History of rail transport in the Netherlands

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The opening of the first railway in the Netherlands

History of rail transport in the Netherlands On the 20th of September 1839, the first train trip went through the Netherlands. It was a short trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem. The Train was called the Arend which was a type of steam locomotive. The history of the Dutch railways, the 6 era’s, was up to 1839. The planning for railways, 1840-1860 the early expansion of the railways. In the period 1860-1890 the government paid the making of the new railways. From 1890-1938 the railways strengthen into 2 large railways. 1938-1992 In this period the 'Nederlandse Spoorwegen' had in monopoly in the train industry. 1992-present The 'Nederlandse Spoorwegen' lost their monopoly.

1839[change | change source]

The beginning of a good railway in the Netherlands[change | change source]

The first modern railway was built in England in 1830.[1] It ran from Liverpool to Manchester. A Dutch artillery officer, William A. Bake, was there when it opened.[1] When Bake came back to the Netherlands he made plans to connect Amsterdam to Amersfoort, and Amersfoort to Arnhem.[1] King William supported Bake's plan.[2] Unfortunately, his timing was bad.[2] So was his plan to finance the railroad.[2] Dutch businessmen did not want to invest their money at that time. They were worried about their investments in Spain.[2] With no money, his plan did not work.[2]

The start of the railways[change | change source]

Luckily due the king, the railways got an upgrade, so they were more safe. The new railways could fit in the soil of the Netherlands. The railway track connected Liverpool to Manchester and you can already guess who made it. Since this railway track was the build the ideas of railroads spread across Europe. Belgium and Germany started to copy those railway tracks and King William I from the Netherlands could not stay behind.

In the Netherlands[change | change source]

He let engineers do research if the railroad system was possible in the Netherlands. But it was difficult to pay the railway tracks etc. The king made his decision on the 8th of August 1837. The Dutch government would pay the new way of transportation. After 2 years the first railway company was founded. It was called the: ‘Hollandse Ijzeren Spoorweg Maatschappij (HIJSM). They began with the construction of the railway track that connected Amsterdam and Haarlem. The first steam locomotive who drove on this track was a small locomotive called ‘de Arend’.

Working on the land

1840-1860[change | change source]

The expansion[change | change source]

After the success of the first railway track that connected Amsterdam to Haarlem. The railroads started to expand and a new railway company was found. It was called the ‘Nederlandse Rhijnspoorweg Maatschappij’ (NSR). They both made the new railroad to Rotterdam The railway would cross everything.

The railway to Rotterdam[change | change source]

The NSR and the HIJSM bought every piece of land to proceed. But some landowners and farmers didn’t like the idea of a railway crossing their farm, because it could frighten the cows. There was even a big incident that happened while making a railway track that connected Amsterdam to Rotterdam. A land owner called Aernout Hendrik van Wickenvoort Crommelin only wanted to sell his piece of land if a train station was built favorable for him. The HIJSM and NSR didn’t like that so they tried to make the railway track go around his piece of land. Unfortunately it failed. Still Aernout had given them some land to continue. The NSR and HIJSM lost a lot of money on this incident and it was later called: ‘Het laantje van van der Gaag'. The railroad was finished in 1847.

The first railway of the NSR[change | change source]

The NSR also wanted to built a railway by their self. This railway would go from Amsterdam to Utrecht to Arnhem and then on to Germany. The making of it didn’t went really well because they could not find enough investors. But luckily was our King William I again the savior of the railroads. But there was a problem with the constructing of the railway because the Dutch railways were built on Dutch broad gauge and the connection in Germany was made on standard gauge. The railroad to Utrecht was finished on December 18, 1843, The next stretch to Arnhem on May, 16 1845. The final stretch to Germany took 11 years because the other part of the railroad had to be made in Standard gauge.

1860-1890[change | change source]

The 'Spoorwegnet'[change | change source]

In 1860 the ‘Spoorwegnet’ was found. It’s a system that connects all the cities with railways built by the government. The citizens of the cities founded that their city must be connected to the Spoorwegnet because otherwise their city would lose popularity.

an NBDS share

New company's[change | change source]

In 1863 a new railway company was found to full the wishes of the citizens. It was called the ‘Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen or SS for short. This company wasn’t found by the government but by a private group of investors who received a license for the railways built by the State. The other companies just continued with building railroad tracks. There even more Railway companies found. The Noord-Brabants-duitse Spoorweg-Maatschappij or NBDS

S for short. It was found to finish the railway track that connected Saint Petersburg, Berlin and London.

1890-1938[change | change source]

The fusion[change | change source]

In 1890 all the railway companies were fused together and split into 2 companies. The HSM and the SS. The railways were reclassified and based on the English models. This was necessary because for people of the Netherlands, travelling by train wasn’t very handy due to all those companies who had their own rules and trains.

Workers on strike[change | change source]

NS logo

In 1903 the labor of the railway companies weren’t happy with their work because, the condition in which they had to work was very bad. They had a low wage for the hard work they had to do. In 1903 were the workers very angry so they went on strike. And it worked because the bosses of the companies could not do without them so the conditions were improved etc. When the first world war began in 1914 the Netherlands stayed neutral. The train transportation was now partly used for militaries. The railways were a part of the war because it was easy to transport. Due this war the HSM and the SS had to work together and even after the war they became closer. This has led to a fusion in 1937 The ‘Nederlandse Spoorwegen’ or NS was found.

Evolution of train stations[change | change source]

Amsterdam Central Station

Today[change | change source]

In total there are 404 railway stations in the Netherlands. 381 stations are managed by the NS. Some of them are really old looking and some of them are more by the time. There are also really ugly stations like Eindhoven CS. Today the day the stations have become much more evolved.

In the past[change | change source]

In the past you only had those yellow boards where you could look for the trains. You could not for example look on the internet. There were no for example escalators, which now can’t be thought of gone. An really old station for example is Zandvoort. A rather new one is Utrecht CS. By Zandvoort you can really see the old architecture.

Type of trains[change | change source]

There have been a lot of different trains. It evolved from steam trains into diesel trains and into electric trains. The first train was called the Arend and it drove from Amsterdam to haarlem. Then a lot of different steam trains came who were all called series + a number, so like series 600. After a lot of development a new kind of train was invented who went on diesel. It was much cheaper and easier to use. Currently the only diesel trains that are still been used are called: The buffel. The lines they are still used on are: ZwolleEnschede, ZwolleKampen, and ApeldoornZutphen. Today the day we mainly see electric trains driving. They are noticeable by the big electricity masts above them which give them power. Trains are usually divided into two classes: the first and the second.


In the past there also was a third class but they thought that was not useable. Almost all the trains have now a day's free Wi-Fi wireless connection so you can go on the internet.In the past you had to buy a ticket to take the train, nowadays you can use your OV chipkaart.

types of trains in the Netherlands[change | change source]

Sprinter, are fast trains who don’t have many stops. • The Thalys is a new super-fast train which can have speeds from up to 300km/h. • Intercity, is also a fast train who goes from a city to another city without stops.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A. J. Veenendaal, Railways in the Netherlands: A Brief History, 1834-1994 (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2001), p. 7
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Across the Borders: Financing the World's Railways in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries eds. Ralf Roth; Günter Dinhobl (Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008), p. 148

Book about the history of the railtransport[change | change source]

  • Veenendaal, A.J. (2001). Railways in the Netherlands: A Brief History, 1834-1994. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3947-4.

Info about the trains[change | change source]


Info about NS and other train company's[change | change source]


History railways[change | change source]