The International Steam Pages
Preserved Narrow Gauge Steam and More in Aragon
James Waite reports on a trip with Neil Edwards and Thomas Kautzor in September 2011. This account follows their visit to Girona.
Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon, is now easily reached thanks to the Ryanair route from Stansted to Zaragoza airport which is only a short distance from the city. The district around contains what is in many ways the most intriguing collection of narrow gauge locos anywhere in Spain and this is thanks mainly to the foresight of Sr. López, the former proprietor of the Industrias López Soriano scrap metal business at Carretera de Castellón nş 58, 2.8 km south east of downtown Zaragoza. Back in the 1970's, around the time of the closure of most of Spain's magnificent narrow gauge railways, Sr. López, clearly a dedicated enthusiast, bought examples of the steam locos from several of them and put them on display around the scrapyard. Most of them are still there though Sr. López retired many years ago. The business is now run by his son who, on his own admission, doesn't share his father's passion for railways though he is well aware of the locos' historical value. One or two have been sold for display elsewhere. The remainder are now mostly clustered close together in storage areas around the yard instead of being neatly displayed but at least they are still there. The collection currently consists of 21 narrow gauge steam locos, two broad gauge ones and several historic diesels.
Just inside the entrance stand three minute 550mm gauge 0-4-0Ts from the Minas de Barruelo near Palencia. These delightful Couillet locos, nos. 4 (544/1881), 5 (479/1880) and 6 (545/1881) are probably in the best condition of any of the locos thanks to being housed in an open-fronted shed which also makes for easy photography. A fourth of these locos, also confusingly numbered 4, is the only narrow gauge exhibit in the National Railway Museum in Madrid and elsewhere in the López yard two 550mm gauge 4-wheeled Oberusel petrol locos from Barruelo, both built as long ago as 1923, stand out in the open like the rest of the steam locos.
There are three 600mm gauge steam locos, 0-4-0T no. 13 (O&K 4381/1911) - for a picture see some way below - from the FC Guardiola-Castellar de'n Huch line up in the Pyrenees in the north of Catalonia and 0-6-0T no. 104 (O&K 10660/1923) and no. 108 0-8-0 O&K 12185/1930) from the Azucarera de Madrid at La Poveda to the east of the city which today is home to a preserved metre gauge line. It's perhaps a surprise that the yard contains only three metre gauge locos in view the large number of metre gauge lines in Spain. Two of them are elegant Black Hawthorn 4-4-0STs, nos. 1 (618/1881) and 4 (676/1882) from the FC Carcagente-Denia on the Costa Blanca south of Valencia, the country's first metre gauge railway. The third is 0-6-0T no. 6 (O&K 680/1900) from the FC Mollerusa-Balaguer, just over the border in the west of Catalonia near Lleida. This line closed as long ago as 1952 but the loco is one of three to have survived thanks to their further use until 1970 at the Azucarera de Menarguens on the route of the old line.
Kept together at the western end of the yard and best photographed as a group early in the morning from a flyover on the Castellón road close by are no fewer than 9 0-6-0Ts from the 3ft 6ins gauge Rio Tinto copper line in the far south of the country. The oldest of these is C class no. 15 (BP 1440/1875) whose sister loco no 14 now runs on the preserved part of the Rio Tinto line. The remainder, all I class locos, are no. 52 (Dubs 1891/1883), 55 (Dubs 1894/1883), 75 (Dubs 4065/1900), 77 (Dubs 4067/1900), 78 (Dubs 4068/1900), 82 (NBL 16592/1906), 85 (NBL 17075/1906) and 93 (NBL 18320/1908). They're probably in the shabbiest state of any of the López locos and make a poignant sight gathered close together in their corner of the yard - quite a contrast to the restored locos which are preserved at Rio Tinto.
Finally amongst the narrow gauge locos are three of the four E class 0-6-0Ts built for the 4ft gauge Tharsis copper line a little to the west of Rio Tinto. They’re probably no's. 29 "Aljarque" (NBL 16208/1904), 31 "El Cerro" (NBL 16734/1904) and 35 "Esperanza" (NBL 20567/1914). Unlike the Rio Tinto locos these were mostly used only for shunting, at least from the 1920's onwards when the first of the much larger G class 2-8-0Ts arrived to take over the main line work and the railway also had twelve of the F class 0-8-0Ts which were built between 1907 and 1955. Tharsis locos were painted a bright medium green for most of their lives though some at least were black towards the end of their careers including the three at Lopez. However after so many years standing out in the open the green paint is now showing through once more. Unfortunately there's no obvious of telling which one of them is which and, indeed, there's some speculation that instead of no. 29 one of them may actually be no. 30 "Las Cruces" (NBL 16733/1905) the fourth member of the class. None of the big Tharsis locos survived for long after the arrival of the six Alsthom diesels in 1970. Apart from the three at the López yard the line's only other surviving steam locos are the three ancient B class 0-4-0Ts at Tharsis.
The two broad gauge locos are a Maffei 0-4-0T from the Miranda de Ebro sugar factory (4194/1925) and Renfe 0-6-0 030-2213 (Fives Lille 2236/1878), a real gem this and a machine typical of the many 0-6-0's built for service throughout the country in the 19th century.
The López yard is just off the south side of the main road out of Zaragoza towards Castellon, the N232 and A68, just at the bottom of the ramp on the south east side of the bridge over the north-south railway which runs around the eastern side of the city. It’s a little to the north-west of its junction with the Z40 motorway which forms the city’s eastern by-pass and is clearly visible on Google Earth. It’s best to write in advance for permission to visit via their website at www.grupoilssa.com.
Zaragoza possesses three more narrow gauge steam locos. There's a second Mollerusa-Balaguer 0-6-0T, no. 2 (O&K 676/1900) preserved in the car park at Mecanizacion SA in an industrial estate at Camino de Cogullado in the north east of the city where it's very well cared after, a good example of how attractive a plinthed loco can look when it receives a little TLC. In the centre of the dual carriageway just north of the Puente de la Almouza on the opposite side of the Rio Ebro from the cathedral stands Rio Tinto no. 61 (Dubs 2173/1885), a refugee from the López yard. In the northern outskirts of the city at the Estacion Militar de San Gregorio Spanish army 0-4-0T no. 19 (Henschel 16051/1918), one of a large series built for the Tigris Kriegsbahn in what is now Iraq, is plinthed next to the station building. The two young soldiers here were very happy to let us photograph it. There's an army 0-8-0 no. (O&K 10329/1922) preserved nearby but we were warned that it's now in the care of another regiment which is much more secretive. Apparently visiting enthusiasts had had their memory cards wiped just for going there to ask permission to take photos so we decided against trying to visit it. The station is west of the Carretera de Huesca about 2km north of its junction with the A2 motorway near the edge of the city's built-up area.
The Zaragoza enthusiasts society has a large collection of broad gauge diesel and electric locos and some excellently preserved coaching stock - and also three steam locos, all from the FC Andorra-Escatron, the lengthy coal-carrying line south east of Zaragoza which many enthusiasts of a certain age will fondly remember as the last steam-worked broad gauge railway in the country. They are ex-Renfe 2-8-2 no. 141-2124, 4-8-4T no. 2 "Escatron" (Jung 11468/1953) and the delightful 2-6-0 no. 1 "Aragon" (Baldwin 53437/1920) which used to be the shunter at Andorra station during its "real" days. The latter two of these have been in working order and used on steam specials until a few years ago. The collection used to live in an old Renfe wagon repair shop just north of Delicias station in the city. However the land which is occupied was required for the smart new Delicias station built both for the high-speed Madrid-Barcelona AVE line and to provide a central station for the city’s broad gauge trains and the society was provided with a new, purpose-built shed next to the station at Casetas, north west of the city where the lines to Madrid and Miranda de Ebro diverge.
Not far to the west of Casetas is Alagon where a tiny broad gauge 0-4-0T named "La Alcahueta" (O&K 729/1901) is now plinthed in the centre of a roundabout near the junction for the town on the A2 motorway. It’s one of two of these locos which used to work at the Azucarera de Aragon near the old Arrabal station in Zaragoza. It looks just like a standard-issue narrow gauge O&K loco stretched to nearly three times the usual width and with big feet!
It's quite a fast drive along the upgraded road across the dusty plain of north Aragon to Ejea de los Caballeros, an equally dusty commercial town. Another Rio Tinto loco from the Lopez yard, C class no. 18 (BP 3085/1890), lives here. We couldn't find it and have since been told that it's privately preserved in the town. Our main reason, though, for being in Ejea was an kind invitation from Sr. José María Valero to visit his large collection of preserved vehicles kept in secure premises on an industrial estate in the outskirts of the town and, in particular, to attend a steaming of his 600mm gauge O&K 0-4-0T (1166/1903) no. 1 "Hulla" from the large Minas de Utrillas colliery railway in the hills in the south of Aragon. The railway closed in 1966 and, remarkably, all nine of its steam locos survived to be preserved, four of them in the UK. This beautifully preserved loco looked quite magnificent in the bright late afternoon sunshine as it ran up and down its short length of track. Sr. Valero also has a delightful 4-wheeled coach which was built in Germany and delivered to Utrillas at the same time as its first locos. Sr. Valero's collection consists mainly of tramcars and light electric railway vehicles, highlights including three vehicles from the 3ft gauge Soller tramway in Mallorca. There's even an old London trolleybus which ended its working life on the streets of Zaragoza. In his professional life Sr. Valero is an architect specialising in public works and was largely responsible for the design of the new Delicias station in Zaragoza.
There are a few other preserved locos in Aragon which we didn’t reach. Andorra is home to two more 4-8-4Ts from the FC Andorra-Escatron, “Andorra”, a second Jung identical to “Escatron” (11467/1953) and “Samper de Calanda”, a superb MTM machine (721/1958), the last steam loco built by the company. Down in the south at Utrillas another of the Tigris Kriegsbahn Henschels (16032/1918) which ended up on the colliery railway there is now preserved in the town centre. Also in the south FC Sierra Menera 0-6-0WT no. 103 “Orcanera” (Hanomag 1459/1881) is preserved at Ojos Negros, the western terminus of this long mineral railway. It’s the only survivor of its many steam locos and a far cry from the Garratts and 4-8-0s which worked its main line trains to and from the Mediterranean coast at Sagunto. It arrived at the railway second hand from the FC Vascongados in the Basque country. Finally there’s a 750mm gauge Bagnall 0-4-0ST (1716/1903) at the Casa Monte Juliá in the Carretera de Albalate in Esplus, close to the border with Catalonia near Lleida. Sadly it’s missing its saddle tank but otherwise appears to be in good shape.