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Steam Returns to Zurgena

An ambitious project to build a railway museum, restore the railway line and run steam trains from Zurgena to Huercal Overa in Almeria province.

By Nick Nutter | Updated 30 May 2022 | Almería | News | Login to add to YOUR Favourites or Read Later
A Mogul engine at Tijola

A Mogul engine at Tijola

Many people over a certain age remember with nostalgia the steam trains that chuffed along the British Railways network lines until the late 1960s. Even more will remember steam engines that ran on the Spanish network until the mid 1970s. Now, well into the 21st century, railway enthusiasts in Andalucía are working to restore a section of the 19th century railway line from Zurgena, a small village in the Almanzora valley in Almería province.

Zurgena station today

Zurgena station today

The project is much more than a desire for a few steam devotees to see one of their beloved steam trains puffing along the line between Zurgena and Arboleas, it is a project of huge historical and, potentially, economic, importance.


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The Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd line

Zurgena to Arboleas line

Zurgena to Arboleas line

The Zurgena to Arboleas railway line is just a short section of the line built between 1885 and 1894 by the Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd. between Baza in Granada province, through Almería province, to an ore loading dock at Águilas in Murcia. The last train, a diesel engine by then, to run on the GSSR line was back in 1984. The line had been taken over in 1941 by the National Network of Spanish Railways, a state-owned company known as RENFE, and, with the closure of the iron ore mines in Almería and Granada in the late 1960s, was no longer profitable, if indeed it had ever shown a profit since its inception. Nevertheless, the railway line provided a much-needed service for passengers heading for the coast as well as local produce including marble from the quarries around Macael, esparto grass from the Baza area and, believe it or not, coffins.


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Town Council Backing

Double header from Zurgena to Huercal Overa

Double header from Zurgena to Huercal Overa

The Zurgena Railway Museum project is backed by the local mayor, Luis Diaz García and the Councillor for Culture, Paco López as well as the entire Zurgena town council. The project is being organised by La Asociación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Zurgena, whose president is a dynamic engineer called Rafael García de la Mata Escudero, a professor of engineering at Granada University.

La Asociación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Zurgena

Zurgena station about 1950

Zurgena station about 1950

La Asociación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Zurgena began in late 2018 when a resident of Zurgena, Jim Simpson, was approached by María Ángeles Márquez who was wanting to create some type of memorial to the railway and the people who worked in Zurgena station. There had been plans to develop a museum since 2014 but nothing concrete had been done. Jim had to return to the UK in 2020 and his position within the association was taken by Rafael.

The Zurgena Railway Museum Project

Work started on the project in December 2020. The old railway station at Zurgena had already been restored and permission was granted for it to become a museum. During excavations on the site, the original railway lines were discovered as well as the turntable in the sidings. Much of the land surrounding the station has been donated to the project by the town council.


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Whilst work continues at Zurgena to restore the station, workshops and sidings to their original condition, the search is on for artifacts, steam engines and rolling stock. Two railway coaches, currently languishing in a siding at Guadix, have already been earmarked for the project, as has a rail car that has spent the last 15 years in a field at El Rincon de la Victoria. Rafael has already located a draisine, a locomotive used for transporting materials and crew for track laying and maintenance work. The only snag is that it is in Poland so it may be a month or two before it arrives at Zurgena. Until the draisine arrives, Raphael has converted a golf buggy to transport small items along the track. The railway museum at Águilas has also promised to release some of their artifacts, including original tools and maintenance equipment. Together with hundreds of images of the GSSR line and a stack of documents from the GSSR archive, provided by Max Kite and Don Gaunt, the museum will be well worth a visit.

The mayor of Zurgena hopes the completed project will help restore the economic fortunes of his village.

In the fullness of time, La Asociación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Zurgena will be renovating the line between Zurgena and Huércal-Overa station, using Almajalejo station as a steppingstone. Although the first trains to use the renovated line will be diesels, the association hope they will be able to locate an original steam engine, one of the Moguls perhaps, now that would be a sight.


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Anybody interested in joining La Asociación de Amigos del Ferrocarril de Zurgena can do so through their website

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Comments

  • Charles Roy Hogg - 7 Sep 2022
    I have seen an engine on the way to cela its by the side of the road green a big beast
    • Nick Nutter - 8 Sep 2022
      Hi Charles, is this the one? https://visit-andalucia.com/guide-to-tijola-almeria/
  • Dick West - 15 Oct 2021
    Is there any evidence showing where the locomotives were built, or maybe the nationality of the supplier ? UK transport museums are full of steam engines. What about the loco at Rio Tinto ?
    • Nick Nutter - 15 Oct 2021
      Hi Dick, All the engines and rolling stock were built in either Britain or Belgium, transported to Aquilas by ship and re-assembled in workshops at the port. All the equipment, points, signals, water tanks, etc. were also built in Britain. The station buildings all have a very 'British' feel to them, like the Algeciras to Ronda railway. I am working on a final article that looks at the provenance of rolling stock and the companies involved. In the meantime here is the Story of the GSSR as told through the characters involved. https://www.visit-andalucia.com/travel.php?tour=the-great-southern-of-spain-railway-company-ltd
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