33 years since the Sud-Express disaster

When I was a Class 50-mad kid taken to Portugal to experience their Iberian cousins by my Dad, I took in as much detail from my Portuguese crossing-off book (Fearless Publications’ excellent tome from 1991 – who else has that on their shelves?) as possible. One of the things that stuck out was the reference to both 1439 and 1961 having been written off in a horrific accident involving the Sud-Express.

In later life I learnt that this accident occurred between Nelas and Mangualde exactly 33 years ago this evening, on 11th September 1985, with the big Bombardier loco on the “Sud-Express” colliding head-on at speed with the EE/Sorefame machine which was on a regional train. The result indeed truly was horrific, with many of those who survived the impact killed by burning or asphyxiation in the resulting inferno.

On this worldwide day of remembrance, I’m also taking a minute to remember the 56 (officially, but estimated to be up to 150) people who perished in this accident. There are some truly shocking photos online of the accident, but instead I’m choosing to share this rare image of 1439 in happier days to accompany this little note.

Daily until 30th September 2017: English Electric power in Portugal

A welcome development in Portugal this summer is the re-emergence of a predictable passenger diagram for the English Electric class 1400 diesel locos.

To be entirely fair, they have been frequent performers on both the Minho and Douro routes out of Porto, but only vice-DMU, and unfortunately some enthusiasts have travelled to the region in the hope of riding behind one, only to have several fruitless days at a time.  There is also, of course, the Presidential Train, but with fares from €500 per person, that is not exactly basher-friendly!

As part of CP’s small catalogue of “heritage” tourist-oriented operations for summer 2017, however, a daily round trip on the Douro route has been advertised for haulage by the class – roughly 90 miles each way through some of Portugal’s best scenery – under the “MiraDouro” name.  This is booked until 30th September.  1424 is specified as the nominated loco on CP’s publicity, but 1413 and 1415 have also worked on the turn so far.

Times and Fares

The diagram is as follows:-

20815 09:25 Porto São Bento – Tua
20816 16:34 Tua – Porto São Bento

The full PDF timetable document for the Douro line for the summer – including the two trains booked for the 1400 – can be found here.

Reservations on the trains are stated to be compulsory, however fares are the same as for the service trains on the route, i.e. €11.60 each way.

Route and Traction

The Douro route is so named as it follows the valley of the Douro river, and therefore water is a common theme, along with bridges and tunnels!  It is commonly considered to be one of Europe’s most scenic journeys, and with good justification.

The 1400s are 1,330hp English Electric machines with 8CSVT power units.  The first ten (1401-1410) were actually built at EE’s Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, whereas 1411-1467 were constructed under licence by SOREFAME at Amadora in Portugal.  These are often considered as “Portuguese Class 20s”, however this is perhaps something of a simplification, their more powerful intercooled power units really pitching them as half a BR Class 50, or indeed half a CP class 1800, with which they share common parts.

Shunters aside, they are the only operational English Electric diesel locomotive type on the European continent.

What can I combine it with?

The Portuguese loco-hauled scene is a mere shadow of its former self, but there are a couple of other things worth doing whilst in the area.

On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the tenure of this diagram – as well as on Wednesdays in August and also on Tuesday 15th August – the Douro also sees a steam working – 15:22 Regua to Tua and 18:32 back.  The outward leg of this arrives at Tua at 16:33, i.e. one minute before the “MiraDouro” departs (although if that +1 made, you would have a nice fill-in move!).  This is another of CP’s historical workings, and is booked for haulage by 0186, a 2-8-4T built by Henschel in 1925.  More details here.

The other heritage operation in this neck of the woods that may be of interest to haulage enthusiasts is the metre-gauge operation on the Vouga line, using Alsthom no.9004, again until 30th September.  This runs on Saturdays only and consists of a return trip from Aveiro to Macinhata at 13:40.  Aveiro is situated on the Porto to Lisboa main line and Intercity services on this route are hauled by class 5600 electrics.

Bashing by stealth… taking the family

This is an entirely “family friendly” day out, with sociable timings (09:25 off Porto, arriving back between 20:30 and 21:15 depending on date) and, of course, fantastic scenery en route, with some decent time at the destination.

Porto – Portugal’s second-largest city – itself also should not need much selling.  The city centre has held UNESCO World Heritage status for over 20 years and has visible heritage stretching back to Roman times.  The city is, however, very hilly (being built on valley sides surrounding the Douro), and a defining feature of it is the double-deck iron Dom Luís I Bridge spanning the river.  São Bento station itself is something of an accidental tourist attraction, with 20,000 decorative azulejo tiles adorning its walls, depicting events from Portuguese history, dating from 1905-1916 by Jorge Colaço.

To complement its metro system, Porto also has a heritage tram operation – more details here.

Getting there

Porto has an airport and receives flights from Birmingham, Gatwick, Liverpool, Luton and Manchester.

Saturdays 8th July to 30th September 2017: Portuguese metre-gauge Alsthom haulage

I have previously posted about haulage opportunities for haulage by Spanish metre-gauge Alsthom no.1003 on the outskirts of Barcelona this summer here.  However, one of the six such machines sold to Portugal in 1974 will also be working regularly for the next few months.

CP 9004 (ex-1025) will work each Saturday from 8th July to 30th September on a historical train on the Vouga metre-gauge line, situated approximately half an hour south of Porto.

The historical train will depart from Aveiro at 13:40, running approximately 90 minutes to Macinhata do Vouga.  After just over an hour there, it returns to Aveiro – including a 75-minute break at Águeda – arriving back at Aveiro at 19:08.

The above is a link to a video uploaded to YouTube by user EDUARDO BALEIZÃO showing 9004 at work on the Vouga line in May.

The metre-gauge station is on the same site as the “main line” station at Aveiro, which is on the Porto to Lisboa route, the Intercity trains on which see haulage by class 5600 electric locos.  The Porto area also sees sporadic haulage by English Electric class 1400 diesels (based effectively on BR class 20) on IR services to Valença, but is largely unpredictable.

A second Portuguese heritage train operates through the summer – on the Iberian gauge Douro route, between Régua and Tua, with steam loco no.0186 (built 1925 by Henschel in Kassel, Germany), and combined tickets for the two are available that apply a little bit of a discount.

Many thanks again to Charles Hinton for his help with this information.