Enthusiast, Culture

The ALCo Holic 5

24 to 29 January 2020
Spain

Escape to Spain this winter with our four-day railtour featuring rare track in the Madrid area before travelling with two class 321 ALCo locomotives to our base at Zafra in Extremadura, the land of big landscapes and the last fully diesel operated province in Spain – but not for much longer! Our private charter train is formed of vintage carriages with opening windows and hauled by a 1960’s ALCo locomotive.

From here we visit the busy port of Huelva using an ex RENFE class 313 ALCo owned by the Port Authority and plan to also visit the freight line to Jerez de los Caballeros before returning to Madrid by a different route. If we are lucky we will travel under blue winter skies, maybe with snow on the ground!

Highlights

  • Private charter train
  • Spacious carriages with at least 3 seats per person
  • Fresh-air carriages (opening windows)
  • Heritage diesel locomotive
  • Unusual lines including some which are normally freight only
  • Last chance to travel on some branches

Tour Manager: Phil  phil@ptg.co.uk

From: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh or overland from St.Pancras.

This tour is dedicated to the memory of PTG regulars we sadly lost in 2019 – Bernie McDonough, Gavin Jones and Tony Leopard

 
Itinerary

Day 1 Friday 24 January Flights from most UK airports to Madrid. Transfer to our hotel beside Madrid Chamartin station for our overnight stay. Overland travel via the Eurostar is also possible by leaving St Pancras at 09:24, via Paris and Barcelona, arriving in Madrid at midnight.

Day 2 Saturday 25 January (B) Today we head for our base in Zafra, but with rare track to start the day. We set off from Madrid Chamartín with class 321 ALCo power, pass through Atocha and take the classic line to the south through Aranjuez to Castillejo-Añover where we take the old line to Toledo, now freight-only, as far as Algodor. A reversal here gives us access to the very rare 16km freight line to Villaluenga Yuncler. This served the Aguja cement works, but traffic ended in 2018 so this may be a last chance to travel the line. At the closed station of Villaluenga Yuncler we reverse and make our way west on the Madrid to Badajoz railway, entering the province of Extremadura, by-passing Plasencia then heading south through the UNESCO World Heritage city of Cáceres before reaching Mérida, dominated by the amazing Roman aqueduct – the “Acueducto de los Milagros”.

We reverse here, then cross the Rio Guadiana for the last leg of the day’s journey to Zafra. Zafra is a charming town, and one buzzing with life thanks to the hospitality of its inhabitants, known in Spanish as “Segedanos”.

Day 3 Sunday 26 January (B) The Zafra to Huelva railway is a survivor, having been threatened with closure on several occasions, but always hanging on, currently with a very reduced service. The immediate threat appears to have subsided, but nevertheless this is a good railway to have completed. As we travel south you will see why. There is some very empty countryside and few towns of any size. We soon enter the province of Andalusia and make our way to the city and port of Huelva. Before the station we diverge left onto the docks branch, only available to us on a Saturday or Sunday. The Port Authority have over 22 km of railway, most on three branches, and we have asked to do as much as possible. What is more they have an ex-RENFE class 313 ALCo locomotive which they have agreed we can have on the train in the Port area. Crossing the Rio Tinto bridge on the Port line with an ALCo should be a memorable experience!

Our exploration of the Port and Docks completed we return to Zafra by a different route, travelling east to Sevilla where to avoid reversal at Santa Justa station we will run via the northern avoiding line at Majarabique. At Los Rosales we diverge onto the sparsely served line to Zafra which has some good gradients to test our loco. Back in Extremadura we have a second night in Zafra.

Day 4 Monday 27 January (B) We have received confirmation that we can travel on the long freight-only branch which runs west from Zafra to Jerez de los Caballeros. We are told some restrictions may apply, possibly with alighting. On our return we retrace our tracks of the second day to Mérida, but this time continue east on the long secondary line to Manzanares via Puertollano and Ciudad Real. Mérida to Puertollano is currently under renovation and electrification, so this is a last chance to travel the line with a diesel locomotive before the wires go up. Near Puertollano we will see the recently closed coal mines and at Ciudad Real we expect to take the freight-only avoiding line. Very rare track indeed! At Manzanares we join again the classic route to the south, passing through Alcázar de San Juan and Aranjuez before our arrival back in Madrid.

Day 5 Tuesday 28 January (B) Today is a classic track bash with a complex route using class 321 ALCo power and completely circumnavigating Madrid. The full route would require diligent study of a railway atlas! We start from Madrid Chamartín, passing through Atocha, then south on freight metals to Santa Catalina where we join the Madrid eastern ring passing through Vicálvaro yard to reach Torrejón de Ardoz where the train reverses. Before Chamartín we take an east to north freight curve to pass the extensive yards at Fuencarral and continue north on the southern remnant of the “Directo de Burgos” main line to Aranda and Burgos which closed in 2010 and is retained beyond Colmenar Viejo only to serve the Transfesa depot, which is on a short branch just beyond Soto del Real. It is not clear whether we will be allowed to the depot. We reverse and return to Fuencarral where we reverse again at the entrance to the depot. A 5km freight line links the northern end of Fuencarral to Pitis which is on the Madrid Chamartín to Medina del Campo line, and we take this line to a junction before Pinar where the train will diverge onto the one kilometre freight connection to Las Matas clasificación which we pass through to reach Las Matas station where we reverse yet again. We are on passenger metals now as we travel down the western side of Madrid to Principe Pio and Delicias beyond which we avoid entering Atocha by taking a freight connection over 3.5 km long which crosses the main line south of Atocha and passes through yards before arriving at Santa Catalina (for the second time). We hope to include another non-passenger connection before returning up the freight line to Delicias, but this time bearing left at Bif. Museo onto the 0.8 km branch to the Museo del Ferrocarril (not used by excursion trains for several years), where our journey ends.

Day 6 Wednesday 29 January (B) Transfer to Madrid airport for flights back to UK airports or overland by rail to London St Pancras. Return to Birmingham is via Brussels. Flights to Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh are on Thursday 30 January and prices include extra night in Madrid in a twin (add £30 for a single).

In the absence of any unforeseen cost increases to the tour we expect to be able to reduce prices in two stages if we get over 60 bookings, then fill the train with 100 bookings. The reduced cost will apply to PTG regulars and Branch Line Society members (the latter only if members before 1 October 2019) and if they book before 10 November 2019.

Place(s) available

Prices (per person) – based on minimum of 45 participants

  • From Heathrow: £1,335
  • From Gatwick: £1,295
  • From Stansted: £1,295
  • From Bristol: £1,395*
  • From Birmingham: £1,375
  • From Manchester: £1,395*
  • From Edinburgh: £1,395*
  • From St Pancras: £1,575
  • From Madrid: £1,175

 

Options

  • Special Train Only (no hotels): £225 per day
  • Single room supplement: £136 (with different hotel in Zafra) or £160 (main hotel)
  • Upgrade to Parador in Zafra (2 nights): £120 and includes dinner both nights
  • Flight supplement might apply from some UK airport – confirmed at time of booking
  • * Return flights to Bristol/Manchester/Edinburgh are on Thursday 29th so price includes extra night in Madrid based on a double or twin room share. For single use room add £45.

Deposit

  • £200 own flights, £500 with flights included

Price Includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Breakfast included at the hotels
  • Services of our Tour Manager. Holiday is fully escorted from Madrid
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