April 18, 2017 by Ellis Dixon
Abandoned Lisboa: The Comboio Graveyard in Barreiro
All photos by Lorena Velasco
Across the river from Lisbon, off of the Linha do Sado near Estação de Barreiro-A, disused trains sit on overgrown tracks, rusting under the elements and awaiting whatever fate will befall them. Machinery stands just as rusted, ready to destroy these relics of comboios past. At any time, there’s up to three trains waiting for disassembly or burial.
But how did this happen? We’ve pieced it together as best we can and sent Lorena Velasco through a hole in the fence to document what happens when a former bastion of production crumbles, and gets deemed an unofficial graveyard.
Because of its access to the sea and its close proximity to the Lisbon commercial markets, Barreiro was selected in 1854 by a group of industrialists to become an important southern railway terminal (then called the Southern Line, now part of the Alentejo Line) between Barreiro and Vendas Novas in Setúbal. The work was completed by 1857, and was opened to the public in 1861.
In the years that followed, factories for manufacturing cork products, metals, acids, oils, soaps, fabrics, and more sprang up all over the place. What was once an unimportant village of fishermen and millers became a modern industrial town where jobseekers and skilled laborers flocked for work and to raise their families.
Due to the influx of people, workers’ accommodations were quickly constructed and filled to the brim — until things started going sour. During the international crisis caused by the Second World War, social movements and strikes in and around 1943 caused the GNR to occupy Barreiro, installing its barracks inside the factories. The strikes continued, with the workers demanding wage increases and protesting against food shortages and rationing, and the shipment of goods off to Nazi Germany.
In the 1970s, the oil crisis was the final blow to this former bustling industrial town. Newer railway lines had made Barreiro less relevant, and working families started steadily moving out. The long, single-family occupancy quarters for the workers are still more or less in use today, though many have been abandoned or caved in long ago. But all that’s left of the former Barreiro stop are the silent trains of former glory, and a fabulous station that you can still visit.
Up until recently, the only large company still in operation from the industrial age in Barreiro was EDP, the Portuguese utility giant. With the completion of the new modern building in Cais do Sodré, the town has been abandoned by industry.
To get to this forgotten station, get yourself to Barreiro and walk to R. da Estação do Barreiro-A (close to the Forum Barreiro). Once there, walk until the end of the station, ’til the old one starts to show up on the left. If you keep going for a while, you don’t even have to jump the fence — there’ll be a big hole there. Keep in mind that a security guard makes the rounds from time to time.
The good news is that Barreiro is getting a second life. Vhils, Portugal’s most famous street artist, is using a former warehouse in Barreiro as his studio, breathing new life into this small town. Kind of romantic, isn’t it?