John Glover Page
I owe a great debt of gratitude to John Glover who was a source of inspiration and one of the major contributors to the start of this website. My interest in the Railways of Majorca was initially stimulated by an article by Cliff Thomas, in a now-defunct magazine "International Railway Modelling" in December 1996. I subsequently met Cliff and he referred me to Giles Barnabe's book "The Railways and Tramways of Majorca" which is unfortunately out of print. Undeterred, I borrowed Nick Robey's copy of the book and took it with me on my second visit to the Majorcan Railways in 1998 - I imagine that it is the only copy of that or any other book which has been inside the old FCM tunnel between the station in Palma and the docks in the last twenty years !! I came back with loads of photos, full of enthusiasm and tried, via the internet to discover more. It was not until I saw the following article by John Glover, on a newsgroup "misc.transport.rail.europe", that I found there were many others as enthusiastic (but far more knowledgeable) than myself. John sent me a great number of photos but most importantly, photos of the immense changes which had taken place at the SFM station in Palma and these are what constituted a large part of the original pages of my website. I am ashamed to say that I was so delighted to discover this treasurehouse of information that I spent all my time spreading the message and never read the article properly until only recently. Here is John's article:-
MALLORCA, EAST OF INCA, 10 TO 24 AUGUST 1999 BY JOHN S GLOVER
Mallorca is a well-known Spanish holiday island blessed with mild winters and glorious summers, summers that are tempered by the surrounding Mediterranean Sea.
Soller Railway and Port Tramway
For readers that are not aware, the "inter-urban" Palma to Soller 3 foot gauge 1,200 v overhead electric railway and the similar gauged tramway from Soller to Puerto de Soller remain fully operational and a must to visit when on Mallorca. Trains leave Palma at 0800, 1030, 1515 and 2005. Trains leave Soller at 0645, 0915, 1150, 1410 and 1900. The journey time is normally 55 minutes. This article concentrates on the other Mallorca railways.
Until 1981 all rail-based operation in Mallorca used the British three foot gauge. By the late 1970's much of the infrastructure and rolling stock was life expired and complete closure of the remaining system was a distinct possibility. The two lines to Santany (62 km) and Felanitx (43 km) had already closed and have been dismantled in practical terms. In 1977 the line from Empalme to Arta (60 km) was closed. In 1980 the line from Inca to La Puebla, via Empalme (39 km) was closed. This left the 29 km double track main line from Palma to Inca.
Fortunately a decision was taken to renew the track infrastructure between Palma and Inca. Between 1981 and 1983 the line was renewed, but to metre gauge. The line is now served by modern air-conditioned diesel railcars with at least one train hourly in each direction seven days a week. The journey time is 36 minutes.
Since this time the 3 foot tracks from Inca to Empalme, from Empalme to La Puebla and from Empalme to Arta have remained in situ. It is also apparent that station sites have been largely protected from development and that the track-bed has also been protected. During the period that the lines have been shut new road over-bridges have been built at a number of locations. These include new main road bridges over the railway line at Muro and Son Servera.
As can be imagined the ravages of time and the growth of vegetation have taken their toll, but it is apparent that the undergrowth has been partially tackled on parts of the Empalme to Arta section, particularly at San Lorenzo.
Some time ago it was announced that the railway was to be rebuilt from Inca to La Puebla, although I had previously read that the line from Inca towards Manacor (the Arta line) was to be rebuilt first.
Many readers will have followed the rebuilding of the Ffestiniog over the years. I walked on many occasions from Dduallt to Blaeneau Ffestiniog before that railway was finally rebuilt. In a similar vein and whilst on Mallorca I decided to investigate what was really happening "East of Inca".
Inca to Empalme and La Puebla (Sa Pobla)
A visit to Inca station showed that remodelling was taking place and new points were awaiting installation. New metre gauge track could be seen heading off to the east. The track-work appeared to be formed of new rail with every fifth sleeper being a new concrete example. The four sleepers in between being RENFE sleepers cut into two. Where the brand new track was being laid it would appear that all the sleepers were to be new and made of concrete.
I first followed to track-bed from Inca towards Empalme, Llubi, Muro to La Puebla. New track was in position from Inca towards Llubi. Where the actual track stopped the track-bed had been excavated and remade all the way to La Puebla. If it was not for the sleepers laying alongside the track one could have been forgiven for thinking the railway was being converted to a road. The station site at Muro had been cleared and levelled and prepared for track. The platform foundations were in place and five sets of points were awaiting installation.
At La Puebla (now Sa Pobla) it appears that the track will end at a new station about 1 km short of the old one. Five more sets of points were awaiting here.
The distance from Palma to the new "Sa Pobla" location is 46 km. With smart running it should be possible to extend the Palma-Inca operation to operate to "Sa Pobla" and reverse in one hour, thus allowing an hourly service in both directions. No current evidence of any extension from Sa Pobla to Alcudia was noted.
Inca to Empalme, Manacor and Arta
The single track line runs from Empalme to Sineu, Petra and Manacor and then from Manacor to San Lorenzo, San Miguel, Son Servera and Arta.
Ninety nine per cent of the track appears to be in place all the way to Arta, although many parts are very overgrown. Certain road crossings are missing, including where the railway crosses the main road on the level north-west of Sineu. At Sinue the station area awaits trains, although the main station building has been completely overhauled and is now a local museum. The whole station track area appeared to be in place. At all stations along this line large quantities of limestone aggregate appear to have been recently spread over the track area. I presume this is to ensure that the tracks themselves do not present a "hazard" to pedestrians or motor vehicles.
At Petra a smaller station lay sleeping, although the station area appeared almost ready to receive trains.
Manacor was the terminus before the line was extended to Arta. A substantial building and yard awaits trains. The goods shed appears to be missing and an engine shed to one side is not now connected to the system.
The Manacor Arta extension
All buildings on this extension are seriously decorated with red and white vertically striped tiles. As one leaves Manacor the track-bed has been turned into a cycle path surrounded by palm trees for about 1.5 km, although just to the north-west of town the track can be seen again carrying on towards San Lorenzo.
A visit to San Lorenzo shows that it could be the ideal base for a preservation movement. The station is to one side of the town and elevated by about 20 m. There is a substantial and beautiful station building, goods shed and "retretes". ("Retretes" = toilets.) There is a large yard that appears to be used for local functions from time to time. The stone wall around the goods yard was under reconstruction. Vandals have removed the tiles from the roof of the "retretes" and have started stealing tiles from the main station building. It is obvious that before vandalism the buildings were very well constructed. This station is approached by steps from a lower level. The steps pass under the track and come up outside the "retretes". This has reminded me a little of certain Great Central stations.
San Miguel is a smaller and altogether more pedestrian station, before we pass on to Son Servera. I did not see the station at Son Servera and do not know if it is extant. The track remains generally in position, although a level crossing is required across the road to the east of town.
The line now heads north-west and passes over a viaduct and under the main road, where it is crossed by a new road over-bridge, replacing the adjacent crossing on the level. Minor roads are then crossed several times before the line enters Arta station. Almost everything at Arta remains generally intact for the next train, 22 years after closure. Minor development has blocked access to the engine shed and a residential development has recently appeared on the site of the carriage sheds. This still leaves room for three parallel tracks within the ample station area.
In 1972 Arta was served by four trains daily to Palma, departing at 0720, 1010, 1502 and 1802. The journey time was 1hr 58 mins for the 94 km. In 1999 the buses left Arta at 0805, 0930, 1450 and 1920. The journey time would still appear to be two hours for 78.5 km. If the whole line was rebuilt and operated to the timings of the Palma to Inca section the journey would take 1 hr 56 minutes for a 20% longer journey, still an average of only 48 km or 30 miles per hour! What speeds are feasible on cross country metre gauge lines?
The above represents good news for the continuation of the narrow gauge on Mallorca. The Government of Mallorca is certainly taking care of the Palma, Inca, Empalme, Sa Pobla section. The question is "what is planned for the section from Empalme to Manacor and Arta?" I previously read that it was intended to restore the Empalme to Manacor route section by section, but there was no evidence of this underway in August 1999. The continued "physical preservation" of the route all the way to Arta is most encouraging. If the Mallorca government does not wish to reinstate this line there is 30 km of 3 foot gauge track that could be brought back into use, although 3 foot gauge stock would have to be found.
Although I have referred to the track being in place I am not suggesting that a train could be run on it in its existing condition. One could use track trolleys to survey the track and to remove obstacles and undergrowth along the way. It would be a hard job, but ultimately very rewarding. Progress would be slow but I am confident that momentum would soon be gained and that a first section could be reopened. It should be noted that the Manacor to Arta section is close to many summer tourist resorts and that large tour companies already bus people from this area to visit the Soller railway, joining at Bunyola. Note that Bunyola is a 200 km return road journey from Arta, via Palma!
Local attractions within 3 to 10 km distant from the Manacor to Arta railway include the Majorica pearl factory at Manacor, the Caves of Hams and the Caves of Drach at Porto Cristo, the beaches at Porto Cristo, S'Illot, Cala Millor and Canamel, the Caves of Arta, the town of Arta and the beach resort of Cala Ratjada.
There is one motorway in Mallorca, from Palma to Inca, but during August the government announced that future spending would be on transport infrastructure outside motorway construction. There has been pressure for a motorway from Palma to Manacor.
In my dream "Metro one " is created and this runs from Andratx to Palma, the Airport and El Arenal. "Metro two" connects Placa d'Espana (the site of the existing railway stations) with Metro One. An new "overground" metre gauge line would also run from the airport to El Arenal, Llucmajor, Campos, Felanitx and Manacor, joining with a rebuilt line from Inca. From Manacor to Arta the line would have been reinstated as a tourist railway at metre gauge or three foot gauge. The line from Inca to Sa Pobla would have been extended to Alcudia.
The result would be a comprehensive rail transport infrastructure serving the major centres of population and tourism. Transfers could be made "Swiss style" of passengers and luggage from the airport to their destinations. You may ask "Is there a demand for these services?" Apart from serving the local population, Mallorca is now a popular year round destination, particularly in the summer. It is a sobering thought that in the middle weekend of August 1999, 350,000 visitors passed through Palma airport in one weekend! Traffic and parking in Palma has reached breaking point. Fumes fill the air and there is nowhere to easily park. The metro will allow the population and visitors alike to enjoy their capital and coastline and to make their capital a place to be very proud of.
Exploring the railways of Mallorca
Those interested in exploring the railways of Mallorca are recommended to purchase the book by Giles Barnabe, referred to below. Don't leave home with out it! You will also need the Firestone "Mapa Turistico T26" (1:125,000), purchased in Mallorca. This shows the general location of all tracks that are in situ.
The Railways and Tramways of Majorca, Giles Barnabe, Plateway Press, 1993
The Narrow Gauge No 165, Michael Messenger, Map and Article
Mallorca Railways - Photographs available
18A 1 Arta - Station at sunset, from the buffer stop end
19A 2 Arta - Goods shed, with tree growing through central track
18A 3 Arta - Opposite view from "1"
17A 4 Arta - Engine shed. Access from the west end is now blocked
16A 5 Arta - The two road engine shed from the west
15A 6 Arta - "Los retretes"
14A 7 Arta - Station from the rail side. Arta station is 78.5 km by road from Palma and 94 km by rail from Palma. The road sign would appear to originate around 10 km closer to Palma!
13A 8 Arta - Goods shed
12A 9 Arta - Memorial to the promoters and builders of the railway. On main road, opposite the station
25A 10 Llubi - Existing platform to left, remade trackbed runs into distance towards Empalme and concrete sleepers await installation
24A 11 "East of Inca" - New track
23A 12 Between Empalme and Sineu - Unattended 3 foot gauge,
22A 13 Sineu - Station roadside
21A 14 Sineu - Station trackside
19A 15 Petra - Station trackside
13A 16 La Puebla - Station, rebuilt - but not for trains at this location
12A 17 Muro - New road overbridge
11A 18 Muro - Station site, prepared for track
10A 19 Muro - Station building at dusk
7A 20 Ditto
6A 21 Muro - Goods Shed
5A 22 Muro - Goods Shed 3 foot gauge siding
4A 23 Muro - Old sleepers await their fate
3A 24 Muro - Three sets of points await installation
1A 25 Manacor - An impressive station awaits trains
Soller Photographs available
36A 1 Soller - The tram depot with Car 20
25A 2 Soller - Happy passengers await the departure for Palma
34A 3 Soller - The welcoming view that greets passengers arriving
33A 4 Soller - Car F2
32A 5 Palma - Car 21
31A 6 Palma - Carris Portuguese car, certain parts removed
30A 7 Palma - Inside the Carris car
29A 8 Palma - Car 23
Thanks, John, for the inspiration