The International Steam Pages

The Montserrat Rack Railway

This is one of a series of pages on this area of Spain, see also:

James Waite reports on his visit in November 2010:

The metre-gauge Montserrat rack railway from Monistrol to its summit station alongside the monastery opened in 1892, long before the former Compania General de Ferrocarriles de Catalanes (CGFC) reached Monistrol. It possessed five 0-4-2RT’s, later supplemented by two locos built by SLM in the 1920’s and an older Swiss loco which came second-hand from the Gornergrat railway at Zermatt. It was the scene of a serious accident in 1953 and closed in 1957. Two of the Cail tanks have survived. One is privately preserved at a house out in the countryside near Balsareny with a first class carriage and one at the transport museum at La Pobla de Lillet up in the Pyrenees. The Gornergrat loco is now kept out of use at Ribes de Freser on the Nuria rack line and no. 8 (SLM 2872/1923) is privately preserved at Hierros Tous, a wrought-iron store alongside the main road at Parets de Vallets in the north eastern outskirts of Barcelona. Two more carriages used also to be preserved but, sadly, were destroyed by fire some years ago. Their underframes are now in the new FGC building at Manresa Alta.

The line was reconstructed by the FGC and reopened in 2004. It now starts at the FGC station at Monistrol, crosses the Llobregat by a long, curving girder bridge of futuristic design before reaching Monistrol town station where there’s a large car and coach park and which is the starting point for many trains. Here the rack starts for the rest of the journey along the old alignment. There’s also a fascinating small museum in the old station house here. In Catalonia 1% of the cost of new construction goes to a heritage fund and this payment from the building of the renewed railway went towards funding the museum. Outside, kept in fine condition, stand no. E2 (SLM3369/1930) one of the old electrics built for the opening of the Nuria line and one of the Nuria line’s old coaches.

Montserrat 0-4-2RT no. 8 "Conde des Lavern" (SLM 2872/1923) preserved and being very well looked after at Hierros Tous alongside the C17 main road at Parets de Valles. Apart from the gauge the locomotive looks very similar to the two 1920's SLM superheated locos on the Snowdon railway and I suspect they may, in fact, be identical.

Montserrat rack loco no. 4 "Victor Balaguer" (Cail 2355/1892) and a first class coach from the line privately preserved in the grounds of a house in a beautiful setting outside Balsareny. In 2016 it was moved to Monistrol. 

0-6-0RE no. E2 "Obispo Guiart" from the Nuria rack railway (SLM 3369/1930) preserved at the Montserrat railway museum at Monistrol town station.

This is the modern railway:

A Montserrat rack train arriving at Monistrol town station, a train crossing the new bridge which carries the newly-rebuilt Montserrat rack railway across the Llobregat valley at Monistrol and a train arriving at Montserrat station.

Rob Dickinson