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Trip to Messines Saturday 14th October

In Algarve,Portugal on October 16, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: , , , ,

Trip to Messines Saturday 14th October

Off to Messines to see my local football team, Imortal Albufeira, play in a local League match. It’s an easy trip for me as I can take a bus 50 metres / yards from my apartment all the way there.

São Bartolomeu de Messines, to give it its full name, is a town of about 8,000 people 23km (14.5 miles) north of Albufeira. It’s decidedly not touristy! It is among wooded hills on the edge of the ‘populated’ area of the Algarve. There is not a lot further north.

The hills from the railway.

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The town itself has a very old part near the church, which dates from 1716 and thus survived the earthquake of 1755.

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See the cracks in the marble though!

This is a well kept building by the church.

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And there is this little place to sit.

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Narrow streets, with a lot of empty and derelict buildings as is so common in many small towns.

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The more modern parts are fairly well kept however. The town has a little railway station, four trains go every day to Lisbon, three come back. The old station building and platform are no longer used, there are no station staff. The building is now used to house communications equipment.

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The modern station is not much used and weeds are not being being cleared.

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The neat football ground is fairly new, having replaced an older more basic facility elsewhere in town. it has a synthetic grass surface with a bewildering array of markings for 11-a side and small side pitches for the boys (girls football? Not here!) to play their games on. Before the start, a few players warming up.

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The scene at the bar at half time.

The match itself was horrible, we lost 1-0 despite them having had a player sent off after 25 minutes. Always lose to them it seems.

High above the town, modern windmills swish around, generating electricity.

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If you have half a day to spare, the trip out by car or bus (even train!) is fairly pleasant. There is a small indoor market every morning except Sundays and religious holidays. The ‘main street’ has a few places in which to eat and drink should you so wish. There are two small supermarkets in the centre should you prefer to take a picnic into the wilds.

Photos

Soulac sur Mer 1945 and 2017 comparison; trip home from Bordeaux via Lisbon

I finally solved a mystery that had been bugging me for years! Turned out to be quite simple in the end.

During the closing weeks of World War Two, mid-April 1945, Soulac sur mer and the surrounding area was the scene of several days close combat between French forces and the occupying Germans, who were in no mood to surrender without a fight.

Many books have been published about these battles. One I bought a while back contained a couple of pictures of close quarter action. I was pretty sure I knew the place, but somehow couldn’t figure it. So this year I scanned the pictures and went looking. It didn’t take long as it turned out. Here is the result.

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Soulac sur mer in 1945 and 2017

The location is just to the south of the railway station, the line crosses the road to the right where the two tall masts can be seen. the new tree obscures the view of the electrical substation, the equipment of which can be seen to the left of the psot above the soldier. Google view, the red mark shows where I stood. Not quite the same place as the chap in 1945 as the road was a little busier when I was there!

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Location for comparison photos, Soulac sur mer

The German forces was pushed back from Soulac on the 17th and 18th April 1945. Their last stand was at the fortfications of Le Verdon a few km to the north. Surrender came on 20th April 1945. The two sides lost 1050 men during the week’s combats.

I have a few more photos from a bike ride around Royan, Vaux Sur Mer and La Palmyre. These I shall add in a day or two.

My train ride home from Bordeaux was very agreeable. Here is what I posted on Trip Advisor :

I travelled on the Sud Express from Írun to Lisbon Tuesday night / this morning.

Some observations – the train was full. I was expecting the farce of heavy handed security and lines for baggage checks at Írun as per my previous trip a few years ago. No such thing, people in seated cars simply walked on board and those of us in sleeper cars showed our tickets to the hostess who made sure we went in the right one – some obviously didn’t! No one demanded to see my passport or made me take my shoes off. All very civilised.

Train left 2 minutes late. The first hour or so of the trip is through the Basque country with its station signs and almost everything else in that incomprehensible language. Nice wooded and hilly scenery, some rain and mist on the tallest peaks.

There are no announcements on board, so if getting off before Lisbon best set a good alarm. One thing will cause despondency among the internet junkies – there is no wifi, no electrical sockets other than a shaver socket in the sleeper compartments, no USB sockets, no nothing like that on board. Your 3G roaming will work for a good while, but once out into the remote country areas, forget it.

I know this may mean actually having to engage in conversation, the hardship is noted.

The train does rumble and clank, although I did sleep reasonably well most of the way. The exception was around 2am (Spanish time) or 1am (Portuguese time), when it sounded like we were running over corrugated iron sheets for quite a time.

The air con /heating system worked well, neither too hot nor too cold, but then the outside weather wasn’t exactly summer. There is no longer a full meal service, just an on board café / bar car. Almost everyone, myself included, was well supplied with their own stuff.

Arrival in Lisbon Oriente was 1 minute ahead of schedule. I then waited for my train down to Albufeira.

I arrived exactly on time in Albufeira this morning after a trip of a 21hrs 57 minutes involving four different trains and crossing two national borders. All tickets bought on line except for the 3 minute ride from Hendaye to Írun on Euskotren’s nice new train, which cost me €1,70 from the machine.

Yes it costs more than flying and is slower, but a much less stressful way to travel IMHO. A nice winding down it was for me after a six week trip around various places.

I started my journey on the TGV from Bordeaux. This was one of the new Duplex (double deck) trains introduced upon the opening of the new high speed line between Tours and Bordeaux. It was absolutely full on leaving. There were no ticket checks at all, my upper deck window seat was occupied by someone with a vaid ticket but in the wrong coach. He had to move!

Passengers alighted in numbers at every stop, by the time we reached the end of the line at Hendaye few were left. Arrival was on time but the schedule has been padded to allow for a few miles of painfull slow running between Bayonne and St Jean de Luz.  Subsidence has caused some minor track damage which has yet to be repaired. Trains must therefore run slowly, for that reason (but excuse actually) SNCF no longer extends most of its trains the extra distance across the border and to Írun.

So, at Hendaye it’s a short walk out of the main station to the Euskotren station. A couple of staff were on hand to assist the many foreigners with the ticket machines (there is no ticket office) and my €1,70 ticket across the border was easily obtained. The trip to the Euskotren station at Írun Colon takes 4 minutes, from there is it 3 minutes easy walk to the main station.

 

Soulac sur Mer 1945 and 2017 comparison; trip home from Bordeaux via Lisbon

Tagged: , , on August 12, 2017 by cubsur51

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Look both ways!

In France,Médoc,Trains on July 24, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged:

Update 31st July – for those of you who like to see the old railway pictures, this website has a very good collection of postcard views from maybe 100 years ago. Many of the locations are recognisable to this day. http://voiesferreesdegironde.e-monsite.com/pages/compagnie-du-midi-et-du-medoc/bordeaux-pointe-de-grave.html descriptive text is in French. One of the pictures shows a very early double-decker train!

Spotted this delightfully retro sign at a foot crossing near Lesparre station in the Médoc region of France. It’s a new-ish sign, not an old one still there. It’s a single track at that location.

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Look both ways

Wikipedia article, in French, https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_de_Lesparre

One of the new trains now operating on that line near Lesparre.

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Train on Médoc line near Lesparre

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Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells May 2017

In Pictures from England on May 6, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: , ,

https://1drv.ms/f/s!Am0w7qp9HCpqgsJKnbzqJRfjn3i6Cg

A quick trip to the UK for a football related event and an excuse to drink huge amounts of proper beer. First few pictures are for rail fans. Taken on Friday 5th May at Tonbridge, they show the sidings at Tonbridge West Yard, which are mainly used as a base for infrastructure maintenance trains operated by GB Railfreight and Network Rail. Various trains were being assembled in advance a large project scheduled for the weekend. Four tracks are used to stable trains overnight.

There is also a snowplough based there, which probably hasn´t moved in years.

The actual station nearby sees twelve passenger trains every hour on weekdays and Saturdays heading to or from London, plus two on the cross country to Redhill.

The western end would be a modellers delight with two main tracks diverging sharply, a complicated set of points (switches) and the network of sidings between. The other direction would be rather more difficult as one set of tracks is dead straight for about 20 miles!

A couple of shots of Camden Road in Tunbridge Wells, one of the few remaining streets of independent shops in an English town of similar size.

In contrast, High Street has some very upmarket shops including a jewellers with £14,000 Cartier watches on display.

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Visit to Faro, 5th October 2016

In Algarve,Portugal,Sports - football, soccer,Trains on October 10, 2016 by cubsur51 Tagged: , , , ,

Last Wednesday, 5th October, was a public holiday here in Portugal – Republic Day. Republic Day commemorates the proclamation of the first Republic in 1910, following the removal of the last king, Dom Manuel II as a result of the coup d´etat and Republican revolution. He is sometimes referred to as ‘Manuel the Unfortunate’.

He spent the remainder of his life in exile in Twickenham, near London. He was buried in Lisbon.

Anyway, history lesson over! I was off to Faro to watch the Culatrense vs Imortal (Albufeira) match, Algarve League Division One.

The pictures in the album below include an unexpected couple of shots of the train of empty aviation fuel containers that runs from Loulé back to the refineries at Sines. I didn’t expect to see it, being a public holiday. The loaded trains come down to Loulé as required. The fuel containers are taken by truck to Faro airport. Empties come back the same way.

There are a few shots of Faro marina and the city streets plus some of the game, which finished 0-0 and was pretty poor. It was a hot day, 28C in the afternoon.

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Arco da Vila

The Arco da Vila, an entrance to the oldest part of the city of Faro.

 

Photos

VISIT TO FARO AND OLHÂO Thursday 18th June 2015

Some notes and pictures from a day out in Faro and Olhão. It’s been very hot and dry here, which has brought hay fever back. I thought a trip to the coast and the ocean breezes might help things.

I hadn’t planned to visit the museum in Faro, but when I walked past I saw that they currently have an exhibit on the 125 year history of railways in the Algarve.

Admission is only 2 Euros and there are a number of other permanent and temporary exhibits. If you have a couple of hours to spare, or simply want to spend a couple of hours out of the summer heat, it’s worth the cost. However, it is NOT accessible to those in wheelchairs. Many of the exhibits are on the upper floor of the old convent in which it sits.

The museum is in the old city, behind the walls, near the cathedral. Opening times : Tuesday to Friday 1000 – 1800, Saturday and Sunday 1030 – 1700. Closed Mondays. Open until 1900hrs 1st June to 30th September, but does not open at weekends in summer until 1130.

It’s located in a former convent, construction of which began in 1519. Occupied by nuns for the next 300 years or so, it was vacated when the religious orders were dissolved in 1836 and later was sold to become a cork processing factory. It was acquired by the state and declared a national monument in 1948. This small picture shows the interior ornamental garden – click any picture that follows to see it full size.

The museum houses a large number of religious paintings. Some are not in very good condition. This is one of the rooms.

There are also a number of Roman gravestones and other stoneworks, also a mosaic floor that was found near the Faro railway station that was transported bodily to the museum and re-assembled. It was the floor of a public building, function unknown, sponsored by four local worthies of the time whose names are recorded in the tiles.

Faro, in Roman times, was the city of Ossonoba, a major trading post on the coast. It had though been occupied by various peoples before that. One exhibit is a part of a stone with writing that no-one has ever been able to decipher. It’s thought that the script dates from Phoenician times, perhaps as long ago as the 3rd Century BC. The knowledge of the writing was lost when the Romans conquered.

When the Roman occupation ended in the 5th century, their place was taken by Moors (Muslims) from North Africa. They ruled the south of Portugal until 1249, when the armies of King Afonso III took the city. This is commemorated by this plaque
at the Arco do Repouso, which was once the main gate into the city. This dates from the 12th century.

It’s interesting to note that this ancient structure, and the convent, are two of the few buildings that were not flattened by the earthquake and tsunami in 1755.

But the main purpose of my visit was to see the exhibits related to the railway. Last year marked the 125th anniversary of the opening of the railway into Faro and the Algarve. The restored presidential train visited, with the local great and good able to partake of a ride – not the rabble though! We were allowed to take a look inside. Here are the pictures I took last year. The train is used for luxury tours around the country for those who have a few thousand Euros to spare.

The exhibition runs until the end of August. It’s small, but for railway buffs very interesting.

Some history.

The Algarve was pretty well cut off from the rest of Portugal until the coming of the railway. One of the panels contains the words of a local railwayman from the early days. He said that the Algarve could be thought of as an island, surrounded to the south and west by water and to the north and west by almost impenetrable hills. (Not to mention a wide river, the Guadiana.) The way by sea was often dangerous.

Construction of the railway was authorised in 1875 in consequence of a serious drought in the Algarve. I paraphrase slightly from the Portuguese. The document states that ‘the drought was gravely affecting the agriculture of the Algarve and the well-being of its people. The railway would alleviate this by ending the isolation of the area and also creating work for those who most need it’.

Construction took 14 years. The first line struck out from Beja to Funcheira, completed in 1888, then follows the route we know today through Santa Clara, Messines, Tunes then across the Algarve to Faro. One panel quotes that there are almost no straight stretches, it is curve after curve. (Some of these kinks were ironed out when the line was electrified and modernised in 2003, but many remain.)

The present day route to Lisbon (Barreiro), via Grândola, was not opened until 1919.

The first train from Barreiro (across the river from Lisbon) arrived in Faro on 21st February 1889. The official inauguration ceremony did not though take place until 1st July. This picture shows the ceremonial train arriving, click to see full size.

The line was extended beyond Faro to Tavira by 1904 and Vila Real de Santo António, opening in 1906. A problem was getting from the Faro station around the old city and beyond to the east.

A sea wall had to be built, which in the process created a lagoon, which today is Faro’s marina.

All the stations are built to the same basic design, but each has its own distinctive pattern of wall tiles.

The station at Vila Real de Santo António is a different design and dates from 1945, the original ‘temporary’ wooden structure having lasted since the line opened. This picture was taken in 2011, when the old USA Budd design railcars were still running.

To the east of the region, the railway opened as far as Portimão in 1903, but the extension to Lagos did not open until July 1922.

The railway today

Line diagram Diagram of Algarve railway lines 2015

The line was electrified from Lisbon to Faro in 2003. The bridge over the River Tagus had a rail deck added, allowing trains from Lisbon to go through to the Algarve instead of having to start from Barreiro, a short ferry ride away. Since then, the whole Algarve line has been modernised at a cost of 35 million Euros. This included the installation of signals, the replacement of old jointed rails by welded rails, provision of higher platforms at most stations thus making access for those less able rather easier.

Earlier this year it was announced that the Tunes – Lagos and Faro – Vila Real de Santo António sections are to be electrified with work supposed to begin in 2017 for completion in 2020. New trains would have been needed in any event. None of those currently in use comply with the EU rules on accessibility for those less able which come into force in 2020. Never mind that in many cases it impossible to actually get to the stations unless you walk or drive! And buses do not comply either!!!

There is also a crack-brained scheme to build a branch line to serve the airport, opening in 2022. A bigger waste of money is hard to imagine. 90% of people arriving at the airport either hire cars or go off in buses with their holiday company. Although the train I took from Albufeira to Faro last Thursday morning was pretty full of people obviously heading for the airport, present airport needs are met by a bus to and from Faro that runs twice an hour at best or the local taxis and transfer companies.

It’s a pity that the train timetable is mainly geared around making connections with the trains to and from Lisbon. Local travel can be far from easy. At weekends there are long gaps between trains either side of Faro, meaning that in particular if you want to travel from east to Faro to say Portimao or Lagos, there are no useable connections for a period of SEVEN hours. Also, there are some gaps of three hours between trains, on any day. Current timetable etc here.

This is poor, considering that when the line fully opened a railwayman recalls in the exhibition that it was suddenly possible to travel from Vila Real to Lagos in 3hrs 15 minutes, whereas before it would have taken all day and probably longer – by horse don’t forget. There were no cars then. A journey to Lisbon would have been
almost unthinkable, a major undertaking given that there were almost no roads.

In the present day, the quickest journey from one end of the line to the other takes 2hrs 51 minutes for a distance of km. There are no ‘directo’ trains these days, which in 1978 did the end to end trip in 2hrs 20 minutes!

Old timetables

One interesting display is of broadsheet station timetables from the 1970’s and 1980’s, before modernisation.

There was a direct train between Lagos and Lisbon via Tunes, another table shows the short-lived car carrying trains that ran between Porto and Faro in summer. As soon as the motorways opened, they were no longer needed. The ramps at Faro where cars were driven off the trains are still there.

Another timetable lists the large number of tiny halts and stopping places in the Algarve that have now almost disappeared. Some, like Vale Judeu and Patã, lasted until the past few years and can still be seen, but little or no trace remains of Odiaxere, Penina (later Alvor) and between Albufeira and the other side of Faro where are (or were) Benfarras, Vale Eguas, Vale Formosa, Patacao, Marchil, Portas do Mar and Sao Francisco? To name but a few.

At the bottom of the Algarve line timetable is a warning to the effect that all trains on the line have ‘limited accommodation’ and that the railway will make no recompense if a seat cannot be found! No worries about that these days.

I managed to photo some of them, but these may not show up too well on line. I have some of them full sized if anyone is interested.

Complete photo Album

The whole photo album is here. I have noticed that if the ‘play slide show’ option is selected some of the captions do not display before the picture changes. I recommend you view each picture manually as it were.

A day out in Faro and Olhão

Tagged: , , on June 21, 2015 by cubsur51

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Trains in the Algarve

In Algarve,Trains on May 20, 2015 by cubsur51 Tagged: ,

I’ve been sent a few pictures of passenger and freight trains in the Algarve. For those like such things, you can see them at http://1drv.ms/1HhbkdF

Pictures are courtesy of Steve Widdowson. Please do not use them without permission.

Included are a few pictures taken from under the door at the rarely photographed museum building at Lagos station. There is apparently no money with which to maintain the building or its contents, which surely cannot remain undamaged for ever. The local vandals are sure to try.

This recent newspaper article in English describes the situation and has some additional pictures taken inside

http://portugalresident.com/rarity-filled-railway-museum-%E2%80%9Cabandoned%E2%80%9D-in-lagos-0