Every year and every weekend, starting from March until October, the 0186 steam engine (from the year 1925) and its 5 carriages (more than 100 yrs old), invite you to a rail journey alongside the River Douro, starting from Regua and ending at Tua (of course you come back also).
So let’s leave Braga for a moment and head to the place where the famous fortified wine gets his main ingredients.
In the last two articles: 004 and 005 we explored the gothic, baroque, colourful and stony city of Braga -> the old capital of Gallaecia (NW of Iberia Peninsula). For this next trip, I had to book tickets, two months prior for this cultural, stunningly beautiful and unique railway trip to Regua/Tua. (like I said, every weekend from March to October there is just one train and many boats and on each there aren’t too many seats available…)
What is cool about this historical steam journey, is that you can buy (online) just the train tickets for Regua – Tua (then you come back by boat) or Regua – Tua – Regua (also online) or even get train journeys from where you want in Portugal and back there including the historical journey. And this is what I bought: from spanish frontier to Porto, then to Regua, then the steam journey and back to Spanish border. For those kind of tickets you need to go to a CP train station.
How great is that? And all of this is transparent, meaning you go directly at CP train station and not through a special company that has special tickets that in fact are without a seat or the tickets are not valid (it happened to me). So if you want to come here, is as easy as taking a flight to Porto then a regional train fast to Regua and then enjoy the journey.
006.1 Here I am about to embark on a train from Braga to get me to Porto.
For those who love the railway, in Braga at the train station, you can buy pins, magnets, keychains, books, and many more with/or representing Portuguese trains. I bought a full stack of those, from each model.
006.2 The new Alfa Pendular (for a picture with the old one get to 005). This picture was taken in Porto (more about it in 007 and 008)
Sadly I did not get to Regua on the new Alfa Pendular – the high-speed train that tilts. But nonetheless, the route from Porto to Regua is every bit beautiful and entertaining.
006.3 Right when you see these 3 mighty bridges, you know you arrived to Regua.
By the way, Regua (Paso da Regua) is a town that according to Wiki, is as old as the Romans. Vila Reggula, a Roman estate, once existed where now is the historical centre point of Regua. It is belived that the designation of the town comes from the name of that estate.
006.4 Here is my first ever steam locomotive that I remember getting into (that actually works and is not pulled or pushed by a Diesel or Electrical). It is the 0186 steam locomotive that is almost 100yrs old (I am writing in 2019) and it pulls five carriages that are a bit older than the loco. There are 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages but you can sit wherever you want actually, once the train gets moving. ( all you need is to ask permission to the owner of the ticket of that seat)
006.5 Yes you buy seats and they are reserved for you (you check that out on the web or at any CP train station). Best is to book on the right side because this way you get to see the Douro River on both trips (go and back). But is also good to give your place to other enthusiasts so they can take pictures too. In fact most of the time I stood outside since is more unique than sitting down on wooden benches.
006.6 For those who have more time and money, there is also a hotel-on-the-water kinda boat that features bedrooms, pool, restaurant, and a terrace to sit and enjoy the warm sun.
006.7 Moon rising from the Douro Valley.
006.8 Every ticket comes with a seat, a cold bottle of water, and a small glass of sweet Port Wine. Well, is a fortified wine so small glass is just fine for most.
006.9 And is not just below the horizon that you should be looking at or at your glass of wine, but also heads up to the skies too. There are eagles and they are many. It is a great way to do some bird photos if you have a 300/400mm lens on an APS-C body (to get that extra reach). I took only my 18-135 Canon lens and I found that I did not have to much reach. I did not see an eagle dive into the river to get fish or something, but they don’t fly low either.
006.10 The weather is mostly sunny in these parts, so from March to October you can see these large hunting birds circling the Douro Valley and the Minho Valley also.
006.11 On the other side of the train (on the left on the direction of travel) you get pretty close to well-lined vineyards.
006.12 I even got the luck to see one getting built. They look more like pyramids… (I saw them only on photos)
006.13 From time to time huge villas show up on the route somehow to remember that these vineyards are well protected and taken care of.
Traditionally, the wine was taken down the river and into the Porto bay (at Vila Nova Gaia) where it was prepared/stored and then exported worldwide.
So the Port Wine comes only from this region, with locations like Regua the main hub, then Vila Real, Lamego, Pinhao and Tua (the last two ones can also be admired during the train journey).
006.14 From those locations, the wine would travel on water, on flatboats called ‘barcos rabelos’ (see 008)
006.15 Since the construction of Hydroelectric Power Dams, this romantic means of transportation of the wine, was replaced by the truck… Quite a dull one right?
006.16 The wine-producing Douro region is the third oldest in the world and it is a protected one too, by law, and by eagles 🙂
006.17 And now here is Tua.
006.18 The train station was built in the 1883 and was the old terminus for the Douro Linha (the railway line that follows the Douro Valley vineyards). After 4 years the track was extended as far as Spain, but then closed and so today Tua is once more the terminus station.
006.19 The train doesn’t stay too much in Tua, but enough for you to buy some wine, get some tasty candies made only here and prepare yourself to get back to Regua.
This trip might be for many their first time on a steam railway or the first time in a protected vineyard that is the third oldest in the world. It might also be the first time they drink the famous Port Wine while watching the vineyards and hearing traditional songs.
For me, it was the first time in every aspect (including in watching so many eagles on one trip). It was also the first time I had to blow my nose just to find out that my napkin turned black… Imagine taking this train everyday to work in a city like Paris.
It was also my first time hearing the whistles of a steam locomotive inside a tunnel and also going on in speed while being outside with the wind blowing through my hair. I was kinda afraid to point out my camera but after a few photos I got more confident but still respected my environment.
I loved it so much that I think I will return many times more, but surely I will pack also a zoom lens. Heavy or not, is one useful tool to have in the backpack.
Tickets and reservations here: https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/pt/como-viajar/em-lazer/cultura-natureza/comboio-historico
Don’t worry, CP or any organization is paying me to tell you or show you what I just did. Wish I were though…
So there it is: the historical journey along the Douro river and the famous vineyards.
006. 20 I will finish this article with a picture from the Ermesinde (the train station with pointed roofs)
Join me in two weeks time as we travel to the city that has more in common with Paris that you would think.