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El Hornillo loading pier.

To call it a pier is a gross understatement. It was responsible for the transport of the huge proportion of iron ore from the mines in Las Sierras de Los Filabres. El Hornillo opened on 18th August 1903. See El Hornillo museum and the mines.

The tracks were on two levels allowing ore to be stored in hoppers when there was no ship available. The ore could then be loaded onto trains in the tunnels once there was a ship available, which would then pass on to the pier and load the ship(s) via chutes. Due to a huge growth in trade, the hoppers were augmented to the point that El Hornillo could store 50,000 tonnes of ore.

An interesting issue that Cable Inglés didn't suffer from was that the ships could only be loaded from the furthest third of the pier due to the lack of draught. This meant that only two wagons could discharge at a time per side, after which they would be in the way. This was neatly resolved by a section of track at the far end of the pier that could move horizontally, thus shuttling an empty wagon sideways. This is why a third track was added later - to return the empty wagons.

Obviously, the locos would have to push the goods trains into place and wait while each wagon was being unloaded (through a chute underneath the wagon) to push the train one wagon-length at a time forwards. All this was thanks to the genius of Gustave Gillman, a brilliant mining engineer and James Livesey, a railway designer.

To get the heavy trains up the steep ramp to the pier, they were split (like in Pulpí) into two trains of 6 wagons (approximately 350 tonnes) and pushed by a Type 130 loco. Even then, the train had to have a number of run-ups before making it up the incline to El Hornillo, each time rolling back to the station.