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Did Mussolini get the Trains Running on Time?

Debunking Historical Myths


Bain News Service / Library of Congress

Bain News Service / Library of Congress


The Myth:

Italian dictator Mussolini made the trains run on time.

The Truth:

While the Italian rail service did improve during the early portion of Mussolini’s rule (World War 2 rather interrupted the latter part), the improvements were more to do with people who pre-dated Mussolini than anything changed by his government. Even then, the trains didn’t always run on time.

Fascist Propaganda:

You often hear the phrase “Mussolini made the trains run on time” uttered by both people trying to make the point that even dictatorial governments had some good points, and people annoyed at the latest delay on their rail journey. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen for the pro-Fascist propaganda Mussolini used to bolster his power in 1920s and 30s Italy. As well as styling high profile campaigns as ‘Battles’, such as the marsh reclamation project dubbed the “Battle for Land” – Mussolini picked on the rail industry as something to show how his supposedly dynamic rule had improved Italian life. And while the train industry did improve from the parlous state into which it had sunk during World War 1, this was largely down to improvements implemented before Mussolini came to power in 1922. This didn’t matter to Mussolini, who was quick to claim any credit. It’s perhaps also important to point out that, even with the improvements others had made, the trains didn’t always run on time either.
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