“A true engineering marvel when it opened in 1887, the Linha do Douro (Douro Line) still thrills passengers today. In its heyday it crossed the boarder to Spain (for a through service to Salamanca and Madrid) and sprouted some stunning valley branch lines, but even though the branch lines are no more, it’s still some ride – 160km of river-hugging track from Porto to Pocinho, via more than 20 tunnels, 30 bridges and 34 stations.” – The Rough Guide
That hot, sunny afternoon, we took the 5.30 train to Pinhão.
It is only a short walk from Quinta do Vesuvio to the little riverside station but it was pretty hard work in the heat. There were only two small shelters at the deserted station above the single track and we huddled in the shadows cast by the shelters and waited for the train to arrive from Pocinho. The sky was blue and the pomigrante trees with their red fruit lining the river bank, swayed gently in the breeze. The two women who served us lunch at the Quinta were also catching the train to Pinhao where they lived. They smiled and waved. Before she drove ahead to Quinta do Bom Retiro – our base in Pinhao for the next two nights, Mafalda had instructed women to make sure we got off the train in Pinhao.
The Pocinho to Pinhao section is the wildest and most picturesque part of the entire Douro Line. This is of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The train hugs the left bank of the river almost all the way to Pinhao. The journey on the swaying train costs only Euro 3.50 and tickets can be bought in advance as we did. From Tua onwards, the women from the Quinta started to indicate that Pinhao was not far. The train crossed the Douro and approached Pinhao along the right bank of the river.
The first train arrived at Pinhao station on 1 June 1886.The station’s main building is still adorned with twenty-five blue and white tile panels depicting scenes from vineyards, landscapes, and customs of the Douro Region. A little station museum cum shop sold wine and souvenirs.
Manuel was waiting for us at the station in Pinhao. He drove us past the delightful Vintage House Hotel where we had stayed during a previous Douro wine tour ten years ago, crossed the river and were on our way to Quinta do Bom Retiro.
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