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Riding the rails: The japanese railways meet the challenge of war

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Chapter Summary

Beginning with the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, railroads have played a central role in modern warfare. Railroads figured prominently in the Russo-Japanese War, leading one scholar to describe that conflict as "very largely a railway war". At the start of the war, Japan's railway network extended to the home bases of all thirteen army divisions. Right up until its nationalization in 1906, the Nippon Railway did little to renovate its shoddy lines and equipment. Despite achieving relatively high standards of construction, the San'yô and Kyushu railways both fell short in the key area of double tracking. By 1887 the Army General Staff had formulated a comprehensive railway policy, which centered on demands for the inland routing and double-tracking of trunk lines and the conversion of all domestic railroads to the standard gauge.

Keywords: Franco-Prussian War; Japan's railway network; Kyushu railway; railroads; railway policy; Russo-Japanese War; San'yô railway



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