Saturday, 30 June 2018

Louis Favre: dynamite and human costs for the first major Gotthard tunnel

Louis Favre (1826-1879) was born on January 28, 1826, in Chêne Thonex (Canton of Geneva). He studied as a carpenter in Neully-sur-Marne (near Paris) and followed courses of architecture and engineering.

The epoch of the first industrialization in the first half of the 19th century  shaped innovative transport means as the railway. In a few years after the first test of the steam locomotive (1804) and the first railway sections (1825-1829), the railway spread throughout the continent. Among the works of the Railway Construction Company, where Favre worked after the graduation, there were the railway lines of Charenton (1846-1851) and Montbart-Dijon (1852-1853).

After passing through the tunnels of Augné (1855), Crédo (1856-1858), Grandvaux and Cornallaz (1858-1860), Creuzot (1863-1865) in 1871, Favre won the tender for the Gotthardbahn tunnel and started to work hardly. The work began in September 1872 and was completed ten years later in January 1882. Favre, overruned by the difficulties of the company, died on July 19, 1879, of a heart attack in Göschenen and could no longer see the opening ceremony of the tunnel.

The Gotthard Railway Tunnel (1872-1882)
The objective in the construction of the railway lines were very large, they were built for commercial or military-strategic purposes at that time. Soon, the question arose of a transalpine railway; already in 1838 people thought about the distance from Chiavenna to Chur.

At first, in 1845, a railway over the Lukmanier, was built, then in 1852, it was finally built over the Gotthard. After the innoguration of the Suez Canal (1869) and the Frejus Tunnel (1871), a project for a railway through the Gotthard and its associated costs were approved by the Confederation as well as by Germany and Italy.

In 1872 construction began. In 1882, after many technical difficulties and financial crises, the work was completed. The opening ceremony of the railway tunnel which had the length of 15 kilometres between Göschenen and Airolo opens up completely new and previously unknown traffic opportunities for Europe.

  • The best sightseeing - albeit outside the Insubrica region - can be done from the Göschenen station, which alone has made history. From here you follow the information signs with the "G" and comes to 14 distinctive points of the village Göschenen, which shows the prehistory of the base tunnel. This tour is called "Gotthardtunneldorf Göschenen" and has been in operation since 2016. The tourist office Göschenen gives you more information.
  • On the south side at the station Airolo is another important example. The Monument to the Victims of Labor, created by Vincenzo Vela (Ticinese sculptor 1820-1891) on his own initiative and without payment. At the Gotthard tunnel construction, 177 dead and 403 seriously injured were killed.