Snaking alongside the Douro River, along about 200km, the Douro Railway Line is considered one of the most beautiful railway lines in Portugal.
From construction to closure of Barca d’Alva station
Impressive engineering work for the time, the construction of the Douro Railway Line lasted from 1872 to 1887, during which 35 bridges and 23 tunnels were built, along a path of about 200km.
The first sections of the Douro line were opened in 1875 – Ermesinde-Penafiel and Penafiel-Caíde. The route to Régua opened circulation in 1879 and to Pinhão in 1880. With the latter, the initial purpose of the Douro Railway Line was concluded – to establish a rail link between Porto and the Douro wine region. However, once this objective was overcome, another, more ambitious one emerged – to extend the line to the border with Spain in Barca d’Alva – thus creating a communication route between Portugal and Spain, and from there to the other European capitals. The international connection, Barca d’Alva – Salamanca, was inaugurated in 1887, thus completing the 200km that totaled the route of the Douro Line.
However, the international connection did not live up to expectations, and in 1985, the Spanish government decreed the closure of the section between La Fuente de San Esteban and La Fregeneda. Consequently, in 1988 the section between the stations of Pocinho and Barca d’Alva is closed, ending once and for all with the connection to the border.
Although the international connection failed, the construction of the Douro railway line was an important instrument for the modernization of the region, emerging as a more effective alternative to river transport and allowing the regular transport of people and goods, namely Port wine.
The Douro Railway Line nowadays
Currently, the Douro Railway Line connects Porto to Pocinho, crossing the entire Douro Valley, in an extension of about 160 km, and a large part of the route taken alongside the river.
The train journey starts in the city of Porto, crossing Ermesinde and the municipalities of Penafiel and Marco de Canaveses. As the metropolitan area of Porto falls behind and the Douro approaches, the landscape becomes more rural. It is from Mosteirô that the Douro wine region, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, reveals itself. Green and rocky slopes, covered with vineyards, from where a farm often appears, which produces the famous Port Wine.
In addition to the stunning scenery, traveling on the Douro line means crossing a series of magnificent bridges, impressive tunnels and beautiful train stations.
In its entirety, the Douro Line has 23 tunnels, one of the most popular of which, perhaps due to its length – 1.1 km -, is the Caíde tunnel, on the Caíde – Marco de Canaveses section. And also 35 bridges, including the Ferradosa railway bridge, with a metallic structure and 375 meters in length, is one of the most photographed on the Douro Line.
As for the stations, the Pinhão station – which displays 24 tile panels referring to the vintage – and the Pocinho – a yellow building where the blue tile panels with rural scenes, whose pier porch it is supported by daisy-shaped consoles -, stands out for its singular beauty.
In the summer season, the historic steam train runs through the Régua – Tua section, transporting tourists to the past Douro. It is also in Régua that most cruises that sail the Douro dock, thus allowing passengers to get to know the region through two perspectives – navigating the river and traveling by train. In our opinion, this is the perfect combination for those who want to discover the hidden charms of this which is one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal – the Douro.