gipuzkoakultura.net

Logo de la Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa
Logotipo gipuzkoakultura

gipuzkoakultura.net

2017ko irailak 21, osteguna





Bertan > Bertan 10 Gipuzkoako trenak > Ingeles bertsioa: Trenbide zabala: Norteko trenetik hasi eta RENFEko treneraino egindako bidea

Printable PDF version [11,8 Mb]Acrobat icon

Standard-Gauge lines; from the Northern railway to RENFE

The province of Gipuzkoa, the shortest route from the centre of the Iberian peninsula to the European continent offers, on the Bidassoa boder, the simplest of natural passages around the colossal barrier of the Pyrenean mountain range.

26. An electric freight engine from the 7.100 series. Northern Railway Company.
26. An electric freight engine from the 7.100 series. Northern Railway Company.
27. An electric engine from the 7.200 series for passenger trains belonging to the Northern Railway Company.
27. An electric engine from the 7.200 series for passenger trains belonging to the Northern Railway Company.

This privileged geographical situation, together with the presence of excellent ports along the coast, has, since the Middle Ages, favoured the introduction and improvement of communications in this area. It is not therefore surprising that one of the first long-distance railway projects in the Spanish state precisely affected our province.

In 1845, three years prior to the opening of the first state railway between Barcelona and Mataró, Queen Isabel II granted the ruling bodies of Biscay the concession to study, construct and exploit an "iron way" which would link the capital of the Kingdom to the Bidassoa border, passing through Bilbao.

28. A hand light.
28. A hand light.

Although our neighbours hired a reputed English engineer, Alexander Ross, one of the pioneers in his country with respect to the construction of railways, the financial cost of the project, together with the political instability of the moment, prevented the carrying out of such an ambitious project.

Ten years later, the first General Railway Law was proclaimed, normalising all the aspects related to railways, including state subsidies and other privileges.

The new legislative framework gave a final thrust to the construction of railways in the Spanish state, attracting capital, mainly foreign, to this kind of endeavour. This is how construction was started on what are still the main RENFE (the Spanish national railway company) lines.

One of the main lines which should have been built was that which would have linked the capital of the state to the French border, a line which soon attracted the interest of several companies. Finally, in 1856, the Spanish company, Crédito Mobiliario, with mainly French capital, obtained the concession. However, this company only established the route to be followed between Madrid and an indefinite point on the Ebro river, without stipulating how this route was to continue from there to the border.

29. Irún, the 'Talgo' train.
29. Irún, the 'Talgo' train.
30. A first generation 'Talgo' train in Irún.
30. A first generation 'Talgo' train in Irún.

The people of Biscay therefore made the proposal of following the route studied by Alexander Ross, which ran to Bilbao and coninued along the coast to Irún. The inhabitants of La Rioja, however, spoke up in defense of a route through Belorado and Haro to Vitoria and from there to the border, while the people of Navarre proposed a line to Pamplona and from there to the border through the Pyrenean pass of the Alduides.

Gipuzkoa County Council saw the importance of the future railway for the development of its economy and vertebration of the province. For this reason, with the backing of the Alavese institutions, it drew up its own alternative, a railway which, starting from Miranda, would run over the Alavese Plain and enter Gipuzkoa in the area around Etxegarate. This proposed railway was to pass through Zumárraga, Beasain, Tolosa and Donostia, from where it would continue on to the Irún border.

Invitation

The greatly awaited moment has arrived when the negotiations of this Province with the Crédito Mobiliario have come to an end with the signing of the contract to start work on the Northern Railway, and its operation as far as Villafranca, over a period of four years.

31. Donostia, the Northern Railway Station.
31. Donostia, the Northern Railway Station.
32. Donostia, a suburban train beneath the roof designed by Eiffel.
32. Donostia, a suburban train beneath the roof designed by Eiffel.

This is a serious occasion: it is a question of life or death for the country. The railway will mean greater prosperity since, without its help, the country would have no future, and would run into inevitable ruin. Everybody is aware of the fact that other ports are going quickly ahead to obtain this advantage, and that it is essential to follow suit, or resign ourselves to losing everything.

But this undertaking, the greatest necessity of the period, requires everyone to make an effort. Forty-four years ago we were in a state of collapse, but nevertheless, our children, amid the misery and orphanage surrounding them, have built the ruins up into a new city. Perseverance and confidence have achieved this complete triumph in a short time. That requested of you for the railway is not as much, nor equal to the circumstances of the contributors, to whose patriotism we appeal. Can you do less than that whcih was done in 1813? Such half-heartedness would be disastrous.

But this undertaking, the greatest necessity of the period, requires everyone to make an effort. Forty-four years ago we were in a state of collapse, but nevertheless, our children, amid the misery and orphanage surrounding them, have built the ruins up into a new city. Perseverance and confidence have achieved this complete triumph in a short time. That requested of you for the railway is not as much, nor equal to the circumstances of the contributors, to whose patriotism we appeal. Can you do less than that whcih was done in 1813? Such half-heartedness would be disastrous.

33. Beasain station.
33. Beasain station.

The undertaking contracted by the Province comes to twenty-five million reals. This is a perfectly guaranteed advance, which will increase by six percent in interest each year. We will accept any subscription of 2.000 reals and over, a sum which must be paid in ten installments over a period of 4 years, and on which interest will be returned with each installment, starting from the moment when it is presented to the Crédito Mobiliario. How many people are there in this City, whom, by themselves alone, or together with others, can provide this said service!

The Province appeals to its children, to those who have settled in Gipuzkoa, and to those who care for this country; whose grandiose intentions will be strongly and ardently backed by the City. The corporations, on opening the subscription for which they are responsible, hope that those it administers will make a show of love to honour them and the interests of their people.

34. A freight train in the heart of Aitzgorri.
34. A freight train in the heart of Aitzgorri.

The Province has set an example by subscribing the sum of four million reals; as has the Town Council with the sum of three hundred thousand reals.

35. A ticket collector's hole punching machine.
35. A ticket collector's hole punching machine.

Nobody should be discouraged by the fact that their donation is smaller than that of somebody else; they all have their merit. Make your contribution to the common patrimony, which is the only way to avoid the catastrophe with which we are otherwise threatened.

Let us rush to answer the voice of the Province that wants to lead us along the path of improvement, don't let us waste this precious moment to do the greatest of goods. Nothing is more honourable than the good and pleasant memory of those who will come after us: oversight will mean failure. Don't let us fall into this disgrace, precisely when the future existence of our country depends on us. Our indifference today would sink it forever.

Please find attached the Provincial circular showing the contract. The Corporations invite you to fill in the accompanying certificate with the amount being subscribed and deliver it to the Secretary of the Town Council before the 20th of this month.

San Sebastian, 7th January, 1858.

President, Vice-President

The Town Council, The Commercial Board

Angel Gil de Alcain, Bernardo de Alcain

Conscious of the fact that Gipuzkoa's future largely depended on the route finally chosen by the Northern Railway Company, the County Council commisioned Fermín Lasala and Luis de Mariategui to carry out negotiations in Paris with the Spanish Crédito Mobiliario. These negotiations can't have been easy, but our institutions finally got what they wanted, even although the price was a subsidy of 25 million reals.

In order to raise the necessary capital, the County Council opened a general fund which was greatly contributed to by locals from the province who had emigrated to Cuba. In spite of the distance, many Gipuzkoans still followed events at home in their native land.

In the midst of great cheer, work was simultaneously started on the first Gipuzkoan railway in Donostia and Tolosa on 22nd June 1858. Meanwhile, the Crédito Mobiliario had transferred the concession to its subsidiary company, Caminos de Hierro del Norte de España (the Northern Railway Company). The new concessionary put M. Letorneur in charge of the work, giving him the title of head engineer.

The work went ahead with virtually no setbacks on the Alavese plain, and the first train started running between Miranda de Ebro and Olazagutía on 15th April 1862. In Gipuzkoa, however, small local contractors had serious problems with the several tunnels and bridges along the way. In fact, although the first trains ran between Beasain and Donostia on 1st September 1863, and the stretch between Donostia and Irún started running on the 18th of October, the line between Olazagutía and Beasain advanced extremely slowly, even coming to a standstill in some parts.

Afraid that it might be impossible to finish the line, the Northern Railway Company decided not to continue working with local companies and turned to the French company Gouin et Cie., also a subsidiary of the Crédito Mobiliario, which was equipped with the necessary material and humen means.

This company had recently finished building a transalpine railway in the Italian Piamonte area, meaning that it had enough experience to deal with our mountains. The work brought to the Gohierri area of Gipuzkoa more than a thousand workers from Piamonte, who were well worn in with respect to the hard work of boring tunnels through the entrails of the earth. These workers brought new customs to the heart of Gipuzkoa, many of which took deep root in the emotions of our people. We refer, among others, to the Trikitixa or the sport of two-handed log cutting. When the work was finished, many of these men from Piamonte stayed on in Gipuzkoa, and surnames with obvious Italian origins can still be found in the Gohierri area. Many others left with the company for other important public works, and with them more than one girl from the same area. It is not therefore surprising that the accountant for the Suez canal was a native of Tolosa.

Man eventually managed to overcome the natural obstacles in the way of the train. More than 14.224 m. of tunnels had to be bored, meaning more than 15% of the length of the line. Spectacular bridges also had to be built, such as that of Ormaiztegi, with its 289 m. in length and 34 m. in height. These bridges have given a personal aspect to a landscape and people which now feels closely identified with its viaduct.

An extremely solemn ceremony was held on the quays of Donostia station on 14th August 1864, in order to celebrate the final opening of the Northern Railway. These acts, presided over by the King Consort, Francisco de Asis, were accompanied by traditional festivities and fireworks. Joy was widespread in Gipuzkoa. After years of struggle, the railway had become a reality. The King continued on his way to Paris the next day, leaving the province with an essential element which allowed the development of its incipient industry and the start of the expansion of the Port of Pasajes.

With time, the Northern Railway company was to improve its initial installations. Irún station was made much larger, while the quays in Donostia station were covered with a roof produced by the workshops of Gustav Eiffel. The primitive iron tracks were replaced for the first time in 1884 by new, much more resistant steel tracks.

Sudexpress, the King of European trains, passed through in 1887 on its way from Paris to Madrid and Lisbon. The new century saw the installation of the double-track, an indispensable change, given the widespread increase of railway traffic.

Howewer, the most important work to haven been undertaken by the Borthern Railway Company was the electrification of the line in 1929. This meant not only the elimination of annoying train smoke, but even more importantly, an improvement in the speed of the train on the steep ramps of the climb up towards Alsasua. It also permitted the creation of an intensive suburban service which strongly favoured the urban development of the villages along the line.

The Northern Railway Company continued its valuable services to Gipuzkoa until it was nationalised after the Civil War. As from 2nd February 1941, RENFE took hold of the reins. In its 77 years of activity, this service has brought important benefits to the province, becoming the real spinal column of the territory. One look at the map proves that the areas of thickest urban and industrial development lie along this railway line, meaning that we can confidently confirm that the investment made by the County Council in 1858 was an excellent decision.

Licencia Creative Commons. Pulse aquí para leerla
2017 Kultura eta Euskara Departamentua- Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia.
Para conectar con nosotros mediante skype pulse aquí
Logotipo Gipuzkoa.net. Pulsar para ir a la página de Gipuzkoa.net