Enthusiast

Central Portugal by Private Train

18 to 23 October
Portugal

Join us on a four-day trip covering lines in Central Portugal aboard the recently restored “Schindler” carriages. After many years out of service, six of these carriages, dating from the 1940s and built by the Swiss Schindler company, returned to service in the summer of 2017 on the Douro Line between Porto and Tua. These carriages have large opening windows

Based in Tomar, we will take our train along lines and to places that the Schindlers have not visited for many years, including the Beira Baixa, Elvas, Beja and the West Line. Throughout our tour, our train will be hauled by one of C.P.’s class 1400 English Electric locomotives, though we are hopeful of having a freight loco (1901/31/61) on one of the days.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David, who lives in Lisbon. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Highlights

  • Private charter train starting and ending in Entroncamento or Tomar
  • Classic 1940s “Schindler” carriages with opening windows
  • Diesel haulage of our special train throughout the trip
  • Cultural options
  • Rare freight branches
  • All nights at the same hotel in Tomar
Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 18 October Several flight options from the UK with direct flights from Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Manchester. On arrival transfer to Lisbon Oriente station for a Regional train directly to Tomar. It is also possible to travel overland from St Pancras via Eurostar and the Sud-Express direct to Entroncamento, with a road transfer to Tomar.  Evening free to relax.

Day 2 Friday 19 October (B) Our journey around Central Portugal begins with a rail journey along the often underrated Beira Baixa line. This has a mixture of regional and inter-city trains, but all the regional and most inter-city services are operated by EMUs, so this is a rare visit to this line by a diesel-hauled passenger train. For the first 60 km the line follows the River Tagus and affords some spectacular views that rival those on the Douro, further north, and for much of the journey the railway is the only vantage point for these views. After Rodão we leave the river and head north, first to Castelo Branco and then onwards to Covilhã. There is a culture option to alight at Castelo Branco to spend a few hours exploring this town. Highlights include the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace, one of the loveliest Baroque gardens in Portugal, and the castle, with views across the valley. Alternatively continue to the current end of the line, Covilhã. The service north out of Covilhã to Guarda was suspended some years ago due to the poor condition of the track, and though a lot of work has been done, including the laying of new rails, some sections have not been upgraded. The government has repeatedly stated that it will sign contracts to complete the work, including a Guarda station avoiding line to allow trains to run directly from the Beira Baixa line to Vilar Formoso and the Spanish border without having to reverse at Guarda. We return to Tomar for the night. We have also requested that the freight only line to Pego is included today.

Day 3 Saturday 20 October (B) In pre-electrification days, Beja was always a favourite destination for enthusiasts, and today we will recreate this journey. We first head south on the main line to Lisbon, passing through Oriente station and following the “Linha da Cintura” (Belt Line) towards the 25th April Bridge. At Pinhal Novo the former main line from Barreiro, now only carrying suburban EMUs, joins and the line to Setubal diverges just after the station. We continue east, passing Poceirão where you may see a few freight locos stabled. The junction station at Casa Branca is very generously sized given the number of trains that pass here. Since electrification of the line to Évora, all the inter-city trains from Lisbon go to Évora, with Beja being served by a connecting DMU, albeit branded as “inter-city”. We travel south to Beja which is nowadays the end of the line, the Beja to Funcheira service having been withdrawn several years ago. The track is still in place for occasional trips by the draisine vehicle that carries out regular inspections on the Neves Corvo branch, but sadly passenger trains are not permitted on this line. We now start our return journey to Tomar, but this time use the freight-only “shortcut” via Coruche. Though without a passenger service, this line is busy with freight.

Day 4 Sunday 21 October (B) The line to Elvas and Badajoz is one of only three rail connections between Portugal and Spain following the closure of the route via Marvão. We begin by retracing our steps from Friday as far as the junction at Abrantes, where the Linha de Este (East Line) starts. This journey is in sharp contrast to Friday, through mainly flat Alentejan countryside. Passenger services were withdrawn from this line some years ago, but with support from Portalegre council, a limited service between Entroncamento and Portalegre ran twice a week (Fridays and Sundays) mainly catering for students. In September 2017, a daily service over the whole line from Entroncamento to Badajoz started, giving communities along the line at least a basic rail service. There is still a regular freight service. The fortified town of Elvas is one of Portugal’s jewels, the old town’s fortifications being among the best preserved in Europe. Elvas was liberated from the Moors in 1230, but for the next 600 years suffered regular attacks from Spain. We have plenty of time to explore the old town and the medieval castle, as well as the imposing aqueduct with its 843 arches. We hope to be able to take our train to the Spanish border town of Badajoz, but we will still stop at Elvas for anyone who prefers to visit this town.

Day 5 Monday 22 October (B) We have a circular tour today, taking in the North Line as far as Alfarelos, the branch to Figueira da Foz, and the West Line all the way to Lisbon before returning to Tomar at the end of the day. At Alfarelos our English Electric 1400 locomotive will quickly run round, and we will be on our way to the port town of Figueira da Foz. Another run round here and we return to Bif. De Lares (Lares Junction) where we take the now little-used west to south curve of the triangle. In the past most trains on the West Line ran to Figueira da Foz, with just one per day going to Coimbra. However, after withdrawal of the passenger service was proposed, local councils along the line came up with a rescue plan that included the closure of some little used stations and the diversion of all trains (3 per day) to Coimbra, meaning little or no traffic uses this side of the triangle. The line is electrified for freight as far as the junction of the Louriçal branch. At Caldas da Rainha we will take a break, allowing time for lunch and for the locomotive to be refuelled before continuing south in the afternoon, finally reaching Lisbon. There is an option to leave the tour here if you have early flights on Tuesday. Otherwise we continue on the main north line to Tomar where the tour will end. We also hope to visit the freight only branch to Maceira today.

Day 6 Tuesday 23 October (B) This morning we return to Lisbon Airport for our flights home.

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices

  • *Full 6 day holiday including flights from various UK airports: £875 standard, £975 quality,
  • Full 6 day holiday joining in Tomar: £649 standard, £749 quality
  • Special train only (no hotel): £499 (or £140 for individual days)

Options

  • Single Room supplement: £140
  • *Flight price from Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh: Confirmed at time of booking.

 

Deposit

  • £300 own flights
  • £500 with flights

 

Price Includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary: B = breakfast
  • Services of our Tour Manager. Holiday is fully escorted

Flights

  • TP373 11:20 Heathrow – Lisbon
  • TP364 16:05 Lisbon – Heathrow
  • TP329 17:15 Manchester – Lisbon
  • TP326 13:40 Lisbon – Manchester
  • EZY6981 07:00 Edinburgh – Lisbon
  • EZY6982 10:40 Lisbon – Edinburgh
  • EZY6253 14.05 Bristol – Lisbon
  • EZY6254 17.05 Lisbon – Bristol
  • EZY7083 09.40 Liverpool – Lisbon (Weds)
  • EZY7084 13.00 Lisbon – Liverpool (Weds)
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