials for the construction of new lines without paying customs duties.

At the opening of the Southern Railway in the summer of 1857, Vienna was connected with Trieste, which was not the case for Budapest (or Buda and Pest) and Zagreb or Carinthia. Tired of waiting for the state, politicians and industrialists of Klagenfurt took the initiative and started building a line along the Drava Valley towards Maribor, but they soon realised that the undertaking was too demanding in terms of funding. Due to the lack of funds, the General Railway Directorate had to terminate the construction of the line Zidani Most–Zagreb in Brestanica. As a result of the growing anti-Austrian mood in northern Italy, the strategically increasingly important Tyrolean line remained uncompleted. The Oriental Railway Company planned to build a railway line from Budapest through Ptuj, which would have connected to the Southern Railway somewhere between Pragersko and Poljčane, but it had no funds to buy the Southern Railway.



The ambitious Minister of Finance, Karel Ludwig von Bruck, who had assumed his position in 1855, intended to combine all existing and planned new railway lines between the Danubian part of the Empire and the Adriatic Sea into a mighty central European railway group under a single concession, and merge it with the Lombard-Venetian and Central Italian Railways Privileged Public Limited Company, which was already established, thereby establishing the largest railway company in Europe. To achieve this, he had to be a persistent and skilled negotiator, and provide all the involved with benefits that would make it difficult for them to reject his plan.

More than one year after the official opening of the Southern Railway, following several rounds of secret and strenuous negotiations, on 23 September 1858, the Minister Bruck and the Minister of Trade, Knight of Toggenburg, signed four minutes with representatives of a powerful international financial group. The representatives of various branches of the Rotschild family that together form the instruments of incorporation of the Southern Railway Company had a great influence in that group. As a concessionaire, the Company had to take over the Carinthian Railway, pay back already paid-up funds to concessionaires of Croatian Railways, and to assume outstanding government obligations in the construction of railway lines, which were transferred to the Company’s concession. Already on 10 November of the same year, the Company acquired the Oriental Railways Company, which had earlier asked the Ministry of Finance to change the concession conditions, but the Minister Bruck had not approved it, and thereby forced it to merge with the Southern Railway Company, in accordance with his plan. Only eight days later, also shareholders of the Lombardo-Venetian and Central-Italian Railway Company took a decision at their extraordinary general meeting to join the Southern Railway Company.

Following all these combinations, the network of the Imperial-Royal Privileged Company of the Southern State, Lombardo-Venetian and Central Italian Railways extended from Danube at Vienna and Buda to the Adriatic Sea, and to the border with Switzerland and Bavaria. At the time of its establishment, the Company operated 1,396 km of lines, 1,105 km of lines were already under the construction, and the plans were confirmed for additional 632 km of lines.

Therefore, Minister Bruck managed to establish the largest railway company in the Continent; however, in exchange for significant benefits obtained by the Company, including:

  • The right to build its own ironworks, railway workshops, and railway construction devices, and to open and operate coal mines to supply towing on the lines under the Company’s concession
  • The right to import materials for new lines construction at a reduced customs duty rate
  • The right to terminate, within six months after the takeover, jobs of the railway staff employed for less than one year with no severance pay, and to dismiss others with a compensation the amount of which depended on the years of service
  • The privilege to take over the construction of a line extension or a connection line throughout the Austrian territory, within four months of the official offer of a competitive company, and on the same conditions
  • A priority right to obtain a concession for the construction of new lines in the interest of the state
  • The privilege that during the concession, no one could either obtain a concession for the construction of a line or build a line between two points of the rail network subject to the Company’s concession.

The Company, however, could not be granted such benefits if the public and thereby the local industry had been aware of the terms of the contractual documents already at the time of negotiations and signature. However, the negotiations took place during the period of so-called Bach’s absolutism (period between 1849 and 1859), when the Ministry of Interior was managed by Baron Alexander Bach. He is generally also known as the one who introduced effective civil service, gendarmerie, and mandatory matura examinations, recognised the existence of the Slovenian language, and abolished most of high schools throughout the country with the aim to have as many students as possible studying in (German) Vienna. Therefore, the negotiations had taken place in secrecy, and the public was informed about the content of the concession (but not about the text of the concession contract) only ex-post, on the basis of parliamentary requirements. All what representatives of the local industry could do, therefore, was to write protest notes and kept sending various delegations to the court with proposals to change the concession, without being actually able to change anything.

All these benefits had consequences. The Company actually held a monopoly over railway traffic in the whole country; it could prevent the construction of competitive lines (especially to Trieste), compete with the local industry both by developing own production capacities and by imports at a reduced customs duty rate. The Company used its monopoly in a visionary way for the construction of luxury hotels. The first one in Semmering, which became a summer residence of the Viennese high society, then in Tyrol as the destination for the wealthy from all over Europe. And finally, in Opatija, which was turned from a little fishing village to a worldly coastal resort, where sweets were delivered on a daily basis from the best Viennese confectioneries.

As the influential shareholders of the Company owned mines and industrial plants abroad, the construction of railways in many cases supported foreign production instead of the local one, despite government efforts. For example, it happened that coal from the Zasavje coal mines (which was one of the main reasons to build the railway line between Vienna and Trieste from Celje onwards along the Savinja and Sava valleys) was not competitive to the imported English coal. Moreover, also foundries, ironworks and steelworks in the area of today’s Slovenia and its surroundings went away empty-handed as regards extremely profitable business in the construction of railways. Many factories were left without appropriate connections to railways and were, therefore, bound to collapse. In subsequent negotiations about amendments to concession conditions due to the changed political and economic circumstances, the Company managed to be exempted by the government from the construction of the line between Ptuj and Maribor, which fatally resulted in the developmental lag of Slovenske gorice.

In general, until 1866, i.e. until the transformation of the Austrian Empire into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, poorer development of Slovenian towns along the railway primarily resulted from the Company’s tariff policy, which enabled the railway freight transport from Vienna, Budapest, and Zagreb to Trieste to be cheaper than from Ljubljana (and of course also Borovnica), which were much closer to Trieste. Namely, the Company’s commercial and industrial networks were concentrated in the Monarchy metropolises and therefore provided their companies and suppliers with competitive advantages in rail transportation. Consequently, the potential that was brought to the wider market-oriented entrepreneurship with high added value, was significantly reduced. Moreover, railways enabled cheaper products from local and foreign industrial centres to flood local markets and thus destroyed local craftsmen and traders.

It is true that with the construction and operation of the railway, Borovnica began to develop from a small village forgotten by God into a crafts and industrial settlement connected to the world. However, if there were no monopolistic position in rail transport in the country until the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy, Borovnica would have probably progressed much more.

The privileged position of the Company had a favourable impact at least for the development of the city of  Maribor. Namely in Maribor, in 1863, central workshops were established for the production, maintenance, and repair of the rolling stock in the Company’s area, and a large labour colony along with them. This fact, and a good location of the city at the crossroads of the railway links Vienna–Trieste and Budapest–Čakovec–Ptuj–Pragersko–Maribor–Klagenfurt–Villach, and from there further to Friuli or Tyrol, indirectly influenced a rapid development of industry in Maribor and its surroundings. Since the end of the 19th century, unfortunately, it also contributed to the consolidation of German features of the city.



Italian circles immediately used their influence in the Company to appoint Italian officials to leading positions in the Italian part of the railway network. Italian officials were mostly politically oriented in support for the emerging united Italy. During the conflicts in Lombardy and Veneto between the Austrian Empire on the one hand and the united French and Sardinian–Piedmontese army on the other hand, between 1859 and 1860, they sabotaged Austrian army orders concerning the transport of military troops by rail in this part of the Empire. In the spring of 1860, the Empire was forced to give up Lombardy, and railways in this part passed to Italy. As they were owned by a private company, they could not become compensation for war damage; however, Italy could not agree on having the railways further operated from their headquarters in (hostile) Vienna. Due to new international political demarcations and conditions, it was necessary to change the concession contract. In 1864, during the negotiations, the Company managed to buy 841 km of lines in Piedmont, although it still had a large debt to the Austrian state. With this daring move, the Company exceeded its capital capacity and was on a verge of bankruptcy at stock market, which seems to have been solved by coordinated stock market machinations of various branches of the “financial barons” Rothschilds.

When the situation had stabilised enough for the Company to enter into a new contract with Austria without the risk of bankruptcy, in 1866, after losing the battle with Prussians at Karlovy Vary in Czechia, Austria was forced to hand over Veneto to France, which the latter immediately handed over to Italy. On the other hand, also Hungarians benefited from this defeat, and enforced a constitutional reform, which enabled the establishment of the Dual Monarchy or the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Austro-Hungary in 1867. It consisted of two equal halves: the crown of St. Stephen’s country or Hungary, and the kingdom and country represented in the National Parliament (Austria). Each country had its own parliament and its own government, only the Ministries of Finance, Defence, and Foreign Affairs were common. The budgets of these ministries were determined by the delegations of both Parliaments, which met annually, alternately in Vienna and Budapest. The Treaty had to be approved by both Parliaments every 10 years.

The Southern Railway Company was facing its collapse because Austria and even less Italy were not willing to recognise the international status of the Company’s railways in the territories of another country. Nevertheless, the Company managed to settle its obligations to Austria on the basis of a combined gross return of Austrian and Venetian lines. As the latter were less profitable, the more profitable Austrian part had to cover the losses of the Venetian railway network. Moreover, the Company skilfully escaped from its seemingly unsolvable situation in complicated international political circumstances using its connections, acquaintances, and influence. In the amended contract with the Austrian state in 1867, the Company had to give up the priority right of building the second railway connection to Trieste for seven years, reduce transport tariffs (especially for exports through Trieste), and accept a fixed return per kilometre instead of the guaranteed interest-bearing return.

Nevertheless, at the same time (among other benefits), the Company secured an extension of the concession contract to 90 years, exemption from income tax for a period of 12 years, and exemption from the construction of the Ptuj–Maribor line, and – most importantly – won the contract for the construction of the port of Trieste. These benefits further strengthened its monopolistic position in the otherwise reduced territory of Austria or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the lost of the Veneto province, Trieste became practically the only Austrian port; and its importance increased with the construction of the Suez Canal.

Due to political changes, however, the Company lost its unified management, as the management based in Turin was established to manage the Italian part of the network. Following the constitutional reform of the Habsburg Monarchy, the Company had to set up the management based in Budapest to manage its railways in Hungary.

In its transport policy, Hungary sought to keep its railway network as little as possible connected to the network in the Austrian part of the Dual Monarchy, as the designed state was called, because the Austrian Emperor was also the King of Hungary. Moreover, Hungary wanted to provide a railway connection through Hungarian territory to Rijeka, as its main port, as soon as possible, which meant that the line through the Slovenian territory to Trieste became of secondary importance to Hungary. The planned and mostly already completed transversal railway line between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slavonija, and between Tyrol and Czechia (part of which was also the so-called Rudolf Railway) lost its significance and perspective due to the new political situation and transport policy of Hungary. The line between Ljubljana (with the station in Šiška, which was not connected to the Southern Railway station, i.e. the current main railway station for a long time) and Tarvisio was also part of this transversal route and very important for the Dual Monarchy.

The idea to make the line, which reached Novo mesto from Ljubljana in 1894 and Bela Krajina in 1913, an integral part of the transversal connection between Dalmatia and Tyrol and Czechia, was also no longer politically sound. This idea was enabled only in 1907 by a special Treaty between Austria and Hungary on the construction of strategic railway lines important for the entire country. Nevertheless, until 1910, the line that would have connected Dalmatia with the NW of the Monarchy through Slovenia had not even been routed, and it was completed as late as in May 1914, that is, just before the outbreak of World War I. In the Hungarian part or from Metlika onwards, the line was built in such a manner that it did not allow for greater loads and speeds.

Poor transport connections between the two parts of the country were further worsened by the policy of the Southern Railway Company, which did not want to establish a direct connection from Zagreb to Ljubljana in Zidani Most, but made the trains travelling to Celje and then from there to Zidani Most and further to Ljubljana (and, of course, vice versa, from Zidani Most to Celje for Zagreb). Nevertheless, after the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, the Company provided such large discounts for the transport of logs from Bosnian forests that railway delivery of logs from Notranjska, which is closer to Trieste, could not compete.

In addition to the monopolistic position, the investment and tariff policies of the Southern Railway Company, which were unfriendly to local development, the changed political situation additionally contributed to the fact that not only the Southern Railway, but railways in Slovenia in general, failed to fulfil all their prospects and exploitation of their development potential. In spite of rapid construction of railways during the concession policy of railway construction (1854–1874) in Austria (until 1867) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after 1867) – when the length of the lines in the country increased by six times – the desired railway network was not established in the wider area of today’s Slovenia. This did not happen even later, despite the construction of some important lines.



The construction of railways under concession arrangements significantly accelerated the construction of the railway network, indeed, yet on an unhealthy basis of issuing excessive state guarantees for the construction of lines. “It was a natural consequence of this system that entrepreneurs preferred using a simpler and easier way to consolidate their balance sheets, and kept turning directly to the state treasury to lend them the sums missing to interest. None of the companies had ever seriously considered repaying these advances. This method was easier than carrying out vigilant control during the construction in order to reduce costs as much as possible, to operate the lines rationally, and to try to achieve as high revenues as possible.”[1]

Private railway companies’ borrowings entered the spiral of taking new and new loans to repay interest on previously borrowed money, which could not be stopped. Losses in the Southern Railway alone amounted to hundreds of millions. Companies tried to cover their losses by raising tariffs, which was resisted by the industry, whicluded, along with the growing political expectations regarding state guarantees for the constructh demanded just the opposite, to reduce them. If financial speculations in the railways construction are incion of railways (which were clearly unprofitable), then a collapse was inevitable. As investments in railways and their related activities were crucial to the economic development in the second half of the 19th century, it was inevitable that the collapse of the financial bubble driven by political and financial speculations based on state guarantees triggered also a general financial meltdown and resulted in a general economic crisis.

This happened on 9 May 1873, when Vienna Stock Exchange crashed. It was just at the time of the 25th anniversary of the Emperor Franz Joseph’s reigning, when Vienna hosted a world exhibition, which the Monarchy planned to use to present itself in all its splendour and glory to the local and world public.

Due to the stock market crash, which was significantly facilitated by railway companies, the latter were no longer able to take loans for the construction of railway lines. Nevertheless, since the construction of rail lines was of key importance for economic progress, the economy began to slowdown, which resulted in rapid growth of unemployment. The trend affected especially the Carniola Region, which faced the cattle plague epidemic and the destruction of viticulture due to vine lice, at the same time.

The state first ceased granting new concessions and revoked all the concessions for the lines the construction of which had not yet begun. Companies that got into trouble as a result of these actions were advised by the state to join financially stronger companies or go bankrupt. It turned out, however, that even financially most powerful companies were illiquid without new lending, and, therefore, could not acquire companies in trouble even at low prices. Consequently, most companies chose another way.

The market based on excessive state guarantees failed, and the market-based private initiative was no longer able to build railways. Nevertheless, it was necessary to continue building railways, as the railway network was far from being complete and available in all parts of the Monarchy. A complete stop of construction would, however, result in a full economic collapse. Nevertheless, the construction of new lines was no longer based on private railway companies, as the state nationalised all of themwith the single exception of the Southern Railway Company. During the period of 1875 to 1877, railways were built only by the state.

It turned out soon that the state was not able to manage all the lines in a coordinated manner and continue the construction of the entire planned railway network. Between 1877 and 1880, not even a tenth of lines was built annually compared to the pre-crisis period. The situation improved only after 1880, i.e. after a long seven years for many of the unemployed. The new system was consolidated at the end of the decade, and between 1890 and 1913, namely, by the last year before the outbreak of World War I, with the railway network in the country increased from 15,273 km (of which 6,660 km were state-owned) to 22,981 km of lines (of which 18,859 km were state-owned).[2] At that time, the state railways operated without losses and in the end achieved a return of 2.76 %[3], which was, of course, far too little to be attractive for private capital investment.

A hybrid system was established in which the state took over the operation of all key lines, while only local lines were left to private initiative. The key issue remained on how to cover the sections necessary for the functional integrity of the network or lines that were not sufficiently profitable for private capital or could not even cover their costs. Questions were also raised about charging the cost of transporting mail and military troops. The matter was in principle solved by the Local Railways Act, which came into force only at the end of 1894. The law proved to be suitable and was therefore extended after ten years.

Even before that, some countries had passed laws to encourage the construction of local railways, where Styria had played a pioneering role. Styria adopted such a law, which was primarily intended for the construction of narrow-gauge railways, already in 1890. Carniola was one of the last to pass a relevant law, it was adopted only in early 1896.

The countries wanted to encourage the construction of local railways to the most possible extent, but they feared at the same time that in case of unprofitability, such local lines would be a significant financial burden that would suppress the development of economic and general infrastructure. In that period, therefore, in addition to the Bohinj railway, which was part of the main traffic route from Czechia to Trieste, the following local lines were built in our country: Ljubljana–Kamnik, Brezovica–Vrhnika, Kranj–Tržič, Ljubljana–Grosuplje–Kočevje, Grosuplje–Novo mesto (with a branch line to Straža), Novo mesto–Metlika–Karlovac, Trebnje–Krmelj, Velenje–Mislinja–Dravograd, Murska Sobota–Hodoš, Ljutomer–Gornja Radgona, Grobelno–Logatec, Trst–Hrpelje–Kozina, Prvačina–Ajdovščina, and the narrow-gauge lines Trst–Poreč and Slovenske Konjice–Zreče.

One of the main reasons why there was no integration into a more functional and competitive railway system in our country was the monopolistic position of the Southern Railway Company, which owned Southern Railways, the backbone of the railway network in Slovenia. The Company, for instance, did not allow passenger trains to or from Gorenjska to drive to or from the main railway station located in the north of the then Ljubljana and called the “South Station”; the depart and destination points for these trains were in Šiška, at so-called “Gorenjska Railway Station”.

During this crisis period, it became more and more evident how urgently the country, and especially its most industrially developed NW part, needed a railway connection with Trieste, which would be neither owned nor directly influenced by the Southern Railway Company. But the struggle for the second connection to Trieste took as long as 30 years. The consolidation of the state railway system in 1901 finally enabled the government to submit to the parliament (in 1901) a comprehensive investment proposal on the construction of railways under the motto “The second connection to Trieste”. This line was completed in 1906, and it was the second remarkable railway construction undertaking to connect Czechian and Upper Austrian industrial centres with Trieste through our territory. After almost forty years, this connection marked the end of the Southern Railway Company’s monopoly over railway traffic to the largest port in the country and one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean at that time.

Mohorič described the position of railways in Slovenia at the collapse of Austria-Hungary as follows: “The line along the Sava River from Zidani most to Brežice, where traffic was constantly growing, was a single-track line with very modest capacity. Rogaška Railway had no connection with the Zagorje Railway to Krapina. Ljutomer Railway had no connection with the Ptuj line. Passengers from Ljutomer to Maribor had to travel in transit through the Austrian territory from Radkersburg to Spielfeld. The western Prekmurje local line from Murska Sobota to Hodoš lacked a connection to the Ljutomer and Ptuj lines, and to operate, it had to be supplied with coal by trucks from Dolnja Lendava to Murska Sobota. The line between Metlika and Karlovac, which could have somewhat discharged the Zasavje line, was incapable of any major load in terms of its construction. It was built as a local line of the last category, it could not take over transit traffic, and became a real traffic obstacle instead of a discharge.” [4]



We mistakenly believed for a long time that the railway network in the wider territory of the Slovenian countries during the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been incomplete and suboptimal simply because we were treated as a second-class nation in Austria. We had also mistakenly hoped for a long time that with the abolition of capitalism, a modern railway network would have developed and be tailored to the needs of all people and towns that wanted to have it. A decade after the end of World War II, this dream had already started being replaced by a new dream of motorising society. Fortunately, the car has become its own worst enemy, because we became accustomed to use only cars, always and everywhere. Luckily, an exit from the dead end of motorisation is also based on the revival and modernisation of railways. Nevertheless, it is again necessary to take into account the specifics of geography, topography, and the settlement structure of Slovenia. At the global level, the key criterion for this modernisation is further reduction of space as a cost over time, and the goal to travel by the railway from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This is why the quality of physical space and landscape where super-fast railway lines run is reduced if not destroyed. It is necessary to know that only Ljubljana would have benefited from super-fast railway lines with trains running at speeds of 250 km/h and more.

If we want railway transport to be the backbone of public passenger transport in Slovenia and an important part of regional logistics, a thorough renovation and upgrade of the existing network is necessary, together with its integration and digitalisation. Consequently, it will be able to serve as the backbone of public passenger transport at least at the level of the urban Ljubljana region, and it will be possible to introduce a time interval of passenger trains at 20 minutes or half an hour. Trains should run not only from Borovnica to Ljubljana, but also from Kamnik, Grosuplje, Kranj, and Litija, and reach Ljubljana in just over twenty minutes or less. Moreover, it will also be possible to reach Kamnik, Grosuplje, Kranj, and Litija in less than an hour by a train departing from Borovnica at least every half hour.

Passengers travelling through Slovenia, however, should enjoy the comfort of the journey while looking at the diverse and attractive landscape passing by (which is still possible at speeds around 120 km/h), have an opportunity to use a good Internet connection, travel without delays, which are all too frequent today, and have an option to switch to local public passenger transport or pick up an electric car or (e)bicycle at each station to continue their journey quickly and easily. This would be environmental modernisation of the railways in Slovenia, tailored to the current and future needs of its inhabitants and visitors, and therefore, of course, also sustainable.




  1. Brate, T.; 2007: Borovniški viadukt, Borovnica: Zgodovinsko društvo
  2. Bogić, M.; 1998: Pregled razvoja železniškega omrežja v Sloveniji in okolici, Ljubljana: Slovenske železnice, druga dopolnjena izdaja
  3. Cvirn, J. and Studen, A.; 2001: “Ko vihar dirjajo hlaponi”: k socialni in kulturni zgodovini železnic v 19. stoletju, Ljubljana: Slovenske železnice, Železniški muzej
  4. Judson P. M.; 2018: Habsburški imperij, Ljubljana: Sophia
  5. Košir, M., Bogić M., Rustja K.; 2016: Železniška proga Zidani Most, Sežana–(Trst) (Koper), Maribor: Pro-Andy
  6. Mohorič, I.; 1968: Zgodovina železnic na Slovenskem, Ljubljana
  7. Simoniti, V., Štih, P., Vodopivec, P.; 2016: Slovenska zgodovina, drugi del, Ljubljana: EMKA
  8. Geschite der Eisenbahnen der oesterr. – ungar. Monarchie, Erster Band, Teil I.; 1897; Vienna/Teschen/Leipzig
  9. Geschite der Eisenbahnen der oesterr. – ungar. Monarchie, Zweiter Band; 1898; Vienna/Teschen/Leipzig


Internet sources:

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[1] Mohorič, 1968, p. 338

[2] Mohorič, 1968, p. 255

[3] Mohorič, 1968, p. 255

[4] Mohorič, 1968, p. 338


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