El Chorro Dam
El Chorro Train Station, where La Garganta Rural Resort is located, is part of the first railroad of our province. It is part of Malaga’s history. It was a very important industrial and commercial center back in the days, with the trains bringing home hope.
“El Avisador de Málaga” (The Malaga Newspaper) highlighted as follows in 1860 the importance of the railroad:
Yesterday’s wish, today’s necessity. Today, having the Alicante and Sevilla railroads on the East and on the West, Malaga was doomed to decline. Commerce slowly further away from our port, and the value of our exports would have decreased due to the lack of inland transportation. If Malaga had stayed this way for just half a century longer, it would have become a village of great memories.
The deserted industrial overview of today’s Malaga sets against the important production of the capital and its surrounding in the XIX Century, specially at its second half when it used to be Spain’s second industrial center, Barcelona being the only one surpassing it. At the Mid Nineteenth Century, Malaga was a city with 80,000 citizens, and economically, socially, and culturally active. Its seaport traffic went over two thousand local ships and four hundred foreign ones, leading the Andalusian ports, and becoming one of Europe’s most active ports. Malaga used to produce 72 % of the total of Spain’s iron. It manufactured significant quantities of textiles. It had chemical, lithographic, and tanning industries, textile and sugar factories. Also oil, wine and liquor making, and other food products.
The city’s growth was the result of grouping different factors:
- On one hand, the areas’ agricultural abundance. Since 1760, a significant increase in the agricultural prices resulted in asset increases and a considerable rise on the commercial activity, restored after the Guerra de Independencia (Independence War).
- On the other hand, and related to this agricultural abundance, the presence in Malaga of an emerging and active immigrant colony, foreigners at most, eager to do business. Petersen, Loring, Livermore, Crooke, Kreisler, Scholtz, among other last names are inevitably added to Spain’s history. Among Spanish immigrants, there were two families from La Rioja area, many of them who were part of the social and economical development of the city: the Heredia and the Larios.
In 1832, Manuel Agustín Heredia opened La Concepción, a smelter using charcoal. In 1836, he opened La Constancia, located next to the Malaga Port, a smelter using English mineral coal.
It was then when the exploitation of the Bélmez (Córdoba) coal mines started, and Manuel Agustín Heredia and his partner Jorge Loring James bought the local mines with the purpose of supplying their industries and counteract the competition from other companies that set up smelters next to the Cordovan coal mines. They also wanted to set up in Malaga a coal warehouse to supply all ships and ports in the Mediterranean.
It was imperative to have a railroad that would connect Belmez and Malaga, and that would supply fuel to the factories, bring cheaper seeds and fertilizers for the agricultural production, and transport to the province Malaga’s products, as well as the ones unloaded in its port and coming from the Americas. The project was flawless from an economical point of view.
Unfortunately, it could not escape Malaga’s industrial downfall at the end of the XIX. The Cordoba – Malaga railroad took longer than expected to be built. It was inaugurated in 1865, but the Belmez line was finished in 1873 y it was not able to alleviate the difficulties in finding cheap fuel for the Malaga smelters. The commercial outburst and the employment of many Malaga workers suffered with the century.
The Railroad Construction
It was the Company of the Malaga to Cordoba Railroad the one that decided its construction and exploitation. This company was run by Jorge Enrique Loring, Martín Larios and Tomás Heredia. Vitali, Picard y Cía Company was awarded a contract on June 30, 1860 to be in charge of the construction. The land where the railroad was to be built was very hilly and it demanded great engineering works, specially in the Chorro area. Seventeen tunnels, eight viaducts, and eighteen bridges were built. Adding to the difficulties due to the orography, the railroad had to overcome problems and delays due to property condemnation and damages caused by private individuals. The Álora Historical Archives contains documents that support this affirmation and other interesting issues related to the construction of the railroad.
Therefore, the Malaga Cartama stretch started running on July 1861. Three years later, the train reached Alora. On August 15, 1865, Malaga and Cordoba were connected by a railroad, twenty years after the project had started.
When the railroad was inaugurated, the train ride between El Chorro and Malaga Stations were two rides twice a day round trip, one in the morning and another one in the afternoon. The trip from Alora to Malaga was 59 minutes long, not much longer than it takes today, specially considering that trains, by law, could not go faster than 30 kms per hour in bad areas, and no more than 40 kms per hour in good ones.
Queen Isabel II visit to the agricultural products and industrial technologies exhibition in September, 1862 (the most important Malaga celebration throughout the Nineteenth Century), helped the monarchy to officially inaugurate the first stretch of the railroad and also to place the first stone of the Civil Hospital, also implemented by Jorge Enrique Loring Oyarzábal, whose involvement during the cholera outbreak in 1854 and 55 in favor of public health awarded him the title of Marquis of Casa Loring.
The city was able to overcome the cholera outbreak but not the economic fall. The railroad, without any government support, came late for the industry. Still, it helped in bringing fertilizers and revive Guadalhorce lowlands agriculture, reconverted to irrigation when the phylloxera outbreak in 1879 knocked dead the province’s vineyards.
Santa Mariana Flour Mills
The exact construction date of this magnificent building that holds part of the ‘La Garganta’ Rural Resort is unknown. Located at El Chorro Train Station, in the Álora District, it is a beautiful example of industrial architecture. In the ‘El patrimonio industrial de Álora‘ (Álora Industrial Heritage) book, Pablo Pérez Gómez tells us how it was not possible to date the Factory except by verbal testimonies that provide the closest date of construction to the year 1917, and the project’s architect to an unknown German.
The main building where the wheat was milled is three stories high. It was surrounded by other premises that held the office, bakery, flour weighting, silos to store grains, and houses for the employees.
Following Pablo Pérez Gómez investigations, it is possible that the mill had three engines and a peculiar wheat, flour and bran conveying system across the building. Just as interesting was the drainage piping system, converging under the floor at the center of the building, and from there expelling the drained water to the river.
Geographically, Guadalhorce and Guadalteba dams are formed by the seven districts located at these water reservoirs: Carratraca, Ardales, Teba, Campillos, Álora, Valle de Abdalajís and Antequera, even though the dams border with the Ardales, Campillos, Antequera and Teba districts. All of this area is called El Chorro, even though a distinction among these three dams is to be made: El Chorro or the Conde de Guadalhorce were built on the junction of Turón and Guadalhorce rivers, and the Guadalhorce-Guadalteba and the small Gaitanejo dam. Poblado del Pantano is born due to the workers’ need to have housing close to the construction site of the Conde Dam.
The Álora District suburbs is also called El Chorro and it is the place where our La Garganta Rural Resort is located, at the El Chorro Train Station promenade. Tajo de la Encantada power plant is located at the end of the the suburbs, and right in front of it, at the top of Mesas de Villaverde, lays the power plant reservoir.
The first dam to be built was El Chorro, later known as Conde de Guadalhorce Dam. It was finished in 1921, for which we have created a special section. It was born out of the need to provide electricity and regulate the risks of all the Guadalhorce lowlands, whose agriculture was increased after its construction. A few years later, (between 1924 and 1927), the Power Plant built the Gaitanejo Dam, downstream the El Chorro Dam.
Malaga City’s need for water and the approval of the Guadalhorce Risk Planning in 1961 resulted in the study of water resources advantages of the Guadalhorce River and its currents. These studies determined the possibility of building a new dam, made of concrete, at the Guadalhorce y Guadalteba confluence. Due to technical issues, two twin dams of different materials were built, one on each river, a few meters from their confluences. When the water is high, both dams create one water reservoir.
Excavations started in 1966 and exposed many problems the soil presented for the construction of the dam. After modifying the projects according to the mentioned above, the construction concluded. The Guadalteba Dam was finished in 1971 and the Guadalhorce Dam in 1973.
The dam construction was accounted for the flooding of some of the railroad stretches, and therefore, the railroad stretch was detoured 12.6 km in longitude, out of which 8.3 where traced in four tunnels. This detour became effective on January, 1972.
Three detours for the flooded areas of the highway where also added (two local and one regional), with a longitude of 28 km. Clearly, the highest price to pay for the construction of the dams was for the citizens of the town of Peñarrubia and the suburban area of Gobantes Station, which were flooded by the dams. Santa Rosalía Malaga suburbs was the destination for many neighbors evicted by the waters of the dams, even though some people opted for Catalonia. A pilgrimage is celebrated every five years from Santa Rosalía in honor to the Virgin of Rosario, whose image is taken along. There are buses leaving from Barcelona on that day. There are people who are always present.