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richard davies


Agua Amarga is the last stop before the Parque Natural´s northern boundary and is a delightful little fishing village cut of from the surrounding world by a long road. The attractive collection of whitewashed houses stand out against the intense blue of the sea.
Only five minutes past the busy port of Carboneras, Agua Amarga is nestled against a stunning mediterranean bay, once home to one of Spain´s largest mineral exporters (see below for more details).

We travel further into Níjar on the wild west trail, but en route we pass the villa used in the Jonathon Glazer movie `Sexy Beast´.
This fantastic property is perched on the hillside overlooking the town and coastline and is overlooked by the incredible ruins of the mineral port, en route from Lucainena.

The Lucainena to Agua Amarga Line

The remaining ruins are over 100 years old and are incredibly impressive in size and engineering.
Well worth a visit as you pass through this beautiful area.

This was one of the more successful of the mining ventures in Almeria, mainly because it had better planning and better investment.
A line ran (see map) from mines in the mountains of the Sierra Alhamilla in the parish of Lucainena to the coast at Agua Amarga.


The mines being some 30 km from the sea (the only practical long distance route in those days), either an aerial cable or a railway was needed. Given the terrain, a cable was easier but it was a long way and reliability could be a problem so a railway was chosen.

There were several possible routes, all of them involving steep gorges. The one chosen went just to the left of the small village of Agua Amarga, which means bitter water, a reflection of the quality of that liquid from the wells there.



These were built by taking advantage of the Calareno barranco which sloped downfrom the Nijar Palain to the sea. Enormous deposits were built in its interior. They were conical and had a capacity of 45,000 tons. There were also auxiliary deposits built underground on the right-hand slopes, see picture below.

In the upper part of the workings, some 80m above sea level, the main line finished. At the top, the line split. One branch continued on the level along the edge of the barranco. Its purpose was to fill the auxiliary underground hoppers via the small branches to the train's left. It also connected with an inclined plane that went down to Agua Amarga (Shown as "oil store" in the picture). This plane brought coal for the ovens, wood for heating, machinery, foodstuff and other essential goods for the miners. It was all brought from ships moored near to the coast. At the bottom were fuel oil stores for the Lucainena generator.

Train transporting iron ore from Lucainena to Agua Amarga
The ship `Bartolo´ receives it´s last payload at Agua Amarga from the mines at Lucainena

The second branch continued down the barranco by means of a 231m inclined plane. It dropped 40m and operated in successive sets of six wagons, three loaded going down and three empty going up.

At the foot of the plane, lines branched out, some linked with the underground deposit, while others fed, via metal bridges, the main hoppers. Mineral was taken from the auxiliary hoppers to the main ones by wagons pushed by six or seven men, since there were no engines at the bottom of the inclined plane.

Under the main hoppers were access tunnels, in which were 600mm lines. Wagons were filled with ore, then moved, again by hand, to the pier. The distance was 166m. Four arms went to the main hopper and one to the exterior.

The last part of the journey by land was across a great metal bridge. This was an inverted (rails on top) cantilever bridge that extended 70m over the sea and 14m above it. It was built by Miravalles who constructed cantilever bridges all over Spain (see the Bedar and Almagrera lines). The bridge carried four lines, two out and two back. At the end were chutes, which discharged the ore directly into the hold of the ship.

Many thanks to Don and Faith Gaunt for sharing their knowledge and expertise on this huge facility.
For more detailed information regarding this shipping/loading dock please visit their site:

Click the links below to explore Almeria
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