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The Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd

The Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd was a British company set up in 1885 to build a railway line between Granada city, via Baza, down the Almanzora river valley in the region of Andalucia and over to Lorca and Aguilas in Murcia region.

The line was to connect the city of Granada with that of Murcia with a branch line to the small but thriving port of Aguilas. The line would mean that Almeria would be connected with the north of Spain and have easier access to another port as well as inland markets for a surprising list of commodities including; marble, talcum, esparto grass, cereals, flour, oil, wine and fruit and vegetables. The railway line would also stimulate the mining industry particularly the relatively unexploited Sierra Filabres and Sierra Bacarese areas and the GSSR hoped to capitalise on the transport of metallic ores, mainly iron ore.

From the first day the Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd encountered problems. The Spanish bureaucracy was, if anything, worse than it is today.

The roads were poor and sometimes impassable and this made the movement of construction materials difficult, the water available to cool the engines was hard and this resulted in the boilers of the steam engines becoming calcinated and sometimes even exploding, the Spanish coal would not burn at a high enough temperature.

All that before they even began to build a railway line through unforgiving terrain, mountains, badlands and across deep ravines.

Some of these problems had been anticipated, many had not.

With the same confidence that helped build an Empire, not to mention railway lines throughout the Empire in some of the most inhospitable places on earth, the Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd persuaded its first investors that building a line in Spain would be easy.

They were not the first English company to build a mineral line in Spain. That honour went to the Rio Tinto Mining Company Ltd who built a line from mines at Rio Tinto to Huelva City, where they constructed an ore loading dock between 1874 and 1876.

The story of the Great Southern of Spain Company has a hero - Gustave Gillman, it has a villain - George Henry, 1st Marqués de Casa Loring, Vizconde de la Caridad and it has a likeable rogue - Don Fortunato Fernández.

The story is an epic tale of heroic endeavour, disasters and episodes of unbelievable and at times hilarious silliness that you could not invent. This is the story of the line, told through those tales.

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Video by: Julie Evans