The Ferrocarril de Sóller feature continues – and here there’s a look at the celebrated tramway between Sóller and Puerto de Sóller
In terms of station stops, during our visits in the late sixties and the seventies, the compulsory stops en route were Son Sardina, Santa Maria and Bunyola. Santa Maria is now a request stop – this is the station on Google Streets. Its quite recognisable because of the various sidings around here that form the line’s permanent way depot.
Besides Santa Maria, the line’s other three request stops are Son Reus, Caubert, and Can Tambor. The latter is unusual because the line is on one of its severest gradients thus the platform is of stepped construction rather than being level.
Mirador Pujol de’n Banya October 2018. Source: Twitter
A number of the Sóller trains pass at the Mirador Pujol de’n Banya high above Sóller. The viewing platform and passing loop was put in here about twenty five years or so ago. Previously there was just a single track and no platform to speak of.
The trains’ more astute passengers at Mirador Pujol de’n Banya will even be able to spot their train’s eventual destination far down below in the valley!
Motor rail coach no.3 on a train from Palma arriving at Bunyola. Source: Twitter
Bunyola is the main passing point as it has always been. Its also where some of the line’s maintenance stock is kept. The line’s permanent way depot (eg track and ballast) is however sited at Santa Maria as seen in this Google Streets view.
The line’s one and only track tampering machine, a Plasser Unima 3, is kept at Bunyola and this works on the entire system including the open sections of the tramway itself as far as the commencement of the street section through Puerto.
Motor rail coach no.2 on a Palma bound train at Bunyola. Source: Hidden Europe
One cannot really mention the Ferrocarril de Sóller without the tramway the company also manages. The tranvia is without doubt part and parcel of the Sóller railway empire and constitutes an important transport link between Sóller and Puerto de Sóller, as well as linking the communities and villages between the two places.
The tramway was in fact an unplanned add-on to the Sóller-Palma line. Government rules specified that new railways over 30km could get certain grants. The line to Sóller was just 27km thus its said the tramway was built in order to gain these additional grants.
A lovely 1961 poster depicting the Puerto tram. Source: Pinterest
It must be said that ironically at the other end of the Sóller railway too another electric tramway once existed – Palma’s very own tram system. This little known but fairly large system served the city until closure in 1958. Some of the trailers from the Palma system were acquired by the FS for its own tram system.
Rail Expert Tim Dunn at Puerto – where the trams from Sóller end. Source: Twitter
Many would think the tramway has remained static throughout its life. It hasn’t. In recent years huge changes were made especially in Puerto – and the tramway’s alignment there isn’t the original! These changes were something that was done much to the annoyance and objections of the locals, but the authorities were insistent on the changes.
Previously the tramway ran right along Puerto de Sóller’s beach, however in 2012 it was moved inland somewhat to make way for a new promenade. This means the only original tramway alignment in Puerto that still exists is the final bit to the Marisol terminus.
View of a tram headed for Sóller at the new loop alongside the Ma-11 (Mallorcan road designation number) with the Serra de Tramuntana ahead. Source: Twitter.
The FS’ four motor coaches were once capable of working through from Palma to Puerto de Sóller. These originally had dual voltage capability and could switch from 1200v to 600v in order to operate on the tramway section.
As the picture below shows, this is motor coach number one seen on the tramway passing Saint Bartomeu en route to Puerto. These somewhat rare workings were soon seen as superfluous and the tramway undertook those duties including the transfer of freight stock to the naval base at Puerto.
One of the few times a motor coach is seen on the tramway. This is at the Església de Sant Bartomeu in the early days of electrification. Its not the official opening train however. Source: Internet Archive.
One of the problems with running through trains especially in terms of freight was the motor coaches couldn’t enter the naval base. The curve from the entrance gates into the military compound was far too sharp and meant the motor coaches could only do half a job. The tram cars could easily negotiate the sharp curves venture right into the naval depot itself thus these took over all the naval workings.
Although the Sóller tram was designed for the transport of passengers, it was also used to transport merchandise down to the port. Fresh fish was carried from the Port to Sóller in a small isothermal car and coal was taken to the former military submarine base in the Port of Sóller and the ‘El Gas’ factory on trailers; mines and torpedoes were also transported from the Caubet magazine. Source: Facebook
Train and tram at Sóller in May 2019 – note the new electronic train/tram departures indicator on the platform! Source: Twitter
In the days of through operations to the naval pier, the trams hauled their freight stock from Sóller to the Marysol terminus where they would then run round their freight stock before pushing these forwards to the naval port. The simple reason was the naval port had plain sidings, no loops. There are photographs and film of the trams in the 1920s working exactly in the way described.
In the late sixties I followed the tramway right round to the naval base which was at the time still in use so could not venture further than the guards at the entrance to the base. The track seemed to be in use however I did not see any stock on the military pier.
The naval base itself is no more, it was demolished in 2006 and the rubble from it used to build new piers for the luxury boats and yachts which now populate this part of the world!
The end for Puerto’s naval base during demolition. Summer 2006. Source: Internet Archive
The station area at Sóller can still be switched between the two voltage systems (600v for the trams and 1200v for the trains) to allow tram cars to cross the station throat and gain access to the railway’s workshops and of course the motor coaches to be stabled in the tram sheds if the need does arise.
The switch gear at Sóller that changes the line voltage from 1200v to 600v dc. This allows the trams to be driven through the station yards for servicing. The trams’ power lever (labelled 600) is down and the 1200v lever is up, thus the latter system is energised. Source: Internet Archive
The FS once used to stable their motor coaches in the tram shed in those days because there was the room and these were the sheds for all the line’s powered stock. The other yard sheds were used for the carriages and wagons because there was still freight on the line, whilst other sheds were used for maintenance and repair of the stock.
In 1968 I was able to take a picture of the tram shed showing one of the motor coaches some distance inside on the centre road. One won’t see a motor coach on the tram lines or in the tram sheds these days – except perhaps the rare case when a motor coach is needed to shunt tram stock about the site.
However the additional tramcars bought from Lisbon and extra passenger stock means the tram sheds and sidings have little space for any other stock and also there’s sufficient spare tram cars to perform any shunting duties.
My photo of the tram shed in 1968 with unidentified railmotor coach in the centre road. As has been noted previously this was possibly only because the motor coaches could switch from 1200v to 600v dc. The shed has now been altered considerably.
The furthest the lines in Puerto go these days – although trams do not generally venture this far. Source: Google Streets
One of the Lisbon trams caught at the very end of the line in September 2012. Perhaps there are ‘ghost trips’ just to assert the line is still in use beyond the terminus? Source: Flickr
One of the most curious things is the tramway map still shows the most public extremity of its services even though this hasn’t been done for decades…. Marysol is the terminus (and has been for a very long time) yet on the current map it shows the terminus as La Pagesa, which is about half way to the former naval base. I am not sure if the trams do run any service this far, say with a single motor car whilst in the process of running round its stock at Marysol. As FS says on Facebook: “Do you know the stops of our tram? Take note!”
The company’s current tram map which shows the line reaching La Pagesa when it only goes as far as Marysol (Marisol.) Source: Facebook
Lovely picture showing one of the former Lisbon tramcars at Puerto. Source: Twitter
Whilst some of the above pictures used for this series were originally found on the Majorca Railways site (last updated March 2012) I have used several from the Internet Archive because these are no longer on the original site.