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The St. Gotthard line



Over the centuries the two valleys formed by rivers Reuss in the north and Ticino in the south have always been used for trade between northern Switzerland and the Italian peninsula. The only obstacle that separated the two valleys is the Gotthard massif with peaks towering over 3000m. Towards the second half of 1800 felt the need to build a railway line which crossed from north to south of Switzerland joining the then Kingdom of Italy and the German Empire. There were discussions about the tecnical soluctions, but the biggest problem was political and economic. Construction began in 1872, the Gotthard rail line was the fourth to cross the Alps after the Semmering Railway, the Brenner Railway and Mont Cenis Railway. The Biasca-Locarno and Lugano-Chiasso were opened in 1874. The most important work was the construction of the tunnel under the Gotthard. The contract was given to Louis Favre, an enterprising businessman from Geneva. Work began in September 1872. Unfortunately, the realization of this work has many surprises for entrepreneur Favre: flooding, heat from the rocks, landslides that claimed the lives of hundreds of workers. They had to work under extremely precarious and unhealthy conditions. These reasons delayed the work, and cost penalties resulting economic bankrupt entrepreneur and his family. Favre unfortunately died at the site a few months before his work was finished. The last piece of rock that separated the two sections of the tunnel fell in February 1880. The two sections were almost aligned with an error of a few centimeters. This colossal work was technically successful. At the time, the Gotthard tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world. The entire line was opened with the commercial service on June 1, 1882.

                                                  Stefano Gazzoli




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