This article was translated by John R. Bopp
Recently we ran across Bahnbilder, a German website dedicated to photographers of all things train-related, where everyone from novices to pros can show off their photos. On that site, we can find a collection of photos of the Euskotren lines and the spectacular Museum of Azpeitia.
Both are worth visiting: the train lines that run along the southern Basque Coast up to Hendaye, as well as that museum that we can’t stop enjoying regardless of how often we visit it. We don’t know why, but traveling by train, with its locomotives and cars, is irresistibly attractive to almost everyone.
The history of the railroad in what is now the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country is one of glory, decline, and recovery, as railroad expert historian Juanjo Olaizola recalls in his “Brief History of the Railroad in the Basque Country”:
In 1927, the construction of the Basque rail network was almost complete. At that time, the rails in the Basque Country totalled 825 kilometers (513 miles), spread out between 310km (193mi) of wide gauge and 515km (320mi) of metric gauge, … At the end of the twenties, the Basque Country had the densest rail network in Europe and on of the most important, both in kilometers per capita as well as surface area, of all of Europe.
The Spanish Civil War, the horrible management of the network by the Francoist government, and the widening use of the automobile meant that many of these lines went into crisis, and even started closing in the 1960s.
Fortunately, this trend has shifted, and we still have an important rail network that also travels through countryside of great touristic interest, in addition to the Azpeitia Railroad Museum, which is a treasure.
Even better, many of the old rail passenger and freight lines that are no longer in use are being converted into bike trails, offering yet another wonderful way of getting to know the Land of the Basques.
Larrun, Labourd/Lapurdi. Video courtesy Atlantic Drones
And we would be remiss to stop reminding, and recommending, a visit to the Larrun Railroad, a rack railway that takes us from Sare up to the sky, in order to enjoy the views that made a journalist from the Royal Geographical Society to write, as we have previously quoted:
The Basque people are always keen to tell everyone how special this part of the world is, and right now, I believe them.
We’ll leave you with the photo gallery the German website has on Basque railways. We’ll also leave you with the Euskotren website, with its route maps, and the site for the Basque Railroad Museum, which, really, no one should miss.
Bahnbilder – – Alemania
Euskotren – – Euskadi
Lineas de ferrocarril de Euskotren
Museo Vasco del Ferrocarril – – Euskadi
Museo Vasco del Ferrocarril
Museum · The exhibits
The Basque Railway Museum houses one of the best railway collections in Europe, containing train vehicles of all types: steam, diesel and electric cabooses; engines and a range of wagons. What’s more, the museum offers the visitor one of the most complete sets of machine tools in the Basque Country, coming from a once-used mechanic’s workshop from the Urola Railway. This facility is preserved just as it was when it was inaugurated in 1925, including an antique electric motor which runs 16 machines by using a complex system of pulleys, belts and clay workings.