Historical data about the construction and opening of the Portuguese railway network.
The first plans to provide the country with railways arose in the 1840s during the government of Costa Cabral and the Public Works Company. They wanted to build a railway line to link Lisbon and the Spanish border, Badajoz was the crossing that met with the most agreement as this was the border post that had traditionally been where the commercial connections were made between the two countries.
A commission was appointed on 06.11.1854 composed of Manuel Júlio Guerra, Isidoro Baptista Carlos Ribeiro and Joaquim Nunes de Aguiar which held a meeting on 13 November with their Spanish counterparts to decide exactly where the railway lines would meet up at the border.
After having approved the country’s modernisation and development plan, various proposals were presented to build and operate railway lines in Portugal.
On 26.08.1854, the representatives of the Companhia Nacional dos Caminhos de Ferro ao Sul do Tejo, Marquês de Ficalho and José Maria Eugénio de Almeida, which had the concession of the Southern line from Barreiro to Vendas Novas and the Setúbal branch, signed an addendum to the construction contract of July 1854, to connect the rivers Tagus and Sado.
The ‘Companhia Central Peninsular dos Caminhos de Ferro em Portugal’ was founded in London on 14.05.1852, and it was one of the companies to present a proposal to build a railway line between Lisbon and Santarém and from there up to the border with Spain.
The agreement was signed by the Portuguese government and the Hardy Hislop company on 13.05.1853 for the construction of the line. The actual building work was subcontracted to Shaw & Waring Brothers, who broke ground on 17 September the same year.
Building work came to a halt in August 1855 as the Companhia Central Peninsular had allegedly not paid Shaw & Waring Brothers. The Portuguese government, through the Ministry of Public Works, Trade and Industry, took over responsibility for continuing the works and came to an agreement with the contractors for them to rescind their contract.
The Portuguese government entered into a contract with Hardy Hislop on 13.05.1853, Mr Hislop was the director and representative of the first company in Portugal – Companhia Central dos Caminhos de Ferro em Portugal - to build a railway line from Lisbon to the border with Spain, via Santarém.
The line was planned to leave from Lisbon’s Largo do Intendente, go through Olivais, Sacavém, Póvoa, Alverca, Vila Franca, Castanheira, Vila Nova, Azambuja, Ponte de Sant’Ana and Omnias near Santarém and it was submitted to the government for approval in December 1852. The government ordered some changes to the line, adding that it would have to start at Cais do Soldados (Santa Apolónia), because of the connections with the river Tagus and north of the Azambuja canal to make it easier to continue on to Santarém.