Franciscus Quirien den Hollander (1893–1982)

Franciscus Quirien den Hollander was a railway manager, notable in the Netherlands as the man who directed the re-building of the railway system after the damage caused to it during the Second World War and in Europe as the inspiration behind the system of fast trains that showed the potential of railways for linking together the continent’s principal cities.

Den Hollander was a mechanical engineer who gave many scholarly papers on locomotives and other aspects of railway operation, receiving an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Delft in 1955 for his scholarly achievements. He became president-direct of the nationalised Dutch railways in 1947 and served in that position until 1959. He made good use of the economic assistance to European countries provided by the American Marshall Aid system, exemplified by the 25 class 1200 electric locomotives built in 1951-53 using components supplied by the American companies Baldwin, who built the bogies, and Westinghouse, who provided the electrical components. Den Hollander developed the system of frequent services at regular intervals that has become a characteristic of the Dutch railway system. He advocated electric traction for all but the most lightly-used lines, and steam locomotives were no longer used from 1958.

Den Hollander was the principal advocate of the Trans-European Express (TEE) network that was developed from 1957, involving collaboration between the railway systems of France, West Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy, and later of Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain. There were also formal links with the Austrian and Danish systems. The first TEE trains were diesel multiple units built in Amsterdam by Werkspoor which used two 1000 hp engines, with 350 hp generators that provided heating, air conditioning and lighting. A typical service was the Edelweiss between Amsterdam, Basle and Zurich, which made the 1050 km journey in 9 hours 33 minutes at an average speed of 110 km ph. Originally the trains catered only for first class passengers, with high quality dining services. Long stops at frontiers, previously a characteristic of international railway travel, were abandoned, and rapid connections between services were instituted at such junction stations as Cologne and Basle.

In the early 1960s Swiss engineers introduced 4-current electric units that could utilise the traction systems of all the countries involved in the TEE network. The TEE brand was steadily devalued as it was applied to some services within particular countries, such as those between Paris and Strasbourg or Hamburg and Stuttgart, and by the introduction of second class on some trains. The new timetable introduced in West Germany in 1979 offered many services that were the equal of TEE trains, as did the TGV trains that began to run in France in 1981, and by 1984 the concept was effectively abandoned.

Nevertheless den Hollander’s had demonstrated the potential for international rail travel and the network of fast, comfortable, high-capacity trains that now links European cities has grown from he seeds he planted in the 1950s.