Earth movers and diggers were working furiously and earth was being taken out by the very large lorry-load up the ramp which had led to the tunnel mouth. It seems clear and it is confirmed by my local friends, that another underground carpark is being constructed and it looks as if the old tunnel mouth and the (more recently constructed) ramp to it will serve as an entrance. There's no point lamenting the passing of the tunnel - two modern underground carparks have already transected it at Plaça Mayor and Plaça Olivar, again see Mike Kaben's report from Autumn 1999 (towards the end of the page). I couldn't discover whether the Plaça Espanya was due to suffer the same fate and it will be fascinating to see how they do it because they've already done these two other underground carparks without disturbing the main buildings above so a mere park should be child's play !!
I walked around the site, taking pictures through holes in netting and anywhere else I could find and crossed the road to the Plaça Espanya. There were a lot of barriers here and there and an ENORMOUS drilling machine which happened to be standing right over the line of the tunnel, with the bit of its auger engaged in the tarmac as if ready to start drilling for trains any moment.
On trying to speak to one of the workmen to ask when they would start drilling I was asked to remove myself (again) even though I was on the "right" side of the barriers, so I thought "well, it'd serve you right if your enormous drilling machine fell into a seventy year old tunnel which was constructed in the days when road vehicles which might pass above probably wouldn't exceed a couple of tons or so" and went back to the SFM station.
On my arrival there a train was just coming into the station. I had decided to go to Santa Maria, a town I knew slightly, in order to return by mid to late afternoon so I bought my ticket and strolled towards the front of the train, hoping that it might be possible to see forward as you can in the promotional video "125 añys del tren a Mallorca". I'd just reached the front of the train when the doors started to close and I leapt for the opening. The doors close more quickly than I'd expected, my arm got trapped in their vice-like grip and I feared I'd be dragged off to Santa Maria in a way I hadn't expected but fortunately they opened again to release me and we got under way. The interior of these trains can at best be described as "functional" - all plastic mouldings with facings on the seats looking like thick J-cloths. The indicator on the inside of the train showed that there were three stations before Santa Maria so I got out at the fourth, thinking this looked nothing like the Santa Maria I knew, so I asked the driver who confirmed that it wasn't so I jumped back in. Apparently there are a number of stations which do not appear on the indicator (in addition to those between Inca and Sa Pobla). This brings me to a very serious point about this railway which will not win it friends amongst tourists - none of the stations carries any indication of its name anywhere near where the train stops !!! After making another similar mistake I finally arrived at Santa Maria station which is not a good advert for the SFM. Some of the seating provided was broken and there was a lot of graffiti - pity they don't get the graffiti artists to write the station name !! As with Palma, the original station is now a sort of Information Centre but was closed however it DID have the name on it but it was several metres from the nearest part of the train when stopped.
The return train was not due for more than three quarters of an hour so I set off in a Majorcan heatwave (temperatures on the island have been persistently two or more degrees higher than normal this year) to look for a cold drink and eventually found the Bar Estacion, quite some distance from the station but then it was almost certainly the nearest bar !! On the return journey I confirmed my impression that the scenery between Marratxi and Santa Maria was much more pleasant than I'd expected but after that the townscape, although quite interesting, wasn't pretty. On passing the works at Pont d'Inca I observed the old, yellow, Vias y Obras coach in the sidings and the Sóller Railway's Bo-Bo diesel plinthed alongside the road.
On arrival at Palma I was now hungry and thirsty and made for the Hostile Terminus which is something of a relic in its own right. I penetrated through to the restaurant, which was populated by three couples who were already eating and three waiters, who seemed to be doing nothing in particular, so I took a seat at one of the tables. Not having been approached by a waiter for about five minutes I thought they may prefer customers to order at the bar so I went and looked at the tapas, informing the waiter standing there that I'd like the three varieties which I indicated plus a beer. His response was that I'd have to wait some minutes, mine was that I wouldn't and I walked out en-route to the bus station.
On my way there I came across the new footbridge across the SFM railway and the new park, which I used for some photos of departures of trains both to Sóller and to Sa Pobla within minutes of each other (a good tip from Edith Knight - thanks Edith). Next, a quick look at the old carriage shed which is being handsomely converted, I believe, to a building to serve the adjacent bus station.
and then into the bus station for a wander around and investigation of the remaining buildings from FCM days.
Finally, a drink and a bocadillo before catching the bus to Puerto de Sóller. Last point of comment for the railway company to consider - the bus is cheaper, much quicker, more comfortable and air-conditioned. The one I used was mostly occupied by locals but more tourists, like me, will use the bus if the train is not readily available. The Ferrocarril de Sóller relies for its income almost entirely on tourists and I'm sure they already have plans to improve their service (Crocodile ?) accordingly.
Later in the week we took the hire car into Palma and I parked in the underground carpark at Plaça Olivar. I didn't look for signs of the old tunnel - the smell of fish was so overpowering that we just wanted to get out !! I met with the members of the Associació d'Amics del Ferrocarril De Balears in their clubroom above the Ferrocarril de Sóller station in Palma and we got on as famously as any group of people who have similar interests but completely different languages possibly can. They very kindly presented me with a book entitled "125 Anniversari El Tren a Mallorca", authored by a member, Carlos Olmo Ribas and gave me a copy of their current newsletter which is extremely interesting but, being in a mixture of Catalan and Castillan Spanish, will take me quite some time to digest. I was also shown a video of the Sóller Railway, copied from a film made in the steam days prior to 1929 and Toni Sanchis has given me a CD with some very interesting old photos which I will show you in due course. Thankyou gentlemen !!
I've also obtained, from another source and at great expense (my wife's words) some photos of Sóller and the Sóller Railway in the VERY early days, one being of the actual construction of the Viaducto Monreals.
Here's the cover of the book presented to me by Carlos Olmo Ribas and his colleagues in the AAFB
Another new book I bought whilst there was "The Wonderful Sóller Train" which is the "light", English Language, version of "Prodigioso Tren de Sóller". Half the price, far fewer pictures or facts but at least its in English. Really only for those, like myself, who have to have ALL the books !!