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Spanish Secrets: Let The Train Take The Strain

Craig Briggs decided to let the train take the strain to get back his village home in Galicia - only to see the last train of the day to Canabal disappearing down the track.

For more of Craig’s tasty accounts of his new life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Our home village of Canabal, in the remote Spanish countryside of Galicia, displays two quite distinct features. The first of these is over 100 feet tall. It stands as a reminder of a more prosperous era in the village’s history. It’s a chimney, the only remaining remnant of a once productive brick-firing furnace.

Nowadays, it’s home to migratory storks. They return in the winter to mate before leaving in the summer. It’s interesting to watch the young chicks launch themselves from the top of chimney on their maiden flight, seemingly without a care in the world.

The village’s other main feature is the railway. It dissects the village in two and at its centre is Canabal railway station. At one side of the track is a disused warehouse. Its whitewashed walls are now water-stained and the paintwork is flaking. The platform roof tiles have long since succumbed to the elements. All that now remains are weathered roof joists.

Opposite this stands the main station and passenger platform. Tufted weeds now grow through the cracked concrete where passengers once stood. All the exit doors are locked and office windows smashed. The wrought iron supports for the platform roof are rusting away. Embossed in iron on the front of the station, are the scarcely distinguishable letters C-A-N-A-B-A-L. This once proud emblem, painted fire-engine red, is now a rusting and flaking relic.

On first sight it would be easy to think that the station is abandoned but that’s not the case. Canabal boasts four trains per day. Two travel east and two west, one each way in the morning and again at night.

Since moving to Canabal almost four years ago, we’ve been promising ourselves a train journey. Last week we finally managed to fulfil that promise. We took our car to the nearby town of Monforte de Lemos to have it serviced, from there we could return home by train.

After dropping off the car, we walked the short distance to Monforte railway station. We’d given ourselves plenty of time just in case there were any problems. After purchasing our ticket there was ample time to enjoy a drink and tapas in the station bar.

Large smoked-glass windows gave an excellent view of the platforms. Mounted on one wall was a TV monitor displaying travel information. This evening’s schedule listed four destinations, two eastbound and two westbound.

Whilst I nibbled on my crispy pancetta (the Spanish equivalent of a bacon sandwich) Melanie munched on a wedge of tortilla (Spanish potato omelette), all washed down with a cool glass of San Miguel. What a perfectly civilised way to travel.

The 7:24 pm to Leon pulled in at platform one. The next train would be ours, the 7:34pm to Ourense. First stop, Canabal.

With my last morsel eaten and my thirst quenched, I checked the time with Melanie. A look of horror filled her gaze as she rose to her feet. It’s 7:34pm. I looked out at the 7:24pm to Leon as the carriage doors slid closed. “It’s setting off in the wrong direction!’’ I exclaimed.

The 7:24 to Leon turned out to be the 7:34 to Ourense. We’d just missed the last train home. Fortunately the taxi ride wasn’t too expensive. The following afternoon, on our return trip, there was no such mistake and we finally managed to travel by train, in Spain.

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