FC Langreo

England resident Philip Wormald was planning a trip to Spain. Pat Durand made the following request to him, "While in Spain keep an eye open for thirteen steam locomotives that left Alaska on board a heavy lift ship the Bell Betty bound for the Iberian Penn about 1958. Several ex Panama Moguls, some S160s - a Pacific 4-6-2 and a Mikado 2-8-2 and a Mountain 4-8-2. We lost all contact and presume they may have gone to scrap after they got there."

On April 13, 2005 Philip replied, "Information I have so far is: The Alaska engines went to the FC Langreo, a standard gauge line which used to run south from Gijon. Not all of them entered service. There are photos of some of them, in service, in the Gijon Museum. The FC Langreo is still in business, now part of FEVE (it has been converted to metre gauge). I heard four were used. Will try and get more information."


Added 2/3/10

First of all, congratulations for your excellent website; it's a fascinating insight into a such remote (for me) railroad. Secondly, I am a bit surprised as so little contributions have been made about the fate of the ARR steam engines that came to Spain. I would like to help with some information about them; I hope they would be of your interest.

The Langreo railway opened in 1852 and linked Gijón port with Laviana, serving Nalón valley's coalfield and La Felguera steelworks. The line was built to standard gauge but had two sections separated by a rope hauled incline. For over a century, motive power consisted on little 0-6-0Ts of various designs. By the late 1950s, the Langreo company started a vast modernization program which included a new tunnel to avoid the incline. New rolling stock came from various sources, at several stages until the mid 1960s: they included 0-6-0Ts bought in the Netherlands, Alco RS-3 from the Great Northern, an ex USATC GE 44-tonner, ex Erie coal hoppers and passenger stock from the New Haven (Mack railbuses and Talgo trains).

Among the first to come were the engines bought in Alaska, which landed at El Musel harbor (Gijón) on 25-2-1958. The shipment consisted on 12 engines: S-159 #401, 402, 404, 405 and 406; S-160 #552, 555, 558, 559 and 560; Mikados #701, 702 and 703 and Pacific #901. Langreo had previous experience with American built engines: in 1917 had bought Vulcan 0-6-0Ts which were later copied in Spain and had given excellent service, so the bigger, the better: new eight-coupled engines would haul Erie hoppers forming trains with automatic brakes and couplings (obviously, the Pacific was intended for passenger use). But the plan failed as engines were too big for the Langreo loading gauge, specially for the old, narrow Carbayín tunnel. Eventually, the railroad decided to modify the more powerful S-159 and four were so treated, 401 being kept for spares. Modifications included cut tender tops, cabs with lowered roofs and slope sides and front pilot substituted by Langreo hook couplings and buffers. They became popular and were photographed several times and even recorded on movies hauling the old fashioned, 1890s vintage coal hoppers. Finally, main line steam operations ended in 1968 and the engines were withdrawn and scrapped shortly afterwards. Available data about these engines is as follows:

No. Into service Last repaired Mileage recorded (km)
402 20-3-63 2-64 36748
404 23-4-60 1-64 37692
405 23-11-61 2-64 38089
406 5-12-62 2-64 36748

How about the remaining engines? Well, they never ran but their fate is a bit obscure. According to some sources, all were towed to Pinzales station (the cramped Gijón works didn't have room for them!) where they languished for many years before being scrapped. However, I have photos of only three or four S-160s at Pinzales. They were still there in 3-1968 and were scrapped shortly afterwards. But there are no records of the Mikes nor about Pacific #901. In my opinion, they were sent to the torch shortly after arriving in Spain and never reached Pinzales.

At least one tender (I think it came off a S-160) was converted into a tank wagon and used for auxiliary duties. Although the former Langreo line (taken over by FEVE in 1972) was converted from standard to meter gauge in 1983-84, this tender was still abandoned at La Felguera station in 2002. I don't know if it is still there, I will check as soon as possible.

I hope this would be useful to clarify this interesting matter.

Best wishes,

Guillermo Bas Ordóñez
Mieres (Spain)


Added 3/2/10

Here are the photos I promised. The first color image was taken by the late Enrique Margot and shows 406 at Gijón station in the early 1960's. The second is a side view of 404 at Gijón, taken in 1963 by the late Juan B. Cabrera, showing well the modifications received for service in Spain. The third, also taken by Cabrera in 1963, depicts 406 with a Laviana-bound train at El Berrón station waiting for a crossing. The fourth image shows one of the S-160 abandoned at Pinzales station and was shot also by Cabrera. Photos 1 and 4 have been scanned from the book "Vapor USA en España y Portugal", by Lluis Prieto and published in 1996. Photos 2 and 3 come from "Vía estrecha en España", published by MAF in 1994. The fifth photo appeared in a local newspaper some 30 years ago in an article about the Langreo Railway written by Carlos María de Luis (I don't know the image's authorship) and, although of poor quality, shows two of the S-160 withdrawn at Pinzales. It is quite possible that the engine partially visible on the left is the same that appears on photo 3.

Finally, I took the sixth picture this morning at La Felguera station. It's the tender off a S-159 (not S-160 as I stated in my previous mail) and I can reconstruct its history as follows: when 400 class were withdrawn, some tenders were salvaged and converted into mobile fuel tanks TG class for diesel locomotives, such this case (number T.G. 8 is still visible painted on its side). When Langreo Railway was converted into meter gauge in 1983-84, probably lost its original bogies and was placed on wooden sleepers near La Felguera locomotive shed where it remains today, although it has been out of use for at least 10 years. Feel free to post this image on your website.

About the fate of these engines, Lluís Prieto states in his book that, in December 1968, the General Direction of Terrestrial Transports gave authorization to the Langreo company to scrap 10 American locomotives (he says that they were perhaps 5 S-160, S-159 #401 retained for spares, three Mikados and Pacific #901, that is all the locos that never ran in Spain). However, I have another version of that order: the 10 engines could be 5 S-160 and all five S-159 (401 for spares and 402, 404, 405 and 406 which had been in service), so the Mikes and Pacific had gone years before. Whatever happened, none of them survived beyond 1969.

Best regards,