Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Iron King Once More

The railway line running north to Madrid has two older sections, long abandoned and removed, but with the route remaining visible. They are two sections if considered in time, several if we only look at them in space.

Twenty years ago when the high speed trains came this way they completely replaced the older stock on the line to Madrid and Seville the track was completely relaid. To the south and east some older trains still run and their lines runs in parallel with the new line. To the north there is only the high-speed service and so the old line is gone.

But not forgotten. In several places between here and the river the route was straightened and flattened to avoid the through trains' having to slow down, and where the old line diverges from the new the bed is still there. Not the track, nor the sleepers, but the sharp purple gravel that is used as a base, the trees and weeds that line the sides all the way along, and the cuttings, gulleys and banks that take it through the surrounding, lightly undulating land. You can walk along it for some distance- and I can never resist a railway line- imagining the trains, the sounds, the people, the events, the hopes and dreams that moved along that track for over a hubdred years.

The part before the river is destroyed now, a golf course was built there and the landscaping removed all trace of the old line, until you reach the water, where the old bridge still stands, and the banks that lead to it on each side are now paths, dirt tracks used by cyclists and walkers, the gravel gone, and all trace of the trains. Only the rails, which have been left on the bridge itself, inform the unknowing of what it once was.

But nearer the town, eighty years ago the line ran past grazing the western ring road, not the eastern as it does now. Not a lot of people know this, but about 4 kms of track was shifted to the other side of the town and the path the line had been built on is still there. You can still walk along it, from the place where the new line diverged from the old right into town, and along the ringroad it used to run by, through the park where the old station still stands, until it eventually connects, well outside the town to the south, with the more recently dismantled track and finally with the new AVE line.

There are still a few buildings left; apart from the station, now used by the gardeners, I've found at least two old storerooms which have been turned into houses, one on the road, one out in the country. You have to know what you're looking for, but they're there. The iron king leaves his mark, always. You can't easly destroy him.

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