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IN a former Number, [Mon. Chron. Vol. I. p. 89,] we gave a brief notice of the system of railroads established in Belgium, entirely at the charge and under the direction of the central government of the country. The expenses are all defrayed from appropriations from the public treasury, and all the income is of course for the benefit of the treasury. That article gave some account of the origin and cost of the work, and a notice of its operations for the first nine months of the year 1839. We shall now give a more full description of the system of works, with a history of its operation to the beginning of the present year.
The Minister of public works, Mr. Charles Rogier, under whose superintendence these great improvements are carried on, is entitled to the fullest credit, for having laid before the public, in his report to the legislative chambers, a most clear and intelligible account of the extent and cost of the work, the dimensions and character of the different constructions, the character and cost of the materiel, the rates of fare and freight, the expenses of operation, and the receipts, in all the varieties of detail, that can be desired. Our difficulty will be to present in the condensed view, which only we can give, so much of the information as will satisfy the reader, in a form which will be intelligible.
The system of works authorized by law is yet incomplete. When completed, the whole length of the several lines of railroad will be 113 leagues, of 5,000 French metres, of 350 English miles; and
the present estimated cost of the roads, stations, and materiel, is 125,664,707 francs, or $23,877,054. The length of roads already completed, so far as to be already in operation, and producing an income at the commencement of the year, was 67 leagues, or 208 miles. This length of line embraces 14 sections, which have been successively opened from 1835 to 1840. The length of lines and parts of lines yet to be opened is 46 leagues, or 142 miles.
The cost of 208 miles of road already incurred, amounts to 62,144,584 francs, under the following heads of expenditure, viz. :
For purchase of lands and compensation for damages, including 198,688 francs for cost of legal proceedings,
For works of excavation and embankment, works of masonry and other constructions, and laying foundations of railway, chiefly expended in compensation of labor among the laboring class of the population,
Wood, for the foundation of the railroad, furnished principally by
For 49,000,000 kilograms [48,243 tons] of iron for rails, and their
The expenditures already incurred may be more particularly classified under the following heads:
17,314,710 3,109,371 807,212
The amount expended on account of construction in the year 1840, was 11,915,076 francs.
These railroads lead from Brussels, the capital of the kingdom, by
routes for the most part nearly direct, through the most populous and productive part of the country to nearly all the principal towns. They form two main lines, crossing each other nearly at right angles, and each branching in several directions. The shortest of these lines runs nearly north and south, and consists of two parts, the first part extending from Brussels north to Antwerp, and the other south and southwest to Mons, and the French frontier, in the direction of Valenciennes. The other line runs nearly east and west, beginning at Ostend, on the British Channel, and passing through, or by Bruges, Ghent, and Termonde, to Malines, where it crosses the other line nearly at right angles, and proceeds thence through Louvain, Tirlemont, to Liege, and thence into the Prussian territory, and to Aix la Chapelle and Cologne. A part of this extension of the line, in the Prussian territory, is already constructed by authority of the Prussian government. The branches are three in number: the first, leading from Ghent, on the western line, to Courtray, and to the French frontier towards Lille, in France, and by a second branching to Tournay; the second, from Braine le Comte, on the southern line, to Charleroy and Namur; and the third from Landen, on the eastern line, to St. Trond. The town of Malines, which is thirteen miles north of Brussels, on the route to Antwerp, thus becomes the centre of communication for the whole kingdom. It is consequently the central point of the operations of the railroad, and the seat of its principal establishments, of various kinds.
The north and west line is finished from Brussels to Antwerp, and from Brussels to Tubise, three miles south of Hal; as is also the east and west line, near the whole length of the kingdom, from Ostend to Malines, and from Malines to Ans, three miles from Liege. The branch from Ghent, as far as Courtray, 27 miles, and also from Landen to St. Trond, are also finished. The remainder of the eastern line, from Ans, by Liege to the Prussian frontier; of the southern line from Tubise to the French frontier; and also of the second branch, from Courtray to the French frontier, and to Tournay, as well as the third branch, from Braine le Comte to Charleroy and Namur, remain to be finished. The following table shows the lengths and the cost of the respective lines.
North Line, Brussels to Antwerp, completed,
East Line, the part unfinished, Ans to Prussian
* On the French frontier, ten miles from Valenciennes.
Cost per mile.