Tour Date: 28 September to 5 OctoberLocation: Spain

Join our special, comfortable, charter train to the Catalonia region in eastern Spain all by private charter carriages from the 1960s with opening windows. Iberian gauge railways in Spain are in a precarious position with some reduced to freight-only operation and others under threat from new high speed lines and services. Now is definitely the time to travel these historic railways, some of which offer spectacular scenery and magnificent railway infrastructure. Along the way we visit Madrid, Pamplona, Tarragona, Barcelona, Rues and Tortosa. 

This year we have a more relaxed CULTURE option (as well as one for rail ENTHUSIASTS)

Tour Manager: Jonathan Lee (Enthusiasts), David Gourlay (Culture) TBC

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Private charter train
  • Spacious ‘fresh-air’ carriages with maximum of 4 people per compartment
  • Great scenery and lovely cities
  • Heritage diesel locomotives
  • Unique and one-off tour
  • Madrid, Pamplona, Tarragona, Barcelona and Valencia
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

PRE-TOUR, Saturday 28 September – PRE-TOUR STEAM RAILWAY

We will be offering both flight and rail options for travelling to Madrid. There are direct flights from many UK airports and the ones listed below are the ones you can book as part of your ATOL package with PTG (includes hold luggage and airport transfers in Madrid). You may of course make your own way to Madrid. Our overnight stay is near Chamartin station. We also offer overland travel by rail from London St Pancras via the Eurostar and we stay the night in Hendaye (on the French side of the border with Spain). Overland travel will be escorted if we have 7 or more wanting this option.

Flights Bookable Through PTG
IB7075 15:50 Heathrow to Madrid (arriving 19:20)
FR5996 17:50 Stansted to Madrid (arriving 21:15)
AE1016 17:25 Gatwick to Madrid (arriving 20:55)
IB3693 18:20 Manchester to Madrid (arriving 21:50)
EZ3207 06:05 Edinburgh to Madrid (arriving 10:05)

Transfer by direct rail service to Chamartin

Overland via Eurostar (Wednesday 15 November)
EST 9018 10:26 London St Pancras Eurostar to Paris Nord (arriving 13:50)
TGV 8549 16:11 Paris Montparnasse to Hendaye (Arriving 20:47)
Overnight stay in Hendaye
Continuing Overland (Thursday 16 November)
A4086 08:45 Irun to Madrid Chamartin (arriving 13:56)

Day 1, Sunday 29 September  – MAIN TOUR STARTS

After a leisurely breakfast we take the metro to La Poveda (on the line to Arganda del Rey). We have a 10 minute walk the join The Arganda Train, a vintage steam hauled train that makes a journey of almost 4 kilometers along the only preserved section of the old, narrow gauge, Tajuña Railway. The Arganda Train is managed by the non-profit association “Centro de Iniciativas Ferroviarias Vapor Madrid” (CIFVM). The train is made up of wooden cars, some of which are already a hundred years old. Our charter train will cover all of the track available and should be top and tail with a steam and diesel locomotive at each end. This includes a short spur into their depot and workshop.

Day 2 (charter train day 1) Monday 30 September – MADRID to PAMPLONA

This morning we join our private charter train formed of 4 compartment carriages from the 1960s with opening windows, now owned by ALSA, and hauled by two ALCo diesel locomotives also from the 1960s. You will be able to reserve your compartment for the whole tour (min 4 persons).

Our train will take us up the Madrid to Irún. It is not long before we are crossing the Sierra de Gradarrama mountains and we pass close to the city of Segovia. Crossing the central plains, we pass the city of Valladolid and into the scenic Castile de León region. After Palencia we pass through Burgos, one of the main stops of Camino de Santiago pilgrim route, preserves major signs of its medieval splendour. At Miranda de Ebro we are on the borders of the Rioja wine region and we head north east into the Basque country. At Altsasu we branch off north via the foothills of the Pyrenees and through the coastal city of San Sebastian to the border with France at Irun. After a short turn around we head back to San Sebastian and pick up the group who have come overland by rail from London.

Culture group who travelled overland from London. After our night in Hendaye we travel on the narrow-gauge line along the coast to San Sebastian. After around 4 hours for lunch an exploration we join the ALSA charter train at San Sebastian station. San Sebastián or “Donostia”, as it is called in the Basque language, is definitely among the most beautiful cities of Spain. The Old Town is an ideal place to go for a walk and is known for having the highest concentration of bars in the world. It is formed by narrow streets located at the foot of the Mount Urgull.

The special train will head back to the junction at Altsasu to reverse and head east to Pamplona for our overnight stay. Pamplona sits on the fertile plain of the river Arga, a city full of history and deep-rooted traditions. The streets and squares of its historic quarter still preserve a significant collection of monumental buildings dominated by its churches and medieval walls. In the north are the Pyrenees mountains clearly visible from the city.

Day 3 Tuesday 1 October – PAMPLONA to TARRAGONA

Leaving Pamplona we head south along the original Iberia gauge line to the junction at Castejon de Ebro. A high speed, standard gauge line, is already under construction here are might well see this original line closed once construction is complete. We are now in the Ebro river valley which we follow south east to the important city of Zaragoza. While here our train will traverse all the old Iberia gauge lines in the area including some rare curves. There are already a series of high speed standard gauge lines here and no doubt some of these Iberia gauge lines will lose passenger services in the future. We now continue east on the old line via Samper to arrive at the Móra la Nova Railway Museum. The train repair workshop in Móra la Nova began operation in 1891 and continued active until the late 1970s, when steam engines disappeared due to the expense of their operation, which involved a high consumption of water and fuel, using coal and oil. The museum is being developed in different phases and currently four distinct spaces can be visited, each of them focused on a different theme: the Tower of the Enclavement, the swing bridge, the rolling stock workshop and the coach house of the historic tourist train. There is a great collection of both steam and diesel locomotives. It is hoped our train will run into the museum complex and our train will be hauled around the site by as many working locomotives as the museum can muster! After our visit we set off for the coastal city of Tarragona.

There is the culture option of alighting here to spend some time in this city where ancient and modern mingle in a captivating way. As the capital of Roman Spain, it boasts impressive monuments such as the amphitheatre, the circus, and the walls, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can explore the rich history of Tarragona through its museums, routes, and festivals, or enjoy the lively atmosphere of its bars, restaurants, and markets. Tarragona is also a gateway to the Costa Daurada, a stunning stretch of golden beaches and charming towns. Overnight in Tarragona.

Those wanting to continue on the special train (into the evening) we leave Tarragona and follow the coast up to Sant Vince de Calders (culture people won’t miss this stretch as we travel along it again tomorrow). We now take the old Iberia gauge country line north west to the large town of Lleida. There is already a high speed line between the two cities so not sure how much future the old line has. At Lleira we reverse and retrace our steps to the junction at La Plana-Picamoixons and take the line south the Reus. We then return to Tarragona via Vila Seca. Overnight in Tarragona.

Day 4 (3) Wednesday 2 October – TARRAGONA and BARCELONA AREA

Outside of Tarragona there is already a high-speed line to Barcelona, but we will, of course, stock to the old routes. First we take the coastal line, via Sant Vicenc de Calders then via Castellbisbal and L’hospitalet de Llobregat to arrive into Barcelona Sants station. Culture group will leave the train here and have a few hours in Barcelona with time to visit Sagrada Família. Leaving Sants we head north to the French border at Portbou via the inland route via Granollers-Centre and Macanet-Massanes. Again, most of this route now has a high speed equivalent so no idea how much of the old route has a long term future. After reversing at the border we return to Macanet-Massanes and take the coastal route back, via Mataro. Culture group rejoin the special train at Barcelona Est de Franca. We now cover some more of the urban routes (as below) including some rare curves before heading back to Tarragona for our second night in this city.

Day 5 (4) Thursday 3 October – TARRAGONA to VALENCIA

The culture group will first spend the day visiting the wonderful towns of Reus and Tortosa (see below). We then head back down the coast and take the branch line to Tortosa. We hope to have a break here. Culture group rejoin the special train in Tortosa. We all then return down the branch line and back to the coastal mainline and head south to reach city of Valencia (Nord station). Option to leave the train here for an earlier finish before the train reverses and head to Silla and takes the branch line to the coast and terminating at Gandia. After reversing we return to Valencia for our overnight stay.

Reus
Reus is not only the birthplace of Gaudí and one of the most culturally active towns in Catalonia. Visitors can start their walk at Prim square, where the beautiful Fortuny theatre is found, and then walk down Monterols street to Plaza del Mercadal, where they will see Casa Navàs, a modernist jewel designed by Doménech i Montaner, which still has the original, coffered ceilings and lamps of the period. Gaudí Center is also located here. From the Mercadal, continuing along Carrer Major, visitors will reach the Reading Center, a popular athenaeum with a valuable library and interesting works of art. The Gothic church in Sant Pere square dates back to the 16th century, with its impressive octagonal bell tower from which you can see the entire Costa Daurada. Two of the most important of Reus’s museums are Salvador Vilaseca archaeology museum and the Regional History Museum. If you are interested in Gaudí, you can take a route around Reus to visit the house where he was born or the church where he was baptised, with the last stop at Gaudí Centre: 1,200 square metres of exhibition dedicated to his work.

Tortosa
Tortosa preserves significant examples of medieval, Renaissance, baroque and modernist architecture. It has been declared to be Historic-Artistic Heritage and some of its buildings, such as the castle of La Suda, are National Monuments. The city is located near the mouth of the river Ebro and the first thing to attract attention is the Arab castle of La Suda, perched on a hill. Visitors can stay there if they wish since it has been converted into a Parador de Turismo hotel. Near the river is the old part of town, with its 14th-century Gothic Cathedral with a baroque façade, three naves and a cloister, outstanding inside which is the richly-coloured high reredos, from the 14th century; and the reredos of the Transfiguration, from the 15th century, as well as the chapel of La Cinta, from the 18th century, with Italian marble and jasper from Tortosa. Visitors can also admire the Episcopal Palace, built in the 14th century, with a courtyard, gallery and an outstanding stairway, while inside there is a chapel from 1316, with a multicoloured stone door and sculpture from the 14th century.

Day 6 (5) Friday 4 October – VALENCIA to MADRID

Final day of our special train and we board at Valencia Nord. It is likely to be an early start so for the culture group we will have the morning free and take the 11:43 service train to meet up with the special train at Xativa. The enthusiasts on the main train will head south along the coast to Xativa and take the branch line to Alcoi. After reversing the train returns to Xativa (culture group join here). We then head west along the main line to Madrid. At Villaverde Bajo we have permission to travel on the 4.2km freight only line to Vallecas-Industial. We then return to the junction at Vicalvaro and visit Vicalvaro-Mercancias and O’Donnell. We then end the day back at Madrid Chamartin. We take local train to the airport for our overnight stay (Except for those returning overland to the UK by rail who have a hotel outside Chamartin station).

Day 7 Saturday 5 October

After breakfast (not included) at our airport hotel for flights back to the UK.

Return Flights Bookable Through PTG
IB3176 13:20 Madrid to Heathrow (arriving 14:55)
FR5993 10:05 Madrid to Stansted (arriving 11:35)
EZ8018 11:40 Madrid to Gatwick (arriving 13:10)
EZ2708 20:30 Madrid to Bristol (arriving 21:50)
FR3186 08:10 Madrid to Manchester (arriving 09:45)
EZ3210 16:50 Madrid to Edinburgh (arriving 18:50)

Overland via Hendaye
IC4287 08:43 Madrid Chamartin to Irun (arriving 14:33)
Overnight stay in Hendaye
Continuing Overland (Wednesday 22 November)
TGV 8534 09:36 Hendaye to Paris Montparnasse (arriving 14:19)
EST 9047 17:13 Paris Nord to London St Pancras Eurostar (arriving 18:30)

Holiday Prices Per Person – Culture Tour from Saturday 28 September

  • Full 8-day tour including flights from UK: £1,950
  • Single use room: Add £320
  • Full 9-day tour overland by rail from home UK station: £2,550

Deposit

  • £300 own flights, £600 with flights included, £1,000 if overland by rail

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