Newsletter - Autumn 2004

The website rides again !!!

I have finally got a bit more webspace as a result of moving to Wanadoo/freeserve broadband and here is the first Majorca Railways newsletter for two years. There's not an awful lot going on at the present time on the Majorcan railways. The link between Inca and Manacor which opened again last year (after initial closure in 1977) only to close again soon after, following a landslip which blocked the line for a while and derailed a train. A subsequent inspection revealed serious defects in the work done to re-establish the line and a great deal of work has been done to render the line safe. It is due to re-open in mid-September. The Sóller Railway, under its new director Miguel Galmés who I met briefly in May, is gaining strength and celebrated its 75th Anniversary of electrification on July 14th with Pomp and Ceremony. I was invited to the festivities but regrettably couldn't accept. Earlier in the year an old Baldwin steam locomotive was imported into the island, see here for some pictures. The group who imported the loco say they intend to restore it but I don't think they realise just what a big job that will entail.

Nearly three years ago I obtained a video of the film which John Huntley shot in Majorca in the winter of 1955/6. The video, because of expense, had not been professionally digitally mastered or edited and is a straight transfer, warts and all, from the original 16mm B/W cine film. If we had been able to get enough people together to cover the production costs (£300 for 30 copies of a professionally mastered video) this would have been terrific but it just wasn't to be. Sadly, John passed away towards the end of last year - he will be greatly missed. I have transferred the whole film (approx 8 minutes including Soller Railway) to my own computer where, as a compressed mpg file, it takes up 79 megabytes, the original avi file takes 177 Mb !!! It is only short but includes good footage of several steam locos at Palma, including Lloseta (Nasmyth Wilson 4-6-0T of 1887) and Arta (Nasmyth Wilson 4-4-0T of 1877 or 1881). I have made a very short 750Kb clip which you can download by right-clicking here and selecting "save target as" but you will need the DivX ;-) MPEG4 Hi-Res Video Codec before you can view it on your own computers. The codec can be downloaded free from a number of places on the web (Google for DivX). Here's a captured frame from the original video to whet your appetites.

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I have been to Majorca twice this year, the first time in May when the weather was truly dreadful with winds up to 100 kph and temperatures 6ºC below normal. I was staying in Puerto de Sóller and on my 3rd day the weather was improving so I went on to the station at Sóller to do some photographing and trainspotting and got spotted myself by Miguel Galmés, the Director of the Ferrocarril de Sóller ( !! This man came towards me and I thought I was going to be shown the door again (being a railway I suppose I should have written "shewn") but he said "Barry ?" I did a double-take and he said "Barry Emmott ?" so I owned up. Miguel knew I'd be on the island and he'd put 2 & 2 together. We agreed to meet after work for a drink so I did a bit more trainspotting and then went off for some tapas and a brandy in the main square where Miguel found me and we had a long talk about the railway's future. Apparently I'm considered to be something of an expert !!

I was in Majorca on business and the following day went to Palma (by bus, its much quicker and cheaper) but had little success there so I caught the 13:30 train back to Sóller. Just before the train left an old guy (looked a bit like Monsieur Leclerc from "Allo, Allo") came through the train with a coffee-pot and brandy on a big silver tray !! That cost as much as the train ride but was worth it. That afternoon was lovely, the wind had dropped and it was sunny so I walked to the far end of the bay at Puerto de Sóller and up the winding streets to the old church at the top where there are superb views over the bay and over the back, along the cliffs.

My second visit was in September and the weather when we arrived (on holiday this time) was glorious - we flew in over the eastern end of the island and the junction and station at Empalme were quite clearly visible from the plane. However, at 5 a.m. the following morning we were woken by thunder and lightning - one of the best displays I think I've ever seen and we had a grandstand view from our room overlooking the bay. That lasted for about half an hour so we went back to bed and by breakfast time the sky had brightened but just before mid-day we had a return of the thunder and lightning together with an absolutely torrential downpour which lasted almost an hour. The rest of the week was lovely, so lovely in fact that we did very little travelling. We used the trams to go into Sóller and back but on the one occasion when we went to Palma we went by bus to save time. Unfortunately, there being no train to Sóller between 15:10 and 19:30, we had to come back by bus too.

A few days later I met up with Miguel Galmés again and taxed him about the lack of afternoon trains and he gave me a reason I just couldn't argue with - money !!! Apparently there are so many agencies booking whole trains in the afternoon that the railway just doesn't have enough capacity to run them and the normal service. The agencies pay too well to be refused. Miguel was due to go on holiday two days later and by now should be the father of a bonny, bouncing baby daughter, their first child and he certainly looked very pleased !!

Considering my passionate interest in Majorca's railways it is quite astounding that I should have been there for a week without actually travelling on a train - I shall do my best to make up for it next time. To whet, or in this case I should say "wet", your appetites, here's a picture of one of the "new" trams, taken in Puerto de Sóller soon after the downpour

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Whilst I was waiting for the bus in the bus station in Palma, which used to be part of the old SFM works area, I looked through a grimy window of one of the old buildings and could just make out the old steam engine which used to power the SFM workshop. I pressed my camera to the window and this is the best of the three shots I took

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I have now confirmed what I had suspected for some time, namely that my monitor is old and dim (a bit like its owner) and I have been brightening my pictures so that they look right on my monitor but they must have looked too bright on yours. I have not, therefore, brightened these pictures at all and they look rather dark on my monitor - please let me know if they are OK for you. I have also worn several of the letters off the keys on my keyboard - that explains any apparent spelling mistakes.

This a rather brief newsletter but I'm still finding my feet after an absence of two years and at the moment have no new photos to show you - hopefully the content will be rather fuller next time. I'm now officially retired but don't seem to have any more time to get these things done !!

If anyone out there is not already on my "mailing list" and would like to be included, please let me know (remove Majorca from the address before sending - I'm getting far too much spam, much of which is offensive). Thanks again to my contributors and supporters, any comments on the contents will be appreciated.

Watch this site for further developments which will take place whenever new information or pictures come to hand. Any submissions or contributions of information, photos old or new, postcards, books etc., will be very gratefully and enthusiastically received and if used on the site will be suitably acknowledged (as above). The photos, pictures and diagrams used on this site are presented for your information and viewing pleasure only. If any of them should be in copyright violation and the copyright holder would care to notify me (remove MAJORCA from the address before sending). I will either remove them or acknowledge the copyright accordingly.

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© Barry Emmott 26th September 2004