While unquestionably useful for almost a century, nowadays, and following the opening of the tunnel for vehicles, the Sóller train is above all, a tourism attraction thanks to its authentic charm and age. The train and the tram offer passengers a real feeling of travelling back in time. This attraction grows every year as the older the railway gets the more appealing it becomes.
However, while the Egyptian Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower only require light maintenance, as a means of transport, our Sóller Train needs to constantly adapt to current legislation, to ever increasing services, and it has to do so without losing that olde-worlde character and authenticity.
The Sóller Railway business is forced to exponentially make increasingly large investments in order to maintain and repair the train and tram with the aim of guaranteeing the transport service, and with ever growing demand in terms of capacity and frequency.
A gem of a railway
The railway is characterised, among other things, for being a narrow-gauge railway, with a track width of 914 mm (English yards), which is rarely seen nowadays, and also because its old rolling stock is highly varied, with a very fine finish and maintained using traditional methods.
Each day three convoys operate, comprised of a railcar (machinery) and six passenger cars (carriages). Each of these carriages, as well as all the machinery and pieces, has a long history behind them. Nobody manufactures new wooden carriages now, nor the railcars to move them, nor seats like the ones you find on board. Each and every one of the pieces to be renovated has to created or modified by hand. So too does every single tool used to carry out these tasks in the workshops of Sóller. They are unique. However, sometimes other railroads and trams that close down leave an inheritance of items that can be benefitted from. For example, some years ago the Mallorcan company obtained some of the carriages from Lisbon’s electric tram. Although different in terms of their exterior appearance, they were adapted to fit in with the unmistakeable features of the Sóller tram, and today they pass through the Port looking like any other carriage.
Currently, more than 40 people in different brigades look after the train’s maintenance: tracks and civil works, mechanics, carpenters, engineers, etc. They ensure that everything is finely tuned each day. It is not easy, especially during the tourism season, when there are a larger number of journeys and the existence of a single track throughout the entire route, makes any problem more difficult. This is particularly the case in some stretches, such as in the mountains, where the train can only be reached along the tracks using another machine, as many points of the journey are unreachable by road. For this purpose, they have some veritable old museum relics, such as the “Unilok” the “Hispano-Suiza Tractor” and the “little Renault car” which allow them to access the entire route.
It is also necessary each year to stop service for a few months in order to make the necessary detailed checks. During this period, the train and its carriages are almost entirely disassembled in order to ensure that everything is perfect for the rest of the year. However, a piece of machinery is subjected to checks each day of the season, in a process so meticulous it is as if they were working with a plane.
The project to build a railway line was devised in 1903 by the industrialist Juan Morell and the delegate Jerónimo Estades, in order to connect the wealthy city of Sóller with the capital. In 1907, work began simultaneously in both cities, under the management of the engineer Pedro Garau. On 16 April 1912, the route was officially opened. Coincidentally, that was the same day the Titanic sank. A year later, the tram that goes to the port was put in place. Unlike the train, which was mechanical at that point, the tram was electric. However, in 1929 the entire line was electrified, the machinery was changed, and the Sóller Train became as it is now, an electric train.