IN THE KNOW: History of railroads in PH

/ 07:22 AM April 23, 2018

The first railroad in the Philippines was inaugurated on Nov. 24, 1892, nearly two decades after King Alfonso XII of Spain issued a decree for the establishment of a railroad system in Luzon.

Construction of the railroad began in 1888. The line covered 195 kilometers from Manila to Dagupan in Pangasinan.


The line was founded as Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan. It became Manila Railroad Co. (MRRCo) during the American colonial rule.

From Manila Central Station in Tutuban, construction moved northward to Tayuman, ending in Dagupan. The Americans subsequently built a new line from Bulacan to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, in 1902.


Shortly after, the rail line was expanded to La Union in the north and Albay in the south.

In 1964, by virtue of Republic Act No. 4156, MRRCo became Philippine National Railways (PNR), a government-owned corporation.

PNR was once Luzon’s premier railroad operator, with over 797 km of tracks linking La Union to Bicol, but decades of neglect, mismanagement and damage from natural calamities gradually reduced its coverage.

Only a small segment of the PNR line—from Tutuban to Calamba, Laguna—is still being used.

During the Commonwealth period, sugar cane in Negros was transported by imported steam locomotives from haciendas to sugar mills. The steam engine locomotives plied one main line to collect as much cane from around milling districts.

Other lateral lines that were part of a network of sugar farms had their own railroad systems, albeit with smaller wagons for loading canes.

In 1906, the Philippine Commission authorized PNR to construct and operate rail lines in other parts of the country.


Panay Railways Inc. (PRI) operated the railroad connecting Iloilo City to Roxas City in Capiz through a 117-km track. PRI closed shop in the mid-1980s after encountering financial difficulties.

Sources: Inquirer Archives

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TAGS: In the Know, King Alfonso XII, Manila Railroad Co., Philippine railroad systems
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