Mr Henderson's Railway
A Victorian British Railroad that's just the ticket for foodies with scenery that will stop you in your tracks
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Stop Press - June 2019
Mr Henderson’s Railway is back on track after eight months of being out of service due to October 2018’s flash floods. The times are the same EXCEPT for the midday trains - even better for planning a lunch trip as they give you nearly an extra hour to enjoy the restaurants en route.
Midday trains now depart San Roque at 06.30, 11.40 and 15.46. PICTURED: A section of track hanging in the void after the autumn storms.
Ride a curious iron road into Andalucia's heartland via sleepy mountain villages, chocolate box stations and dramatic scenery.
The line runs from Algeciras on the coast to the city of Ronda and you can have great fun exploring the trackside restaurants, country walks and sleepy white villages en route.
The views alone will keep you glued to the carriage windows. Sunflower fields, orange orchards, nesting storks and acorn pastures grazed by black jamon Iberico pigs flash past like a documentary film as you climb 750 metres from sea level into the Serrania de Ronda, skirting the cork forests of Los Alcornocales Natural Park.
The gastronomic delights along the way are another wow factor. Wayside stations and goods yards have been artfully converted into restaurants. One or two have made it into Trip Advisor's Top Five.
Nothing quite beats the novelty of stepping straight off the train and straight to your table!
Or for a thrilling start or finale to your journey, stay at one of the original Edwardian railway hotels built at either end of the line which have hosted WW2 spies, Hollywood Golden Age film stars and a young journalist called Winston Churchill. If walls could talk these restored grand dames would have some fascinating stories to tell.
A bit of history
The railroad is an incredible feat of British engineering, boring through the mountains via 16 tunnels and crossing rivers and ravines via 20 bridges.
Nicknamed after the project's wealthy British financier, Sir Alexander Henderson, 1st Baron Faringdon of Oxfordshire, everything from the rolling stock to the station clocks were British made.
Mr Henderson's Great Grandson
The author with the present Baron Faringdon (left) and Lord Marlesford of Suffolk at the Reina Victoria Hotel in Ronda. The silent chap on the right is the poet Rilke.
Plied by steam trains when it opened in 1892, it was built to provide Gibraltar with a vital overland link to the rest of Europe. In those days, in these parts, the 'roads' were mule tracks roamed by bandits and the sea was the only safe means of passage.
The original trains ran so slowly that smugglers sold their contraband from Gibraltar through the carriage windows. Today the journey from Algeciras to Ronda is under two hours by modern air-conditioned trains which run bang to time. Better still, the line is part of Spain's RENFE rail network and a subsidised public service.
A Journey into the Past
The original railway timetable
There are only two or three trains a day but, with a little forward planning, you can organise a trip under your own steam. Check out our recommendations below.
The Reina Cristina Hotel
The original railway hotel. Check out the gold plaques in reception, showcasing the signatures of a celebrity cast including Teddy Roosevelt, Ava Gardner, Rock Hudson and a young Winston Churchill.
Cat's Cave Walk
Shorter and easier than Mr Henderson’s Walk which also starts from here, the Cueva del Gato is a well-known beauty spot for picnics and fresh water swimming.
Perfect for lunch or a longer stay, our friends Andy and Pauline have transformed this charming old water mill into a chic boutique hotel with an outstanding riverside restaurant.
The Catalonia Reina Victoria Hotel
Ernest Hemingway and Austrian poet Reiner Rilke whose statue graces the gardens were regular guests at this Edwardian railway hotel. Perched on the edge of the El Tajo Gorge, it’s an ideal base for exploring the queen of Andalucía’s white towns.
Take a virtual trip past the Cat’s Cave
TRAIN TRAVEL INFORMATION
Coming from west of Gibraltar? Board the train at Algeciras.
Coming from east of Gibraltar? Board the train at Estacion San Roque.
Trains call three times daily at most stations between Algeciras and Ronda (journey approx. 1hr 45mins),
Algeciras, Estacion San Roque/La Linea, (Almoraima*), Estacion Jimena (San Pablo*), Estacion Gaucín, Estacion Cortes de la Frontera, Jimera de Libar, Benaoján/Montejaque, (Arriate*), Ronda
*One train up and down daily or request stop (ask the ticket inspector on board)
Book your tickets online at RENFE
If you are a 60+ resident in Spain with more than 18 years in the Social Security system you can get a 25-40% discount on rail travel throughout Spain with a Tarjeta Dorada. Find out more here.