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Algeciras & Gibraltar Railway Company Ltd. Hotels and Trains.
29 January 2010 @ 14:48

Algerciras, early 20th Century:


The most well-known, if not the most popular character in Algeciras and its’ surroundings is John Morrison, a successful English businessman.  Without a doubt his greatest role is that of General Manager of the train company between Bobadilla and Algeciras and in order to carry out this role, he contracted the employment of two English consultants, an English auditor, an English head of operations and an English management secretary.  This railway line is the only one in the region which terminates in a harbour and this is also the home to the only crane in the region which loads and unloads goods and which the Spanish government uses to transport goods to Ceuta.


The crossing to Gibraltar is made regularly by English steamers under the Spanish flag which belong to Mr. Morrison.  He is also the owner of the “Mister Inglés”, the small steamer which takes the Spanish workers who live in La Roca, to and from Gibraltar.  Travelling across on this ferry from Bobadilla to Algeciras are many Spanish workers and many English passengers, many of whom flock to Andalusia both as tourists and as both owners and engineers in the many British businesses in the area.  In many of such businesses the Spanish only get secondary positions within the companies.


The compartments of the train are decorated with posters extolling the virtues of a new hotel – an English hotel, of course.  Every time the ticket inspector enters each compartment he questioningly makes reference to the wonders of this new English hotel in Algeciras and when the train finally reaches the city, the porters seize upon the luggage and ask convincingly, “I assume you’re going to the Reina Cristina?”


The English would arrive at the Reina Cristina Hotel of Algeciras in small steam launches, without requesting any permission from the maritime authorities or without undergoing any customs inspections.  Those who did not have use of a small dinghy to bring them across the bay could make use of the small dinghy which was of sole use of the hotel, called none-other than the “Cristina”, which was established by the ever-enterprising Mr. Morrison.


In the present day, “Juan Morrison” and “Alexander Henderson” are two streets in Algeciras (Cadiz) whose names have immortalized two British men who, during the 19th century, provided the city with their extensive services.    With management and design skills developed in the building of railway lines in South America, John Morrison was the British engineer who implemented the Bobadilla – Algeciras rail project and oversaw its early stages.  The second name is that of a well-known millionaire who invested in the former-mentioned South American railways and who promoted the “Great Central Railway”, the British Trade Corporation and the international Henderson Administration.  In 1916, in recognition of the valuable services rendered, the English monarch awarded him the title of Baron Faringdon. 

Alex Henderson was the economic founder for the construction of this railway.  The company which undertook the drafting of the train, “The Algeciras (Gibraltar) Rail-way Company Ltd” was formed following numerous procedures carried out in the UK by Luis Lombard, a merchant seaman from Gibraltar.  The plan of the railway, which eventually pushed aside many others drawn up over the course of the century, was finally approved by the Spanish government in 1888.

In 1889 an article was written and published in the Scientific American Supplement in New York by a Horatio Jones Sprague, American Consul in Gibraltar between 1848 and 1901 and also well known for his involvement in attempting to solve the mystery of the ship, the Mary Celeste.   The article claimed that an English company had successfully started the construction of a railway line between Algeciras, Ronda and Bobadilla, “through the picturesque countryside of such a verdant mountain range”.  At the same time it drew attention to the economic advantages that such a railway line would bring.  The Algeciras (Gibraltar) Rail-way Company completed the design of the railway in three phases:  the first, between Algeciras and Jimena de la Frontera was in operation by the 13th November, 1890; the second between Bobadilla and Ronda was opened on the 6th September, 1891; the third and final stretch between Jimena and Ronda saw its first service on the 27th November, 1892 and therefore was the date when all 22 stations on the line were open for business.  In Bobadilla (Malaga) the train connected both with the Madrid train and with the local services between Seville and Malaga and also with the CordobaMalaga trains of the Andalucia Railway Company, which, in 1913 took over the Algeciras – Bobadilla line. 

The Algeciras & Gibraltar Railway Company Limited was built up with an initial capital of 45 million pesetas.  The headquarters of the company were in Algeciras, with John Morrison as its managing director.  However, it was managed by a committee in London, at the head of which was the President of the company, J.W. Todd and the representative in Madrid was Enrique Borell.  The company had two hotels – the Reina Cristina in Algeciras and the Reina Victoria in Ronda.  The wooden jetty in Algeciras was brought into use in 1894 for company’s steam boats which had daily links between Gibraltar and Algeciras.  It was originally built both as a jetty for the passengers and as a coal storage for the company’s locomotive engines.   The line was sold to the Andalucian company in 1913, as was the shipping company whose name then changed to Compañia de Vapores de Sur de España.


Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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