Rail Journeys

The Costa del Alco

Tour Date: 22 to 28 January, 2023
Location: Spain

Escape to Spain again this winter on our annual five-day railtour with a classic 1960’s ALCo diesel locomotives hauled vintage compartment carriages.

Join us for our annual special charter train around Southern Spain – one of the traditional winter havens for the British, offering pleasantly warm temperatures especially on the coast. Four long branches run to four very different ports, two of which are not electrified and so offer better photographic opportunities. There are mountain ranges to cross as well and some of the gradients will certainly test our class 316 and 321 Alco locomotives. Iberian gauge railways in Andalucía are in a precarious position with some reduced to freight-only operation and others under threat from new high speed lines and services. Now is definitely the time to travel these historic railways, some of which offer spectacular scenery and magnificent railway infrastructure.

Tour Managers: Phil and Paul G

Tour Highlights

  • Private charter train
  • Spacious ‘fresh-air’ carriages with maximum of 4 people per compartment
  • Great scenery and lovely cities
  • Heritage diesel locomotives
  • Granada, Córdoba and Seville

Tour Itinerary

Day 1, Sunday 22 January, 2023

Flights from most major UK airports to Madrid. Transfer to our hotel beside Madrid Chamartin station for our overnight stay. Overland travel via the Eurostar is also possible by leaving St Pancras at 09:24, via Paris and Barcelona, arriving in Madrid at midnight.

Day 2, Monday 23 January (B)

We start our journey from Madrid Chamartín, taking the combination of freight lines and Cercanías (local train) lines that skirt the east side of Madrid to reach Villaverde Bajo where we join the former main line from Madrid to the south of Spain, now greatly reduced in importance. After passing through Aranjuez and Alcázar de San Juan we continue south, still under the wires, through the Despeñaperros pass to Linares-Baeza. The station is remote from the towns it serves and is of note only because the non-electrified line to Almería diverges here. This line takes a winding route through the very empty countryside of the Sierra Mágina passing over the amazing Salado Viaduct to reach Moreda where the triangle gives access to the Granada line before we cross the Anchuron bridge to arrive at the port city of Almería. We should have time to leave the new Intermodal station and admire the beautiful old station next door and continue down the road to view the very photogenic loading pier known as the English Cable from where iron ore was sent to Scotland. We return north to Guadix with the Alco working hard on the severe gradients before taking the south to west curve at Moreda onto the Granada line. We will spend the night in this historic and very beautiful city, home of the world famous Alhambra Palace.

Day 3, Tuesday 24 January (B)

The direct broad gauge line to Málaga is severed and out of use so we must return to Linares- Baeza. Soon we pass the new gauge changer where high speed trains on the standard gauge from Madrid will change to broad gauge for the journey to Almería, then to the south are the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. We take the west to north curve at Moreda and head back north to Linares-Baeza where we reverse and continue on the former Madrid to Cádiz main line, passing the triangle at Espeluy which gives access to the Jaén branch. Only one train pair currently uses the old main line at this point. At Córdoba our route heads south down the old main line to Málaga, freight-only as far as Bobadilla since 2013. The old line between Fuente de Piedra and Bobadilla is out of use, though not formally closed, so we take a new line which runs through Antequera Santa Ana station. Ahead is the Sierra de Abdalajís which the line goes under through a series of tunnels between there are some amazing views of the Gaitanes Gorge. Our destination is the port city of Málaga where we arrive at Málaga María Zambrano station. There are suburban platforms for the Málaga Centro-Alameda to Fuengirola branch, an evening possibility for dedicated track gricers.

Day 4, Wednesday 25 January (B)

The plan for today is to return to Córdoba, with a side trip to Algeciras. This means we must reverse at Bobadilla (the triangle towards Granada is out of use) before setting off down the non-electrified branch to Algeciras, built by the Algeciras Gibraltar Railway Company and allowing British military officers to escape the summer heat of Gibraltar. At Ronda the line swings twice through 180 degrees before continuing south-west down the valley of the Guadiaro River as it passes through the Serranía de Ronda gradually descending to the Mediterranean coast and Algeciras. We will be asking permission to visit the branch line which goes past the RENFE station into the port, with suitable assurances that there will be no problems similar to those we encountered at Huelva in 2020. If granted, we can expect fine views of Gibraltar across the bay. Our journey to Córdoba will be by the outward route, but we have requested the 2km freight bypass which avoids Antequera Santa Ana station to the west. The entire historic centre of Córdoba is a UNESCO world heritage site, with the Mezquita Cathedral the heart of the city and a visit is strongly recommended.

Day 5, Thursday 26 January (B)

We leave Córdoba on the classic main line which runs broadly parallel with the high-speed line which has taken most of the traffic to Sevilla, where we pass through the main station, Sevilla Santa Justa, and continue south through Dos Hermanas after which we see the direct line to Bobadilla, currently closed while a bridge is bypassed. The line we are travelling on now has been completely rebuilt with cut-offs and new alignments completed in 2016. After Jerez de la Frontera a new deviation crosses a curving 3km bridge over a broad river valley offering great pictures.

At Las Aletas we will travel the short Cercanías branch to Universidad opened in April 2005 and requiring careful timing to do on service trains. Back at Las Aletas we continue to the station in Cádiz, now reached by an underground approach. We have no time to linger in this attractive city with its new metro and soon set off back to Sevilla where we take the avoiding line through Padre Pío Palmete to reach Los Rosales and thence back to Córdoba for a second night in this beautiful city.

Of course, you are welcome to opt out of today’s train and remain in Córdoba for the day to explore this fascinating city.

Day 6, Friday 27 January (B)

The final day of the tour and a return to Madrid but with a visit to the city of Jaén to add variety. Jaén is accessed by the triangle at Espeluy and for those who have been there prior to August 2020 there is an 8km deviation halfway along the branch to get you excited. After reversal we regain the classic main line with the third side of the Espeluy triangle and proceed to Linares-Baeza where the possibility of travelling the short freight branch to the biodiesel works is under investigation.

Our journey now takes us by the outward route through Alcázar de San Juan and Aranjuez and back to Madrid Chamartín to end a memorable winter adventure.

Day 7 Saturday 28 January (B)

Flights Madrid to UK. There might be a special, optional, circular trip with the vintage 333 locomotive today – TBC

We have requested each day of our special train to start after 9am. This might not be possible on all days.

Prices & Options

Estimated Prices (per person) – Final Prices TBC

  • From Heathrow: £1,785
  • From Gatwick: £1,785
  • From Stansted: £1,785
  • From Bristol: £1,785
  • From Manchester: £1,785
  • From Edinburgh: £1,785
  • From St Pancras: POA
  • From Madrid: £1,585


  • Special Train Only (5 days, no hotels): £1,295
  • Single room supplement: £210
  • Circular trip with 333: TBC


  • £300 own flights, £500 with flights included