Despite its small extension, Cantabria is a treasure of evergreen landscapes. From the mountains descend the rivers, still salmon today, carving valleys that lead to the sea. Even one of them, the Real Valley of Toranzo, went up the railway from the town of Astillero, transporting travelers through the outskirts of Peña Cabarga, through the Cayón valley, the Castañeda fields, Puente Viesgo, Santiurde de Toranzo, up to reach Ontaneda, in Corvera de Toranzo. A route forgotten today for the railway but very much alive in the form of a greenway, the Pas greenway, for the population that uses it daily to go to work, enjoy it with the family and share it with passers-by as it passes through the urban centres. The Pas Greenway, long live the greenway!
Part of this Nature Trail – Greenway has been carried out within the framework of the Natural Trails Program of the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente. More info >>
Other sections have been carried out by the Government of Cantabria and the municipalities of the territory.
Astillero is located on the FEVE line (now managed by Renfe), which links it with Oviedo via Santander, the capital of Cantabria, and the city of Bilbao. Not far from the station is La Cantábrica Park, km 0 of our route and the starting point of the Pas Greenway, very close to the Orconera loading bay, declared a Site of Local Interest.
From the park, we leave the locality in the shade of plane trees, which will accompany us as far as the Ría de Solía, where we cross the estuary along a metallic bridge and enter the municipal district of Villaescusa. Further on, after passing the CA-142 road, we pass by the halt-station of La Concha and, soon thereafter, the entrance to the Cabárceno Fauna Park (in Obregón). After a section that is shared with the locality’s approach road, we then leave it behind via the aqueduct and come to the municipal district of Penagos, thereby entering the Valles Pasiegos Region around km 9. Shall we continue?
Shortly after entering Penagos, we pass by the Puente Recreational Area, right next to the former railway line. We turn eastwards to take a local asphalt road (be careful since it is shared with vehicles!) as far as the A-8 access road, which we go up to reach the roundabout leading to Sarón.
We go through the indicated area (be careful since this is a dangerous crossroads) and, leaving behind the dual carriageway on our left, we continue along the country asphalt road (take care since it is shared with local traffic) to go under the A-8. After a couple of ups and downs, we enter Sarón after crossing the N-634a road (dangerous crossroads). Alongside the park, we continue eastwards along the wooded walk and parallel to the main road, leaving behind La Encina and arriving at La Penilla beside the bowling alley. We go through the town centre along a street with motor traffic (lacking signs) and re-join the actual Greenway beside a children’s playground near a famous chocolate factory. We now travel comfortably through the fields (fertile riverbanks) as far as the CN-634a crossroads (be careful) and down a gentle slope to reach the first houses of Castañeda. Between this locality and the dual carriageway, we approach Pomaluengo as we travel along the raised railway platform and, after peddling next to Villabáñez, we come to the shade of the Pas River beside Covachón Park, the boundary between the municipal district of Castañeda and Puente Viesgo. We are now at km 21. The route continues!
The valley receives us at its best. The Puente Viesgo spa just a few metres away, the Romanesque Church of San Miguel and, in a section shared with pedestrians, the locality’s impressive station featuring its original cast-iron canopy and clock; some metres further on, the “Reyerta” locomotive, similar to those that first travelled the railway line in the early 20th century. We leave Puente Viesgo beside an aggregate production facility and, after crossing the local road near Penilla, we begin a peaceful ride through the valley fields and come to Soto Convent, with its hexagonal tower and the Arroyo de la Plata wooden walkway. We peddle placidly through Villasevil, pass by the Church of Santa Cecilia, and after crossing the local road (be careful), we come to Rual Bridge, which was used to supply water to Santander in the last century. Just a stone’s throw away is the Church of San Jorge and the municipal capital, Santiurde de Toranzo.
A little further on, we reach the road again (be careful) and, facing us, the San Martín halt indicates the rectilinear route leading to the iron bridge called Puente de la Esperanza. We rattle across its planks and turn left on reaching the municipal district of Corvera de Toranzo. Here we begin, parallel to the Pas River, an alternative to the original route, which has now been altered by the existence of a timber company. This section, known as the “Otaneda Circuit,” enables us to ride safely towards Alceda-Ontaneda. Less than a kilometre separates us from the salmon statue, beside a bench where we can rest, and another kilometre takes us to the municipal motorhome service area. We can walk or ride placidly from here to Alceda Park. After crossing the carpark, we come to the end of the Greenway at the Arboretum, beside the spa, surrounded by hundred-year-old trees.
From here, we can take an urban circuit as far as the old train station in Ontaneda, which now houses a tourist office and water supply company. We have reached km 35.5 and the end of our route.
Photo: Historical Railway Archive of the Madrid Railway Museum
The Astillero-Ontaneda line, a modest narrow-gauge railway, started out with more ambitious plans. From the 19th century, Santander’s residents wanted a direct route to the Inner Plateau, as an alternative to that of the Escudo Pass. Burgos was the objective of the different projects that, going up the Pas Valley, were designed to cross the watershed.
This 34-km-long railway was conceived as the project’s first phase. Unfortunately, Ontaneda, at the foot of the mountain pass, never saw trains go beyond its station. Opened in 1902, it linked up in Astillero with the Ferrocarril del Cantábrico’s tracks, along which Santander Station was reached in just 9 km.
Its modest existence hardly experienced any ups and downs. In the 1920s, an important broad-gauge railway project put an end to its plans to become a grand railway linking with the Inner Plateau. This train, the famous “Santander-Mediterráneo,” was also stillborn, leaving Santander with the only broad-gauge railway line it had at the beginning. Finally, under FEVE management, its poor economic performance put an end to the railway, which was closed in two phases: from Ontaneda to La Cueva in 1973, and from La Cueva to Astillero in 1976. It was one of the last closures in FEVE’s metre-gauge network for decades.