|Majorca can be truly described as a 'narrow gauge paradise'. As in its British equivalent, the Isle of Man, the 3ft gauge predominated, this being the legacy of the British firms that supplied the builders of its first railway in the 1870s.
Over the next 60 years a large and diverse system was built up. This comprised the 3ft gauge FC de Mallorca, a conventional steam worked railway connecting the capital, Palma, with towns in the interior; a separate 'harbour tramway' within Palma; the Ferrocarril de Soller, a true 'interurban' linking Palma with the north coast resort of Soller; and 'town' tramway systems within Palma and Soller.
In addition, there were two autonomous railway / tramway systems - the 2 mile long FC de Alaro relying on mule power originally, with petrol driven railcars taking over haulage of the tramcars in 1922 and the Arenal Tramway, a ghostly concern whose vintage petrol railcars ran along the bay of Palma until 1937. Finally, there were around a dozen industrial concerns, of gauges from 600mm upwards, serving chalk quarries, cement works, salt pans and a glassworks.
After the 1950s this time warp of a transport network began to contract and by the late 1970s only a small part of the FC Mallorca (from Palmato Inca), the Palma-Soller 'interurban' and the Soller tramways remained open. But the l980s saw the start of a remarkable renaissance. The FC Mallorca - renamed Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca -was re-gauged to metre, re-equipped and the first length of closed line (to Sa Pobla) reopened. More reopenings are now in progress.
The FC de Soller survives, virtually unchanged in appearance since the 1920s and the Soller tramways have acquired cars from Lisbon to supplement their vintage equipment.
The history of Majorca's railways was told in Giles Barnabe's book The Railways and Tramways of Majorca, published in 1993 (out of print). Now, drawing on numerous sources (including primary sources in Majorca itself) the author brings the story up to date. The much revised and expanded text provides historical information on all the island's railways, descriptions of their routes and, for the lines still open, summarises developments over the last 10 years.
As before, alongside the historical details, there are chapters devoted to the motive power and rolling stock, methods of train working, timetables and there is a full description of each line. A fascinating new Appendix gives 'eye witness' accounts of travel on the FC Mallorca in 1875, 1929 and 1957. Finally there are notes on industrial railways on Ibiza and Formentera.
The book is illustrated with photographs, maps, track diagrams of major stations, scale drawings of locomotives and rolling stock and, ideal for the modeller, the author's own distinctive drawings of station buildings, goods sheds and other structures.
By Giles Barnabe
Casebound. Approximately 248 pages
Over 200 photographs, maps, diagrams and scale drawings