The Great Southern of Spain Railway Ltd (GSSR) was a railway company situated mostly in the Province of Almería. It was built by a British Company in the 1880s but although the line survived for 100 years, British interest ceased with the seizing of the line in 1936 (The start of the Spanish Civil War).
Its original purpose was to link Murcia with Granada, but a lack of money and an underestimation of the terrain to be crossed meant that the final project only linked the three towns of Lorca, Águilas (Murcia) and Baza (Granada). The remaining sections of the line were eventually constructed by other companies. Although the termini were in other provinces the major part of the line went through the scenic Almanzora Valley in Almería.
Passenger traffic was never great and to start with it was very small indeed, particularly along the Almanzora valley - after all there was nowhere much to go except between Baza and Águilas! It was goods traffic that really supported the line and in the beginning even that relied on primitive iron mines with most of the ore being shifted by hand. The 1897 timetable shows just one passenger train a day on this section.
There was some income from a reasonable trade in agriculture, esparto and marble, plus some passenger traffic.
A major difficulty that dogged the railway for all of its steam powered life was that the water for the boilers presented a serious problem. It was not only the lack of it but also its quality, because it contained huge amounts of impurities such as calcium, selenium and magnesium. It was so bad that it was said that the boilers were not so much water heaters as limestone makers!
The problem was truly immense when operations started there could be as many as 8 out of the 25 boilers under repair.
The line was at least working and even making a small profit, and from the beginning of the 20th century, things began to pick up with modern iron mining encouraged in the Sierra de los Filabres and a pier built at Aguilas (El Hornillo) to load it on to ships for export.
Unbeknown to the company, these were actually golden days for the railway because looming on the horizon was the First World War when the price of coal rose tenfold to a staggering £21 per ton by 1918.
Bad times came yet again in 1921 when there was a general mining crisis over the whole of Spain due to a combination of strikes, wage demands and a general falling off of demand.
The gloom was unrelenting when the global stock market crash affected trade and in Spain the political situation was deteriorating rapidly. The Civil War arrived and delivered the final blow, when the British company were relieved of their assets.
After the war Franco created RENFE, the state railway. Steam continued until the 1960s when diesel took over and the Steam engines were scrapped.
In 1985 the Almanzora section was closed for ever.
Not quite the end!
Although the management had no railway, they continued to meet annually, writing letters to Spain demanding compensation. Somewhat surprisingly, in 1951 they actually got some! The sum of £144,434 was sent. This was divided up among the remaining debenture holders and the board and the GSSR was then finally wound up.