On 9 February 1871 work began in Thessaloniki on the construction of Macedonia's first railway line. Italian navvies and several hundred local labourers, tempted by the high salaries, proceeded north towards Gevgelija after bridging the Gallikos River.
Eighteen months were needed to lay the first 100 kilometres, at a time when in the USA similar projects were galloping along at about 70 kilometres per month. On 22 July 1872 train whistles were heard for the first time in the plain of Thessaloniki, though the whole project, up to the Turkish-Serbian border, was not completed until 29 December 1874: it consisted of 350 kilometres of track, 21 railway stations and 92 guard posts.
A new era had begun, but local expectations were mixed and occasionally controversial. Dilemmas intensified in 1888, when the link between Thessaloniki, Belgrade and Vienna via Vrania was finally terminated -- an event celebrated with gusto at the "Kolombo" Hotel. For conservatives, this union with Europe meant moral depravity, for the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie it meant quick access to the opera, and for the trades people -- who were to be proved the most prophetic -- greater financial gain.