Rolling Stock

Information about the Portuguese railway network rolling stock.

Motor vehicles were brought into the national rail network through the ephemeral steam rail cars in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, the national petrol rail cars were built, in order to combat fuel shortage. Finally, in 1948, the Nohab rail cars were introduced.

Giving continuity to the renovation and modernisation programme of the material, CP concluded an agreement with the Dutch company Allan & C on 28.08.1952, for the supply of 35 rail cars and 20 trailers. The first 10 Allan units of Wide Track arrived on March 1954 and were addressed to the Campolide Engine Deposit, entering into commercial service on Oeste Line in August of the same year.

In the late 19th Century, motor vehicles were introduced in the railway operation. As to the Portuguese rail network, the so-called car motorisation began in 1904 in Companhia Real with the purchase of 4 steam rail cars with 2 axles from the French company Valentim Purrey. This was followed by an order made by Direção do Sul e Sueste to the German company A. Borsig in 1906, of two rail cars with bogies which, in 1926, were still operating in Barreiro-Seixal.

In 1941, the Companhia do Vale do Vouga used a rail car built in the Sernada do Vouga workshops, with a petrol engine. In 1943, CP built a rail car with a gas engine in the Lisbon workshops, which was very successful. However, the true modernisation of the rolling stock began in 1948 with the Swedish Nohab rail cars, which were firstly introduced in the “Estrela de Évora” lines service. On 17.02 1955, CP concluded an agreement with Nohab for the supply of 14 bogies and more accessory parts for the transformation of 6 rail cars of bissel axles.  

The first diesel rail cars and locomotives began arriving in Portugal in the 1940s allowing the steam trains to be removed from circulation.

The diesel-electric locomotives arrived on the steamer Moçâmedes on 15.09.1948.They were built by ALCO in the USA and had 1500 HP, something completely new in Portugal and in Europe. They were bought to provide passenger and freight services on the Norte, Beira Alta and Sul lines. Their weight was distributed over 6 axles, four of which were driven and could reach speeds of up to 120km/h. The bogies and vacuum brakes were altered so they could run on the Portuguese lines. Although they got new engines in 1970, they were removed from service in 2001.

The introduction of diesel traction on Portuguese railway lines led to profound changes to different parts of the company and its workers. New rolling stock was bought, the workshops were adapted and modernised and the workers were trained. In 1948 bought ALCO – American Locomotive Company diesel-electric locomotives from the USA that had never been seen before in Portugal or Europe. AS this was completely new rolling stock, the Board of Directors authorised on 12.02.1948 a group of engineers, foremen and train drivers to visit the ACO workshops, oversee the manufacturing, attend training courses and acquire the knowledge to introduce the new traction system.

The introduction of Diesel traction in Portugal in the 1940s led to a wide range of changes across the company, especially in terms of the rolling stock and locomotives.

The different kind of maintenance needed for this kind of machinery led to a maintenance workshop being built at Campolide especially for Diesel engines, managed by an engineer called João da Cunha Monteiro and new rules were drawn up regarding the repairs and maintenance. Keenly aware that a new era of railway traction was dawning in Portugal and across Europe, João Monteiro managed to ensure that the Campolide workshop enjoyed complete autonomy from the traditional structures such as the Campolide Engine Deposit, Traction Stock Area and responded directly to the head of the Rolling Stock and Traction Department. 

In the early 1940s, CP began replacing steam with Diesel engines and modernising its rolling stock. It started negotiations with rolling stock suppliers to buy different kinds of vehicles and on 17.12 1942 it signed a contract with Otto Wolf to supply diesel-electric railcars.

The Second World War delayed the deliveries, not just because the prices went up considerably and it was harder to get funding, but because the company could not ensure the delivery times. Foreign purchases were postponed until after the war ended and CP built its own fleet of railcars using truck chassis with Chevrolet petrol engines and gearboxes, constructed at the Santa Apolónia workshops.

In order to renew its rolling stock and start migrating over from steam to diesel, CP had approved the acquisition of rolling stock on 04.08.1939. From the United States, it acquired 12 diesel shunting engines from General Electric and 28 carriages from Budd Corporation; 10 large Essling railcars, bought through Otto Wolf of Cologne. Four were diesel-electric and six were diesel-mechanical, and it also purchased 10 diesel-mechanical type-B railcars from Italy.

The outbreak of the Second World War postponed these purchases, not just because the prices went up considerably and it was harder to get funding, but because the company could not ensure the delivery times.