The Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd


It was apparent to the authorities in the mid 1800s that it would be necessary to build railways (there were none in Almería at that time) to link Granada, Almería and Murcia. To this end, concessions were created to allow private companies to build and run these railways. These concessions were to be issued by means of a Royal Order (RO). On 12th August 1865, a Miguel Cremades received an RO without rights to make a study of whether it was possible to build a railway line between Lorca and Águilas Port or Garrucha. This he did but ten years later a Francisco de Laguardia received a concession to build the railway. Poor Miguel appealed the decision twice without success, which means that he disappears from the story.

On 27th March 1875 Lorca town hall agreed to support the project to the tune of 2 million pesetas by the use of debentures.

Francisco de Laguardia reported to the corporation that work had started on the railway on 27th March 1875 but there is little evidence of this. It seems that he was bogged down in bureaucracy and the fact that Águilas port was not considered sufficiently able to import or export goods. There followed much wrangling between a number of companies and town halls.

Sorry, image missing.In 1879 the government auctioned a concession to build a line between Granada and Murcia. Sorry, image missing.A British retired shipping merchant called Edmund Sykes Hett was the only bidder and so, on 15th December 1885 The GSSR was incorporated and building started.

In October of 1885, the sum of £1,250,000 was raised (approximately £200 million today - not a lot compared to HS2 for example considering that the distances are almost the same - 299km), later to be increased to £1,684,357 for the construction of The GSSR. In addition, the Spanish government subsidy was only £532,000 (£70 million at today's rates, making the grant £150,000 per mile). See Finance. However, The GSSR wasn't the construction company, that being 'Hett, Maylor & Co Ltd' (Edmund Sykes Hett & John Maylor) who were to be paid a fixed sum of £2,089,184 (£270 million today) on completion of the project, and even they didn't seem to have done much work, the main construction being subcontracted to The Marquis of Loring (Jorge Enrique Loring y Oyarzabal) who had been successful in the past as a railway constructor, and August Lecoq, a metal construction expert.

The original Board of Directors comprised:

The Right Hon. Sir James Fergusson, Bart., M.P., G.C.H.L., K.C.M.G., 24 Grosvenor Gardens, S.W. (Chairman).
Sir George Russell, Bart., M.P., Swallowfield Park, Reading. Director of the South-Eastern Railway company.
David Davies, Esq., M.P., Llandinam, Montgomeryshire. Deputy Chairman of the Barry dock and Railway Company.
Edward K Hett Esq., Eltham, Kent. Director of the Great Western of Brazil Railway Company (Limited).
W. Goodwin Barnes, Esq., Beaufort Lodge, Cambridge Park, Twickenham. Shipowner.
Perry F. Nursey, Esq., 161, Fleet Street, London, E.C. President of the Society of Engineers.
Alfred Fernandez Yarrow, Esq., Isle of Dogs, Poplar, London, E. Engineer.
Each of the above bought 100 £10 shares in the company, as did:

Howard Webb, Cardiff. Colliery prospector.
Robert Mercer, Bromley, Kent. Civil engineer.
Nearly everything needed for the construction of the line was brought from Great Britain, France or Antwerp by ship.

Considering the difficult topography, construction went on at an impressive pace, the section between Almendricos and Águilas, having been started in October 1887, opened in April 1890. As an example of the topography from the point of view of a railway engineer, 133Km (41.8%) of the track between Granada and Lorca has inclines of 1 in 66 or steeper. The gauge was 1.668m (5ft 5¾in) as opposed to the British 1.435m (4ft 8½in).

Iron span 40 96.1 2
Iron span 30 57.3 15
Iron span 20 24.7 13
Iron span 15 21.4 12
Iron span 12 29.3 2
Iron span 10 10.5 63
Iron span 8 7.9 4
Iron span 6 5.6 9
Total 1,710 2,431 120
Iron span 5   5
Iron span 4   9
Iron span 3   25
Iron span 2   61
Iron span 1.5   48
Iron span 1   155
Iron span 0.5   225
Total 1,986   626
Masonry 6   5
Masonry 5   2
Masonry 4   14
Masonry 3   31
Masonry 2   34
Masonry 1.5   35
Masonry 1   97
Masonry 0.5   63
Masonry - twin arch 8   1
Masonry - single arch 10   2
Masonry - twin arch 10   6
Masonry - triple arch 10   1
Masonry - quadruple arch 10   2
Masonry - over bridge     18
Total 2,396   860
Masonry - syphon 1   16
Masonry - syphon 0.6   67
Masonry - tube     27
Masonry - irrigation canal     4
Masonry - aqueduct triple arch     1
Masonry - tunnel 613 total   9
Level crossing house     142
Total 3,097   1,038

There was an inauguration on 24th March 1890 whereby locomotive No 2 'LORCA' took all of the dignitaries to each of the stations on the branch line (Pilar de Jaravía, Pulpí and Almendricos - where this photograph was taken) during which Gustave Gillman took photographs (hover over a face).