In the 19th century, railway networks strongly improved accessibility. In this paper we examine the impact of accessibility improvements on municipal population growth in the Netherlands between 1840 and 1930, using census data. By mapping a multimodal transport network and calculating the shortest travel time between all municipalities, we generate an accessibility indicator which is strongly influenced by railway connections. The regressions show that high rail accessibility levels are positively related to municipal population growth from 1880 onwards. The impact of rail accessibility was stronger at the end of the 19th century, as industrialization took off. The overall impact of rail on population growth has been modest, however. In our model, crowding and urbanization effects dominate. © 2012.