Monday, April 14, 2014

The History of the Taunus Railway

As fall approached in 1838....Wiesbaden was set to change forever....because of a simple priority in infrastructure.  The Taunus Railway project was underway in September of that year.  The plan was to lay out a track.....the first in the region.....from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden.  A length of 42 kilometers (roughly thirty miles).

It was a project had to be signed onto by two different entities....the free-city of Frankfurt (unattached to any state but itself), and the Duke of Nassau (Wiesbaden's controlling authority in this period).  It wasn't an easy sales job.  What most people in the Nassau saw....was a threat to the port operation presently at work in Mainz.  Fewer ships stopping to off-load....meant less revenue for the Nassau area.  The general perception was that ships would stop in shipment would be delivered by the railway.

This argument went on for a number of months, and finally was resolved enough to convince the Duke of Nassau to buy into the project. The chief finance vehicle behind the expensive railway?  Well....two Frankfurt banks got into the discussion and saw it as an investment opportunity....too big to miss. The syndicate players?  Gebrüder Bethmann and Rothschild.  What the investment planners found....was extreme interest via the rich and elite in the region in a 'can't-miss' opportunity.  Bluntly, they had more money in their hand than they probably expected.

Roughly a year later, the track was complete on phase one and the stations set into motion.  You could basically go from Frankfurt inner city to Hochst.....a distance of twelve kilometers (roughly nine miles).  No one says much over the travel between the two could walk it in three hours for free.  I doubt if they had that many folks doing the trip unless it was for the thrill itself.

The completed job from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt?  May of 1840....roughly a year later.

What occurred in the weeks after this completion is a rather odd story.  The port guys over at Mainz....still frustrated over the approval and construction....continued to believe that the railway was bringing bad economic times to their business traffic.  This frustration also crossed over into the merchant trade of Mainz.  At some point in 1841....the merchants and port folks decided to cross the Biebrich (on the Wiesbaden side of the Rhine), and try to shut down the port.

The simple act?  They found enough boats and heavy stones, and put a barrier into the area around Biebrich's port.....which basically diverted ALL traffic away from their the nearest port (Mainz of course).  It was a pretty thought plan, and required a good bit of work to accomplish.  Legally, all that Nassau (Wiesbaden) could do....was complain to the local government structure over Mainz.....then residing in Darmstadt.  Needless to say....nothing got solved quickly.  It was the spring of the next year before the stone obstacles were removed.

During this same period.....the same crowd came to threaten the railway line between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden.  In this case....the crowd met up with armed policemen....willing to shoot.

Stability then occurred, and the railway prospered.

The Taunus Railway then takes up the one of three major developments, which turn Wiesbaden into a resort status vacation spot....for the rich and elite of Europe to come, enjoy the spa waters, gamble in the casino, enjoy the Kur Park, local food and dining, and of course....spend money.

Without the railway development, there is no expansion of Nassau or Wiesbaden, and the magnificent houses along the main streets of the city....never get built.

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