30th April - 6th May 2006

PTG Tours
Clear the FEVE

Locos Used FEVE 1514, 1515, 1602, 1663 & 1666 (also 3522, 3527 & 3530 on service trains)
RENFE 321 030
Stock Used FEVE 5458 + 5460 + 5453
ALAF 50 71 27 16213-3 + 50 71 27 16216-6 (Docks Trip & Main Tour)
ALAF 50 71 27 16212-5 + 50 71 27 16253-9 + 50 71 27 16249-7 (Main Tour Only)

LE1MT : León to Matallana
MT2RL : Matallana
to La Robla
RL1IR : La Robla
to Iráuregi
IR1LC : Iráuregi
to Luchana
LC2IR : Luchana
to Iráuregi
IR3AZ : Iráuregi
to Áriz
AZ2SR : Áriz
to Santander
SR1MA : Santander
to Maliaño
MA2LO : Maliaño
to Llovio
LO2RP : Llovio
to Ribadesella Puerto
RP2CO : Ribadesella Puerto
to Collanzo
CO1OV : Collanzo
to Oviedo
OV1LA : Oviedo
to Laviana
LA2AB : Laviana
to Aboño
AB1SO : Aboño
to Sotiello
SO2PR : Sotiello
to Pravia
PR1OV : Pravia
to Oviedo
OV2FR : Oviedo
to Ferrol
36223 : Ferrol
to Betanzos-Infesta
36222 : Betanzos-Infesta
to León

Date Loco(s) Route
30/04 1514 + 1515 León (FEVE) - Matallana
30/04 1515 + 1514 Matallana - La Robla
30/04 1514 + 1515 La Robla - Matallana - Boñar - Cistierna - Velilla
30/04 1514 + 1515 (1) Velilla - Jcn at 97.0km
30/04 1514 + 1515 Jcn at 97.0km - Guardo - Mataporquena - Aranguren - Bilbao Concordia
01/05 1514 + 1515 Iráuregi (2) - Luchana
01/05 1515 + 1514 Luchana - Iráuregi loop (639.6km)
01/05 1514 + 1515 Iráuregi loop (639.6km) - Basurto - Áriz (7.55km)
01/05 1515 + 1514 Áriz (7.55km) - Basurto - Aranguren - Marrón - Orejo - Santander (FEVE)
02/05 3522 + 3527 Santander - Orejo - Liérganes (3)
02/05 3527 + 3522 Liérganes - Maliaño (3)
02/05 1666 Maliaño - Puerto de Raos
02/05 1666 Puerto de Raos - Maliaño
02/05 1666 Maliaño - Santander (530.15km)
02/05 1666 (1) Santander (530.15km - 529.90km)
02/05 1666 Santander - Torrelavega - Llanes - Ribadesella - Llovio
02/05 1666 (1) Llovio - Llovio 397.3km
02/05 1666 Llovio 397.3km - Ribadesella Puerto
03/05 1666 Ribadesella Puerto - El Berrón - Oviedo - San Claudio - Trubia - Mieres - Collanzo
03/05 1666 Collanzo - Mieres - Trubia - San Claudio - Oviedo
04/05 1663 Oviedo - El Berrón - La Felguera - Pola de Laviana
04/05 1663 Pola de Laviana - Sama
04/05 1663 (1) Sama – Modesta run round loop
04/05 1663 Modesta run round loop - Modesta
04/05 1663 (1) Modesta - Modesta run round loop
04/05 1663 Modesta run round loop - Sama - El Berrón - Sotiello - El Musel
04/05 1663 El Musel - Sotiello
04/05 1663 Sotiello - Gijón
04/05 1663 Gijón - Aviles - Pravia
04/05 3530 Pravia - San Esteban de Pravia (4)
04/05 3530 San Esteban de Pravia - Pravia (4)
04/05 1663 Pravia - Grado - Trubia
04/05 1663 Trubia - San Claudio - Oviedo
05/05 1602 Oviedo - Trubia
05/05 1602 Trubia - Pravia - Navia - Ferrol
06/05 321 030 (1) Ferrol station - Ferrol 41.9kp
06/05 321 030 Ferrol 41.9kp - Ferrol Docks
06/05 321 030 (1) Ferrol Docks - Ferrol 41.9kp
06/05 321 030 Ferrol 41.9kp - Ferrol station
06/05 321 030 Ferrol – Betanzos-Infesta – Lugo - Monforte de Lemos - Ponferrada - León (RENFE)

Notes :
(1) Propelling move.
(2) Tour participants travelled from Bilbao Concordia by service train due to lack of platform capacity at Bilbao.
(3) Service train used due to lack of line capacity and run round loop at Liérganes.
(4) Service train used due to lack of line capacity.

Source : Janet Cottrell

Tour Review
(by Janet Cottrell)

This ambitious tour sounded good enough to tempt us into a new country, although we have dipped a toe into Spain from Portugal on a couple of previous occasions - mostly with Portuguese traction. How about something totally different? A whole week on the metre gauge FEVE system in Northern Spain during which we should cover the almost entirely unit worked system on a hauled train - would we manage it? Read on....

Sunday 30th April 2006
The tour started at León which is out on a limb compared to the rest of the system - so the first day was to be a fairly major trek across the mountains of Northern Spain, visiting two freight branches on the way. Farce number one ensued before we had even got to the train when the coach driver picked the first group up from the hotel and set off using his sat-nav to guide him. We had not gone very far when somebody joked that he was going to the wrong station and, sure enough, after taking a circuitous route we arrived at the RENFE broad gauge station. A minor panic ensued when the coach driver admitted that he was not aware of a second station (he was not a local) but the sat-nav was hastily reprogrammed and we sped off back towards the town. The driver was under pressure in that he had another trip to make and in his haste shot through at least five sets of red traffic lights - fortunately there were not many other vehicles around, or police for that matter, the fact that the plague of traffic cameras does not appear to have reached Spain yet also helped matters.
Finally deposited at the correct station, we arrived just as the driver started our two locos up and revved them up in engine only, the resulting racket being most satisfactory. One downside of this was that the front coach had filled up with exhaust fumes, never mind though - open the windows and go out to get some photos whilst the air cleared. A bonus was the presence of 1660 on the weekly hauled train to Bilbao, this was the first time for a considerable number of years that León had hosted two loco hauled trains, nearly all passenger trains on the FEVE system are units.
Once under way, the two locos lived up to expectations in the noise stakes - in fact they would put many full sized machines to shame and a rumour was heard that the earlier 1500 class machines are even louder! These beasts are mostly used to triple head 15 wagon coal trains on the mountainous route from La Robla and Mataporquera to Velilla, surely the sight and sound of one of these should dispel any notions of narrow gauge trains being "toys".
Soon we were at Matallana where we ran round and proceeded down our first freight branch to La Robla. RENFE also had a presence here with both freight and passenger facilities, although the latter service appeared to be rather sparse as is normal over here in the rural areas. The next problem reared its head at this point when the gates to the mine were unable to be opened, thus preventing the train from running round. The fact that we left Matallana early helped here as the traincrew split the engines and engaged in a series of shunts to get round the problem and providing the tour participants with plenty opportunities for photos.
Now back at the front of the train and heading up into the hills, the locos provided some excellent entertainment until it was time to drop down into Cistierna for a depot visit and to pick up the catering crew and lunch. Ensconced in the new depot building were two sets of three 1501 locos and a couple of units - thanks to the Jefe de Estácion for unlocking the shed for us to have a look.
A couple of hundred metres back down the line was another small shed with a derelict diesel parked outside and a few wagons. The latter were residing on the start of a disused branch which led to a quarry (I believe), it does not appear on the official FEVE map so must have been out of use for a considerable time.
Following a break of around 80 minutes, we were off again with more noise from the locos to accompany some lovely scenery in this unspoilt part of Spain. Once the catering crew had sorted themselves out, it was time for dinner - an interesting experience as we careered up hill and down dale round sharp bends, perching our trays on the rather narrow tables. There was an unscheduled halt in the proceedings after the first course when the generator under the bar car took exception to the amount of equipment it was being asked to power. This eventually caused us to stop in the station at Vado de Cervera to rectify the problem, conveniently next to the luxury "El Trancantábrico" touring train which was parked in the opposite platform whilst its clientele were being taken by coach round the local sites of interest. Getting out of our train proved an interesting challenge as the doors had locked shut when the generator stopped working. Most convenient that the locos were single cab with the access door at the rear as all we had to do was undo the bolt, open the coach end door, step across the buckeye coupler onto the walkway outside the cab and climb down the loco steps!
El Transcantábrico is 12 coaches long so it was a bit of a trek to get to the front for a picture, but well worth it with a scenic mountain backdrop to set off the blue and white livery. Generator problems sorted, we set sail for Bilbao as lunch was finally completed and the front coach settled down to bellow at 1514 and 1515 as they attacked the hills with gusto. Biggest bellow of the day however was reserved for the naturist club that we passed near Arija who were having a meeting in what looked like the playground of a local school.
No further dramas occurred until we arrived outside the depot at Balmaseda where the train stopped on the running line outside the depot for us all to decamp to view its contents. Unfortunately nobody had informed the security guard who was rather withered when a trainload of cranks descended on his area but our FEVE guide was soon on hand to placate him. There was plenty to look at here including a couple of the older Alsthom diesels which have all been withdrawn, heavily rebuilt or sold. The examples seen here were the only FEVE owned one left (1059) and one owned by a track maintenance company.
A late change to the original itinerary was that we would have to change to a local train at Iráuregi as there were capacity problems at Bilbao, but a word in the relevant ear saw a change of plan and the special would go all the way into Bilbao. This was duly accomplished so we arrived in style to end the first day, which has to rate as one of the most enjoyable and memorable days railtouring that I have ever had.

Monday 1st May 2006
This morning was free for our own exploration and despite it being a bank holiday there was plenty to do. Many people opted for a ride on one of the local suburban services or the fairly new tram system before making their way to the FEVE station at Concordia in order to catch a suburban service out to Iráuregi. At the station the reason for the tour being unable to start from there became apparent; the El Transcantábrico had caught us up and was occupying one of the two platforms, the other platform being constantly in use for the local services.
On arrival at Iráuregi, the special was parked in the sidings at the start of the Luchana branch so a small group of us trekked down the track in order to put our bags on the train and take some photos. Whilst we might have been expecting the station red-cap or the traincrew to complain, what wasn't expected was to be thrown off the train by the cleaner as he had not finished yet! It looked as though he had come down by car and whilst we were waiting the catering crew also turned up with the food for dinner in a minibus.
Finally everything was ready and the train propelled back into the platform, nearly taking out a white van on a level crossing, to pick up the rest of the tour party who had made their way on later trains. Our first port of call was the freight only branch to Luchana and we made the now closed station at the very end of the line, beyond the sand unloading point and adjacent to the suburban RENFE station. There was also a line leading to a steel terminal but I am not sure how far this went or if it would count as another line or a siding off the branch.
We returned to Iráuregi and ran round in the loop a short distance beyond the station before heading towards Bilbao and our next freight branch at Ariz. This looked as if it had never had a passenger service but the terminal was adjacent to the metre gauge Euskotren system and some opportunities were had to picture the tour train together with passing Euskotren units. At this point it was announced that we would have a "false start", so once everybody had lined up the train was set back into the terminal before the driver set off at full thrash towards us. We had been told that this driver was an enthusiast and he was obviously "up for it" - better not ask what the line speed here is! Just in case anybody missed their shot, there was an encore by which time the noise had attracted the attention of some very bemused locals.
The remainder of the afternoon was unremarkable apart from the din from the front as our "crank" driver put the pair of locos through their paces and all too soon we reached Santander for our next night's stay. The hotel here was a fair distance from the station and it took our coach driver some time to make the two journeys required to transfer everybody due to the sun seeking bank holiday crowds.

Tuesday 2nd May 2006
After last nights extended journey, arrangements were made to leave a bit earlier - needless to say there was hardly any traffic and the trip was accomplished in about 6 minutes. First off today was a ride on a local EMU to cover the Liérganes branch, there being problems with pathing / accommodating a loco hauled train here. Liérganes was a terminus at the end of a single line with two platforms and no run round loop and as FEVE do not appear to allow top and tailing there was no time to fit a loco hauled service round the hourly units. Apparently the offer is there to do the line loco hauled "next time" but on a Sunday when the service is two - hourly and there is enough line capacity to send a second loco down as well as return the first loco light engine once the train has left.
We left the unit at Maliaño and rejoined the special which now had 1666 at the sharp end, pointing towards Puerto de Raos. A disappointment here was that the Port Authorities had refused to let us alight as it is a "free port", but almost since the tour had started we had been chased by two photographers in a white Lada jeep and they had somehow managed to blag their way in and phot our train whilst it ran round. As they were friends of our tour leader, they made a kind offer to e-mail some pics to PTG and that anybody who wanted a copy could ask for one.
Another run round saw us heading back towards Santander, but not to the station - we stopped short and reversed into a siding so that we could get off and view the depot and the works. There was more than enough time for this and the star attraction in the works were the remaining three 1401 class locomotives still with FEVE. These have been out of service for some time and have been offered for sale - work had started on painting them, but appeared to have ground to a halt. A helpful member of staff identified which was which for us as there were no numbers visible on the outside.
There was still loads of time before departure so a small group of us decided to investigate the nearby RENFE depot. We reached the main road just in time to see a 4x4 bump into the rear of a motorcycle standing at a roundabout. Just for a second it seemed as if he would stay upright and stop, but he wobbled and almost gracefully keeled over, the errant car driver stopped along with other motorists so we deduced that they would have enough witnesses and carried on towards the depot. We had only gone a short distance before the first sirens were heard and well within five minutes there were two ambulances at the scene, happily the motorcyclist did not appear very seriously injured but was carted off on a stretcher by one of the ambulance crews to be checked over.
Most of the depot contents could be picked off by binoculars as we proceeded towards the entrance, just inside was a half roundhouse housing some locos and a turntable on which a class 269 electric was being turned. At this point our presence was detected and John, our tour leader, who had caught up intervened. Following much discussion a guide was detailed to show us round, a real result as we were fully expecting to get thrown out, gracias RENFE!
The downside of all this was the long trek back to Santander station, we could have caught a broad gauge train there but there was still the FEVE running shed to view, also electro diesel 1908 on a freight to photograph. The run to our next overnight location of Ribadesella was very scenic again but rather quieter that the last two days, 1666 being almost silent compared to the two 1501,s.
Rather than alight at the station of that name, we took the little used line to Ribadesella Puerto, retained for one train a year and a passenger train at that which is run in conjunction with a canoe race in the summer. There were no run round facilities here so the ECS would have to propel back to the junction and likewise to the port in the morning.
Ribadesella is an old fishing port and was a very pleasant place to spend the evening, the group was spread across two hotels, both overlooking the beach - the one that myself and John were allocated to looked like the Addams family house outside, it was nothing like it inside though.

Wednesday 3rd May 2006
This morning it was time to leave our idyllic fishing village and return to city dwelling at Oviedo. 1666 was waiting at the short platform at the port - although the intention had been to have a different loco each day it was proving rather difficult in practice as we were told that FEVE were short of locos and in any case there was nothing else at Ribadesella to swap with.
More stunning scenery and lack of noise from the front until we arrived at El Berrón, with its unusual flat crossing between two double track narrow gauge lines. We had a long break here to visit the main works for the whole system. There was much of interest here including a slightly damaged 1904, a much more badly damaged 1614 and several 1000 class stored outside on stands without bogies. There was plenty of time to look round and many people even managed to return to the station in time to see a double headed freight train heading west.
Whilst wandering round the depot, 1657 had been noted leaving and many people had hoped that it would be swapped for 1666 - but it was not to be so we were stuck with the latter for the rest of the day. Upon leaving El Berrón, it was only a short trip to Oviedo where there was another long break - the original info posted on the PTG web site had indicated a depot visit, but he thought that there was unlikely to be another facility so close to El Berrón proved correct so a stroll round the city seemed to be the best bet. A spell of waiting round the station did not appeal as the RENFE and FEVE stations were amalgamated a few years ago and covered over, making the whole thing a gloomy cavern.
This afternoon was to be taken up by a trip down the longest line on the Oviedo suburban system to Collanzo. The line was very scenic once we got away from suburbia but still had some industry down it and also ran parallel to the RENFE line at one point. The train stopped short of the station as the run round loop was outside, but pushed back into the station after the loco had run round so it looked as if our Spanish friends had caught on to this track bashing lark.
As it was just the one branch today there was quite an early finish, so an extra trip was arranged using our coach to take anybody who was interested to the Railway museum in Gijón as it would be closed at the time the tour was in the area tomorrow. A few of us decided to take the RENFE train down there to cane in the track - not a problem as there is a good suburban (Cercanias) service down there and fares are cheap in Spain anyway. The museum is only a short walk from the station and was worth a visit even though all the "blurb" was in Spanish, a nice touch were the little maps provided by each exhibit which showed where the item was used in service, together with a picture of it in normal service in most cases.
As our small group got to the entrance the previously sunny weather broke with a vengeance but the rain did stop so we could view the outside exhibits without getting drenched.

Thursday 4th May 2006
A fairly leisurely start today as we set out to pick off the remaining lines round Oviedo and Gíjon. Words had been had about changing the loco so the bashers were happy when white and yellow liveried 1663 appeared at the head of the train, more silence but at least a different one to go into the book. Up until yesterday evening, the weather had been excellent with plenty of sunshine and it was still pouring with rain this morning. Luckily it had eased off by our first stop at Pola de Laviana and more or less ceased shortly afterwards and we were fortunate enough that it stayed dry for the rest of the day.
The first line of interest was the short branch to Modeste which was reached via a reversal at Sama. Rather than run round here, we propelled back south about 1 1/2 kilometres to another run round loop, negotiating a flat crossing with the RENFE branch to El Entrego in the process. A further reversal saw us pulling into a coal washery, where we stopped just short of the loading area. Despite there being mixed gauge track here, only FEVE served this location and there were a rake of coal hoppers under the silo ready for loading. Everybody was allowed out for photographs, something which the carriage cleaners would be cursing about later as the overnight rain had turn the coal spillage into a black gooey mess which, despite our best efforts, became plastered all over the footsteps and floors.
It looked as if there was a problem with the loading equipment as there was a digger busily chugging back and forth filling the wagons up – there was no loco present so when it wanted the wagons moved down it merely gave them a shove with it’s bucket, I was half expecting them to carry on straight into our train!
Words had been exchanged with the train crew and a photographic opportunity organized for those who wanted a picture of our train crossing the RENFE line. This was simple enough, those who wished to participate merely got off at the reversing point and walked to the other side of the main line and waited there until the special was signalled across before clambering back on board.
Rejoining the main line at Sama, we then headed north to the docks at El Musel near Gijón with a pause at the junction station of Sotiello whilst a freight train emerged from the docks line. About 6km down the branch there was a manned yard at Aboño where initial thoughts were that we could go no further as there was a rake of wagons on each road. However whilst many of us were off the train taking photos, it set back a couple of hundred metres and re-appeared heading towards a hopper discharge shed, the track of which also went down to the docks. We hopped back on and went a bit further before getting off again to view the last outstanding 1500 class for sight - for some reason 1511 and 1512 are based at El Berrón whilst the remainder of the class are found much further west, usually on the Bilbao to La Robla line.
The docks were accessed through a tunnel immediately outside of which was an overhead conveyor belt for transporting iron ore. The line itself ended in a simple run round loop next to some piles of coal, so it was out for yet more photographs and to top up the coal dust quota on the coach floors. On the return journey, a request was made for a photo halt under the ore conveyors, but this was refused on the grounds that it was “too messy” which caused some merriment amongst the passengers.
Gijón station was the next port of call where we had a break, not only was the museum closed (hence the reason for last night’s visit) but most of the shops were as well, a feature that I had noticed in other places – the siesta is still very much a feature of Spanish life at least in this area.
When we returned to our train, there was a little pile of coal dust on the platform adjacent to each door, as much of a witness on the usefulness of the coach steps as a foot-scraper as the fact that the train must have stopped a bit violently when it was propelled into the platform.
Leaving the industrial areas of Gijón behind, we proceeded westwards past the disused branch from Aviles to Puerto de San Juan de Nieva and on to Pravia and a second trip on a service train to San Esteban. There was a run round loop at the latter location but the 10km long single line and hourly service would not give us sufficient time to run round and get back to Pravia without delaying a service train.
Back at Pravia we bumped into our old friend the “Trancantábrico” with 1901 at the helm, heading towards it’s overnight stop at Luarca and there was also a double headed freight to pass before we could head south a our final reversal for the day at Trubia.
Final act of the day was to have a seminar to say farewell to a passenger all the way from Australia. The gentleman in question was spending a few weeks on his annual European holiday and this tour had coincided neatly with the start of it, he was familiar with the area having first visited some 30 years ago so this tour was mostly revisiting old haunts for him. How is that for being well travelled!

Friday 5th May
Last day on the narrow gauge today, no branches or fiddly bits – just a 300km odd run to the end of the line at Ferrol. A class 1600 single cab loco had been requested, as once we had run round at Trubia it could be cab first the rest of the way and could thus be single-manned, shades of class 20. Sure enough 1602 duly produced and, unlike the earlier 1500 class, it looked as if the driver’s seat could be reversed so it could be driven in either direction although there was only one control stand so the driver would be “left handed” when driving bonnet first.
Down the well-trodden track between Oviedo and Trubia for the last time, the old FEVE route from Oviedo to Fuso de la Reina was closed when the two stations at Oviedo had been amalgamated and the broad gauge line to Trubia converted to narrow gauge to replace it. Plenty of photos taken at Trubia, our only opportunity to picture 1602 “nose first”, then we set out for the long haul to Ferrol. 1602 was no more interesting thrash-wise than the 1650/1660 class but the scenery again made up for this. Following a stop at Pravia to pick up our Hungarian passenger (Ferenc) who had left his camera at Oviedo and needed a fast taxi to catch us up, we began to gradually lose time. This was made up as we had a long break in Navia which included the opportunity to phot another freight, but we found out that 1602 was running on three traction motors so more staggering was likely to be had.
Sure enough, we had lost over twenty minutes by the time we had reached our next stop at Ribadeo where El Trancantábrico was in the process of picking up it’s passengers following their boat trip. There was time for some pictures before it left in front of us and, as the single line sections are rather long on this line, a further wait until it had reached the next manned station before we proceeded. Once clear, we staggered off in pursuit only to pass it yet again before we finally chugged into Ferrol nearly 40 minutes late causing those who wanted to have a spin behind the 333 on the 2100 to Madrid a few anxious moments.
And so endeth our narrow gauge marathon, six whole days and nearly 1500km on the “little trains” – so did the tour live up to it’s name? Using the official FEVE map (see www.feve.es click on Mapa de la Red) yes it did, apart from the branch from Aviles to Puerto de San Juan de Nieva which we were advised some two months previously that it had been disused for some time ….. But, not shown on the map are the curves at El Berrón - West to South (covered en route to Laviana), East to South (technically a siding I presume as it goes through the depot/works area) and West to North, which we did not do. The latter does have passenger trains over it and indeed some people did fit it in by returning from Gíjon via the FEVE on Wednesday but it was a shame that we did not cover it, especially bearing in mind the long break at Oviedo a short while later.
In spotting terms we had missed out on seeing three 1900 class. One passed us whilst we were overnighting at Ribadesella on the West – East Trancantábrico (there are two trains which do the same itinerary but start from opposite ends). The other two locos were presumed to be on the through steel train working to the Euskotren system the running of which was such that we would not have seen them. Also not seen were 4 two car 2600 DMU’s which are used on the Cartagena – Los Nietos line in the south east of the country, also run by FEVE despite being divorced from the main system by several hundred miles, so we did as well as could be expected on that front.

Saturday 6th May
But wait! We haven’t finished yet. If you remember, we started at León so it was logical to go back there rather than leave everybody in the wilds of western Spain. Fortunately it is a relatively short journey on the broad gauge and gave an ideal excuse for a bit of ALCo haulage and another stab at getting the Ferrol docks line in, the previous attempt had failed when part of the track was mistakenly removed as part of the station remodelling!
The original loco for today was to have been 1812 from the Monforte museum, but problems some months previously meant that the stock from León museum was chartered instead and the loco changed to a class 321 ALCo from the RENFE Infrastructure sector.
The loco and stock had been there to greet us last night and by this morning had run round facing León. There was still a farce to act out after we had piled on, then were turfed out so a shunt could be performed – the loco taking two coaches from the five out of the station, running round them and returning to the same platform. This made some sort of sense as it meant that we would propel out of the station and be engine leading down the dock branch, a sensible precaution as the line disappeared into a tunnel and looked as if it had not been used for some time.
Having reversed, we gingerly crawled down towards the docks. Just inside the tunnel, pushed up against the wall but clear of the track was a single bed, no doubt some tramp’s answer to the Hilton although there was no sign of any occupant or bedclothes/cardboard boxes.
The port police were out to greet us and escort the train across a couple of road crossings, on and on we crept until a fancy stainless steel fence appeared on the left and got closer and closer to the track. Suddenly there was a loud crack, and we stopped. John, our tour leader had warned us that the museum people were of the opinion that we might come off the road due to the poor state of the track, which is why they might have only taken two coaches – at least we could summons our road coach and return to the other three and apparently there was another loco that we could call on as well, but goodness knows where that had to come from. After a few minutes without movement, people started bailing out to see what was occurring, we were not derailed but were perilously close to being buffer locked and one of the museum staff was in the process of loosening the screw couplings so that we could continue. Most people had disembarked by now and were busily committing the whole scenario to various types of media but our Spanish friends had been well briefed on the importance of reaching the end and were trying to inch onwards once again. A few yards later they had no choice except to stop, not only was the loco about to head off down the concrete courtesy of a rather dodgy crossing, one of the coaches was gradually impaling itself on the fence - luckily the only damage was to part of the aluminium window frame, it could have been a lot worse if they had carried on.
We started to set back very slowly, so slowly in fact that some people ran ahead of the train, took a photo and hopped back on. Eventually we got back to Ferrol where the café did a roaring trade whilst the two adventurous coaches were re-united with their friends – all I can say is what a riot! You can just imagine this happening in the UK (not!).
Although 321 030 was a replacement for 1812, the important thing was that it was an ALCo and it made all the right noises with the obligatory clag, in fact many members of the ALCo roadshow turned up just for this day. We had an impromptu photo stop at Curtis whilst the overnight Barcelona to La Coruña passed and this was followed by some 20km of solid thrash as we headed into the mountains before we had a mid afternoon break in Ponferrada. It was here that two colleagues managed to get a notice for the train from the red cap and it showed that we should have left Ferrol at 0655, AFTER doing the docks line! The fact we had departed at 0800 to the docks meant that we were now running rather late and left Ponferrada at 1623 instead of 1403 as per the notice. Apart from those who wanted the 1812 Talgo from León I don’t think that anybody was too worried as we set off, the front coach become distinctly more crowded for the highlight of the trip, more thrash into the mountains complete with a spiral at La Granja to gain height. The ALCo was performing well and shot up the gradient with the thrash handle wide open – absolutely hellfire and accompanied by stunning views. We had an excellent run back and made the Madrid Talgo with relative ease much to the relief of those booked on it. For the rest of us, we had to wait whilst the coach was called up to return us to the hotels and hereby hangs a tale. The coach driver was rather surprised when he got the call to say that we had arrived shortly after 1800, he had pulled up at the station just after 1600 as per the notice timings but there was no sign of the group. He found the red cap who said that the train would not be arriving until around 1930, so he had gone away to wherever coach drivers hang out, to wait and come back later. It transpired that one of the volunteer museum staff with the train was employed in the RENFE traffic office at León so a phone call must have been made to find us a path back post haste, we had even shot past a waiting Talgo on the last stretch of the journey – I hope that it had not been delayed too much!

Whatever the truth of the matter (and I am sure that the above is not too far removed) it was a fitting end to the tour, a week that I am sure will be remembered by all who took part for a very long time indeed. It only remains to thank Paul Spraklen of PTG Tours and his “man in Spain” John Bennett who kept us all in line and informed despite managing to break his arm on the way back from Collanzo on the Wednesday!

Photos of the trip can be found at
http://jandjcottrell.fotopic.net/c956522.html (FEVE) and
http://jandjcottrell.fotopic.net/c957411.html (RENFE)

Janet Cottrell

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