An interesting seasonal operation in Catalonia provides a perfect way of combining a family-orientated holiday with some diesel thrash!
Situated approximately an hour by train inland from Barcelona, the 89.35 km (55.5 mile) branch from Lleida to La Pobla de Segur climbs into the southern reaches of the Pyrenees, and is astonishingly scenic. On 26 dates throughout the summer months, it is possible to make the journey along it on the “Tren dels Llacs” behind a pair of classic Spanish diesel locomotives.
These are of Class 308, a single-cab four-axle diesel-electric loco type built by General Electric and Babcock & Wilcox in the late 1960s, each powered by a 710hp Caterpillar D398 lump. The machines in question will be permed from 10817 (308017), 10820 (308020) and 10838 (308038) – from the ARMF (Associació per a la Reconstrucció de Material Ferroviari Históric) at Lleida. The operation kicked off for the year on 15th and 16th April 2017 with 10817 and 10838 with load 7.
To “British” ears, they probably sound most like Class 20s. The “Tren dels Llacs” gives an excellent opportunity to hear them hard at work; it’s certainly not a sedate trundle through the countryside. To get an impression of the locos and the scenery they run through, put off what you were planning to do for the next 20 minutes and check out this video by “Garratt462” on YouTube.
Dates and Prices
The “Tren dels Llacs” will operate on every Saturday from now until 15th July 2017, and then on every Saturday from 19th August to 28th October 2017. (The Saturdays in between the two see the train operated by a panoramic modern DMU). The return trip costs just €30 (€16.50 for children aged 4-13, under 4s go free). Tickets are to be reserved in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org but can be collected on the day.
It departs from Lleida (Pirineus) at 10:40, getting back at 19:00 (timetable and further info here). As well as some great scenery – the “Llacs” (lakes) that give their name to the operation – and of course the 110 miles of diesel power, there are a number of activities around the train – such as a welcome at Lleida from a local theatre group, and a brief stop on the return at Balaguer for some local food. You also have 4hr 25min to fill in La Pobla de Segur – check out the website of their tourist office for some ideas on what to do. It definitely isn’t “trains all day” and therefore is an entirely “family-friendly” activity!
Lleida has its own airport and there are a small number of flights from the UK directly to it. Other airports in the area include Barcelona, Girona, Reus and Zaragoza.
The “Tren dels Llacs” could be easily combined with a city break in Barcelona – a great destination, with all of the facets of a city-based holiday combined with good beaches. It’s easily doable as a day trip from there, departing Barcelona Sants by service train at 08:30 and arriving back before 21:00.
The Barcelona area is also home to an occasional daytime dining train – the “Montserrat Classic Express”, hauled by metre-gauge Alstom diesel loco no.1003. It is possible to cover both over the course of a weekend on 15th/16th July, 26th/27th August, 16th/17th September, 7th/8th October and 21st/22nd October 2017.
Many thanks to Stewart Wells for his help with this article.