EL CABLE INGLES - THE ENGLISH PIER
by Fioina Flores-Watson
An extraordinary piece of industrial heritage, this railway pier was the loading bay for the mines in Alquife (Granada), which produced iron ore, copper and silver. Its continuing survival despite over 100 years' constant exposure to the corroding effects of saltwater, is testament to the quality of construction. As well as El Cable Ingles, the pier is also known as El Alquife.
History of the Pier
The 1000-metre iron pier was designed and built in 1904 by Scottish engineers (the name seems inappropriate), following the school of Eiffel, for Glasgow-based The Alquife Mines and Railway Company. The railway was used until 1973 to transport minerals 90km by train from the French and British-run mines, and then onto the pier to waiting cargo ships, to be taken to northern Spain and abroad.
The trains could travel all the way to end of the pier, making a direct transfer possible into vessels docked alongside it, rather than having an intermediary transfer between the train and ship in the port. Loading an 8,000-ton ship would usually take 8-10 days; this system reduced the time to just 10 hours.
For construction of the pier 3,824 tonnes of steel were used, from the Motherwell foundry in Glasgow; as well as 8,000m2 of wood; 1,152 m³ of concrete; and 1,056m of Iberian broad-gauge iron railway tracks. It was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII on 20 April 1904.
The Pier today
You can still see the square loading box-chutes, via which the mined materials were offloaded into the ships' holds, and the winding mechanisms.
You can also see storage warehouses for the Alquife mines, in an unusual triangular shape which won it the nickname "the Toblerone".
The pier was renovated in 2012. Plans to turn it into a cultural and exhibition centre with restaurant in 2014 with a budget of 14 million euros did not materialise.
Next to the pier is a memorial to 142 Almerian Jews who died in Malthausen concentration camp in Germany in 1939.
Side fact: two Belgian mining engineers, the Siret brothers, discovered Europe's largest Copper Age settlement near Almeria city in the 1880s.