~ Ferrocarriles de Mallorca ~
Newsletter August 2001

Discover Majorca's forgotten railways


I'm going to try out a new system of image-handling because I haven't the webspace to indulge in the luxury of two, different sized, copies of each image to allow faster loading. I shall only upload the larger version which will display in the Newsletter at a smaller size. The larger size will generally be available by clicking on the image to take you to another page on which the image will display at full size or, where there is no point in doing this, you can right-click on the image and use the "save image as..." to download the full sized image. To further save space I have only scanned the pictures in this newsletter at 100 d.p.i. which will result in a loss of quality but a gain in space. When I've had the photos professionally scanned I will replace the images with better versions but they will still probably remain at 100 d.p.i. which is more than adequate for display on the normal monitor screen but hopeless for printing. Better quality versions will always be available from me if required. I've applied the same principle to all this year's previous newsletters and hopefully saved enough space for two more newsletters !!




Well, I've just got back from what seemed a very short week in Majorca, regrettably little of which was spent with the railways but I have great deal to tell and show you. My first outing was to explore that part of the Naval Establishment at Puerto de Sóller which was relinquished by the navy two years ago and which is now an extension of the existing marina. If you look at the picture FSMarinePortSoller1med.jpg in the first page of Mike Kaben's report (first of the last two pictures) you'll see that a line of tram tracks which remains within the exclusion area has been covered with sand or concrete but, because Mike was able to take his photo a year after I'd last been there, I didn't realise that the tracks he photographed were NOT the same as the ones I'd seen the year before.

Main line of tramway inside former Naval Zone

This year I had a close look in the line of trees and shrubs and found actual track there too, with a point or turnout which shows that the tracks at this position must have been doubled, something I hadn't realised before.

Sorry this view isn't too clear - I'll have to go back and try again !! Click on this image for a larger version

From there I took the tram to Sóller to explore the station yard and see for myself the changes which so many people have told me about and sent photos of (thanks !!). The new shed looks much better now it is being camouflaged to look more like the stone building which it replaced and everything looked surprisingly neat and tidy. I think I found and photographed the Brown-Boveri bogies of the Eusko Trenibideak "Crocodile" locomotive which is being transferred from the Railway Museum at Azpeitia on the Spanish mainland (see May's Newsletter for more information) but whilst I was looking right round the back of the site for the body of the locomotive I was asked to remove myself by a member of the FS staff who either could not or would not understand my (poor) Spanish explanations !! To return to Puerto de Sóller I caught one of the "new" trams, or rather one of the new twin-bogie trailers which were manufactured recently by the Ferrocarril de Sóller.

The ride is superb - completely different from the old two-axle trams and exactly the sort of thing needed to provide the required extra capacity except that the seating arrangements would need modifying. The new trailers cannot be entered from the side, as can the old trams, and whereas the old trailers have a two-seater bench on each side of a wide gangway, the new trailers which have been designed for coach-trip specials, have a two-seater bench seat on one side and a triple on the other of a narrow gangway and the access doorways to the end vestibules (the only means of entry and exit) are also quite narrow, making them unsuitable for normal traffic. Condidering how infrequently I saw these trailers used for their intended purpose I think it would be wise to convert some of them as soon as possible.

The next day I took the tram to Sóller again but found so many people waiting at the stop nearest my hotel, which was at the Sóller end of the beachfront, that I walked back to the previous stop and caught an already overflowing tram with two trailers there which still managed to absorb all the people who had been waiting at the other stop - talk about standing room only !! At this point the first of my criticisms emerges. The trams are almost always full to bursting and I would have thought that a more frequent service could easily be provided. Health and Safety regulations would never allow trams to operate like this in Great Britain and whilst I'm not a fan of the "nanny-state", I believe that somewhat more comfortable travelling conditions would appeal to both locals and tourists alike, probably increasing ridership and revenue - everybody would win. I caught the 11.50 a.m. train from Sóller which was also packed. Had there been a train between 9.15 and 11.50 I'd have caught it - another point of criticism. Possibly a mid-morning railcar ? The Chemin de Fer du Vivarais operates steam-hauled trains for the tourists and much faster but quite fascinating old diesel-engined Billard railcars for the locals. There is a huge gap in the afternoon timetable too, there are no trains from Palma to Sóller between 3.10 p.m. and 7.30 - far too large a gap for people who want to get back in time for hotel dinner but still want to enjoy as much of Palma as possible.

On arrival at Palma I went around the front of the Hostal Terminus (hereafter to be called the Hostile Terminus for reasons I'll explain later) to the SFM station which revealed that the southernmost of the two former main station buildings is now an Information Centre and the other contains nothing much more than a ticket counter - no evidence here or at the FS station of the delightful little travel-orintated bookstalls they used to contain. I walked though the station to the Park because I remembered an illustrated report from Peter Sørensen (thanks, Peter) who told me that he'd seen evidence of digging in the area which had contained the bus station before its transfer to the new site. As I topped one of the grassy "dunes" I saw before me an enormous hole in the ground !! The mouth of the old tunnel linking the station with the port, along with a few metres of tunnel and surrounding earth stood alone on the far side and the continuation of the tunnel was apparent in the far corner of the hole.

Several more shots from various angles were taken but this one gives a good over-view. Click on one of the images to be taken to another page with larger versions

Note the original stone balustrades have been replaced by this much more modern part-glazed railing © Barry Emmott 2001
The continuation of the tunnel can be seen quite clearly here © Barry Emmott 2001
Looking back towards Inca from Plaça Espanya © Barry Emmott 2001

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.

Don't let your dentist see this !!

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.

Good to see this historic building being retained and put to good use

and then into the bus station for a wander around and investigation of the remaining buildings from FCM days.

I don't know what is planned for this old building but they've gone to too much trouble clearing it just to knock it down

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

125 Anniversari El Tren a Mallorca

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 !!

The Wonderful Sóller Train



STOP PRESS



(Majorca Daily Bulletin - 26th August 2001)
Government studies a new train link

The Balearic government is planning to connect Felanitx to Palma and Manacor by train, and it has ordered the public works ministry to look into the viability of such a project. The government plans to include it in its master plan for transport which is now being drawn up. Many years ago, there was a railway service from Santa Maria to Felanitx, with stops at Santa Eugenia, Algaida, Montuiri and Porreres. Renewing this option is expected to have massive popular support from people living in those areas. But Joaquin Rodriguez, the director general of transport, said that one of the obstacles to this option is that when the old line was closed, the land was sold off and in some cases buildings have been constructed. He added that a good part of the railway line would be new and a considerable amount of land would have to be expropriated. Experts also feel that it would be much more profitable and technically viable to run the train directly from Palma instead of linking it with Santa Maria. This would introduce a second option, laying new rails to Llucmajor and Arenal, or using a stretch of the old line, with connections with some of the towns on the way. The ministry has to find out which is the best solution. At all events, a stretch of new line would have to be built to cover the 14 kilometres separating Felanitx from Manacor. The government considers taking the train to Felanitx a strategic point to create a new rail network which would have a triangular axis between Manacor, Inca and Palma. But the plans could become nothing more than good intentions if the money to carry them out is not available, and up to now, the central government has not shown much interest in the problems of public transport in the islands. In the meantime, priority is being given to the stretch between Sa Pobla and the port of Alcudia.

In the last Newsletter I commended the Majorca Daily Bulletin to you as one of the best sources of information on events in Majorca. If you read the accompanying extracts you'll see that I was one of the lucky winners of a competition, prizes being video copies of the BBC's Passport to the Sun program. Whilst I was on holiday in Majorca I met another winner and neither of us has (yet) learned when we will be receiving our prize !!





Thanks again to all my contributors and supporters, any comments on the contents will be appreciated.




Brief descriptions of the contents of previous newsletters

Mike Kaben's Report

Books on Majorcan Railways (Revised April 2001)

We have produced a Gallery of Pictures of the Sóller Railway and the Sóller Tramway and this is now available on Alan Rolfe's server (thanks Alan) by clicking here.

Majorca Railways Home Page

Majorca Railways Photo Gallery



Click here to go to the website of the Associación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Baleares






Watch this site for further developments which will take place whenever new information or pictures come to hand. Any submissions or contributions of information, photos old or new, postcards, books etc., will be very gratefully and enthusiastically received and if used on the site will be suitably acknowledged (as above). The photos, pictures and diagrams used on this site are presented for your information and viewing pleasure only. If any of them should be in copyright violation and the copyright holder would care to notify me I will either remove them or acknowledge the copyright accordingly.

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© Barry Emmott 2001, minor adjustments 11th April 2009