The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Ponferrada - Villablino - Trains mainly on the Plains, May 1980

Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.

Ponferrada - Villablino was the first real working steam railway I'd visited since steam had finished on New Zealand Railways nine years earlier. Sure I'd visited a few preservation sites plus been on a couple of mainline excursions in England but although interesting they weren't the real thing. This 64km long, coal carrying system in Spain would have to have been responsible for reawakening my interest in the real thing: an interest which has lasted to this day and seems to have consumed a fair amount of my time the last few years. I've already covered the line twice (Ponferrada - Villablino, the Hill Region, 1980 and Ponferrada - Villablino, the Baldwin Tanks, 1980) but reckon its worth yet another visit........

When I first went to Ponferrada in May 1980 I spent my time walking along the track as far as the first crossing station out of town. The scenery was pleasantly rural and there were plenty of trains coming and going. The weather though was determined to remain dull and overcast. 

It could be a steam depot anywhere in the world: the only thing that points to it being in France or Northern Spain is the beret on one of the workers. Steam engines like PV11 need to be coaled, watered and greased and however and wherever that's done it's a dirty job as the workers clothes attest. 

Tender first PV15 moves a load of coal to the Power Station north of Ponferrada. 

More coal heading towards the Power Station: this time with PV19 in charge.

A very light load for PV12. 

PV14 passing through Colombrianos Halt.

Later that day PV14 is seen again: this time with empties for the mines at Villablino. Along with sister engine 13 it featured a prolonged dome: the only two engines on the system to do so. 

For some reason I wrote down the name of the insignificant halt in a previous picture but neglected to find out what the first crossing station out of Ponferrada was called! In late afternoon sunshine I caught PV16 running into the loop with a loaded train while PV19 waits on the main. 

The PV main line fleet consisted of ten 2-6-0+4 engines all nominally similar even though they were actually built in small batches over a long period (1913-1956) by different builders.

11 & 12 were built by Krauss in 1920 and acquired by PV in 1938....their first new locomotives since the Baldwin tanks in 1919.

13 & 14 were built by the Spanish company Macosa in 1950 and purchased new.

15 & 16 were built by Macosa in 1956 and purchased new. They were among the last steam engines to be built by Macosa.

17, 18 & 19 were built by Krauss in 1920 and acquired secondhand in 1961.

31 was built by Maffei in 1913 and purchased by PV in 1943.

Confusing isn't it.................

A year after my visit, in 1981, the railway bought its first two diesels maintaining its tradition of buying used locomotives. More soon followed, this time new, and steam was finally eliminated by 1989. A report in the most recent CRJ I have says that the mines have now closed and the trains stopped running several months ago. The station at Ponferrada became a Railway Museum after steam finished and a number of engines are preserved there. I have taken locomotive details from the Museum website:


Up in the hills I came across three derelict 600mm narrow gauge locos sitting alongside the road. Although at the time, I had no idea about their origins, details are now available. All belonged to the Antracias de Gaztarro S.A. near Toreno, see for the information used below and recent pictures. Since the company was formed in 1937, the first three locomotives (at least) must have come there second hand.

AG 1 (not seen) was an OK 0-4-0WT (8457/1921), today it is at the railway museum at Ponferrada

AG 2 was a 0-4-0WT by Maffei (4172/1925) It is now preserved in Villablino.

AG 3 was a 0-4-0T by Henschel (16018/1918) which formerly worked on the Madrid Military Railway. It is now preserved in Ponferrada..

AG 4 was a 0-4-0T by Henschel (28495/1952). It is now preserved in Villablino.

AG 2 and 3 are shown at work in July 1968 in Lawrence Marshall's 'Spanish Narrow Gauge Steam Remembered' pp 153 and 154.

Rob Dickinson