The Plazaola Train: Stations, Trains and People

Discover the Pamplona–San Sebastián (PSS) railway, the mining and passenger train that travelled through the rugged valleys of Navarre and Gipuzkoa between 1905 and 1953.

By Spanish Railways Foundation

Plazaola railway postcard (Between 1914 and 1953)Spanish Railways Foundation

The Plazaola Train

In 1914, a modest mining train became an ambitious narrow-gauge train linking Navarre and Gipuzkoa via the shortest, most direct route: the Plazaola Railway, Pamplona-Lasarte-San Sebastian.

Head of the Plazaola railway station in Latasa (Between 1915 and 1930.)Original Source: Royal and General Archive of Navarre

Stations and People

The railway’s temples, its stations, arose from among hamlets and residential areas. Noble buildings in the same style, they saw the comings and goings of people, loads, with a rigorous liturgy officiated by railway workers, such as this Stationmaster in Latasa.

Pamplona station (Between 1914 and 1953.)Spanish Railways Foundation

A junction of narrow-gauge lines was created in Pamplona. Our steamy Plazaola and the most modern electric Irati railway coincided in a common station. This mail train, which is about to depart for Sangüesa, belonged to this line. It was 1955 and our train had already disappeared two years earlier.

Testimonials regarding the history of the Plazaola Railway

A former passenger of the railway line and some historical photos tell us what it was like to live in those times, and travel on the Plazaola train.

Women on the Plazaola railway (1921-01-01)Original Source: Royal and General Archive of Navarre

Some women on the long platforms that characterised those stations, like this one in Latasa, on January 1st, 1921. We do not know whether they are waiting for the train bound for Pamplona, or perhaps waiting for a relative coming on the train from San Sebastian.

Testimonials regarding the Plazaola Railway

“The joke about Plazaola” sheds a humorous light on the travelling conditions in those small narrow-gauge trains.

Railway card of the Plazaola Railway (1935-06-11)Original Source: Municipal Archive of Andoain

A new working class joined the stockbreeders, lumberjacks and farmers in these valleys: railway workers. The Plazaola railway had workers on trains, in stations, maintaining the tracks and, like this worker in the photo, repairing trains in the Andoain workshop.

Queen María Cristina of Habsburg next to one of the wagons of the Plazaola railway (Between 1915 and 1920.)Original Source: Municipal Archive of Andoain

In San Sebastian, the Plazaola trains shared Amara Station with those of the railway called “Ferrocarriles Vascongados.” And even the royal family, who regularly spent their summer holidays in San Sebastian, could be seen beside our carriages. The Queen Regent Maria Christina of Austria strolling beside the Plazaola train.

Viaduct of the Plazaola railway in Gulina (Between 1914 and 1930.)Original Source: Royal and General Archive of Navarre

Trains

In 1914, the 20th century entered those valleys, where the Plazaola’s modern steam engines made their way alongside fields tilled by Roman ploughs drawn by oxen. A passenger express travelling over the Gulina Viaduct on its way to San Sebastian.

Interior of a passenger wagon of the Plazaola train (Between 1914 and 1953.)Original Source: Municipal Archive of Andoain

From a stagecoach travelling along muddy trails to the luxury of this 1st-class Plazaola car. PSS, Pamplona–San Sebastian, origin and destination of a railway line that ran comfortably through the agricultural landscapes of Gipuzkoa and Navarre.

Steam locomotive of the Plazaola train (Between 1914 and 1953.)Original Source: Municipal Archive of Andoain

The Krauss company’s Engerth-type “130” series came to the Plazaola railway when its services were expanded to Pamplona and San Sebastian, replacing the mining train’s small locomotives. Seven of these “130” engines travelled along the Plazaola line. One of them, the PV-31, can still be seen in Ponferrada, Leon.

Plazaola locomotive (Between 1921 and 1925.)Original Source: Royal and General Archive of Navarre

Steam power about to move this Krauss locomotive bound for San Sebastian, from Plazaola’s first station in Pamplona. It was the 1920s and these seven schoolchildren and their teacher (a priest) looked amazed at what was then the most modern railway technology.

Plazaola train passenger wagon (Between 1914 and 1953.)Original Source: Municipal Archive of Andoain

In 1930, Beardmore trains arrived from the United Kingdom. They were 3 diesel railcars with 30 seats between 1st and 3rd class, characterised by their high speed and operating capacity. Their Achilles’ heel, however, was the fact that their engines occupied a third of the train. They were taken out of service in the 1940s.

Plazaola Railway Poster (Between 1914 and 1953)Original Source: Euskotren Archive/Basque Railway Museum

Would you like to learn more about the Plazaola train?

Continue reading its history in this exhibition.

Credits: Story

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the TrailGazers project. It is funded by the Navarre Government’s Directorate General for Tourism, Commerce and Consumption, Nasuvinsa, Basquetour, Gipuzkoa Provincial Council and Plazaola Tourist Consortium. It forms part of the “Plazaola Digital” project, organised by the Spanish Railway Foundation (FFE). 

All pictures have been provided by the Royal and General Archive of Navarre, Municipal Archive of Andoain, Historical Railway Archive of the Madrid Railway Museum–FFE, and Euskotren Archive/Basque Railway Museum. 

The videos belong to the “Vive la Vía” (Live the Tracks) series of the FFE, and to the Archive of Navarre Immaterial Heritage and Public University of Navarre. 

We would also like to thank Xabier Cabezón for his inspiring website web www.leitzaran.net (CC-BY-NC-SA). 

More information: visitnavarra.es / turismo.euskadi.eus / plazaola.org / trailgazers.eu / viasverdes.com / navarra.viasverdes.com 

#VVPlazaolaDigital 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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