History trains

El Transcantábrico

In 1983, a team of professionals from Feve, with Fernando de Estaban as president of the company, had the great and innovative idea of ​​creating a cruiser on wheels, aboard the mythical train in northern Spain. The width of a meter on the road makes a route as unique as the landscapes that can be seen from its windows, full of contrasts between green and blue, sea and mountains.

The idea was “to create a train that capitalized, on the one hand, the territories and landscapes that it traveled, and on the other, that was a revulsive capable of creating a new image both inside and outside the company.”

Once the concept was defined, the start-up of the train was achieved in just four months thanks to the effort that both Feve staff and the Ateinsa and Temoinsa companies, among others, carried out to transform old 1920 cars and 1930 from the Vascongados Railways, in a calamitous state, in an elegant hotel on wheels consisting of four cars that was completed in July 1983.

This same month an inaugural trip is made, traveling the route La Robla - Cistierna - León. In the capital of Leon, the state, regional and local authorities met to celebrate the event and greet an incitement that had surprised both the local population and the rest.

Once the concept was defined, the start-up of the train was achieved in just four months thanks to the effort that both Feve staff and the Ateinsa and Temoinsa companies, among others, carried out to transform old 1920 cars and 1930 from the Vascongados Railways, in a calamitous state, in an elegant hotel on wheels consisting of four cars that was completed in July 1983.

This same month an inaugural trip is made, traveling the route La Robla - Cistierna - León. In the capital of Leon, the state, regional and local authorities met to celebrate the event and greet an incitement that had surprised both the local population and the rest.

Shortly after the first trip took place with passengers between León and Ferrol, a crossing that crossed the north of Castilla and León and then reached Biscay and then traveled along the entire coast of the Cantabrian Sea to Galicia. The traditional route of El Transcantábrico was thus fixed, linked to two paths of Jacobean pilgrims: the Northern Way or the Coast, at the edge of the sea, and the French Way, through Castilian and Leonese lands. During the eighties the train became known, both nationally and internationally.

The 1990s began with an essential change in the El Transcantábrico route. Much of the route of the La Robla Railway, from Bercedo, in Burgos, to Matallana, in León, was closed to passenger trains for safety reasons, given the poor condition of the road. In 1993 the route was reopened from Matallana to Leon Cistierna, and in 1994 from the latter to Guardo, already in Palencia, thanks to the agreement between the then Ministry of Transport, Feve and the Junta de Castilla y León.

The Transcantábrico, meanwhile, had defined a new route. Now the trains arriving at Bilbao did not turn inland as in the previous decade, but continued to San Sebastián, using the Euskotren route, the Basque regional railway. In spite of the undeniable charm of the Gipuzkoan capital, the train should once again circulate on the La Robla Railway, as this route was already part of its identity.

The Transcantábrico continued to improve its implementation, as well as its benefits. In 1998 Feve built the first car equipped with four compartments suites, because until then travelers had stayed in compartments with bunk beds, sharing a common bathroom for every three rooms.

Throughout the 1990s, the demand for El Transcantábrico was growing, as a result of the improvement in services and the greater professionalization of hotel and tourist services.

To respond to this increase in demand, Transcantábrico II was built, a “twin brother” that doubled the number of places and built in Feve's workshops in Asturias. The new train was inaugurated on May 18, 2000, obtaining good results in its occupancy rates since that season. The two trains cross halfway, approximately at the height of the Asturian town of Llanes, composing a postcard impossible to reproduce and unique in the world.

The technical improvements continued, and since 2002 all the compartments of El Transcantábrico became suites.

After a few years of reduction in demand, there was a recovery from 2004 that would not stop in the following years: In 2007, 2,500 travelers were reached, with a 50% growth over 2003. This substantial increase is due, among other things, to a more ambitious commercial policy both nationally and internationally; to a better use of the available places; to the recovery of the figure of the Chief of Expedition, suppressed in previous years; to greater dedication in the gastronomic offer distributed along the route; and, in general, to the constant effort of the company to increase the care and services offered to customers, who, in a product of these characteristics, demand with high justice high quality services.

Proof of these improvements was the obtaining in 2005, maintained and endorsed in successive years, of two certifications that guarantee the excellence of El Transcantábrico: the “Q” of Quality granted by the Institute for Spanish Tourism Quality, ICTE, regarding the slope train inn; and the ISO 1900/2000 certification, which guarantees good customer service, accredited by BVQI, world leader in quality certifications. To these certifications are added several awards, among which the International Trophy of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy "New Millennium Award" stands out.

Itineraries “Grand Luxury” 2020
Itineraries “Costa Verde Express” 2020

Al Andalus

The Al Andalus train was considered since its inception, in 1983, as one of the most luxurious trains in the world, began its travels with the name of "Al Andalus Express", a luxury train designed in the image and likeness of the mythical "Orient Express" . The interiors of their cars were designed and decorated with furniture inspired by the "Belle Epoque" style, the golden age of continental travel; with a legend of elegance and comfort that invited a luxury journey through the heart of Arab Spain, with Granada, Cordoba and Seville as more attractive stops.

This train is a true 5 star luxury on rails, whose original composition (Al Andalus Express) was made up of 14 cars (with names of cities and monuments of Andalusia): 2 restaurant cars, 1 lounge car and games, 1 bar car, 5 bed cars, 2 shower cars, 1 kitchen, 1 generator van and 1 machine. With capacity for 74 travelers. All cars were equipped with air conditioning and heating, so that the trip became possible at any season of the year.

The 5 bed cars come from those that were built in France in 1929, luxury cars and used the British Monarchy for their holiday trips from Calais to the Cote d'Azur. And that when acquired by RENFE in 1983, they were carefully restored, taking into account all the smallest details.

The Al-Andalus Express was circulating from 1985 to 2005, being managed by the Iberrail company, which broke down in 2005, the train stopped running, and the cars were stranded at the San Pablo station in Seville, deteriorating with the passage of the years. As an anecdote, and during this time, this train is sometimes used to shoot a documentary or is part of the scene of a movie, as it was with the appearance of the filming of the movie "Knight and Day" starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

In 2012, after a contest held by RENFE, owner of the train, the Spanish company FEVE took over the management of the service, which based on its experience with the Transcantábrico, re-established the route under the name of Train Al Andalus.

The current composition of the train is 15 cars: 1 kitchen car, 2 restaurant cars, 1 bar car, 1 lounge and games car, 7 bed cars, 1 personal car, 1 generator van and 1 machine. All cars are equipped with air conditioning and heating. The maximum capacity of the train is 64 travelers.

As an added value, the Al Andalus train, and unlike other luxury tourist trains, such as the Orient Express, is that the Al Andalus train is not only a luxury train trip, but the trip is complemented by a complete schedule with guided tours and excursions, cultural and nature activities, gastronomic tastings, as well as free time to visit the destinations at your leisure.

In 2014, the operation of the Al Andalus train services has passed to RENFE tourist trains, which, in addition to the classic tour of Andalusia, have scheduled other routes in 2014, of great interest to know other attractive places in Spain, such as the Route through Extremadura, with a single departure from Seville on June 23, traveling through Huelva, Sierra de Huelva, Mérida, Plasencia, Monfragüe Natural Park, Toledo, Aranjuez and Madrid. Other 2 routes dedicated to wine tourism, such as the Ribera de Duero and Rioja Wine Route, and the Galicia and El Bierzo Wine Route, with only two departures in July and August, ideal for lovers of the rich wines of these areas and good gastronomy, in addition to having several visits scheduled to learn about the artistic, cultural and nature heritages that our tours offer us. Finally, in the month of July, leaving from Ponferrada, the Route through the Camino de Santiago and the Iberian Route through several Spanish Castilian provinces, Navarra and Aragon. Innovative bets for 2014, very rich in cultural content, to enjoy the varied and rich Spanish cuisine.

In 2015, they continued their routes through Andalusia, Extremadura, Camino de Santiago and the Routes of Ribera del Duero and La Rioja.

Andalucía Extremadura and Camino de Santiago, are the routes for 2016.

Mariano Gonzales Santiso (www.santisoasesores.com)

Itineraries “Al Andalus” 2020

The Transiberian

Russia's desire to have a port in the Pacific Ocean was realized with the founding of Vladivostok in 1860. Twenty years later Vladivostok had become an important port city, and the lack of communications between European Russia and its provinces in the Far East was an increasingly evident problem. The construction of the railway began in 1891 on the initiative of Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte (1849–1915), which at that time occupied the Ministry of Finance.

As in the case of the First Transcontinental Railroad in North America, the construction of the Trans-Siberian began at both ends, while extensions of the railroad were made towards the center. In the case of the end that began in Vladivostok, the tracks were built in a northern direction, following the banks of the Ussuri River to Khabarovsk. The Ussuri railway was formed in this way.

In 1890 a bridge was built over the Ural River, and thus the roads were able to enter Asia. The bridge over the Ob River was completed in 1898 and the small town of Novonikolaevsk, which had been founded in 1883, was transformed into a prominent city of Siberia that would be named Novosibirsk. In 1898 the first train arrived in Irkutsk and on the shores of Lake Baikal, which is the deepest in the world and contains a fifth of the planet's fresh water. The railway stretched eastward across the Shilka and Amur rivers, and soon reached the town of Khabarovsk. The Vladivostok - Khabarovsk section had been built before, in 1897.

The workforce for the construction of the Trans-Siberian was made up of prisoners from Sakhalin Island and other places, and also by Russian soldiers. One of the biggest obstacles the train track faced was Lake Baikal, located about 65 kilometers east of Irkutsk. With its 640 kilometers long and 1600 meters deep, it was initially crossed by boat. An icebreaker ferry was bought to England for the transfer of the locomotive and wagons, while the passengers along with their luggage were transferred by sled from one end of the lake to the other. This methodology continued to be applied until the end of the trace on the southern end of the lake.

The electrification of the line began in 1929 and was completely completed in 2002, thus allowing to double the capacity of the trains to reach 6000 tons.

The Trans-Siberian remains the most important communication channel in Russia, to the point that about 30% of this country's exports are transported by it. Although its tourist attraction leads many tourists from all over the world to travel there, it is still widely used by Russians on daily trips.