by Max Barry

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Railways | Crown Colony of East Plate

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Eastplatine Railways

    Overview

A lady waiting for a train in one of
East Plate's many train stations
The development of steam-powered railways revolutionized transportation in East Plate and is integral to the very act of nation-building. Railways play an integral role in the process of industrialization, opening up new markets and tying regions together, while at the same time creating a demand for resources and technology, representing one of the cornerstones of the success, safety, stability, and prosperity of the Crown Colony, mainly being used to transport goods from the inner rural areas of the colony and its few industrial centers to the diverse ports located at the Rio de la Plata, and especially to the Port of Montevideo, from where Eastplatine products are sent to Britain and all around the world. Railways are also deeply responsible for the re-shaping of Eastplatine culture, making the colonization of the inner areas of the Colony which would otherwise be very difficult to reach by British settlers a feasible prospect, allowing for fast and effective connections between the Spanish-dominated north and the multicultural and anglophilic south, facilitating the spread of English customs and traditions to those areas, as well as making it possible for fast troop deployments to suffocate revolts and raids against anglo settlements carried out by gauchos or other detractors to the British crown.

The railway system offers new chances for travel, holidays, transporting goods, development of businesses, and the growth of towns and cities. The distance between town and the countryside was practically erased by the introduction of trains to the colony. Dairy produce, meats, and fish could be delivered easily to different parts of the colony within hours. Increased communication allowed for the spread of ideas and national newspapers, such as The Southern Star which started to be distributed from Montevideo to all corners of the colony, bringing a very anglocentric point of view to zones which remained under heavy Spanish influence even after the British arrival.

Before the railways, almost all mail was being carried through towns and across mainland East Plate by foot, on horseback or in simple horse-drawn carts and wagons. However, with the arrival of the train to the colony, mail started to be sent to various destinations inside East Plate in a matter of hours or a few days, completely changing the way the colony maintained communications. Mail transport using the railways is such an important aspect of East Plate that the Postmaster-General of East Plate has authority over all of East Plate's railways, being able to call on any railway to run a train, especially for mail, at times fixed by him.

The total extension of East Plate's railways is around 2,960km and is mainly centered around the provinces south of the Blackwater River, with more than 100 locomotives in service, and 8 million passengers used the services yearly. However, during the 1870s and under the government of current Colonial Secretary, Sebastian Lockhart, the expansion of the railways has expanded exponentially, as his administration has taken the expansion of East Plate's railways to the northern territories as one of its priorities to foment English settlement in those barely populated and exploited areas. Said expansion is fomented by the Oriental Railway System project, one of the colony's most ambitious public works programs since its annexation to the British Empire. The project involves not only the creation of new railways but seeks to encourage immigration and the building of several roads which would connect the cities and towns served by the railway to other smaller villages.

Nowadays, the railway service of East Plate is mainly dominated by the Central Uruguay Railway Company (CURC), a British company originally based in London, but which has moved its headquarters to Montevideo in 1859, being fully "patriated" by the colony in 1863 when it was bought by the colonial government. The CURC has since been tasked with taking over most private railway companies that fail or default. The company also expanded its operations to neighbouring Argentina, owning large parts of the Argentine railways, such as the Buenos Aires Western Railway and the Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway making it one of most powerful railway companies in the whole South American continent. The company is an integral part of the Eastplatine identity, with important contributions to culture such as the creation of the Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club, one of East Plate's largest sporting clubs, and represents one of the colony's greatest triumphs based on the wealth it brings to the colony, its efficiency and its lower fares than those of the privately-owned railway companies operating in the country.

Station at Marysville, near New Dover
    Current Railway Routes

The Eastplatine railway routes have a radial design, meaning that they are intended to connect the different cities, towns, and villages in the countryside to the capital city of Montevideo, where most of them converge. This way of arranging the railroads of the colony is the direct consequence of the importance and hegemony the Port of Montevideo has over the economic affairs of East Plate, allowing for leather, wool, agricultural produce, and other products made in the colony to be sent abroad while distributing imports to the interior of the colony. Most of the routes that do not converge in Montevideo do so in other ports, such as Port Lewis and Port Williams for the same reasons.

This arrangement of railways also allows for all provincial capitals, with the exception of Longridge in Arlesey, due to its small population and remoteness from Montevideo, to have direct links to the capital city of the colony, allowing for fast communication between local authorities and the colonial government, as well as for people to be able to move easily and efficiently between the most important points in each province, permitting doctors, teachers, and other professionals, who usually live in the biggest cities, to offer their services to even the smallest village with relative fastness. This radial system also expands to roads, which converge on cities served by the train connecting minor villages and communities to the railway system.

The Eastplatine railways are very homogeneous, with most of the lines built using standard gauge (1435 mm - 4'8˝") with cast iron for their rails, although originally they were made of pine wood, which were completely replaced by 1850. The routes have multiple stops along their long journey, with stations that vary a lot regarding their architectural styles, their size, and how ostentatious they are. As a rule of thumb, train stations of provincial capitals, and especially those of Montevideo, tend to be of spectacular nature, designed to impress and show the wealth and prosperity of the colony. However, the splendor of stations tends to rapidly fade as one gets far from the big cities, with them losing their ostentatious nature, gaining more functional designs, and reducing their size considerably, to the point where some of the most remote stations can be as small as a simple house, although they are always kept in pristine conditions.


Line

Start point

End point

Type

Lenght

Cities served

⠀⠀ East Coast Route

Montevideo City

Palmerton

Freight/Passenger Line

263 km

Montevideo, Aeston, Port Williams, South Plymouth, Palmerton

⠀⠀ Harper Route

Montevideo City

Stanlow

Passenger Line

138 km

Montevideo, Aeston, Stanlow

⠀⠀ New Eastern Route

Montevideo City

North Petherton

Freight/Passenger Line

304 km

Montevideo, Leeside, Croydon, Kirkwall, Merton, Swindon,
Stirling, North Petherton

⠀⠀ Center-East Route

Montevideo City

New Dover

Freight/Passenger Line

537 km

Montevideo, Clarence, Hythe, Chester, Ascot, Walden,
Middlesbrough, Marysville, New Dover

⠀⠀ Central Route

Montevideo City

Abingdon

Freight/Passenger Line

498 km

Montevideo, Clarence, Hythe, Chester, Selby, Lester,
Campden, Abingdon

⠀⠀ Liebig Route

Montevideo City

Peaceheaven

Freight/Passenger Line

342 km

Montevideo, Clarence, Harnsey, Croston, Burnley, Southwell,
Cinderford, Peaceheaven

⠀⠀ Arrow-Point Route

Palmerton

Stirling

Freight Line

182 km

Palmerton, South Plymouth, Darlington, Whitewood, Stirling

⠀⠀ Prince Albert Route

Swindon

Alberton

Passenger Line

211 km

Swindon, Walden, Longdale, Porthwell, Alberton

⠀⠀ Victoria Route

Alberton

Ascot

Freight Line

202 km

Alberton, Porthwell, Longdale, Millea, Birchwick, Ascot

⠀⠀ Lester Express Route

Southwell

Lester

Passenger Line

149 km

Southwell, Bilston (from time to time), Lester

⠀⠀ Lewis Route

Croston

Port Lewis

Freight/Passenger Line

165 km

Croston, Satbury, Millstone, Port Lewis


Montevideo Central Station


Clarence Station


Alberton Station


Campden Station

    Traveling in Eastplatine trains

Inside of an average Eastplatine train
The average speed of passenger trains in East Plate is around 30 km/h, while express trains can travel up to 50 km/h. Every traveler takes his place where he has a fancy except that there is usually a car reserved for ladies and for gentlemen accompanying them. Some companies own special cars that they attach to trains, charging higher fares in exchange for more comfortable rides, with reclining chairs and sleeping-cars. Drawing-room cars are also common in most Easplatine trains. For long-distance trips, and those who are willing to pay, there are special "hotel cars," which consist of a compartment like the cabin of a ship with comfortable sofas and other furniture to make the trip as pleasant as possible, even including beds and a service to clean the passenger's boots, which are left outside the cabins. Some of the drawing-room cars are as luxurious as those of royal or imperial carriages on European lines, with mirrors, lounges, chandeliers, bookcases, and even pianos. A novelty in some of the cars on the East Coast Rute is an outside balcony from which the scenery can be surveyed. Food is usually sold inside trains for long-distance trips, including lamb, mutton, fresh mackerel, omelet with ham, and spring chicken, all at moderate charges. There is also ample choice of vegetables, fruit, and relishes with five or six kinds of wine in the carte.

Comfort also extends to the poorer classes and the cheapest trains. Cups of coffee, tea, or chocolate are commonly sold on all trains, for very cheap prices, while the carriages are large, spacious, and well ventilated, with some even having stoves for cold weather and Venetian blinds and sun shades at every window in Summer. The seats are roomy and well cushioned. For parcels or small packages there are plenty of pegs and wire racks, and there is a barrel of filtered water, iced in Summer, at one end of each car, while hot water for tea or other beverages, such as mate, is also always available.

However, not all is fancy in the Eastplatine trains. With more people and goods on the move, trains and railway stations arguably offer new opportunities for crime. Trains are sometimes frequented by cardsharps, thimble-riggers (cheaters in a game usually involving gambling, in which a person hides a small object underneath one of three nutshells, thimbles, or cups, then shuffles them about on a flat surface while spectators try to guess the final location of the object), pickpockets, robbers, and murderers, who usually dress as clergymen to not raise suspicions. The threats of being robbed or scammed can not be avoided by wisely choosing a compartment occupied by a lady. Many ladies turn out to be blackmailers who, unless their demands are met, prove too ready to march up to a porter at the end of the journey and make accusations of "improper advances."

      The "railway madness"

Despite being one of the main ways of transport in the colony, trains are believed to “injure the brain” by many Eastplatines. In particular, the jarring motion of the train is alleged to unhinge the mind and either drive sane people mad or trigger violent outbursts from a latent “lunatic.” Mixed with the noise of the train car, it can, it is believed, shatter nerves. There have been reports of people, who acted completely normal before boarding a train, suddenly began behaving in socially unacceptable ways upon stepping on them. A common anecdote about this is the story of one Argentine aristocrat who was visiting East Plate for business reasons, who was reported to have ditched his clothes aboard a train before “leaning out the window” ranting and raving. After he left the train, he suddenly recovered his composure. Vicious attacks with knives and other weapons that could result in death were reported as well.

The media did its part to whip up a frenzy over railway madness. One story published in The Southern Star, starkly titled “A Madman in a Railway Carriage,” related how a sailor became incensed, flailing around in an erratic manner first trying to climb out of the window, and then swearing and shouting at the other occupants of the carriage and struggling with everyone. A superhuman strength gripped this aggressor and four people were required to restrain him and he had to be bound to a seat. The conflict was not over yet though. When the sailor was released, he charged viciously at those who had restrained him and accused them of stealing from him. It took railway officials and finally the National Guard to subdue and arrest the sailor. As these issues became commonplace, separate berths with locked doors became available. However, in some instances, this could put passengers in greater danger, as now they would be trapped in the berth until help arrived.

The problem of railway madness does not, however, just refer to those driven insane in the process of the journey. Another popular Eastplatine concern is that the railway provides a swift and convenient getaway for patients who had escaped from the various mental-health institutions throughout the colony. The logistics of the railways dotted around the countryside meant that a “mental patient” could evade the staff and hop on the next train to freedom. Stories of maniacs and terror on the tracks terrify many in the colony.

    The Central Uruguay Railway Company


Logo of the CURC after 1863,
when it was bought by the Colonial Government
The Central Uruguay Railway Company (CURC) was one of the first private railway companies to be established in East Plate. Founded in 1843 in London, the company administrated and built the Central Route during its initial years, with the intention to connect the cities of Montevideo, Clarence, and Lester. The nascent Central Uruguay Railway Company engaged Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an English civil engineer who is considered "one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history" and chief engineer of the Great Western Railway (GWR), as its consulting engineer and agent for the purchase of railway equipment in the UK, and it is probable that he selected the first locomotives ever used by the company.

By 1850, the CURC had established itself as the most profitable railway company in the colony, modernizing its route and starting the building of several minor branches to serve other nearby towns. In 1852 it started its most ambitious project: the construction of the Center-East Route, the longest route in all of East Plate with 537 km, connecting Montevideo with New Dover. The construction demanded several years after suffering many delays, as the project proved to be too costly for the company and almost bankrupting it. In 1855, with the East-Central Route still under construction, the company had to be bailed out by the Colonial Government. Economic problems continued to plague the company and in 1859 it was forced to move its headquarters to Montevideo by the Colonial Government in order for it to keep the subsidies given by the colony. By 1863, just after two years of completing its most ambitious project, the company defaulted and was bought by the Colonial Government.

Under colonial ownership, the CURC became the state-owned operator of most rail transport in East Plate, and private rail companies that failed or defaulted were regularly acquired by the CURC and absorbed into the state-owned railway system, which became the main business model of the company. In 1864, the Colonial Government signed a contract with the Liebig Company for the construction of a direct train route between the Port of Montevideo and Peaceheaven in order to connect Liebig's industrial plant and the main port of the colony, making it considerably easier for Liebig's products (meat extract, corned beef, and organic guano) to reach the port and be sent to Europe. This was the birth of the Liebig Route, the third-largest route in the colony with 342 km in length.

The CURC expanded its operations to neighboring Argentina by buying, in 1870, the Buenos Aires Western Railway, which was the first Argentine railway, and the Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway in 1871. Both purchases were made after extensive pressure by Britain, as it was believed that acquiring and putting them under British ownership would help to open new markets for British products. In addition, locomotives, bricks, bridges, sanitation tools for the stations, etc. were imported from Great Britain and so were large quantities of a non-manufactured product: the coal for the engines used in both railways. The Argentine government found itself eventually forced to cave in to British demands, and agreed to sell the railways, with the only condition that they would be sold to Eastplatine companies, rather than British. This started a trend of British companies acquiring Argentine railways, greatly extending the influence of Britain, and to a lesser extent, East Plate, over Argentina.

Nowadays, the CURC is the largest railway company in East Plate, owning around 70 locomotives and several thousand cars operating in the colony. The Central Route, Center-East Route, Liebig's Route, Victoria Route, Harper Route, and the Lester Express Route are all completely owned and operated by the CURC, meaning that more than 1866 km of railways are under direct government control.

      Locomotives operated by the CURC

Class

Image

Units

Names

Year built

Line/Route

Built in

CUR A Class

4

Victoria
William
George
Anne

1856
1856
1856
1856

Liebig Route
Liebig Route
Liebig Route
Liebig Route

Newcastle upon Tyne, England
(Robert Stephenson and Company)

CUR B Class

5

Montevideo
Port Williams
Port Lewis
Plymouth
New Dover

1867
1867
1868
1869
1869

Victoria Route
Victoria Route
Harper Route
Lester Express Route

Manchester, England
(Beyer, Peacock and Company)

CUR C Class

5

Rocket
Patentee
Scotsman
Swindon
Royal Star

1869
1869
1869
1869
1870

Central Route
Central Route
Center-East Route
Center-East Route
Center-East Route

Bristol, England
(Avonside Engine Company)

CUR D Class

2

Snake
Lady Mordaunt

1870
1870

Victoria Route
Central Route

Bristol, England
(Avonside Engine Company)

CUR E Class

9

Capital
Great Southern
Simon
Adelaide
Stuart
Iron Duke
Felicia
Josephine
Clarence

1870
1870
1870
1871
1871
1871
1871
1872
1872

Central Route
Central Route
Center-East Route
Center-East Route
Central Route
Central Route
Liebig Route
Center-East Route
Center-East Route

Newcastle upon Tyne, England
(Robert Stephenson and Company)

CUR F Class

7

Implacable
Cranefly
Kelvin
The Grayfly
Minotaur
Tamarisk
Woodruff

1872
1872
1873
1873
1873
1873
1874

Victoria Route
Victoria Route
Central Route
Central Route
Center-East Route
Center-East Route
Lester Express Route

Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England
(Black, Hawthorn and Company)

CUR G Class

6

Quest
Gentian
Tigress
Worcester
Damerham
Chippeway

1874
1874
1874
1874
1875
1875

Victoria Route
Central Route
Center-East Route
Lester Express Route
Liebig Route
Harper Route

Philadelphia, United States
(Baldwin Locomotive Works)

NOTE: This list is not exhausitive

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