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Subjects in FocusRailways in Modern Macedonia

Railways in Modern Macedonia

The ambitious Baron Hirsch
The railway line Thessaloniki-Skopje-Mitrovitsa
The Thessaloniki-Monastir railway line
The Thessaloniki-Constantinople railway line
Changes of the railway network
The railway personnel
Locomotives and rolling stock
Forgotten railway stations
The trains in the war
The Thessaloniki of trams and trains

Images on this page

Group of railway station employees
Black-and-white photograph of a group of railway employees next to a railway engine, 1918-1925, Thessaloniki, Society of the Friends of the Thessaloniki Railway.

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The railway personnel

Group of railway station employees
1918-1925, Thessaloniki, Society of the Friends of the Thessaloniki Railway

Macedonia's railways under the Ottoman Empire truly resembled the Tower of Babel. The technical services were as a rule headed by Germans and Austrians, who also made up the largest group of employees, but there were also Swiss, British and Italians. The Greek contingent was also numerous, particularly on the Thessaloniki-Monastir and Thessaloniki-Alexandroupoli lines, a factor of special significance in the Macedonian struggle.

The porters, who were hired locally under contract, were most commonly Albanian in the northern stations and Jewish in Thessaloniki. Slav-speaking farmers formed the majority of the railway workers. This welter of cultures and languages was to create problems after liberation, since one of the employees' basic demands was that no foreigners should be hired.

The trades union movement among Macedonia's railway workers had taken shape before the Balkan Wars, and socialism had already gained a considerable number of activists within their ranks. This tradition passed to the generation of railway employees between the wars, who from 1920 to 1925 repeatedly immobilized the trains with their strikes.

The Second World War and the German occupation of the rail network revived memories of espionage during the Macedonian Struggle. But this time, the short-term interests of the Resistance movement unfortunately demanded the destruction of the lines, and the disruption of communications with the workers' collaboration or through strikes.

Macedonian Heritage
Content courtesy Ekdotike Athenon S.A.