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As early as 1898, the question of the creation of railways occupied the conversations of the French in all circumstances. This is the case at the second monthly dinner of the Colonial Union and the Committee of Madagascar, on January 28 at the Hotel Terminus, hosted by Mr. Grosclaude.
At that time, two of the many projects proposed attracted the attention of the guests. The first connects Toamasina to Antananarivo. The work accomplished by the authors (Duportal, Vieutemps, Colonel Marmier, and commandants Goudard and Roques) is most complete and should no longer require new studies to be carried out.
The second is the road from Fianarantsoa to the east coast. And from the capital of the Betsileo, it could extend north to Antananarivo. “This route of a road through the rich country of the Betsileo is very attractive, especially if one imagines that it can be completed to the capital, from which a branch going towards the west coast will be detached. “
Supplementing this view, Mr. Grosclaude speaks of a path that would link this network to Antsiranana, “the head of this great organism that is Madagascar”.
While the eastern network is considered a priority, the possibility of reaching the west coast is nevertheless worth studying, as the coastline is separated from South Africa only by the Mozambique Channel. This is all the more interesting because South Africa is “an immense territory of consumption” and commercial relations will inevitably be established sooner or later between the continent and the Great Island. Relations already existing through “the dhows which, at random from the razzias of the Sakalava chiefs, came to stock up on the Malagasy coast.”
Grosclaude then enters the practical field by addressing the two proposals for the realization of the project. The first is the American method: it contains an option under which, if studies are carried out, the capital will receive as compensation for very large territorial concessions. But the speaker did not conceal the disadvantages: no certainty of execution and, in the event of the contract being a continuation, immobilization in the hands of the concessionary company of large territories of his choice. This will leave almost nothing to the settlers.
The second proposal is based on a guarantee of interest granted by the Métropole to the capital invested. However, the term “guarantee of interest” raises objections, because “it was feared that Parliament would be reluctant to assume responsibility for a guarantee borne by the metropolitan budget”. But the authors of the proposal would
“Simple traffic guarantee”.
As for Commander Roques, he intervened to submit observations on the technical conditions for the establishment of the railways.
Four main elements must be taken into account in the construction of any railway. Starting with the mineralogical constitution of the lands through which the route passes. Depending on whether the land will be more or less resistant to the tool, depending on whether the embankments they provide or the trenches dug there will be more or less easy to consolidate or maintain, the earthworks will be more or less cheaper.
Next is the topographical configuration of the regions in which the projected line will develop. It is this element that will depend on the cube of the earthworks and the number and the importance of the structures of art.
Finally, there is the difference in level to be crossed and the distance to be traveled.
Thus, given the general configuration and geological constitution of Madagascar,
“Whatever be the point of the coast from which one will go to reach the central plateau, whatever may be the ingenuity that one will spend in choosing his itinerary, it will always be necessary, except in the immediate vicinity of the coast , Circulate in this clay whose color has earned our colony its nickname of Red Earth. Finally, whatever the route adopted, “the flanks of the hills on which it will run will always have the same stiffness as that of the ancient rocky slopes, and will be cut off from ravines as numerous and deep