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Bertan > Bertan 10 Gipuzkoako trenak > Ingeles bertsioa: Railway junctions

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Railway junctions

Since the appearance of the railway, the station has become one of the most active parts of any town. Travellers arrive, merchandise is transferred, people come to say goodbye to a member of the family or friends, thereby creating a special microcosmos, conveniently equipped with the typical buffet, waiting rooms (which used to be separated into 1 st , 2 nd and 3 rd class) and even perhaps a nearby hotel (Donostia's Terminus Hotel is a faithful reflection of this period).

104. Tolosa. A freight car.
104. Tolosa. A freight car.
105. Shunters are essential in railway junctions.
105. Shunters are essential in railway junctions.

But the place where the railway took on its true nature was at the so-called "railway junctions", stations where different lines came together and where the movement of travellers and merchandise was greater due to the need to change trains. Irún, Donostia, Lasarte, Andoain, Zumaia, Málzaga, Mekolalde and San Prudencio made up the network of Gipuzkoan railway junctions, together with Zumárraga station, outstanding in importance.

106. The Zumarraga station railway network in 1960. Plan by Pedro Pintado.
106. The Zumarraga station railway network in 1960. Plan by Pedro Pintado.

It was in Zumárraga that the standard-gauge Northern Railway Company line, built in 1864, met the metre-gauge Málzaga to Zumárraga line, opened in 1889. A later addition to these lines, in 1926, was the Urola Railway, also metre-gauge, while in the forties, Patricio Echeverria built a branch line from Zumárraga to Legazpia, with the peculiarity that it had three tracks, thereby allowing the passage both standard and narrow-gauge trains.

107. A diesel engine from 1958.
107. A diesel engine from 1958.

These three railway companies built their train stations close to each another, due to which the area gradually became known as station quarter. The Vascongados station, abandoned in 1972, was knocked down in 1988, while the Urola station, which has been out of use since 1986, is waiting for the municipality to decide what use it should be given. Only RENFE, heir of the Northern Railway Company, still enjoys intensive traffic of travellers and merchandise, a reminder of the past railway splendour in the area.

Given the different width of track used by the three competing companies, past activity in the stations of Zumárraga was incessant, and all kinds of merchandise was transferred from freight car to freight car. These operations were normally carried out manually, since only a few cranes were available, none of which were motorised, meaning that they required a lot of workmen.

108. The Irún railway junction.© Paisajes Españoles
108. The Irún railway junction.© Paisajes Españoles
109. Apparatus for changing the sliding tongue.
109. Apparatus for changing the sliding tongue.

Many people confirm that Zumárraga station was the main employment office during the fifties. Immigrants from the Plateau waiting for their connection to other places such as Bergara, Eibar or Azpeitia were approached by the managers of local factories such as Orbegozo and Madaya, who would offer them a job during this period of abundant work but little pay. The station buffet and the no-longer existing Urola hotel were places of undeniable animation, stoked by the incessant passage of trains.

110. A shunter from the Port of Pasajes.
110. A shunter from the Port of Pasajes.

Railway Junctions in Gipuzkoa:

Irún: Railway Junctions in Gipuzkoa:

Donostia: Rail link between the Topo and Vascongados lines.

Lasarte: Rail link between the Vascongados and Plazaola lines.

Zumaia: Rail link between the Northern Railway and Plazaola lines

Málzaga: Rail link between the main Vascongados line and its branch line to Zumárraga.

Mekolalde: Rail link between the branch line from Málzaga to Zumárraga and the Vasco-Navarro line.

San Prudenzio: Rail link between the Vasco-Navarro line and the Oñati branch line.

Zumárraga: Rail link between the Northern line, the Urola line and the Vascongados line, which includes the industrial branch line running to Legazpia, owned by Patricio Echeverria. Vascongado etako trenbidearen arteko lotura, eta gainera, Legazpirako industri adarra, Patricio Echeverriarena.

111. A milestone on the Elgoibar to San Sebastian railway.
111. A milestone on the Elgoibar to San Sebastian railway.

It is Irún station which now enjoys the greatest railway activity in Gipuzkoa. Here the RENFE lines meet the French National Railways (S.N.C.F.), which, as we know, have a different gauge. This means that, except for the Talgo, which has a clever gauge-changing system, and a few express and freight trains that can change their axles, merchandise and travellers have to change trains, just as they had to do in Zumárraga all these years ago. But systems have changed. Several cranes make the task easier, while the massive use of containers speeds up the necessary operations. No matter what the case, the extensive installations in this station, and the possibility of running into confused travellers from all over the world, make it a very unusual place in our province.

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