Narrow gauge revisited: Ferrocarril de La Robla

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- International' started by Topo, Jul 1, 2003.

  1. Topo

    Topo Member

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    Last weekend, the provincial RR association organized a two-day trip over the Ferrocarril de La Robla line, and we cannot miss this opportunity to patronize this interesting narrow gauge, coal-dragger RR. I will post a few pics and info about the La Robla, and I hope you will enjoy them (and forgive my bad english, too). :)

    First, a bit of history. The Ferrocarril de La Robla was built between 1890 and 1894, from the coal mines around La Robla (León province) to Bilbao (Vizcaya province capital city). Soon it was extended to serve also León, the capital city of the same name province. Its purpose was to carry the cheap and quality León coal to the Bilbao industries (when the english coal ship-carried to Bilbao turned expensive), running West-East in northern Spain. With the progressive abandonment of the coal use, the line decayed and, eventually, was taken under state management by FEVE (Ferrocarriles Españoles de Via Estrecha). The coal mining, as in other Europe sites, were left in "maintenance explotation", that is, the minimal explotation to satisfy the needs (usually, only powerplants) and to assure the facilities maintenance. In 1991 FEVE dropped the passenger service between Bilbao and León, but it was resumed the past month, to big joy of railfans. With 340 kilometers (212 miles) of main line, this is the longest metric gauge line in explotation in Western Europe. As said, the RR was built to move coal, and the coal didn't need to travel fast and comfy, so the line have lots of turns (between 100-140 meters of radius) and ramps of 2% (this in the main line, in the branches can be still more windy and slopier). It runs across very mountainous areas, and for reduce building costs, it turned around the mountains, avoiding expensive tunneling when possible. That all makes it a very scenic line (in fact, a branch of the "Transcantabrico" luxury train run over La Robla line!).


    We are in Cistierna station. These are two of ten General Electric U10B locomotives purchased by La Robla in 1964 (now, FEVE #1508 and #1502). Nicknamed "Gecos", this sturdy locos marked the end of steam in La Robla, replacing the compound Garrats and other powerful steamers needed to drag the coal. La Robla had lots of different steam locomotives, ranging from the 100-tons Garrats to the 26-tons 0-3-1 "Belgas pequeñas" ("Tiny belgians"), with Decapods, Pacifics..., in between, but regretably only a few have survived.

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  2. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (2)

    Externally, they are almost identical to the GE export model U6B built for Vietnam, but with a more powerful engine. The U6B were purchased also for Hampton&Branchville and Santa Maria Valley, in the U.S. The U10B don't came referred in the Marre's book "Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years". They are powered by a 1050CV, 12 cylinder turbocharged Caterpillar engine, weighting around 56 Tons. All the ten units are still in use.
  3. Topo

    Topo Member

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    Opps

    I forgot the pic. There is (the forward end is the cab one).

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  4. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (3)

    Yours truly aboard the #1508. This locomotives have been the workhorse of La Robla/FEVE by almost forty years. The engineers loved them due to its reliability and ease of work. They are well maintened, so I suspect that they have still many years of life ahead.

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  5. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (4)

    This other veteran engine (FEVE #1322) have not survived very well (yikes, it have missed the axles!). These small switchers were built also in 1964. They are diesel-hidraulic locomotives with 3-axles coupled, powered by a 282CV, 6 cylinder Rolls-Royce engine, weighting 32 Tons. They were reliable engines, intended only to switching chores, but they ended being used also in passenger service and small freights in branch service, so years of hard work have taken its toll. Behind the loco there are some very old rolling stock. The passenger car is restored, so maybe the loco and the other cars in this area will be restored too. I hope so.

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  6. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (5)

    We continue in Cistierna. Here you can see the tourning bridge, another view of "Gecos" #1508 and #1502, and a two-car "Apolo" unit. This new passenger units are older units heavily rebuilt, made specially for the resumed passenger service. They are nice, and its new engines are powerful enough to ride swiftly the mountainous line.

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  7. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (6)

    Finally, we left Cistierna with some view of other couple of "Gecos" and some coal cars.

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  8. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (7)

    Now, we are in a northern branch, in Barruelo de Santullán. They are several coal mines here. The facilities seems to be abandoned, with the grass taking over the rails and lots of bushes and trees in the middle. I was not eager to greet the viper family, so I decided not explore thoroughly here. These critters have bad temper when you "disturb" them accidentally standing over its tail while wandering taking pics. I didn't see any, but surely they will found this area adecuate for taking sunbaths.

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  9. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (8)

    This is Barruelo also. I ask myself what was the purpose of this rail-skate-board. :confused:

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  10. Topo

    Topo Member

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    La Robla (and 9)

    Finally, the old tourning bridge of Barruelo. It is still in working condition; only need a bit of grease and some muscles... :D

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  11. interurban

    interurban Active Member

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    Hi Javier, I did enjoy your trip:D I brightend the little switcher so we can see where the wheels are not:p .
    The equipment is in fine shape, and nice to see you there also my friend.
    btw your English is great:D :D :D :D :D :D

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  12. Topo

    Topo Member

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    Hello Chris.
    Thanks for the touching-up. Hummm, now I realize that the pics are a bit dark... Maybe I can correct this.

    It's a pleasant trip. The line have a lot of small stations, many not used anymore but still stand and in good condition, and some of them have been converted to nice tourist lodgements, very affordable too.

    This is one tiny station being restored to an small hotel (maybe four rooms?). My wife thinks that next year (when open to public) we can give it a try.

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  13. Topo

    Topo Member

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    Another one

    This is another pic taken by a collegue railfan in August-1991. A Geco pulling a short coal train bound to Guardo, passing by La Espina.

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  14. Topo

    Topo Member

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    This is La Espina station, in February 1985. It seems a model, don't do? :D
    Notice also the sturdy water tower. Juanjo is far better photographer than me!

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  15. Topo

    Topo Member

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    This is a Geco with a MOW train, in La Espina, more recently (August 1999).

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  16. Topo

    Topo Member

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    Two Gecos MU-ed, pulling a coal train near La Espina, in April 2001.

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  17. Topo

    Topo Member

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    Another coal hopper train with "Geco" double traction, in Prado de la Guzpeña.

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  18. interurban

    interurban Active Member

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    You have some awsome scenery around you javier.
    Great photo`s, lots for you to model :D
  19. gor

    gor New Member

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    La Robla

    Screenshots of La Robla, versión TRSimulator...............

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Cheers
    Gor