The International Steam Pages
Once upon a time, long ago,
Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.
Google Maps tell me it's 640km along the northern coast of Spain from San Sebastian to Ferrol. I knew there was a metre gauge railway going the entire distance and there was a passenger service on it. That was reason enough to travel part way plus it was to be my first journey on a gauge less than the New Zealand standard of 3' 6''.
My tale is probably best told from a letter to my parents written at the time:
The metre gauge station at San Sebastian Donostia. Most likely the railcar on the left was the one used from the border.
The following day I photographed this little gem before climbing aboard for the journey to Bilbao around 100km away.
Again quoting from my letter:
Somewhere I must have found a postcard of the little train. I doubt there will be copyright problems in my sharing it after all these years.
At Bilbao I discovered there was a metre gauge line heading south west over the mountains to Leon which looked more interesting than my original idea. More letter quoting:
By road, using Google maps, the distance seems to be just over 300km but the train took eleven hours! I only took one photo during the day and that was at Mataporquera as we waited to cross the opposite number: the only other train seen on the line.
The metre gauge station at Leon with railcars that apparently were for a local service.
A month later I passed through Leon again and went back to the station to photograph the morning train leaving for Bilbao. It was the same size as the train I had travelled on only this time was hauled by 1501 a General Electric loco built in 1964.
The evening arrival though produced a surprise: an eight coach train with a large number of passengers aboard. Another GE, this time 1507, was doing the honours.
The metre gauge in Portugal, which I absolutely fell in love with, is today in terminal decline with very little remaining in use whilst in Spain the same gauge has been modernised and appears to be thriving. The Bilbao to Leon train that once took eleven hours still runs but now completes the journey in a mere seven and a half hours.