Luzon’s Once Extensive Railways

Corpuz, Arturo G. The Colonial Iron Horse: Railroads and Regional Development in the Philippines, 1875-1935. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1999.



colonial iron horse, railways, railway history, regional development, Luzon


The Philippines’ experience with rail transport may be characterized as one that is riddled with underappreciation towards the latter. Nevertheless, Arturo G. Corpuz has proven in his book, The Colonial Iron Horse: Railroads and Regional Development in the Philippines, 1875–1935 (1999), that a diligent look at repositories both in the Philippines and abroad allows the reconstruction of the still-nascent subject of the history of rail transportation in the Philippines. Corpuz shows in The Colonial Iron Horse that beyond simply moving people and freight, Luzon’s once extensive railways were also a significant factor in the development of its towns in the period straddling the latter part of the Spanish colonial period to the beginning of the Commonwealth period. Despite Corpuz not being a trained historian, The Colonial Iron Horse has remained an unparalleled work in Philippine railway history. Beyond documenting Luzon’s formerly extensive railway system and discussing its role in shaping the historical trajectories of different places, Corpuz’ work is also a useful guide book in our presently transport crisis-laden cities illustrating that transportation infrastructure should always take into account local realities for it to be efficient, economical, and beneficial.

Author Biography

Carlos Joaquin R. Tabalon, University of the Philippines Diliman

CARLOS JOAQUIN R. TABALON is Teaching Associate and concurrently a graduate student in the Masters of Arts in History program at the Department of History of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He graduated summa cum laude from the department's Bachelor of Arts in History program in July 2022. He is interested in the interdisciplinary intersection of history and geography, particularly transport and mobility history, history of public works, and urban history.




How to Cite

Tabalon, C. J. “ 1999”. TALA: An Online Journal of History, vol. 7, no. 1, June 2024, pp. 185-94,