1860-1918 Industrialisation in the Netherlands

Hesitantly at first, and then with increasing rapidity, rail transport came to dominate the country in the second half of the 19th century. The steam engine also took the place of sail in shipping and in factories machines were increasingly driven by steam. Other modernisations followed: electricity, telegraphy, telephony, cars and aeroplanes.



Rail bridge at Culemborg. Johann Heinrich Schönscheidt, 1868

Model of the lighthouse at Vlakkenhoek on Sumatra, P. Leemans, 1879

Industrialisation presented Dutch engineers with new challenges. For the railway linking Utrecht and Den Bosch a spectacular bridge was built at Culemborg in 1868. Instead of the traditional rotating model, this high bridge was designed not to allow ice to build up and obstruct shipping in winter: it had a span of over 150 metres, and was for a while the biggest of its kind in Europe.

Another example of Dutch technology was the series of 26 cast-iron lighthouses that were constructed in the East Indies between 1861 and 1892 to mark the principal sea lanes. These were shipped to the East Indies in pieces and assembled on location. This modern infrastructure proved of crucial benefit as maritime routes became increasingly busy.

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F.K. 23 Bantam biplane. Frits Koolhoven, 1918

Frits Koolhoven’s FK 23 Bantam was one of the demonstration planes at the First Aviation Exhibition in Amsterdam (Eerste Luchtvaart Tentoonstelling Amsterdam - ELTA) in 1917. Dutch involvement in aviation was still only brief, although spectacular. The flight round St Bavo’s church in Haarlem that Koolhoven’s rival Anthony Fokker made on 31 August 1911 in his self-made craft Spin (Spider) attracted huge attention.

It was pioneers such as Koolhoven and Fokker who raised Dutch aviation to new levels. As in other countries, aircraft development received a huge boost during the First World War. With the foundation of Royal Dutch Airline (KLM) in 1919 by Albert Plesman, the Netherlands was the first country with a national airline.



Building site in Amsterdam. George Hendrik Breitner, c. 1880-1920

With the advent of modern industry and a growing population, cities began to expand fast. In the first half of the 19th century, Amsterdam had a population of around 200,000; this rose to over 500,000 in 1900. To house all these people, new neighbourhoods were constructed in rapid tempo, providing housing for working- and middle-class families.