El Transcantabrico for the Railfan

El Transcantabrico is essentially a cruise which uses a train for its base.  However, the railway operating the train, FEVE, was very helpful in ansering my more technical questions about the line and the way the railway is operated.

  Motive Power for El transcantabrico.
  Other Passenger Trains on FEVE.
  Freight Trains.
  El Berron diamonds and workshop.
  Bilbao Tramway.

MotivePower for El Transcantabrico

Diesel electric/electric No. 1912 coming off the train at Balmaseda which is the end of the
Bilbao suburban electrified network.
From El Ferrol to Bilbao and as far as Balmaseda a diesel electric/electric hybrid locomotive was used.  This was able to operate in both non-electrified and electrified territory.  FEVE has about 20 of these locomotives which were designed and built in their own shops around 2000-2004. 

They are clean, quiet and ride very well.  the computer readout in the centre allows the locomotive engineer to monitor all aspects of the operation of the locomotive, including amperage to the traction motors and oil temperatures.  There are several different radio systems including cell phones to allow the engineer to keep in touch and to update the train crew manager as required.  An event recorder (black box) is included.

Diesel No. 1666 at Cisterna
At Balmaseda a diesel electric locomotive, No. 1666, was put on for the non-electrified section from there to the end of the line at Leon.

The diesel was noisier and dirtier than the hybrid but it rode quite well on the metre gauge track.  The wheel in the centre in front of the locomotive engineer is a combined throttle and dynamic brake.  Turn it clockwise for throttle and counter clockwise for brake.  Engineers tended to use the dynamic brake because this saves wear and tear on the train braking system, particularly brake shoes (blocks).  Coming into Cisterna the engineer was able to stop the train using dynamic brake only and did not touch the air brake at all after leaving Guardo.

Other Passenger Trains on FEVE

An eastbound diesel train at Viveiro

Meet with a westbound diesel train at Navia.



Freight Trains on FEVE

Westbound freight at Lurca.  El Transcantabrico is in the platform at right.

Luarca - the stationmaster or mistress inspects every train.

At Arriondas a freight train was stoppedso that we could photograph it. 
El Transcantabrico is on the left.


A meet with a freight train.
Notice the black and white painted short piece of rail indicating the fouling point.

El Berron Diamonds and Workshop

This is where the former Langreo standard gauge north south line crossed the metre gauge lines.  This picture is taken looking east.  There are connections in both western quadrants and one is being built in the north east quadrant.  The FEVE workshops are in the south-east quadrant. (right).  An electric suburban train from Oviedo has just crossed the diamonds.

While most of the group visited Oviedo a small number visited the FEVE workshops, close to the diamonds, where El Transcantabrico (background) is serviced.

This fascinating picture is from "Steam on the Sierra" by Peter Allen and Robert Wheeler published in 1960 and long out of print.  This would appear to be looking east, the same as the photo above.  The standard gauge line has been changed to narrow gauge.

Another picture from "Steam on the Sierra" showing a standard gauge train crossing the metre gauge.  This is likely looking north.        

"Steam on the Sierra" shows an inclined plane a few miles north of the diamonds.  There is now a tunnel which avoids the use of the plane.  Trains now come out of the tunnel on the location of the reception sidings shown to the right (west) of the picture.  The abandoned formation of the inclined plane can still be seen from the train.  Today, this is a metre gauge electrified line with a frequent suburban service to Gijon.

Guard locomotive fitted with an adapter coupler in the knuckle coupler to rescue electric trains - Balmaseda

The FEVE station at Pravia is painted in the very distinctive yellow corporate house style.

At many stations the railway map and details was shown in tilework.

Narrow gauge locomotive preserved at Bilbao FEVE station.

Beyer Peacock 4-4-0T preserved at RENFE Bilbao station.

In the Santander area we saw examples of broad and dual gauge track including (top) a broad gauge diamond crossing with the narrow gauge.  

Bilbao Tramway

Passengers were enjoying Chopin Etudes and light orchestral classics.

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