Rio Tinto Mining Park - Mining Railway Ride
WHAT AND WHERE IS IT?
The Rio Tinto railway was built in 1875 and consited of 300km of narrow gauge track (1067mm) to various points in the mining complex. The 84km line down to and ending at the Muelle de Rio Tinto in Huelva. It had eight bridges, five tunnels and 12 stations, providing transport to miners and the general public, as well as an efficient method of exporting the minerals. Over 3.000 trucks and 40 passenger coaches were used on line, which was in full service from 1903-1968. From this date road transport began to be used. The Muelle de Rio Tinto was last used in 1975 and the last train ran to Huelva in 1984.
The present train ride covers a restored 12km section of track. It is an excelllent way to view the lunar-type landscape or the mine working. The trip descents the River Tinto river valley and lasts about two hours, including a 20-minute turn round stop to stretch your legs, cross the bridge and get close to the river itself (though not too close, the water is highly acidic and corrosive). It's a real treat for younger train enthusiasts, and a fun experience for all ages.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO SEE?
The train itself is part of the experience - you travel in the original, bright yellow carriages, some open and some closed, with wooden floors and benches, whose backs tilt forward or back, so you don't have to move seats when the train changes direction to come back again. Be warned - it' s a rattly, bumpy ride; this is the real thing, as these carriages were used to transport workers from Huelva to work in the mines decades ago. In those days, there were 143 engines in use, all but six British-made between 1874 and 1954;
Diesel or Steam power
If you visit on the first Sunday of the month between November and April, your carriage will be pulled by an original steam locomotive dating from 1875 - the oldest working steam engine in Spain. On these times the train only goes 11km.
The train ride leaves from a station next to some old warehouses, about 3km from Rio Tinto itself. The platform where you get on the train is reached by going down a long flight of steps (no ramp). The train follows the circuitous route of the river, passing through some former stations. There's plenty to see - old locomotives and trucks, washing factories, storage tanks, pulleys and lifts, and various other equipment and machinery. The lunar landscape itself is extraordinary - mostly bare of vegetation, with reddish, golden, brown rounded mounds and peaks, craters, escarpments and ledges, set against an azure-blue sky, with green sulphurous pools. Don't worry if you can't understand the commentary, just enjoy the colours, shapes and textures. There is often a commentary in English on the return trip. Sit on the left side or the far side from the boarding platform for the best views.
When you reach Los Frailes station, you can walk over the bridge and down to the river itself - without touching the water. The locomotive is brought from the front round to the other end of the train, and you chug all the way back again.
07 Jan to 20 Feb Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 13:30 hrs.
21 Feb to 30 Jun Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 13:30 hrs.
21 Feb to 30 Jun Monday to Friday 13:00 hrs.
1 Jul to 15 Jul Monday to Sunday 13:30 hrs.
16 Jul to 15 Sep Monday to Sunday 13:30 hrs & 17.30 hrs
16 Sept to 30 Sep Monday to Sunday 13:30 hrs.
01 Oct to 31 Oct Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 13:30 hrs.
01 Oct to 31 Oct Monday to Friday 13:00 hrs.
01 Nov to 21 Dec Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 13:30 hrs.
22 Dec to 05 Jan Monday to Sunday 13:30 hrs.
Tickets can be purchased at the Station, at the Museum, or perhaps reserved on line on the website. www.parquemineroderiotinto.es