the History of the Railway
The area of the Tuscan / Emilian Apennines between Pistoia and Porretta and San Marcello Pistoiese, until the Second World War, represented a national excellence, in the fields of industry, technology and tourism.
The motivation for such a development is to be found in the great availability of natural resources of these places, such as water and wood, in addition to the presence of infrastructures such as the Ximenian road (today ss66 Pistoia-Abetone-Modena) which since 1766 united the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. with the Duchy of Modena crossing the Apennines and guaranteeing a good road network in relation to the time. Moreover, thanks to the presence of streams that flow rapidly and constantly throughout the year, a small artisan ironworking industry had already developed in the mid-1500s. An example of this are the ironworks of Pracchia and Maresca that worked through mechanical energy obtained from hydraulic shovels and produced weapons, agricultural tools and tools of various kinds.
Starting from 1800, these conditions allowed the inclusion of the first industrial complexes such as the Cartiera Cini di Limestre which was built starting in 1822 and expanded in the following years to employ over sixty people. The Cini brothers, who through their trips to England had known the technology of the steam train, they were the first to imagine the construction of a railway to be used to transport the goods produced.Despite the many problems of an economic, political and technological nature, the first works of the section between Pistoia and Porretta will start in 1853 with the "great tunnel" of the pass between Pracchia and San Mommè and ended in 1864 with the inauguration of the Porrettana railway by Vittorio Emanuele II. The railway, at the time the first infrastructure of the Apennine pass, in addition to favoring the development of the industrial and manufacturing sectors, as well as of the ice industry produced in the Rhine iceboxes and delivered to the cities, meant that more and more people could travel quickly and safe. They travel, goods travel, people travel, ideas travel. The area of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines crossed by the railway becomes an economic and cultural center of the country. Places such as Pracchia and Porretta Terme at the end of the 1800s began to be very popular with travelers and merchants, but also by people from the upper middle class and aristocracy, favoring the development of the thermal sector and tourist hospitality. private companies and international investors numerous railway sections were built, especially in the north of the peninsula, which aimed to connect the major urban centers. In the vision of the government of the time, governed by the historical right, the need was identified to nationalize these sections to make them part of a national railway network responding to the needs of industrial development of the country and also to use in warfare. The issue, which however touched strong economic interests of investors, will be a subject of bitter political confrontation until and cause the fall of the Minghetti government and will continue until 1905 with the definitive nationalization.
In 1910, thanks to the proximity of the railway line to Campotizzoro, the Italian Metallurgical Society (SMI), an ammunition factory owned by the Orlando, a family of rich Sicilian industrialists, set up. The bullets produced at SMI will arm the Italian Army in the Libyan War of 1911-1912 and in the First World War also the British Army in the aftermath of the heavy defeat in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The factory will employ up to six thousand people , generating an enormous induced activity that will affect a large area of the Pistoia mountains, favoring an economic and demographic development in total contrast with most of the country strongly depressed by the war effort.Also the Railway which will see the passage of dozens of trains per day loaded with supplies, troops, vehicles to the front and the wounded in the opposite direction, will play a decisive strategic role for the fate of the war. In the first post-war period, there was a rapid spread of electricity to replace hydraulic energy and steam and the basins of Pavana (1925) and Suviana (1928) were built, functional to the electrification of the railway. Thanks to this it was possible to create new stops along the line to serve the mountain villages. An example of this is the San Mommè stop which was established in 1930 following the multiple requests of the locals. In 1924 the Ferrovia Alto Pistoiese was inaugurated, a narrow-gauge railway that partly crossed the roadway connecting the town of Pracchia to that of Pontepetri reaching Mammiano after crossing Maresca and San Marcello. The little train, built for the transport of goods and SMI workers, will soon become an important infrastructure for tourism in the San Marcello Pistoiese area.
Thanks to industries and railways, in a short time, the rural and subsistence economy of the mountain gave way to a modern monetary economy, entire villages developed, hotels, restaurants and services of all kinds were opened in a real an expansion phase that saw hill tourism as a great protagonist.
World War II
During the Second World War, the Pistoia Mountains were seen crossed by the Gothic Line, the system of fortifications built by the Germans to contain the advance of the Allies who went up the peninsula. The area until 1945 was the scene of heavy discounts among the armies and also of numerous partisan actions, the most striking of which is probably the killing of the German General Wilhelm Crisolli along the Via Traversa di Pracchia.In that period the railway suffered heavy bombardments from part of the British and American aviation, but without serious damage. In April 1944, an American air raid with the aim of destroying the railway bridge caused the almost total destruction of the town of Piteccio and the death of 36 inhabitants, the destruction of many bridges and the collapse of almost all the tunnels. railway was instead provoked by the retreating Germans through mines and explosive charges.
Even if some works of extraordinary architectural value will be lost forever, such as the triple order arch bridges of Piteccio and Fabbrica, at the end of the war the Porrettana Railway will be entirely rebuilt and will take on its current appearance.