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2017ko irailak 26, asteartea





Bertan > Bertan 10 Gipuzkoako trenak > Ingeles bertsioa: Making trains

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Making trains

One of the most characteristic aspects of industry in the Basque Country in general and Gipuzkoa in particular, is the high specialisation regarding the construction of railway material. Several factories, from modest workshops to huge manufacturing complexes, have supplied the railway with objects ranging from screws to engines, passing through the widest selection of accessories.

112. A manufacturer's plaque.
112. A manufacturer's plaque.

Several Gipuzkoan companies used to supply the railway with all the elements required for functioning. The Unión Cerrajera in Mondragon made rail screws for joining the tracks to the sleepers, Alcorta y Mendizabal different kinds of suspension springs, Bonifacio Echeverria drag-chains and draw-hooks, and a long list of etceteras.

However, possibly the most outstanding activity was the construction and reparation of mobile material. A few modest workshops, such as Urcula in San Sebastian made the odd piece in the twenties. Others, such as the Ambrona workshops in Herrera, still sporadically repair the occasional freight car.

113. The Beasain carriage-making factory.
113. The Beasain carriage-making factory.
114. The Beasain carriage-making factory. Assembly.
114. The Beasain carriage-making factory. Assembly.

The most outstanding Gipuzkoan companies in this sector were, without a doubt, the recently disappeared Herederos de Ramón Múgica and, especially, the Compañía Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, CAF, in Beasain.

The former started functioning towards the end of the last century in Donostia, next to the Northern Railway station, on the site which now houses the tower block known as Atotxa , beside to the old football ground. It was precisely this company that gave its name to one of the Real Sociedad football team's most boisterous supporters' clubs.

This company didn't start out in the railway, but in industrial carpentry, for which it mainly made wooden blinds. But it is possible that the proximity of the station, as well as the fact that most carriages and freight cars were built in wood, encouraged Múgica to enter the field of railway construction.

Right from the very beginning, Herederos de Ramón Múgica specialised in the construction of wagons, becoming famous for their foudre freight cars, especially made for trnasporting wine. These cars were similar in appearance to closed freight cars, with the difference that they had huge barrels inside for carrying this precious potion. Later the model evolved, eventually becoming modern tank wagons.

115. The CAF in Beasain.
115. The CAF in Beasain.
116. A manufacturer's plaque.
116. A manufacturer's plaque.

At the beginning of the sixties, Ramón Múgica moved his installations to Irún, where he continued his activity until the early nineties. This company only built a few passenger carriages in the twenties for the Northern Railway Company. During the fifties it also supplied Cementos Rezola with a series of unusual electric trains for its own private service.

However, the main industry in the sector, not only in Gipuzkoa, but in the whole state, is undoubtedly that of the CAF.

117. Manufacturer's plaques.
117. Manufacturer's plaques.
118. The Beasain carriage-making factory.
118. The Beasain carriage-making factory.

The origins of this company lie in the Yurre and Igartza ironworks in Beasain. Their owners, the Goitia and Usabiaga families, merged half-way through last century, creating the San Martín de Urbieta Ironworks, where, in 1861, the first blast furnace in Gipuzkoa was installed.

The company underwent its first restructuring in 1892, when it became La Maquinista Guipuzcoana. It was at this moment that it started building railway material, although not exclusively, since it also manufactured fixed steam engines, hydraulic turbines, flour grinding mills, and even metal road bridges.

In 1901 the Beasain factory was absorbed by the Sociedad Española de Construcciones Metálicas, finally dedicating itself to the manufacturing of carriages. In 1917, its installationes were leased by the Compañía Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (Auxiliar Railway Company), or CAF. This company started manufacturing electric engines in 1928 and, a few years later, supplied the Compañía del Norte with its first diesel engines.

119. A manufacturer's plaque.
119. A manufacturer's plaque.

During the forties, the CAF opened a new factory in Irún which specialised in important repairs to railway material, although it occasionally produced the odd train. In the sixties, CAF merged with the company Zaragozana Material Móvil y Construcciones, the workshops previously owned by Carde y Escoriaza, and changing its name to Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, thereby allowing it to maintain its historical initials.

After several years of hard of crisis last decade, when the future of the company was seriously compromised due to the fall in demand of the until then almost exclusive client, RENFE, the present health of this hundred-year-old industry looks promising. Its dependence has reduced with respect to the state railway company, and its presence has notably increased in exterior markets.

120. An electric railcar built in 1960.
120. An electric railcar built in 1960.

Today, CAF holds a position of leadership in the sector on a state level, and now rubs elbows with the main European multinationals. Its trains run on RENFE and FEVE lines, on railways belonging to the Autonomous Government of Catalonia and Valencia, Mallorcan railways and, of course, Euskotrenbideak. The undergrounds of Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona are also faithful clients, as was the recently completed Bilbao underground. Recent years have seen trains with modern technology leave its premises for Valencia and Lisbon, underground trains for the city of Mexico and Monterrey and High-Speed carriages for Hungarian railways, while the latest orders have wide-ranging destinies such as London, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

But CAF has wisely combined modern technologies with respect for a hundred-year-old tradition, meaning that it has recovered its old workshops, restoring buildings of outstanding architectural value, and adapted them to their manufacturing necessities. It has also participated in Euskotrenbideak 's Basque Railway Museum with respect to the reconstruction of old pieces that left their workshops some sixty years ago.

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