The International Steam Pages
Locomotives at Lousal and Aljustrel, Portugal, December 2008
James Waite reports:
Thomas Kautzor was able to visit the closed mine at Aljustrel in February 2020 and confirms that the broad gauge Cockerill (3099/1926) is still there, as is a large collection of industrial diesels (8th April 2020).:
Ken Livermore was here in 2014 and found the only significant change was that HSP 1486 has acquired some wagons and has moved location!
Some months after this report was uploaded James had a reply from the local heritage organisation to an enquiry about what happened to the KS Wren that was at São Domingos until 6 years or so ago. Anyone else visiting may want to follow this up...
"About the steam locomotive you were seeking, I believe you got some wrong information but there are a few things that I think I can tell you without failing to the truth: the only locomotive I have ever seen exhibited in Mina de São Domingos was a diesel one provenient from Aljustrel and it was patent near the cinema, in the exterior, during the exhibition made to commemorate the 150 years of the modern mining efforts; as far as I am told, there is an old steam locomotive that once worked in Mina de São Domingos and is now exhibited in the open air in a tourist village of Algarve, near Albufeira (I stress, this is what people tell me, I haven't confirmed it yet); as I am told, the tourist resort has an operational locomotive to be used in the local transport of tourists to and from the beach but the old steamer is in the middle of some roundabout inside or at the entrance of the resort.
About your interest in old steamers I must say that the Fundação Serrão Martins has in perspective the production of an exhibition on the history of the Mina de São Domingos - Pomarão railroad, process while a lot of information will be gathered and released to the public; if you are interested in contributing to the process or receiving information about it, please let me know.
This was my first visit to southern Portugal. The coastal strip around Faro airport is quite heavily built-up and not really very enjoyable. There’s a ridge of hills a few miles inland which separate the Algarve from Alentejo and the rest of Portugal. These are quite unspoilt and beyond them lies mile after mile of gently rolling countryside. Much of it is given over to growing cork oak trees; the production of wine corks makes an important contribution to the local economy. Towns and villages are few and far between.
I stopped first at Lousal, roughly midway between Faro and Lisbon. Lousal was the most westerly mine on the copper-bearing seam which stretches through Aljustrel and Sao Domingos and, over the Spanish border, to Tharsis and Rio Tinto. Found the broad gauge HSP loco there (1486/1926). I don't think it's moved for many years.
I wonder what its connection with Lousal really is. It was one of two identical locos supplied by HSP to the Aljustrel mine in 1926 at a time when it was acquired and developed by a Belgian company which no doubt explains the choice of loco builder. Later on these two locos came into the ownership of SAPEC which runs an industrial chemical factory at Praias Sado near Setubal, not far from Lisbon. HSP 1485 is supposed to be still at Praias Sado though no-one reports having seen it for a long time. The Lousal mine was owned by SAPEC at some stage which may explain how the loco comes to be there. The mine is long-closed and the loco sits on the trackbed of a branch from the main Lisbon-Algarve railway which runs a few hundred metres to the east. One of the main buildings has been converted into a small museum but the immediate surroundings of the loco are derelict. There may also have been a narrow gauge railway at the mine but details of this are, at best, hazy.
A complete surprise at Lousal was Minas de Aller no. 3, a 600mm gauge 0-6-0 pannier tank which used to be preserved privately in Madrid. There were originally six of these locos, five of which were built by Corpet in the late 1800’s and one, much later, at the mines’ works. Aller is near Ujo, some distance south of Oviedo. The loco now stands in a large grassy area in the village, perhaps 400 metres south of the mine. It should be Corpet 467/1887 though it carries works plates on both sides which read 542/1891. These actually relate to no. 5, the only other one which is preserved at the Gijon museum. I've always thought that these locos with their unusual indirect drive are very pretty machines and I tried to get to see them at Aller when I was in Oviedo in 1970. However I was too late and I'm glad finally to have caught up with one of them now! (Rod Smith reports that he visited in March 2017 and found that it is now on a plinth close by the Mining Museum alongside the Rural Hotel Sta. Barbara dos Mineiros.)
Found the two 920mm gauge OK locos at Aljustrel which were the main objective of the trip. Odd gauge! The first mining concession here was granted by the Portuguese government in 1847. In 1876 the concession was taken over by the Companhia de Mineracao Transtanga who built the 920mm gauge line and bought three locos from the Falcon Engine Co. at Loughborough. Later more locos were supplied by other builders. In 1926 a Belgian company took over the mine, built a branch from the CP system at Castro Verde, several km to the south, bought the two broad gauge HSP locos and some 920mm gauge OK locos. The 0-6-0T and 2-6-0T which survive now were purchased in the 1930's to cope with heavier traffic as the mine developed. At some stage the mine acquired a vertical-boilered Cockerill loco and some electrical equipment in the place of the two HSP locos when they passed to SAPEC, perhaps in the 1930’s when the CP took over the branch from Castro Verde. The ng and bg lines were dieselised by the 1960's and the mine closed in the early 1990's.
The 0-6-0T has been on display for many years and stands beside a roundabout on the N2 main road outside the town.
The whole of the railway yard there survived more or less intact until about 5 years ago although the line closed in the early 1990's. The yard is now quite actively being redeveloped with much new security fencing and new buildings at the lower end of the site. There's a new access road which crosses the CP Aljustrel branch line 300mm or so higher and no attempt has been made to reinstate the CP track. Virtually all the 920mm gauge track has gone and so far as I could see the old engine shed, which until very recently housed some ng and bg diesel locos, the OK 2-6-0T and the Cockerill broad gauge loco, has also gone. Security was tight and I was politely but firmly refused entry. The 2-6-0T has now moved to the top end of the yard, outside the security fence and much nearer the town. It's still wearing the same rusty green/grey paint scheme which it had when it came out of service in the 1960's - though maybe it wasn't so rusty then!
I pressed on to Sao Domingos, a remote spot near the Portuguese/Spanish border which had a 1067mm gauge line 17km or so long to Pomarao, a port on the Guadiana river, and a 550mm gauge system at the mine. There used to be a 550mm gauge Kerr Stuart Wren Class 0-4-0ST named “Mosca” (KS 1251/1913) preserved here but no-one has seen it for a long time. I didn't find it but Sao Domingos was a place I was quite keen to see with or without its loco. Spent an entertaining hour there exploring the church, built in 1950 but looking considerably older, the old quarries and the yards as well as the buildings in the town/village which was almost deserted. I was accosted by a group of old men outside a taberna who I hoped might know about the loco but they could not help at all and seemed to be the worse for wear drink-wise. There's a very grand hotel in the village quite out of keeping with its impoverished surroundings, the Estalagem de Sao Domingos, 5* to boot, so I called in there in the hope of finding someone who spoke English. The receptionist spoke excellent English and told me that there had been an exhibition there last year which included a loco but she didn't know where it normally lived. I guess it must be the Wren but plainly this needs to be explored further! Fodder for another trip perhaps...
Locomotives at Aljustrel mines:
Diesel and electric
I’m most grateful to Martin Murray and to Jose Costa Ferreira for their help in planning the trip and with these notes.