The International Steam Pages

Salt Pan Railways of Ibiza and Formentera, 2017

Thomas Kautzor reports on his visit on 7th and 8th February 2017.

Salinera Española, S.A. was formed in February 1898 to exploit the salt pans on Formentera and take over operation of the salt pans on Ibiza, which had until then been worked by the Cia. de la Fabrica de Sal de Ibiza (formed in November 1878). 750mm gauge railways were used on both islands.

The “Industrial Locomotives and Railways of Spain and Portugal” (Industrial Railway Society, 1968) mentions one steam locomotive and two diesels on Formentera and one steam locomotive (a Couillet 0-4-2T named SALAS) and two diesels on Ibiza in 1958.

Other locomotives known or thought to have worked on the islands were:

  • Decauville 5-tonnes 0-4-0T 231/1897, new to Salinera Española as No. I
  • Decauville 3-tonnes 0-4-0T 242/1896, new to Salinera Española as No. II
  • Decauville 7.5-tonnes 0-4-2T 305/1900, new to Cia. Arrendataria de las Salinas de Torrevieja, named SALAS II
  • OK 70 HP 0-4-0T 10436/11.1926, new to Union Salinera de España

On Ibiza the salt-pans are located south of the airport, past the village of Sant Francesc de s’Estany. They are still worked by ‘Salinera Española, S.A.’ to this day, who has their warehouses from where salt is loaded directly onto ships 5.5 km south of the turnoff from the main road to the airport. Except for some rails, I could find no traces of the railway anywhere.


A stationary petrol engine built by Langen y Cia., Barcelona under Deutz licence (No. 72505) is on display at the entrance to the warehouses.

A detailed article on the railway on Formentera was written by Alessandro Albè, based on a 1994 visit to the island, and published in Continetal Railway Journal RJ No. 130 (Summer 2002), pp. 388-390, with follow-ups by other correspondents in CRJs No. 133 and 135. On Formentera, the railway connected the salt pans at the northern end of the island (Salines d’en Marroig) with the port of La Savina over a distance of 2 km, with hand-worked branch lines into the salt pans. At La Savina, the salt could either be dumped into storage areas from an elevated track or directly into the waiting ships from the pier. The two Decauville loco 231 and 242 were replaced by two Maffei diesels acquired in 1966, which were mainly used for shunting at the salt pans and at the harbour, while rubber-tyred tractors took over main-line duties. Over 50 side-tipping salt wagons with steel frames and wooden bodies were in use. The system is said to have closed in 1974 and today the former salt-pans are part of a natural protected area.

After closure, a small German-built 0-4-0T sometimes wrongly reported as OK 10436 (as this was a 70hp loco), but more probably a Krauss, ended up at the Formentera ethnographic museum (Museu d’Etnografia de Formentera) in San Francisco Javier, Formentera’s small capital in the centre of the island (3.8 km from La Savina). Decauville 242 was dumped next to the railway’s old shed at La Savina until by 2000 it had been transferred into an open-sided shed in a construction yard in San Francisco Javier’s small industrial area (Poligono Industrial), as can be seen on

The little Krauss at the museum can be visited even outside of the museum’s opening hours as it is on display in the courtyard below the museum, but the museum does have a few photos of the railway, including one showing the two small Decauvilles and another showing a train pulled by a tractor crossing the small bridge just outside La Savina. I did not find the Decauville in the industrial area and was told by the museum curator that it had recently been moved to a different locations, but despite making some phone calls he was unable to find the new location.

The railway’s trackbed between the salt-pans and La Savina has been turned into a walking path. Remains near La Savina include:

  • a small railway bridge;
  • the structure which allowed unloading into the salt storage spaces;
  • the salt pier.

Ownership of the company’s property in La Savina now lies with ‘Formenteramar’ who run a shipyard and apartments/guest houses on the grounds behind the storage area. The rusty frames of 16 tip wagons are scattered around the grounds in front of the apartments (first picture). Another two frames (second picture) are on display in the port of La Savina, opposite the salt pier (Muelle de la Sal/Moll de sa Sal), which is also owned by Formenteramar.

These pictures show the remains of the system today: Firstly the salt pans:

This is a railway bridge:

The unloading area:

Storage area

Savina salt pier

Rob Dickinson