Living Figueira 12 months a year

Trains 131 years ago in Figueira da Foz: Chronicle of a Royal Inauguration



Figueira da Foz Railway Line inaugurated on August 3, 1882

Figueiran businessmen soon saw the importance of the railway and, at least since 1867, the Commercial and Industrial Association of Figueira da Foz (ACIFF) tried to get it to Figueira. Thus, on June 4, 1867, the ACIFF requested D. Luís to build a railway branch from Moinho de Almoxarife to the Northern line, entering it at the “Jalhadouro” site.

And on March 29, 1874, he asked the Chamber of Deputies to grant a branch line, “when they discussed the approval of the railway of the two Beiras”, so that Figueira would be connected to the national network, also requesting that Camilo Mangeon and Evaristo Nunes Pinha be granted the construction of a branch line between Figueira and Coimbra “without any subsidy”.

Subsequently, on February 17, 1878, the ACIFF asked the Deputies of the Nation for a study on the route of the Beira Alta railway, starting from Figueira and following the bank of the Mondego River to Lares, crossing the river here and continuing to Alfarelos on its left bank. In fact, the construction of the Pampilhosa-Figueira section had already been contracted on September 14, 1859 by the Companhia Real dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses (CRCFP), but nothing had progressed since then.

The train was slow to arrive in Figueira, because the first section of railway line in Portugal, from Lisbon to Carregado, had already been inaugurated in 1856, and it was already 30 years behind the United Kingdom. However, it was not until 1876 that the government issued a tender for the construction and operation of the Pampilhosa-Vilar Formoso section, and only the third company was awarded the work, the Societé Financière de Paris, whose contract was signed on August 3, 1878.

In January 1879, the French company founded the Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses da Beira Alta (CCFBA) which, in October 1879, began work between Vilar Formoso and Pampilhosa, with this section coming into operation, provisionally, on July 1, 1882.

The contract signed on August 3, 1878 with the Société Financière de Paris did not include the Pampilhosa-Figueira section because, as mentioned above, it had been contracted with the Companhia Real dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses since September 14, 1859, but without further developments.

It was Augusto Saraiva de Carvalho, as Minister of Public Works from June 1, 1879 to March 25, 1881, who unblocked this problem by authorizing the CCFBA to also build the Pampilhosa-Figueira section through a provisional contract signed on October 31, 1879 and with the respective legislation enacted on March 31, 1880.

The ACIFF intervened in this dispute when, on June 1, 1880, it asked the Government to promote the rapid decision of the Arbitration Court on the railway from Pampilhosa to Figueira as an “extension of the Beira Alta railway”.

Construction began on August 10, 1880 and on March 2, 1882 the first train arrived in Figueira. On June 10, 1882, passenger transport began on the section between Figueira and Guarda, but it was not until July 1 that the Beira Alta line between Figueira and Vilar Formoso was opened to the public.

The royal family made a point of attending the official inauguration of the Beira Alta line, visiting Figueira on August 3 and the other stations from August 3 to 16.

The trip of the monarchs D. Luís and D. Maria Pia, accompanied by Prince D. Carlos and Infante D. Afonso, as well as the entourage that included several ministers, deputies and peers of the kingdom, left Lisbon at 10:10 a.m. on August 2, in Santa Apolónia (station built from 1862 to 1865).

Accompanying the king were senior figures from the government and the Regeneration Party, such as António de Serpa (Minister for Foreign Affairs and simultaneously director of the CCFBA), Tomás Ribeiro (Kingdom) and Hintze Ribeiro (Public Works). The group included some personalities close to the royal family, members of Lisbon’s social elites, representatives of the CRCFP and some military personnel. Fontes Pereira de Melo, President of the Council of Ministers, indisposed, stayed in Lisbon.

The train leaving Santa Apolónia was preceded by a locomotive confirming the safety of the line. It stopped in Carregado and Santarém, arriving in Entroncamento at 13:18, where the royal entourage had lunch, and then continued the journey to Coimbra, where it arrived at 17:00. In Coimbra, after a Te Deum and a hand-kissing ceremony, the king was welcomed in the University palaces, while the rest of the guests stayed in hotels.

On the 3rd they left Coimbra for Pampilhosa, where the inauguration festivities really got underway. The royal entourage arrived in Pampilhosa at 7.30 a.m., with Fontes Pereira de Melo present, who had recovered from the previous day’s indisposition.

The carriages were covered with Portuguese, French and Italian flags. The second in honor of the country of origin of the company that built them and the third in honor of Queen Maria Pia who was the daughter of the King of Italy Vítor Emanuel II.

Coming from Pampilhosa, the royal entourage arrived at 9:30 a.m. at Figueira station, where it was received by the municipal executive, several authorities, the commercial association and other entities, the senior staff of the Companhia da Beira Alta and a force of infantry 18 that made the guard of honor.

The Bishop of Coimbra, welcomed by many parish priests from the county, began the inauguration ceremony by blessing the seven locomotives that were to serve on this railway. The royal entourage then went in carriages to the Mother Church, where a Te-Deum was performed, and then to the Casa do Paço where the Chamber served them a lunch.

The town of Figueira was “beautifully decorated with columns, arches and flags”, according to a report in O Primeiro de Janeiro.

Figueirense, Dez de Agosto and Banda do Paião were responsible for brightening up the ceremony, and the Banda da Infantaria 18 and Banda Conimbricense also performed. The Filarmónica Figueirense, directed by Ferreira da Silva, performed A Inauguração – Grande Marcha Triumphal at the railway station and a Te-Deum at the Mother Church, both written by its conductor.

The lunch took place at Casa do Paço, offered by the City Council, then chaired by Dr. Francisco Lopes Guimarães, of the Progressive Party, a position he held from 1880 to 1886. On August 3, 1882, Comércio da Figueira, the newspaper of the opposition Progressive Party, reported with great prominence on the visit of the monarchs.

The various steps were described, from the arrival of the delegation at the railway station, through the cheers to the king, the journey to the pavilion reserved by the city council, the speech of the mayor Dr. Francisco Lopes Guimarães, in which he referred to the “great improvement” and the expected “influence on the future of the land”, the visit to the main church and the lunch (lunch) of 100 cutlery, offered by the City Council, served at Casa do Paço (at the time headquarters of the Progressive Party).

“The City Council has the honor to invite you to the lunch it offers to Their Majesties, on the 3rd of this month of August, at 11 am, in the house called Paço. The President, Francisco Lopes Guimarães”.

This is how Figueira’s city council addresses a series of individuals to be present at the great event that marks the summer of 1882. The lunch, “opiparous and magnificently served”, according to Diário de Notícias, was washed down with plenty of French Théophile Roederer champagne.
The king toasted the progress brought by the new road and was read a poem written by one of the company’s directors.

After lunch the delegation was received at the Figueirense Assembly, the most distinguished association of the time, magnificently decorated for the event.

The Dez d’Agosto Philharmonic played the hymn of Lady Maria Pia, and Her Majesties and their entourage attended, for some time, the distribution of an abundant bodo to 50 poor people, offered by the Figueiran ladies in honor of the Queen whom the people called the “Angel of Charity” and “The Mother of the Poor” for her compassion and social causes.

The first alms is given by Queen Maria Pia, who receives a bouquet of flowers from the hands of a child, decorated with ribbons in the colors of the monarchy. In turn, D. Luís promised to elevate the village of Figueira da Foz to a city, which happened the following month, specifically on September 20.

After the thanks of the president of the board of the Figueirense Assembly, Dr. Santos Rocha, the royal family and the entourage left towards the railway station. At 1 p.m., the train, composed of eleven carriages, left Figueira, preceded by an isolated machine, preventing any accident, heading for Mangualde, where they would stay overnight, bound for Vilar Formoso.

As expected, the inauguration was politically exploited by the two largest political factions of the time: the governing Regenerator Party and the opposition Progressive Party. The Republicans and their press were also in opposition. The inauguration of the Beira Alta line thus served as a propaganda tool for the crown against republican ideas.

For the progressive newspapers, “this trip is an audacious provocation to the country”. They criticized “the ecommended parties”, the “crazy expenses (…) with the royal march”, the king himself and the manipulation of which he was the target by the regenerators and the exaggeration in the size of the police force that accompanied the entourage.

In Figueira the celebration was a success, with the two associations sharing the honors, one holding the lunch and the other a charity action.

In fact, the opposition would still have to suffer for many years, since the government of the Regeneration Party, headed by Fontes Pereira de Melo from 1871 to 1877, from 1878 to 1879 and from 1881 to 1886, would only be replaced on February 20 of the latter year and the monarchy would only fall on October 5, 1910.

But the railway line to Figueira was also supported by the Progressive Party, by the hand of Augusto Saraiva de Carvalho, when he was Minister of Public Works, Commerce and Industry, from 1-6-1879 to 25-3-1881, but who would die on 29-11-1882, aged only 43, a few months after the inauguration of the Beira Alta line.

As we have seen, the initial contract between the Portuguese Government and the Societé Financière de Paris, signed on 3-8-1878, only provided for the construction of the Pampilhosa-Vilar Formoso section because the Pampilhosa-Figueira section had already been contracted on 14-9-1859 by the Companhia Real dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses.

And who unblocked this problem was Saraiva de Carvalho, when he was Minister of Public Works, by authorizing the Societé Financière de Paris / Company of Portuguese Railways of Beira Alta to build the Pampilhosa-Figueira section, in a contract of 31-10-1879, with a law promulgated on 31-3-1880 and works started on 10-8-1880.

The people of Figueiredo did not forget him and, in his honor, gave his name to the largest concert hall in the country at the time, the Teatro-Circo Saraiva de Carvalho, inaugurated on 3-9-1884, and on 9-11-1960 his name was given to Avenida 8 de Maio.



Figueira da Foz, an Ocean View

My viewpoint of doom in Figueira da Foz is not usually found in the lists of the “Best Viewpoints in Figueira da Foz”. It’s not official and it’s not on the roadmap, but I’ve been looking there for at least fifty years. Not exactly in the same place, because my viewpoint has grown and is now further away – which only makes it more beautiful.

Read More "


Fernando Curado