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miércoles 27 enero 2021

Bertan > Bertan 10 Trenes de Gipuzkoa > Versión en inglés: Trains, mines and factories

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Trains, mines and factories

An appropriate system of transportation is essential for starting up any mining exploitation, since the end price of the mineral, and therefore the profitability of the mine, are closely linked to the cost of haulage to production and consumption centres.

98. The private train belonging to the Rezola Cement Company. 1955.
98. The private train belonging to the Rezola Cement Company. 1955.

In Gipuzkoa, mining activity was at the origin of five railways, as well as other systems such as aerial cables. Two of these services later became the origin of two railway lines of general interest.

Running in an East to West direction, we start with the town of Irún, which had the first mining railway linking the mines in the area to the Northern Railway station. From there, the mineral was transported in freight cars to its final destiny: the blast furnaces in Bayonne. Built in 1886 by a British company, this railway had a very British gauge width, 3 feet (0.92 m.). Years later, in 1916, it became a metre-gauge line and was extended as far as Elizondo, thereby becoming part of the so-called Bidassoa railway.

The area around Oiartzun saw the coexistence of two mining railways. The main line, built in 1901, linked the Arditurri mines with the port of Pasajes. A large cantilever-type bridge meant that the freight cars could be unloaded by tipping them directly into the hold of the ships. This mining train, with its line gauge of 0.75 m., was closed in 1965.

99. A tipping skip from the Irún mines.
99. A tipping skip from the Irún mines.

Partly parallel to this train, but incompatible with it due to its tiny narrow-gauge of 60 cm., another train service started functioning in 1898. This service linked the several mines and forestry exploitations in the area around Artikutza to the Northern Railway station in Rentería. Its almost 30 Km. in length meant that it was the longest train on the peninsula in the this category. However, its life was short-lived, as it was abandoned by its promotors in 1917. Shortly afterwards, the Gipuzkoa County Council took over the final stretch between Karrika and Gabierrota, in order to transport stone, which was later used to pavement the provincial road network. This stretch continued working until the fifties.

The Plazaola railway was built in 1901 with an end to simplifying transportation of the iron minerals extracted from the mines of the same name. This line, which measured one metre in width, snaked through the valley of Leizarán to Andoain station, where the load was transferred to trains belonging to the Northern Railway Company. In 1914, the line was extended at both extremes, from Plazaola to Pamplona and from Andoain to Lasarte, where the change was made to trains belonging to the Vascongados Railway line, thereby becoming a railway of general interest. Whatever the case, the transportation of minerals was always the main traffic on the Plazaola line, which didn't survive for long after the mines were closed down in the forties. Seriously affected by floods in 1953, the line was closed, although the odd train carrying forestry produce through the valley of Leizarán could still be seen until 1959.

100. A hopper car for the transportation of minerals.
100. A hopper car for the transportation of minerals.

The Mutiloa mines also had a small railway which ran to the Northern railway station in Ormaiztegi. Built at the beginning of the century with a gauge width of 75 cm., its small steam engine, baptised "Mutiloa", made its last journey in 1947. Shortly afterwards, the installations were dismantled, although its picturesque route is still virtually intact.

Not only did the railway contribute to the development of mining, but also to that of certain industries, as was the case of the Rezola cement factory in Añorga. A complex railway network permitted the transportation of stone from the quarries to the factory, while the two branche lins made it easy to bring the product out of the factory along the lines belonging both to the Vascongados Railway or the local train running from Donostia to Tolosa. Steam, diesel and electric engines, and even curious trolley-trucks travelled to the furthest corner of its industrial installations.

One of the most interesting industrial railway networks in Gipuzkoa is that found in the port of Pasajes. Good connections with the railway network are essential for any port in order to make it easier to transport loads to and from ships.

The railway network inside the port of Pasajes had the outstanding characteristic of double-width tracks, since it connected both with the lines belonging to the Northern Railway Company (1.67 metres in width) as well as those belonging to the Topo and the local Donostia train service, both of which are one metre wide. The port of Pasajes came to own its own steam engines, later modernisating its trains with diesel engines during the seventies. However, until the early eighties, it would sometimes put a steam engine in to use which, unfortunately, was scrapped in 1989.

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