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A part of Gibraltar’s railway network restored

A part of Gibraltar’s old railway system was uncovered yesterday by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust at John Mackintosh Square. A box car rescued by heritage enthusiast Gil Podesta has been completely restored and will remain on public view in the square until the end of this month.

This is the last known surviving railway box car in Gibraltar of what would have been an extensive railway system within the dockyard, nearby works, storage areas and inside the tunnels. There also existed a temporary industrial railway at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries when it was possible to travel round the entire coastline of Gibraltar by train. The dockyard railway was known to have had 17 locomotives all numbered with four of them also carrying the names Gibraltar, Catalan, Rosia, and Calpe.

Ian Ballestrino, Vice Chairman of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, said on site that the project was the culmination of a year’s work. 

Standing alongside Heritage Minister Steven Linares and in the presence of the Governor Sir James Dutton, members of the Trust and those who had been involved in the project, Mr Ballestrino, emphasised, this was precisely the type of project the GHT wanted to be involved with and undertake. 

“The project was initially driven by Gil Podesta,” he said and was confident it would bring back many memories to all those who worked in the dockyard when these cars were once in abundance.

“This kind of project brings to light a lot of history and heritage which is there lying in spaces all around us. It helps us to restore a little of what Gibraltar was,” he said.

Mr Ballestrino highlighted the number of people involved in the project including Mr Podesta, Rock Joinery, GMES and Gib Dock, John Hernardez and GibElec.

As yet a permanent place for the Box Car has not been found but this should be announced soon.

Mr Linares said that a suitable location would be announced shortly. He paid tribute to Mr Podesta and the hard work he had put into the project as well as the other entities.

“This is also part of the partnership between the Government, GHT, and those in the private sector to try and bring history back. I am sure that many young people did not know we had a railway system in Gibraltar,” and this he said would now set the record straight. As Minister for Heritage it was a pleasure for him to see it outside the City Hall for all to see.

Chief Executive Claire Valarino was keen to point out that people who become or wish to become members of the Trust should know that their contribution helps bring these projects to life.

“All our members, corporate, family and individuals, are like shareholders in this restoration project. The more members the more projects of this type that we can do,” she added.

Gil Podesta spoke of how when he first identified by the 100 Ton Gun the box car it was just “a pile of scrap and didn’t look much like anything”. But having heard about the railway system he decided to investigate and take it further.

He said yesterday, he was overwhelmed to see how it had been completely restored.

“I am very proud, not for me but for the GHT, to know that a piece of Gibraltar’s iconic railway has been restored,” he added.

Work began in early July last year when local carpentry and joinery firm, Rock Joinery, who are carrying out the project on behalf of the Trust, carefully dismantled the boxcar where is stood in its siding in Dutch Magazine Gorge.

The pieces were labelled and every nut and bolt and bracket carefully removed for safe storage. GibDock then provided the necessary support to remove the undercarriages into their yard in the Dockyard where they have been sandblasted to remove the rust and reconditioned ready for reconstruction of the carriage. The pieces where then moved to the premises of the Gibraltar Electrical and Mechanical Services yard where they were reconstructed by the Rock Joinery team. Here they stripped, filled and reconditioned each and every piece, making a replacement using the original as a template, putting it all back together following the drawings and notes made on disassembly.

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