to Mr. Bayard.
Belgrade , November 21, 1887. (Received December 12.)
Sir: I deem it important to call the attention of the Department to the recent completion of the Servian railway system as regards communication with Constantinople and Salonica. The distance by rail between Belgrade and Constantinople is 1,296 kilometers, or 742 English miles, and the road is now complete, except about 50 kilometers in Bulgaria between Zaribrod, at the Servian frontier, and Sophia, the Bulgarian capital. This gap, including some heavy work at Dragoman Pass, in the Balkan Mountains, is being rapidly filled by the Bulgarians, and trains will be running regularly over the whole line early next spring; probably in March. Belgrade will then be on the great. International and Orient Express route from Paris to Constantinople, between which terminal points the time will be reduced to about seventy hours.
The railway hence to Salonica, a distance of 692 kilometers, or 432 miles, has been practically finished for several months, but the opening of the line to the public has been and still is delayed by a variety of causes, chiefly, it seems, the opposition of the Turkish and Bulgarian authorities. Mr. Ristics informs me that the decree for opening the line, about one-half of which runs through Turkish territory, only awaits the Sultan’s signature. The Austro-Hungarian Government, deeply interested in this new route placing Vienna within thirty and Buda-Pesth within twenty-four hours of the Ægean sea, is exerting strong pressure in favor of its immediate opening. This can not in any event be postponed after the completion of the main line to Constantinople, with which that to Salonica is identical as far as Nisch, 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, from here. It then diverges south, and crossing the Macedonian frontier at Vranya, near the historic field of Kossovo, passes through the considerable town of Usküb, where it joins the railway now being extended to a junction with the Austro-Hungarian system in Bosnia, and, running down the valley of the Vardar, finally reaches its terminus at Salonica. This fine harbor, within twenty-four hours steaming of the Piraeus and three days of the Suez Canal, will no doubt become a formidable rival to Brindisi, and probably be the point of transshipment for the Asiatic, Egyptian, and Indian mails, until railway connection is completed with the Piraeus itself.
I have, etc.,