The Mont Cenis Pass Railway

The Mont Cenis Pass Railway connected Modane, France and Susa, Italy, running over the Alps with operations beginning in 1868. Just three years later, the railway was abandoned when the Fréjus Rail Tunnel came online. (Right of way)

In 1870, when the tunnel workers could hear one another from opposite sides of building camps, a telegraph was sent, reading, "The working parties in the opposite headings of the Mount Cenis Tunnel are within hearing distance of each other. Greetings and hurrahs were exchanged through the dividing width of rock for the first time at a quarter past four o'clock on Christmas afternoon."

Mont Cenis Steam Engine and Train

While the railway was always intended to be a temporary line until the tunnel was complete, construction on the tunnel was so rapid that the Pass Railway never recouped its investment and was a considerable loss for its investors. But its three rail design by John Barraclough Fell would become the standard for mountain railways all over the world.

Despite only running for three years, the railway gained considerable fame as part of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days.

From traveling over the Alps via horseback, the railway saved 30 hours off the trip, even in spite of the floods and snowstorms that frequently hampered rail service along the route. The fact that this technological leap would itself be rendered obsolete by a tunnel just three years after completion is a good case study of how quickly technology changed during the Industrial Revolution

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