The International Steam Pages
Preserved Steam in Portugal, 2009
Important. Potential visitors should note that as of April 2016, the museum
is reported to be 'temporarily closed'.
James Waite reports:
The Portuguese trip on 14th January 2009 went really well.
Started at the museum at Santarem, about 40 miles north of Lisbon. The museum has been there for years, though the exhibits have changed from time to time. It's built in an old carriage shed which is one of the earliest railway buildings in the country - the Lisbon to Santarem railway was the first Portuguese railway. Lots of Moorish arches and other exotic architectural features. Two of the four inmates, the Pacific no. 553 and the metre gauge Esslingen tank no. E103, are old friends as I saw both of them on my first trip to Portugal in 1970 - in fact E103 was the first steam loco I saw in the country as we spotted it from a broad gauge train as it was setting off on a train from Famalicao to Porto on our way into the country. 553 was on shed at Contumil, the main steam depot at Porto which was then brand new, having only been built two or three years previously. A state-of-the-art steam shed! Unfortunately it was knocked down ten years or so ago to make room for a new servicing facility for the CP's Pendolino trains.
1668mm gauge 2-2-2 1 (later CP 1001) "D.
Luiz" Beyer Peacock 328/1862
Santarem museum is open on Tuesdays only from 9.30 to 17.00hrs.
Moved on to the large military base Tancos, 30 miles or so further on. The Portuguese army's sapper brigade is based there and they once had a training railway with several of the Decauville locos. The guard at the entrance to the base didn't speak English but fortunately another soldier came along just as I was giving up hope of getting in. He called in the head of their museum service who came over half an hour or so later. He was quite a young man who spoke good English, was very enthusiastic about the regiment's history and was a really helpful person. He took me to see not only the loco but also their newly set-up museum and showed me a lot of very old pictures of the training railway in action. Quite fascinating. One of the exhibits was a testimonial from a senior British army officer on the western front at the end of WW1 about how well the Portuguese sapper force which had served in WW1 had acquitted themselves. I suppose that maybe some of these locos served there as well. I had forgotten that the Portuguese took part in the war but should have remembered as quite a lot of the CP's locos were supplied from Germany in the 1920's as reparations including no. 553, the Santarem Pacific, which was built by Henschel in 1924. It would have been very difficult finding the place which is in the middle of a huge tract of wild countryside all under military control and which they use for training. I managed to track down what looked like the most likely place for the loco from Google Earth and this worked well. The main entrance to the base is on the N3 main road about 3kms north east of Tancos village and station.
Incidentally it was the troops from Tancos who took to the streets in Lisbon in 1974 in the overthrow of the Fascist government and ensured the downfall of the government by joining the crowds instead of firing on them as they were supposed to do.
500mm gauge 0-4-0T "Tancos" Decauville 103/1889 (from the Batalho de Sapadores de Caminhos de Ferro)
Pressed on to the new National Railway Museum at Entroncamento which opened last June. It's built as a roundhouse and is on the site of a much older roundhouse there though I think the structure must be completely new rather than just a rebuild as the site is just shown as sidings off a turntable on Google Earth. There are 4 steam locos in the display, newly restored to a high standard and two more in a store. One of them, Cockerill 0-4-0T no. 003 is another old friend from Contumil in 1970. There are also several diesels and two electrics from the Estoril Railway. The museum opens Tuesdays to Sundays between 14.00hrs and 17.30hrs. However the loco shed and yard, indeed the whole museum apart from the reception building, are only accessible in group visits leaving the reception building at 14.00, 15.00 and 16.00 hours. The lady on the reception desk speaks very little English and could not explain this to me intelligibly - and there's no mention of this either on the museum's website or at the entrance door. I didn't understand this and made my own way to the shed after buying my ticket a few minutes after the opening time and was turned back by a burly security guard. There don't seem to be many visitors - I was the only person there yesterday - and one might think that they could save the security man's pay and perhaps hire someone else someone else in his place to take visitors round as they arrive. There's not much to look at in the reception building and I should think many casual visitors would move on rather than face a lengthy wait to gain access.
1668mm gauge 0-4-0T 003 Cockerill
There should be several more preserved locos in the town but I only managed to find 2-6-4T no. 094. It lives next to one of the main roads into the town.
Got back home around 21.45 - a cracking day out as Wallace and Grommit would say!
Just for comparison's sake here are scans of my 1970 pics of these locos. 003 has definitely smartened itself up a bit since then though 553 looked as shiny then as it is now!