Alicante La Marina

Alicante — a popular summer holiday destination on the Costa Blanca in South East Spain, particularly for Britons. Facing the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, the city is just as renowned for its skyline of apartment blocks as it is its golden sandy beaches. Since 2013, the port has been on the Spanish High Speed network: on 18th June of that year, a 171-KM-long section of 300 KM/H standard gauge line was opened to traffic between Alicante and Albacete, bringing the former to within a two hour and twenty minute train ride of Madrid (ref: The Railway Magazine, August 2013). Prior to the advent of the high speed rail route between Alicante and Madrid, the journey duration between the two cities by train was timed to take three hours and fifty minutes.

This section of the website, however, does not cover the "main line" terminus station of Alicante, officially known as "Alicante Terminal". Rather, it concerns what was once a waterfront stop by the name of "La Marina", formerly the southern terminus of a metre-gauge 93-KM-long railway winding its way along the coastline between Alicante and Dénia. La Marina has since been severed from those rails that serve the Costa Blanca; however, a fine station building and former works structures still exist from the railway’s first days in the early 20th Century.

In a report dated 26th November 1902, the United States’ Valencia-based consul, R. M. Bartleman, wrote that work had commenced on a narrow gauge line to connect Alicante with Villajoyosa, a distance of 19-miles (30.6-KM). The report noted that the line would ultimately be extended to Denia and that, whilst the company was exclusively Spanish, its rails and rolling stock would be purchased in the cheapest market, giving an opportunity for US companies to supply. The railway’s raison d'être was noted by the consul: "one of the most pressing needs of the district was the construction of light railways to place the fertile fruit and wine districts of the Mediterranean coast in direct communication with the sea". The work was to be carried out by the "Compañia de Ferrocarriles de Alicante á la Marina" ("Alicante to Marina Railway Company"), based at 19 Calle Serrano, Madrid (ref: Consular Reports, Commercial Relations of the United States, Washington, 1903).

By 1911, the "Alicante to Marina Railway Company" had seemingly disappeared and, in its place, a concern by the name of the "Compañía de Ferrocarriles Estrategicos y Secundarios de Alicante" ("Alicante Strategic and Secondary Railway Company") had taken over. Headquartered at Villanueva 10, Madrid, it was reported that this company had inaugurated work on the Denia to Villajovosa section of the line on 13th February 1911, and between the latter and Alicante on 8th October 1911 (ref: Foreign Markets for Railway Supplies and Equipment, Special Consular Reports, US Department of Commerce and Labor, Washington, 25th July 1913). The company’s local manager was one Sr. Don Henry Ceard of Denia, and the line’s contractors were the "Société Internationale de Travaux Publique" ("International Society of Public Works"), 61 Rue de l'Arcade, Paris. It was reported that the complete metre-gauge line between Alicante and Denia was to have been opened to traffic by the end of 1912, but 14th March 1914 was given as the probable date of inauguration (ref: Foreign Markets for Railway Supplies and Equipment, Special Consular Reports, US Department of Commerce and Labor, Washington, 25th July 1913). However, a second, Spanish-language source — Iberica, The Progress of the Sciences and its Applications, Illustrated Weekly Magazine, Volume IV, 1915 — instead states that the Alicante to Altea section opened to public traffic on 28th October 1914 and from the latter to Denia in the following year. The same publication remarked that the railway’s length was 93-KM and the route crossed several bridges and passed through fourteen tunnels. Notable feats of engineering on the line included viaducts at Pont Roig and Santa Ana, at 30-metres and 33-metres high respectively. Mr. José M.° Serra was Chief Engineer during construction and the project’s budget was about 27 million pesetas (ref: Iberica, The Progress of Science and its Applications, 7th August 1915).

Click the above for a larger version © David Glasspool

A fine symmetrical masonry station building was provided at Alicante; indeed, it is this structure which survives at the waterfront today. It is somewhat reminiscent of a castle, with its tower-like central portion — certainly a grand affair for a single-track narrow gauge line, with ample room for a booking hall, offices, and Station Master’s accommodation. The terminus at Denia was graced with a virtually identical structure, and architecture of the same ilk — albeit to smaller proportions — was employed at intermediate stops along the line. In total, including the termini, there were nineteen stops on the route, two of which were deemed to be minor enough to be considered halts (ref: The Narrow Gauge Society Magazine, Issue No. 36, 1963). Semi-roundhouse-type locomotive sheds were established at both Alicante and Denia, in addition to goods and works buildings which are still evident — although disused since electrification — at the former.

Passenger rolling stock on the "Alicante Strategic and Secondary Railway Company" originally comprised timber-built four wheeled carriages (ref: The Narrow Gauge Society Magazine, Issue No. 36, 1963). Ten 2-6-0 tank engines were built in 1913 for the line: these were supplied by German firm "Hanomag" and Spanish-based "La Maquinista Terrestre y Marítima", although the latter used plans and parts produced by the former (ref: Steam on the Sierra, Allen/Wheeler, 1960). By 1954, the steam locomotive fleet was down from ten to nine; there were thirty-eight carriages, one-hundred and sixteen wagons, two diesel rail cars, and a service car (ref: World Railways, 1954-55, Third Edition, Henry Sampson). By summer 1963, only one train per day was steam-hauled (ref: The Railway Magazine, August 1963).

In 1965, "Ferrocarriles Españoles de Via Estrecha" (FEVE: Spanish Narrow Gauge Railways) was established by the state to absorb Spain’s hitherto privately-operated narrow gauge railways (ref: Jane’s World Railways, 2006-2007, K. Harris), which included the Alicante to Denia line.

By 1971, the terminus at Alicante was host to a collection of withdrawn metre-gauge stock that consisted of a trio of diesel locomotives — of French origin — and a series of 19th century carriages. A local travel agency acquired and restored these vehicles to form them into a tourist train running between Benidorm and Gata de Gorgos, the latter 11-route-KM south of Denia (ref: The Railway Magazine, June 1973). The train was named the "Limon Express"; in summer it ran six days a week and in winter four (weather dependent), a return trip from Benidorm taking about four hours. The service — which comprised a single 470-HP six-wheeled diesel shunter hauling one van and four carriages — departed Benidorm at 09:30 and returned at about 13:30, which included stops at Altea and Gata de Gorgos (ref: The Railway Magazine, June 1973). The train took its name from locally-grown lemons and, by 1981, ran once per week, including during some of the winter months. By this time, the Alicante to Denia service comprised about seven daily through trains, with an hourly working between Alicante and Benidorm in each direction (ref: The Railway Magazine, 1981).

21st June 1994

A roughly north eastward view in the Benidorm direction includes four 2300 Series two-vehicle diesel units, which at that time plied the route between Alicante and Denia. On the right is unit No. 2310, which went into departmental use on the route after electrification. The fine original main station building, seen on the left, dates from the opening of the line and is somewhat castle-like in appearance — a near-identical station, comprising the same architecture, was once in evidence at Denia. The 1980s-styled platform canopy was still standing in April 2003, but had gone a year later. Stabling, maintenance, and goods buildings, seen in the background here, were established at both extremities of the line. © David Glasspool Collection

In November 1986, "Ferrocarriles de la Generalitat Valenciana" (FGV: Railways of the Valencian Government) was formed to take control of those narrow gauge lines in the City of Valencia and its environs that, until then, had been operated by 1965-formed FEVE (ref: Developing Metros, Transport Press, 1988). This included the Alicante to Denia line.

In March 1999, a 675-metre-long single-track south westward extension of the line from Alicante station (by this time called "La Marina"), along the seafront to Puerta del Mar, was brought into use for trial running of a light rail vehicle. This coincided with the electrification of the line between the then new eastern terminus at Puerta del Mar and La Albufereta — a distance of 2.825-KM — using overhead wires rated at 750-volts DC. Between La Marina and La Albufereta, trams shared tracks with the existing 2300 series diesel units that plied the route between Alicante and Denia; the short extension to Puerta del Mar was traversed by trams only.

In September 2002, the section of line in-between Alicante La Marina and El Campello (12-route-KM distant) was closed for rebuilding (ref: Alicante Tram-Train, Railway Technology, 3rd September 2003). On 15th August of the following year, this section formally reopened to public traffic, completing an electrified tram route from Alicante Puerta del Mar to El Campello (ref: Tram Historical Evolution, Based on your author’s photographic observations, the main station building at La Marina still possessed its platform canopy in April 2003, but this had gone by spring of the following year. The main station building was refurbished in 2007, which included a repaint of the walls from a light peach colour to a shade of sky blue.

On 10th May 2007, a new 4.25-KM section of electrified tram route opened between La Isleta (2.5-KM north east of La Marina) and Mercato, the latter a new underground station beneath Alicante’s centre. Upon this new section was commissioned an intermediate station at Sangueta, situated adjacent to and on a parallel alignment with the existing narrow gauge line from Alicante La Marina, the latter about 400-metres distant. A second intermediate station on the new section of line opened at Marq-Castillo, 0.75-KM from Sangueta. A further westward extension from Mercato to another underground station at Luceros, 400-metres from RENFE’s Alicante terminus, opened on 18th June 2010, and the electrified tram service commenced public operation as far north as Benidorm on 2nd June 2008 (ref: Tram Historical Evolution,

The opening of new portions of tram line through to Luceros resulted in that section to La Marina and Puerta del Mar becoming the poor relation of Alicante’s light rail network. A half-hourly shuttle service from Puerta del Mar to Sangueta, the latter where connections were made with trams to Benidorm, was maintained in either direction. La Marina had been an important stabling and maintenance hub for FGV’s 2300 series diesel units; however, for the then new trams, a depot and workshops were commissioned at El Campello on 29th March 2007 (ref: Tram Historical Evolution, Effective 1st July 2013, rail operation between Sangueta and Puerta del Mar ceased; the former terminus at Alicante La Marina closed to passengers for good after approximately a century in use.

21st June 1994

A classic Costa Blanca skyline forms the backdrop of this westward view, featuring 2300 Series diesel unit No. 2301. A second platform face was brought into use for tram operation, this being constructed in the space seen to the left of No. 2301. © David Glasspool Collection