Friday, September 9, 2011

No Iron King

I am still in the country, on the farm near the lakes I write about from time to time, eking out the summer as best I can. The work I have at the moment can be done here, but next week I shall have to start other work which requires me to be in situ, and so in a few more days we shall return home. But meanwhile, we have these few days...

There is no railway here. There never has been. There was no Spanish Dr Beeching, cutting off whole areas from contact by train, or saving the taxpayer many millions in the upkeep of unnecessary infrastructure and the salaries of redundant employees, depending on how you look at it.* The train just never got here. One line stopped about twenty miles west. Another passes twenty miles north, and you have to go a very long way south before you find another one. Villages down here are a long way apart, and it was never worth building railways to and from all of them. Not easy to connect them all up in a way that makes sense, either.

I don’t miss the railway here. It doesn’t seem the sort of place that should have one. A little halt just on the edge of our land, or better still a major junction, whence you can go directly anywhere, would be useful at times, but it would make it a different place.

It isn’t easy to see how you put a railway through just here, in any case. They had enough trouble getting the road through. Not the road itself, in fact, because the road follows the course of the old path, just wider and with tarmac. The path necessarily existed because the villages are obviously built in places you can get too. The ones that are easier to reach, or better placed for other reasons, acquired wider paths through greater use, and were earlier candidates for tarmaccing and highway coding.

And that’s the problem. The roads go where the paths went. There are still villages on the main road here, including ours, that don’t have a bypass because there is no easy way of going round it. The road goes straight through the middle. There is little traffic compared with other major roads, and so less incentive to find a solution. So the roads were not much of a problem, but widening them enough to be safe, straightening the curves, flattening the bumps and avoiding the village high streets was, and remains, a much bigger and more expensive problem. There is one point, where the road crosses the lakes, and goes through the little village that gives them their collective name, which would require a high bridge, a hundred yards high and a mile long, to take a bypass, or a railway line, across and around the village. It would be magnificent, I have partly designed it in my mind, and I would ask Santiago Calatrava to build it, but it’s not going to happen.

This post, like an unbuilt railway line, is going nowhere, so I shall just stop where I’ve got to, which is the ultimate fate of all such constructions. It has at least been bucolic and whimsical, which is what I was striving for.

*There are quite a few paths corresponding to old railway lines but they are nearly all left over when routes were changed or lines upgraded, rather than being closed down.


James Higham said...

Why can't they lay track? Is it the swampiness and it would sink or what?

CIngram said...

The hills. Railway lines can't go up and down the way roads can, and it would be far more expensive than anyone would attempt to justify to cut through them. It's not mountainous here, but it's extremely wrinkly. They've just cut a 20 mile tunnel under the hills north of Madrid. Anything is possible, but you need the traffic to make it worth doing. We're lucky to have a road. It's the main route to Albacete and Alicante and often there isn't a car from horizon to horizon.

James Higham said...

Sounds idyllic actually.