Long live the king!
When neighbouring countries Germany and Belgium joined England in laying more tracks, the Netherlands did not want to be left behind. King William I decided to finance a railway network in the Netherlands.
From 1831 to 1917
Neighbouring countries Germany and Belgium joined England in laying more tracks, and the Netherlands did not want to be left behind. King William I (king from 1815 to 1840) decided to investigate whether a rail network was needed in the Netherlands. The decision was made that a network was necessary, but there were difficulties financing the new railways. The King then made an important decision. He was confident about the new form of transport and gave it the green light: the Dutch government would contribute funds. This also helped to encourage the first few hesitant businessmen to participate.
In 1835 the government granted private individuals permission to construct a railway between Amsterdam and Haarlem, encouraged by the fact that both cities were very important to the economy at the time.
The 'Arend' and the 'Snelheid'
On 8 August 1837, two years after the King's decision, the first railway company, the Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg Maatschappij (HIJSM), was founded. The HIJSM can be regarded as the predecessor of NS. They started construction of a railway between Amsterdam and Haarlem, and two years later, in 1839, this railway was opened. The two locomotives that pulled the first trains were called the 'Arend' and the 'Snelheid'. These locomotives came from England, as did the drivers, John Middlemiss and Thomas Mann. There is a replica of the 'Arend' in The Railway Museum in Utrecht.
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The construction of new railways was not exactly taking off. In 1860 there were only 325 kilometres of track. The government decided to give the march of civilisation a nudge by laying a national railway network. The Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen (SS) was founded; a private company that was permitted to utilise the majority of the public railway tracks. This speeded things up. In 1885 there was 2,610 kilometres of track, and by 1900 the railway network as we now know it was almost complete. Meanwhile, many railway and tram companies had emerged, and new stations had been built. For the first time, large groups of people were mobile and the opportunity to discover the Netherlands was open to all.