Mr Henderson's Railway - History

British engineer, John 'Juanito' Morrison
British engineer, John 'Juanito' Morrison.

rR Henderson's Railway

by Chris Chaplow

British engineer, John Morrison, backed by his friend and wealthy financier Sir Alexander Henderson - later, the first Lord Faringdon won the rights to build the railway from Algeciras to Bobadilla, where it met the main line to Madrid, the gateway for the rest of Europe. The first section of the railway; Algeciras to Jimena was officially opened in October 1890. The second section was the Ronda to Bobadilla in September 1891, and finally the more dificult secion from Jimena to Ronda which opened on 24th Novemeber 1892. They operated six passenger trains daily through 22 stations.

Many contemporary articles recount that Mr Henderson had the idea to build the line so that British officer in Gibraltar could enjoy stays in Ronda. It was not that simple as explained in the timline below. Mr Henderson was behind the company that was awarded the concession to build and run the line by the Spanish government. He had sufficient determination and funds to see thorough a difficiult project where others before him had failed.




1877The Ley de Ferrocarliles (1877 Railway Law), which was a national plan included the Jerez to Algeciras Railway. A British company was awarded this consession.

25 Jun 1880 A request was made on 24 June 1880 by the Jerez to Algeciras Railway concession holders; Francisco Engelbach, Emilio Balignac and others for the transfer of their concession to the "Ferrocarril Directo de Jerez a Algeciras y Gibraltar". This company whose director was Federico Villalba was anounced in Gaceta de Madrid on 26 June 1880. This transfer was not approved and the court embargoed the assets.

Undeterred the company published their plans for this route which was to be via Jimena de la Frontera. It was presented on 15th December 1881 by the engineer Charles Lamiable y Watrin. C.E. Dawson was entrusted for the calculation and design of the metal bridges.

Independently Charles Lamiable Wartrin, an engineer, drew up a project to link the exisitng Cordoba to Malaga line with a connection at Bobadilla to Ronda and an extension to Algeciras.

1883The transfer and concession was finally approved providing the line was built in 4 years. Advance works started on the section from Algeciras to Jimena. This company faced delays and lost the concession.

14 May 1888The Spanish Governemnt anounced the auctioned of the assets of the failed project together with the auction of the rights of a different concession. This time is was to build and run the "Ferrocarril de Bobadilla a Algeciras". There was to be a grant of 60.000 pts per km and customs rights would be retained by the company for 10 years on the linne that had to be buoilt in 4 years. The company "Greenwoody Co" of London was awarded both. Grenwoody Co later transfered its assets to the “The Algeciras-Gibraltar Railway Cº whose first Chairman was Emilio Castelar.

1889 Works underway on the railway by "The Algeciras Gibraltar Railway Company" financed by Sir Alexander Henderson and engineer John Morrison. 178km (110 miles) of track in total.

6 October 1890 Inauguration of the Algeciras to Jimena section of 42km.

7 September 1891 Inauguration of the Ronda to Bobadilla section of 70km.

24 November 1892 Inauguration of the Ronda to Jimena section of 64km.

19 March 1893 AGRC authorised to construct a wood and steel jetty in the Bay of Algeciras, and a connecting railway line along the bank of the River Miel from the railway station to the jetty (the original intention was to build the railway to La Linea de la Concepcion, at the land border with Gibraltar, but this wasn't permitted).

16 December 1893 "Elvira" packet (regular) steamer service, named after one of Henderson Family, from Algeciras to Gibraltar inaugurated.

1897 "Sur Express" hotel train from Paris to Madrid extends its service to Algeciras on Mondays.

1902 Opening of the Hotel Reina Cristina in Algeciras and Hotel Reina Victoria in Ronda, both designed by eminent British architect Thomas Edward Colcutt who also designed Monte de la Torre.

1906 Conference of Algeciras at Reina Cristina Hotel: 12 nations meet to decide future of Morocco (between France and Spain).

2 July 1913 Algeciras-Bobadilla line passed over to the "Compañia de Ferrocariles Andaluces".

1941 Spanish railways nationalised as RENFE.

1965 Original Beyer Peacock steam locomotives replaced with diesel engines. "Bobadilla 2-2-0" is in Museo del Ferrocarril de Catalonia (Catalunya Railway Museum)in Villanueva y Geltru.

31 Dec 2004 RENFE passes all installations (administration of rail infrastructure - stations, terminals; traffic management) to Adif.

2010 extensive upgrades to signal equipment, platforms raised to suit modern rolling stock.

Several accounts of Mr Henderson's Railway, including the history, are featured on by Sue Walk in 1995; Belinda Beckett in 2013; Fiona Flores Watson in 2013.

History-based articles

Acccount of the journey Gibraltar connection and the history by Sue Walk from Mediterranean Life magazine.

Gibraltar connection article about the railway and its history by Belinda Becket from Gibraltar magazine.

Algeciras Gibraltar Railway Cº (Algeciras - Bobadilla) (Spanish article)

Ronda y el Ferrocarril paper by Pedro Sierra de Cozar presented at the IV Congreso Historia Ferrovia

Un Proyecto Fallido: The Malaga and Gibraltar Railway Company paper by Pedro Sierra de Cozar presented at the IV Congreso Historia Ferrovia.