Lagos Railway Museum Section has been closed and abandoned for years

Today marks the International Day of Museums, created 40 years ago at the proposal of the International Council of Museums (ICOM, body […]

Today marks the International Day of Museums, created 40 years ago by proposal of the International Council of Museums (ICOM, a UNESCO body). In the Algarve, there are many museums celebrating this date. In the region, however, there is a space in which this theme should shame several entities – the former Museological Section of CP in Lagos, which has been closed for years, abandoned and in degradation.

Installed in the old coach house (locomotive and carriage garage) of the Lagos terminal, the museum center has been closed «temporarily» for about a decade.

In 2007, it was open to the public two days a month, and was later abandoned. Despite the interest shown, on several occasions, by the Municipality of Lagos, in its management, this hypothesis was never accepted by the authorities that oversee it.

Ten years later, the state in which it finds itself is disgraceful, with the building lost among the cane fields, inhabited by birds, as the chirping coming from its interior reveals, while the high windows are the delights of the little ones, in the stones at the target, and the doors are the perfect screen for teenagers to graffiti.


This is a difficult scenario to imagine when, on August 17, 2001, the project “Estações com Vida” was presented in Lagos, with pomp and circumstance, which foresaw a “true revolution” for the area surrounding that station, as reported the newspaper “Barlavento” in its 23rd edition of that month.

With an estimate of three million escudos, the intervention anticipated the remodeling of the layout of the lines, the reorganization of the surrounding space by road, the creation of a road-rail interface, as well as the construction of a new passenger building. Those works have, in fact, advanced.

But REFER also announced that the old station building would be “recovered in a socio-cultural use perspective”, while on the land freed up by the remodeling of the lines, a hotel unit would be built, “whose main brand will consist of the framework of the existing railway museum nucleus in the current machine stable”, reported the “Barlavento”.

A “multifunctional building, mainly aimed at the housing sector” was also planned, as well as the construction of a Living Science Center on the land bordering the Marina and Docapesca.

More than a decade and a half later, the promised recovery was just a vain promise. If the lifting of the rails and the construction of the new passenger terminal was rapid, many still remember the purchase of tickets at the old station and the rush to catch the train at the new one, whose building was only completed in August 2006.


The old station, boarded up, covered in graffiti, with broken glass and dripping moisture

The old building, inaugurated with the arrival of the first train in Lagos on July 30, 1922, and considered at the time one of the most beautiful and luxurious in the country, was then closed, entering a slow and perverse process of degradation, which even today accompanies it, although it has often been reported, and more than once, its sale to private individuals. It currently sports several real estate signs announcing its sale.

In fact, the building had already been neglected when the marina was built, which, instead of integrating it into its landscape, criminally concealed it from the city and from the Lacobrigenses, who fought so hard to make the railway a reality in Lagos.

Of the various commercial and residential buildings announced in 2001, nothing has materialized, and in the space they were supposed to occupy, herbs and shrubs grow.

As for the Museological Section, it was doubly injured, because not only was it abandoned, but the adjacent turntable was amputated to the railway network, the reason for its existence, in such a way that it is not possible to place it on the rails the old locomotives and carriages that will be stored there.

In 2009, according to the work “Os Comboios em Portugal”, by José Ribeiro da Silva and Manuel Ribeiro, that section housed a carriage from the direction of the Southern and Southeastern Railways, dated 1912, a payroom from 1929 and two steam locomotives manufactured in England in 1889 and 1890, some quads and a dresine, as well as various tools and utensils.

With the creation of the Armando Ginestal Machado National Railway Museum Foundation, in 2005, the Lagos section was under its tutelage, with the Lacobrigense autarchy being among the entities equivalent to the founders of that institution.

But this did not prevent the small museum from remaining, year after year, closed and doomed to oblivion in the unique coach house, built in the 1920s, the only one of its kind in Portugal.

As for the space, it is also exclusive to the south of the Tagus (the Estremoz section was dismantled), and although it is located in a tourist region, which received around 2016 million tourists in 6,8, the authorities have not yet "managed" to take steps its openness to the public.


In fact, the old coach house could house a historic steam train that would once again cover the railway, for example from Lagos to Portimão, a route of indescribable beauty that would delight the millions of tourists who visit us and would be another symbol unequivocal of the tourist Algarve, as CP – Trains of Portugal, Infrastructures of Portugal, Algarve Tourism Region, local authorities and other regional entities wished to do.

But if these local, regional and national authorities cannot unite to open up and enhance a space, unique in itself, which could be complemented with a brief history of accessibility to the region, it would be even more difficult to dare to put a locomotive to steam on the rails, and, as if that wasn't enough, in the Algarve. In a country/region of potential where everything is difficult and difficult, this is just another missed opportunity.

This year, the International Day of Museums has the motto “Museums and controversial stories: saying the unspeakable in museums”. As for the Railway Museum Nucleus, only a contested and unspeakable story can justify the inertia and incapacity to which the entities voted and voted daily and thus legitimize the vexing state in which it finds itself.

Therefore, this year's theme of International Museum Day could not fit this unfortunate example better. We are, however, left with the right to indignation!


Text and photos by Aurélio Nuno Cabrita, environmental engineer and researcher of local and regional history, regular collaborator of the Sul Informação


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