The Saint-Jean-de-Luz Passage,
Comet's classical Crossing of the Bidassoa into Spain

By Geoff Warren and Philippe Connart


In the beginning, the De Greef family house in Anglet was the first used by Comet to hide evaders when the men arrived in the south after their train trip from Paris. The house could no longer be used after the Gestapo visited the family in the spring of 1942. The German investigation was linked to Frederic De Jongh having to move to Paris when the presence of a Belgian Gestapo agent was discovered in their midst. In fact, the latter had infiltrated the new network in May 1941; even before Comet's "formal" existence.

Housing arrangements in Anglet first changed with the 21 May 1942 arrival of evader Lawrence Carr in Bayonne. From that time, a variety of temporary Bed & Breakfast type, and other "safe houses" were used around Bayonne, Anglet and Sutar as the final stop before the evaders were handed over to Basque guides, the mugalari or smugglers. The evaders were then facing the last French barrier of the Pyrenees and the last part of their long journey to freedom.

Bayonne in 40
Surroundings of Bayonne during WWII
Old Michelin road map.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is where Arnold Deppé had lived and worked for ten years before the war and it was he who initially arranged contact with the mugalari in June 1941. At Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the venues for the helper/evader rendezvous were at first variable, but concentrated in the area of the railroad station or bus depot. Then, a short walk across the guarded bridge to Ciboure, above the waters of the La Nivelle river, led them towards the first hills, and the so-called "neutral" Spain.

Arnold Deppe had his flat at 3 Rue de la Baleine, less than 100m from the City Hall and the "Château de l'Infante". Many Basque refugees from Spain had arrived in France and stayed at Hotel Eskualduna (now a residential building); near the market and less than 150m from the railroad station. Catherine Dubarbège widow Muruaga owned the hotel. Catherine Lamothe, soon Mrs Aguirre and better known as Katalina, worked since the age of sixteen at the Eskualduna and Alejandro Elissalde was living just across the street from the hotel.

Flat of Arnold Deppé   Eskualduna
Left: The building where Arnold Deppé lived Ca. 1930-1939; and right: the former Hotel Eskualduna with (left) Elissalde's flat.
The station can be seen at the end of Avenue Joachim Labrouche.

The flat of Ambrosio San Vicente at 7 Rue Salagoity (not even 10 minutes away from the station) was regularly used to house evaders from 06 June 1942 until 13 January 1943. This corresponds with the loss of the first Comet guide, Manuel Iturrioz, who had been arrested in Spain by Franco’s police on 22 April 1942. He escaped two days later but Florentino Goikoetxea took over his job, resuming the passages with Tomás Anabitarte, who had already been working with Iturrioz since the beginning.

Flat of San Vicente
Apra Baïta, the building (with the red balconies) where Ambrosio San Vicente lived and where so many evaders waited for the last stage towards Spain.

After the arrests of 15 January 1943 in Urrugne, Jean-Francois Nothomb resumed Comete's activities in April or May 1943 but by then, most passages were by routes other than across the Bidassoa River (i.e.-Bidarray, Laressorre and Souraïde). Arriving on bicycles from the Larre restaurant of Marthe Mendiarra in Sutar (used since mid-1943), evaders sometimes stayed at the house of Katalina Aguirre nee Lamothe at 58 (now number 20) Rue du Docteur Mice in the Socoa quarter of Ciboure. Florentino is said to have been lodged with Manuel Cestona at the house Mamutguia of Etiennette Halzuet in the Bordagain quarter of Ciboure.

Katalina's house
Philo Baïta, the house of Catherine "Katalina" Aguirre.

Except for some small peculiar details and unique events related within various British SPG’s and American E&E reports, there exists very few and only very rough descriptions of the "classical" Comete route. The first known is that written by Gérard Waucquez in his famous “Brichamart report”, dated 03 January 1942, after his arrival in London from Spain. We then have the diary of Paul Henry de la Lindi that he left in London after his crossing to Spain in early February 1942, and which was later published posthumously in book form.

More accurate is the autobiography of Manuel Iturrioz written in the 1980’s. The first Basque guide of the network, Manuel names a few landmarks according to the local topography. Evader Dennis Hornsey also gives a few additional hints in his 1945 book "The Pilot Walked Home". Andree De Jongh and Jean-Francois Nothomb retraced the route a couple of years after the war but left no known written trace or complete reports with the exception of a published interview with Nothomb by Juan Carlos Jimenéz in 1991.

Saint-Jean in 40
Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Ciboure during WWII.
Old Michelin road map

This "classical" route of Comet is often called the Saint-Jean route, or even sometimes the coastal route by the locals. The route presents three major advantages in comparison with the other routes in the central Pyrenees and on the Mediterranean coast between Marseilles and Port Bou (Perpignan). First, the hills crossed were not so elevated; about 450m abeam Erlaitz and Castillo del Inglés in Spain. Second, the winter season was usually not a serious obstacle in these rather low -but steep- hills, and the crossing of the border was easier due to lighter snowfalls. Third, the German controls in the occupied and restricted coastal zone of 10 nautical miles inland, were much less strenuous than those by the French Vichy "Milice" in non-occupied France further east.

Gérard Waucquez (early December 1941) departed Anglet by tramway to Biarritz then continued to Saint-Jean by bus. There a meal was taken at some square (most probably at the City Hall) and they wait for sunset. The guide is waiting at the bridge to Ciboure. After marching two hours, they arrive at a farm, get a bowl of warm milk and have a rest for 30 minutes while the guides make sure of the location of the border patrols.

Paul Henry de Lindi (early February 1942) made the identical trip to Saint-Jean and has a meal at some "pension de famille" (Eskualduna?) where they get ready in the presence of an "unsuspecting" German Luftwaffe warrant officer. They cross the town and the Ciboure bridge, follow the N10 for an hour before turning left, and then follow a muddy path for one more hour to a farm. They have the usual bowl of milk at the same farm as Waucquez.

Dennis Hornsey (late November 1943) proceeds via Dax and the Larre restaurant in Sutar. He will count among the few at the time who then followed the classical Saint-Jean route for entering Spain. He gets to Saint-Jean very early by bicycle and reaches the house of Katalina Aguirre in Ciboure. They leave the house with Jean-Francois Nothomb and meet the guides around the Bordagain quarter of Ciboure. After two hours, they reach the farm at Urrugne.

To Urrugne
From Saint-Jean-de-Luz or Ciboure to Urrugne.

As already noted, the classical route departs from Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Doniban Lohitzun in Basque), crosses the Ciboure bridge (or later from Ciboure itself), then along the N10 road to a relay farm. The journey was two hours long and during successive periods, Comet used three different relay farms in Urrugne before the actual frontier crossing. The evaders were given a last bowl of milk and provided with chord roped espadrilles, walking sticks (indispensable for the coming trek) and blue serge workingman’s clothing (from Brussels after Easter 1942). Only Bidegain Berri, the relay farm where Andree De Jongh was arrested on 15 January 1943, is still remembered and celebrated.


The farms
The farms in Urrugne.

The first farm, found by Manuel Iturrioz, is Tomásénéa, the home of Françoise "Frantxiska" Halzuet, spouse of Dominique Irastorza, a PoW. Juan Manuel Larburu of Bidegain Berri, refused at first to collaborate because of the danger. A young Spanish exiled lad living at Tomásénéa, Donato Errazti, also agrees to help but only as far as the Bidassoa River. In June 1942, Frantxiska’s brother was wounded by the Germans while smuggling mules and she asked not to be involved anymore for awhile. The guides at the time were Manuel Iturrioz (about 40 years old) and the young Tomás Anabitarte. As previously noted, Iturrioz was arrested in Spain on 22 April 1942, escaped on the 24th, but had to go into hiding and could not therefore resume the regular passages. One of his last descriptions corresponds anyway to the passage of 21 July 1942. It is to be remembered that Tomás Anabitarte is the one who knew the route. Very tall and strong for a Basque, he's the one who helps the others and knows best the Bidassoa. The grand-daughter of Frantxiska Irastorza-Halzuet still lives there at Tomásénéa.

The farm Tomásénéa in Urrugne.

The second farm, Bidegain Berri, is the residence of Francoise "Frantxia" Halzuet, the widow of Philippe Usandizaga, but is farmed by Juan Larburu. It begins operating as a Comet relay farm in July 1942, coinciding with the Florentino Goikoetxea period and following the arrest, escape and clandestine life of Manuel Iturrioz. The young farm helper of Tomásénéa, Donato Errasti, keeps doing his same job up to the Bidassoa River and bringing back the used blue serge clothes until the 15 January 1943 arrests at Bidegain Berri.

Bidegain Berri
The farm Bidegain Berri in Urrugne.

The third farm is Yatxu Baïta which is owned and farmed by Joseph Larretche who also takes care of neighbouring Bidegain Berri from 15 January 1943 onwards. The French escape line Margot also used this farm, and later OSS intelligence networks like Nana and Démocratie. Twelve children lived there and one of them, young Maialen (Madeleine in French), feeds Donato who is then hiding in the nearby woods until he vanishes into Spain after liberation of the area by the Allied armies. This farm is no longer looking like it did in WWII and Maialen is still leaving nearby.


The mont du Calvaire in Urrugne.
In the foreground, Tomasénéa. Left above: Xoldokogaina.

The initial path from the three relay farms is a two hour long cross-country march uphill through meadows and along brooks and torrents to avoid search dogs (so writes Gérard Waucquez) leading to "open heights where they can see illuminated Spanish cities from these vast and naked meadows". Iturrioz clearly cites the Mont du Calvaire (277m) and Xoldokogaina (486m) and he asks Juan Manuel Larburu or Donato Errazti to check ahead for the location of potential border patrols. There, the lights of Fuentarabia, Irún and San Sebastian are clearly visible and announce the nearby freedom. The Bidassoa can be heard (so writes Paul Henry de Lindi) and seen or imagined along the path. Hence, the evaders are on the southern flank of the hills facing Spain and not along the reservoir on the northern, French facing flank of the hills. Waucquez describes a march of two hours on a ridge.

The first hills in Urrugne, Calvaire and Xoldokogaina.

Calvaire and Xoldokogaina
The Calvaire and Xoldokogaina seen from Spain, at the top of the San Miguel inclined planes.

Then begins the descent to the crossroad at the Col des Poiriers (316m): Iturrioz says that there starts the most dangerous part of the route until the Bidassoa. At that location is a great possibility of encountering border patrols (Germans or French gendarmes) because this is at the crossroads of the well-used footpaths between the Ventas of Ibardin, Biriatou and "el rio Bidasoa". Juan Larburu and/or Donato Errasti, earlier having gone to San Miguel on reconnaissance, wait there to give the green light.

Down the Xoldokogaina, the crossroad to the ventas, and the Bidassoa.

Here at the crossroad also starts the first planned (but never used) route to Endarlatsa via the road to Ibardin. We will come back later to the description of that route.

Also from the crossroad, the descent to the Bidassoa along the ravine of the Lantzetta Erreka (stream/creek) is quite evident. This descent took an hour to San Miguel. During the crossing of Waucquez in early December 1941, after a missed attempt to cross the Bidassoa at San Miguel due to overflowing waters from heavy rains, Tomás Anabitarte found here a shortcut to Endarlatsa along the way. The shortened route reduced both the distance, the time it took (reduced to about two hours more than the San Miguel passage instead of four) and the danger of encountering border patrols compared to using the longer road to Ibardin route.

descend to the Bidassoa
The descent to el rio Bidasoa and the San Miguel Station.

At San Miguel, some evaders describe a pasture before the river but none mentions the railroad station building, sometimes wrongly described as the post of the Spanish guards. Once out of the water, they first have to cross the narrow tracks of the "Bidassoa Ferrocarril" Railway, called the "Txikito Tren" (Little Train) by the locals, and then the Irún-Pamplona road. It might seem logical that the now abandoned train station was used at the time as a shelter for the Spanish Guardia Civil and patrols and was thus to be avoided at all costs. Anyway, the real Guardia Civil barracks were approximately in front of a ravine on the Spanish side, 350m downstream from San Miguel towards Irún.

Border post
1947. The border post of the Guardia Civil in Jouan's book.
These buildings are now replaced by a new one under the new N121a road.

Iturrioz once heard a guard snoring in the "farm". There is also a farm 600m upstream towards Endarlaza, where the first remembrance treks did cross; rather than alongside the so-called "Txikito Tren" station at San Miguel. This was not a passenger station as one might imagine. Rather, the existence and construction of this desolate station in the 19th century was only justified and used for the loading of mineral ore onto bulk train carriages until, in 1916, passenger services were added for the very few people living in the area. There is more to be read below about this railroad.

San Miguel
The Bidassoa and the San Miguel Station.

After crossing the river, the railway and the road, the next step is the slope upwards to Erlaitz, very steep and exhausting. The bottom of the ravine, 350m from San Miguel, is the streambed of a seasonal brook, but too close to the border post. The evaders enter the cover of a pine wood right after crossing the road (Carretera Irún-Pamplona) and climb to the former Carlist tower of Erlaitz (the 1891, never-completed Fuerte de Erlaitz). The uphill route followed is parallel to or runs on a portion of the former 1.8Km long tracks (brown on the map) of two ancient rectilinear narrow mining railways running on the ridge from the heights of Erlaitz/Pagogaña downhill to San Miguel station. This was part of the Three Crowns Railroad explained below and is still easily visible today.

At Erlaitz, Iturrioz says the evaders would go "in front of the barrack blocks used by workers maintaining the road Pikoketa-Oiartzun" (today’s GI-3454). He sometimes took a longer but safer road to avoid the barracks, occupied by Carabineros of the Spanish army, then rejoined the road to Pikoketa and Oyartzun. Here at Erlaitz, the infrequently used alternate evader route from Endarlaza joins the traditional route from San Miguel. Of the alternate route, Paul Henry de Lindi says they "had a rest in an old farm on the peak, one hour march after climbing the cliff at Endarlaza. This peak was the highest in the vicinity and the farm was the only one to be seen on the whole horizon. In all directions, he could only see steep mountains and deep ravines, shrouded in a deadly silence and covered with snow". He is told there were two more hours by foot until the next station where they take a train to San Sebastian. Waucquez writes, "eventually, around 6 o’clock in the morning (after crossing at 4 o’clock in Endarlaza) they arrived at an abandoned farm or a water tower; and rest. One of the guides goes to Irún and alerts Aracama in San Sebastian by phone". This was in December 1941.

To Castillo
Down from Erlaitz to Castillo del Inglés.

In Iturrioz’ autobiography, today’s GI-3454 road is described as a former ox carriage road going around the peaks of Peña de Aya (Three Crowns): a "rather flat road until Pikoketa and from there about an hour of descent to Xagu" (Sarobe). We have learned that the first 5Km from Pagogaña was the former "narrow track" mining railroad called Las Tres Coronas. Hornsey recalls having followed a railway tunnel before Sarobe, and Nothomb confirms in his 1991 interview that "there was then a railroad for the mines, with narrow tracks if I’m not mistaken. One followed it during three or four kilometres and, at a certain point, one went through a rather long and dark tunnel. A little further, one arrived at the farm".

To Sarobe
Down from Castillo del Ingles to Sarobe farm, or Xagu borda.

The route described can be either the Three Crowns railroad, located on the high ground between Erlaitz and Castillo del Inglés (but no tunnels have existed there and the tracks were removed since 1932), or the Pasaia-Arditurri mine railroad alongside the GI-3420 (the rail line now a bicycle path called Arditurri bidea). Located in the valley below Peña de Aya (Three Crowns) and Castillo del Inglés, there are several tunnels along what is now the bicycle path and they are all located less than 2Km of easy walking from Xagu (Sarobe). There is some evidence that the evaders route sometimes was following the Arditurri mines railroad in the valley until Sarobe farm. It was the only railroad still existing there in WWII. Another route, very close to the present remembrance trek runs roughly parallel to it, along the flank of the ridge from Penã de Aya to Oyartzun.


Amazingly, the three most detailed narrations of the "Saint-Jean" route are from three evaders who actually used the rather exceptional detour via Endarlaza; rather than the "classical" Bidassoa crossing at San Miguel station: Waucquez, Henry de la Lindi and Hornsey. Even if the name of Endarlaza is always mentioned, it is to be noted that the "detour" crossings of the Bidassoa actually happened using a suspension footbridge at the Endara electrical plant, about 2Km upstream from Endarlaza. This alternate route starts near the Col des Poiriers crossroads and Tomás Anabitarte says it was four extra hours of marching compared to the San Miguel route.

These five special and exceptional crossings are:

  1. 10 Dec 1941 – Jack Newton (RAF), Gérard Waucquez (Belge), Hillary Birk (RAAF), and Howard Carroll (RAF). The only detailed, recorded evidence of this crossing comes from the Waucquez report. This crossing gave the name Endarlatsa (or Endarlaza – the Basque language has no “z”). Waucquez says a 2hr trek on the ridge, then 2km upstream. Guided by De Jongh, Manuel, Tomás and Donato.

  2. 08 Feb 1942 – Paul Henry de Lindi (Belge), Georges Osselaer (Belge) and Norman Hogan (RASC). A rather precise description of the crossing was recorded by Henry de la Lindi. Guided by De Jongh, Elvire Morelle (to learn the route - she broke her ankle on the way back), Manuel and Tomás.

  3. 10 May 1943 – Bernard Marion (RCAF), John Whitley (RAF), David Sibbald (RNZAF), William Laws (RAF) and Gordon Brownhill (Cdn/RAF) crossed "by the West of Mount Alecor" (the origin of this detail is unknown). This crossing is with J-F Nothomb and Jacques Tinel. The latter, a Parisian, was chosen to replace Albert Johnson and become Nothomb’s assistant, but was arrested quickly. After crossing the suspension bridge at Endara, they follow a tunnel, cross a stream, and climb. Brownhill became separated from the group and the time wasted searching for him may explain why Nothomb remembers this trip being very long.

  4. 28 Sep 1943 – Edward Bridge (RCAF), Arthur Bowlby (RCAF), Elmer Dungey (RCAF), James Allison (RAF), George Baker (RAF) and George Duffee (RAF). Guided by Nothomb and ? On August 28, 1943, Halifax JD368 of 10 Squadron RAF was shot down 12km southeast of Mons, Belgium. George Baker was the pilot. Geoff Warren’s uncle, George R.M. Warren, the 19 year old rear-gunner, was the only Canadian on board JD368 and perished that night. The 7 remaining members of the crew safely parachuted; 6 evaders (4 Comet/2 Bourgogne), 1 PoW.

  5. 27 Nov 1943 – Dennis Hornsey (RAF), George Gineikis (USAAF), Leon MacDonald (USAAF), Geoffrey Madgett (RAF) and J.J. Greter (Dutch). Guided by Nothomb and Florentino plus, according to Gineikis/MacDonald, a Basque refugee from the Spanish civil war named "Monterro". The US aviators refer to Monterro as a "guide".

When it became necessary to use the suspension bridge route at the Endara electric facility for the first time in early December 1941, it was the intention of Iturrioz to use the well guarded, and therefore dangerous path from Ibardin. This was at the occasion of the Wauquez failed passage of the Bidassoa at San Miguel, which Andree De Jongh demanded be attempted, notwithstanding water levels being too high after recent rainfalls. The crossing was aborted and a second attempt was made the next night using the Endarlaza "detour" route. Fortunately, Tomás Anabitarte and Donato Errazti had found a shortcut to avoid the Ibardin "road" route and had placed two trail markers on the path to assist the men in following the correct route and direction to Endara and the suspension footbridge.

Hornsey describes here crossing an affluent of the Bidassoa (Lantzetta or Lizarlan erreka/stream?).

Iturrioz descends to the Bidassoa immediately after the second trail marker then reaches the suspension bridge where a guard barrack is seen in the direction of Irún, on the right hand bank of the river. This building is now demolished. They cross together in a single line in a crouched position.

Hornsey follows a road leading to some little village/hamlet (that shall be the "old" road to Vera de Bidassoa) and there the bridge hangs on the river.


September 2011. The suspension bridge is gone, but its location is still clearly to be seen.

Henry de la Lindi crosses the Bidassoa where the power plant is located on the other side, and enters a tunnel after 100m. He then follows a railroad in a ravine for an hour (Txikito train). He crosses a 6m wide brook (at the Ermita?) and then climbs a "steep slope about 300m high". This first tunnel is about 200m long, and dark, and wet. Even today. Further towards Endarlaza, there is another arch and a third tunnel 50m long.

September 2011. The first tunnel followed by the evaders after crossing at Endara is still existing.
To the right, the electrical power plant of Endara. Above, the new road N-121a from Irún to Elizondo and Pamplona.

Hornsey climbs directly up a terrible slope at sunrise and similarly says in his book that they pass alongside an abandoned tower (torreón de Pika) near the border station at Endarlaza. They leave Dutchman Greter at some "hamlet" (Fuerte de Pagogaña, Erlaitz, the Pikoketa road workers barracks?)

September 2011. The arch and third tunnel along the former Tren Txikito (removed) tracks in direction of Endarlaza.

Hornsey crosses a railway and a road and follows the railway through some tunnel. Is this railroad from the mines of Arditurri or the Txikito railroad? Thus, immediately after the suspension bridge. He then says "we came along the old abandoned tower" meaning he crossed at Endara and somehow followed the Bidassoa.

As it is difficult to explain/understand this route without a map or drawing, please click on this page which depicts, in large format, the "classical" San Miguel passages, together with the "Endarlatza detour" route. Thanks to Google for the use of their well known relief maps.

From Endara Power Plant to Pagogaña - The Dilemma

To get from the power station to Pagogaña without being detected by the Guardia Civil at the Endarlaza bridge/barracks, there are two options:

Option 1 – Follow the railroad to the former Guardia Civil barracks.

Timing - The evaders arrived at the barracks building before or just at sunrise when the guards are least likely to have been awake, alert or interested. As anyone who has "stood a watch" during a night shift knows, the hours between 0300 to just before sunrise are the least pleasant, most boring, and most likely to induce sleep or lethargy.

Noise - The flow of the river over the nearby upstream dam, and the subsequent "rapids" between the dam and the bridge/barracks, would have muffled the sounds of the men passing.

Lighting - It is logical that any bright lighting used to detect intruders would have been mounted at the bridge; not at the barracks. Any guards on duty at the bridge (± 100m from the barracks) would have their sight severely impaired beyond the limits of the bright lights. One even wonders if the guards would want to be "illuminated" at night when a disgruntled veteran on the losing side of the civil war could easily, at fairly short range from the heights across the river, take shots at the on-duty Guardia Civil members (or any others outside the nearby barracks) and make his escape back into the hills in the darkness.

Any lights outside the barracks, if any, would likely have been quite dim and provided ample "shadows" for the evaders to pass the barracks undetected if sufficient caution was taken. Plus, the Ermita ravine (likely in total darkness) begins many steps before the Guardia Civil building. After his arrest in Renteria during April 1942, Manuel Iturrioz returned first to Ciboure. There, he realizes that the Germans also search him and prefers to return into Spain, but the border (the Bidassoa) is severely monitored. He decides to go "to the barracks of Endarlatza, since there was an area just barely watched because there was a vertical wall after the road and that one thought it was impassable. I crossed the road, climbed the wall and left a trail leading to Erlaitz. Passing along the barracks, I ran fast since dawn began to emerge. Then I turned left to the mines of Arditurri."

The men had just crossed the suspension footbridge at the electric plant which was reportedly "brightly lit" at all times and supposedly "guarded". The evaders had to pass within a few feet and along two sides of the power plant building en route to the first train tunnel, yet managed to do so without detection. That said, the noise from the electric machinery would likely have provided more protection than the sound of the river at the barracks downstream.

Border post
September 2011. These buildings are now replaced by the new N121a road.
The tower is just left of the new road and the old metallic bridge had been rebuilded.
One was reaching the Ermita (behind the big building) before the border barracks.

Option 2 - Leave the railroad tracks and climb the hills before reaching the Guardia Civil barracks.

Terrain – If the men in this scenario left the railroad tracks after negotiating the tunnels, there are two spots where this was feasible. They were then left with only one, two at the most, ridges to traverse before descending into the Ermita ravine. In fact, as noted below, it was feasible to avoid the ridge summits entirely.

It appears from personal observation, Google and topo maps that it was possible, after climbing uphill a short distance from the railway, to reach the Ermita ravine by traversing the flank of the ridges on a route roughly parallel to the river and thereby avoid the ridge summits themselves. There also seems to be a few farm paths/tracks along the way, which could have served to lighten their load even more. The distance from the climb upwards from the railway track to the descent into the Ermita ravine is between 500m and 800m (or slightly more), depending at which point they decided to begin their ascent from the tracks.

Bearing in mind that the Ermita streambed (Rio Endara) – 10m average in immediate area would generally decrease in width the further upstream the men walked, it seems possible they could avoid a treacherous water crossing by simply walking a few hundred metres up the ravine before attempting the steep slope to the Pagogaña plateau.


Oiartzabaleko Borda – Immediately upon reaching the summit of the steep slope/cliff above the Ermita ravine, the men would arrive at a sloping grass meadow plateau; immediately below the Pagogaña ruins. Located on this plateau today are two farms; one apparently called Oiartzabaleko Borda. Is it one of these farms (or a predecessor) described by de Lindi as the place they rested in "an old farm on the peak" or by Waucquez when he mentions arriving "at an abandoned farm or water tower"?

Torreón Pika – If the men climbed the Ermita slope near the Pika tower while en route to the Pagogaña plateau, and then followed the same ridge on which the tower is built to reach the summit, it appears to be a reasonably benign route to have taken. Following that ridge would also bring them directly to the Oiartzabaleko Borda then, after 600m slightly uphill, to Pagogaña ruins.

Conclusions: None! It’s unlikely to ever be known conclusively whether the "Endarlaza detour" evaders crept near the Guardia Civil barracks on the tracks or bypassed the location using the ridges above. That 500m to 800m of travel is the only significant missing link in the story and that isn’t too bad considering the distances (horizontal and vertical) covered by the men from the time they left Saint-Jean-de-Luz and their relay farm. Nonetheless, we do favour the first option.


Source: El Ferrocarril del Bidasoa by Ricardo Berodia Gordejuela; Información publicada en el Boletín de 2007 del grupo cultural Luis de Uranzu.

The Bidassoa railroad (Ferrocaril del Bidasoa) was born from the necessity for the two companies exploiting the mines around Irún, the "Spanish Hematite Iron C° Ltd" and the "Bidasoa Iron C° Ltd", to transfer the ore to the Irún station. The initial width of its tracks (0.918m or one yard) earned it the name of "Tren Txikito" (small train). It also became known as "La Vaca" (the cow) as its route meandered through meadows.

On 22 March 1872, John de Krauchy, the manager of the English Company "Spanisch Hematite Iron Cº Ltd", requested from the city of Irún a statement to establish a railroad between Endarlaza and the installations of the "Compañía de los Caminos de Hierro del Norte de España". The French engineer François Lafarge emits a favorable statement. On 23 November 1877, after the second Carlist war, a new law forced the railroad to be of general public transport, and not of private interest.

Mineral station in Irún
How the minerals from local trains were transborded into international trains in Irún.
Above, the old train Txikito. Under, the international carriages going then to Boucau.
At the right of the Txikito train in the background, The Irún-Bidasoa station.

The "Bidasoa Railways and Mines Cº Ltd", directed by Clément Hamelin, received a concession to operate between Irún and the bridge of Endarlaza on 23 March 1887. Three locomotives and forty wagons were authorized to use the one yard (918mm) wide tracks. The Madrid Gazette on 04 January 1889 authorized the new company to transport minerals from 01 July 1890 onwards. The major customer for the ore was the "Forges de l'Adour" in Boucau, near Bayonne.

Other secondary lines were linked to this main line: the 5Km railroad from the mines of San Fernando through multiple 1.8Km long inclined planes to the station of San Miguel, and a 1.2Km aerial line build in 1887 for the production of mines in La Albión and San Carlos. At the beginning it mainly transported minerals, but it gradually expanded its services to wood, coal, iron and even livestock.

In 1901, the "Bidasoa Railways and Mines Cº Ltd" sold its rights and goods to various Spanish companies, which in turn sold theirs in 1912 to the "Compañía de los Ferrocarriles del Bidasoa". This company obtained the right to extend the line from Endarlaza to Elizondo, intended to lengthen the line until Pamplona and open the service to passengers, which was not implemented.

In 1916, the line was extended to Elizondo (52 Km) and was opened to the public, servicing passengers between Irún and Elizondo. It experienced a conversion of the track width to 1 meter. This represented a major change in the lives of the people of the Baztán-Bidasoa region where the train ran. The three original steam locomotives from the line to Endarlaza were reinforced with 4 Orestein & Kippel locomotives. There were carriages of all classes and goods of up to twenty tonnes could be carried per car. In 1936, the railway had a total of 109 carriages.

The train's route mainly followed the left bank of the Bidasoa. The total track measured 51.5km and ran over 22 iron bridges, through eight tunnels and the following stations: Irún-frontera, Irún-Bidasoa, Arteaga, Behobia, San Miguel, Endarlaza, Zalain, Alkaiaga, Bera, Etxalar-Lesaka, Igantzi-Arantza, Espelosín, Sunbilla, Santesteban-Elgorriaga, Legasa, Narbarte, Erreparazea, Oronoz-Mugairi, Arraioz, molino de Irurita, Irurita-Lekaroz, Colegio de Lekaroz and Elizondo. The first 7 stations are located in Guipuzcoa and Navarra accounts for the 16 other stations, created in the 30's.

In 1931, new selfpropelled Panhard carriages were introduced, using a gasoline engine. These carriages were the same used by some of the Comet evaders from Elizondo to Irún, after they’d been arrested in Dancharia. During wartime, they had been transformed and were gazogene powered engines.

The Panhard carriages in service between 1932 and 1956. Here at the terminal of Elizondo.

The peak of passengers happened in 1920 (171,000), this figure being reduced at 78,000 in 1934. Also the transport of goods declined from 77,000 metric tons in 1924 to 14,000 in 1933. The postwar years were hard in terms of acquiring fuel and profitability. In 1953 floods destroyed a 400-meter stretch of tracks, leading to major repair works. The train made its last trip on 31 December 1956.


Excerpt of the map showing the first leg of the railway towards Erlaitz.

The loads of ore were brought by a 5 Km long railway called Las Tres Coronas from the San Fernando mining concession, abeam "Castillo del Inglés" (on the northern flank the Three Crowns or Peña de Aya) to the East flank of the ancient fort at Pagogaña. It seems that this former railroad and inclined planes have been dismantled in the 30's, before the Spanish civil war. On this old map dated 1897, the present "Castillo del Inglés" is simply called "edificio de la Compañia", at the centre of the San Fernando mining concession.

September 2011. The ruins of "Castillo del Inglés" still stand proudly.

The ruins of (in Basque) Inglesaren Gastuela, or (in Spanish) Castillo del Inglés are the remains of the workers' mess, bedroom and canteen. It once was also sheltering the office of the local director for the exploitation of the concession. The nickname "Castle" is due to the unusual size of such a building in this part of the country. The building in itself was showing absolutely no magnificence but in its size. It is remarkably still surrounded by multi-century beech trees. Behind the buildings, we still can easily find the termination of an ore wagonway, with its tracks remaining almost level during the entire course to Pagogaña. The tracks are long removed, but the embankment is evident. After passing a bridge, the tracks rejoin the present GI-3454 road. After the tracks were dismantled, the road became a traditional ox carriage muddy/dusty ox carriage road, now asphalted. This is the route followed by Manuel Iturrioz, Tomás Anabitarte, Florentino Goikoetxea and his assistants... and so many evaders. The place is also known as a traditional smugglers meeting point.

September 2011. From left to right: Peña de Aya, the former (level) railroad and the peak of Erlaitz.

At today's Erlaitz crossroads, the former mining railway leaves the GI-3454 and remains almost level until the "plano superior", where the carriages will be hooked to special cables before descending the inclined planes to San Miguel. The former railway tracks were removed around 1932, leaving a still very visible embankment. It is now covering an underground gas pipeline marked at irregular intervals by yellow poles.

around Pagogaña   around Pagogaña
September 2011. The course of the former railroad is still easily followed.

At the end of the "tracks", below the fort of Pagogaña, but above San Miguel, there still stands a ruined building, which was containing the pulleys and the brakes for operating the cables. Two pillars were holding the cables in the air in line with the first inclined plane, and the ore carriages would pass underneath them (to avoid cutting them) and would be dumped on a lateral dead-end track. They would then be sent down along the two inclined planes to the station below. The weight of the full carriages running down was sufficient to lift empty wagons from below. Thus, a brake was sufficient to keep the control of the inclined planes. No additional power was required. The machines were named San Miguel, from the name of the concession they stand in.

Machinery & pillars   Machinery
September 2011. Between the two pillars, the machinery building "San Miguel" stands near the lateral dead-end tracks.
On the front wall, the opening for the cables. These were running on a platform (redrawn) before resting above the pillars.

These two impressive inclined planes, the upper one standing on the mining concession called San Miguel (hence, the name of the station down on the Bidassoa) and the lower one laying on the property of the Txaradi concession, would transport the ore down into hoppers close to the station building, dropping them by gravitation into bigger carriages on the Txikito railway. The ore was then taken to Irún on the international lines.

Planes Map
Old map of the railway (1897), showing the inclined planes from Pagogaña to San Miguel Station.
One can see the superior plane was crossing the estate of a barn called Tagero borda.
The two successive planes show an angle of about 30° from the "Plano inferior" straight to San Miguel.

Below are two present-day views of such an inclined plane in Cuba. So must have looked the final leg of the Three Crowns railroad between 1890 and 1930.

Plane Cuba   Plane Cuba
A contemporary very similar inclined plane in Cuba.

Down at the "plano inferior", the carriages were hooked on a second line, drifting about 30° away from the first straight upper leg. From here, they would be driven straight to the station of San Miguel. These machines were named Txaradi, from the name of the concession they stand in.

September 2011. The course of the former upper plane is still noticeable and
marked by poles indicating the presence of the underground gas pipeline.
Left, Txaradi, the (ruined) building with the (absent) machinery for the second leg at the "plano inferior".

Right across the old road from Irún to Pamplona at the San Miguel station, one still can see a wall . This wall was the support of an iron bridge starting at the bottom end of the second inclined plane. The ore wagons were then rolling horizontally at approximately the level of the upper floor of the station. The reason for that bridge is to allow the wagons from Pagogaña to be emptied by gravitation into bigger ones, which would be driven later to the mineral loading station in Irún. The locomotives on the Bidassoa railroad were much bigger than the ones in use on the hills above. You might refer to the above picture showing the unloading of ore at Irún to get an idea of the look of this bridge.

Wall San Miguel
September 2011. The wall at San Miguel.

Three more pillars were completing this bridge for the double tracks. The foundations of the first double pillar are still visible on the ground. The remains of the other stone pillars of this loading platform are still visible today in the water of the Bidassoa, in front of San Miguel station. The last two pillars obviously were right on the former bank of the rio Bidasoa and are still attached to their foundations. They still can easily be spotted today, downstream from the usual crossing security rope. The other remains of these pillars are further in the middle of the stream.

Pillars San Miguel
September 2011. The pillars in the Bidassoa at San Miguel.

Pillars San Miguel
1947. The same pillars of San Miguel in Jouan's book. The double pillar is still erected.
The broken pillars were then still on the old bank of the river.


Source: El fuerte de Erlaitz by © Juan Antonio Sáez García, 2001. Contribución al estudio del patrimonio histórico-cultural del parque natural de Aiako Harria (peña de aia) en guipúzcoa

The entrenched camp of Oyartzun was planned at the end of the 19th century, in order to prevent any potential French invasion after the Carlist wars. At the beginning, there were eight projected forts, but only three were finally built (San Marcos, Txoritokieta and Guadalupe). According to previous plans of the engineers Rojí and Roldán submitted in 1885, the construction of Erlaitz fort began in 1891, although it was stopped in 1892 because the final project designed by Luis Nieva was turned down. The analysis of Juan Antonio Sáez García's work helps to understand the large excavations situated at the top of Erlaitz peak.

The most striking embankment is located southeast of the excavation area and is the result of the removal of granite material from the three excavations.

Satelitte view of the peak Erlaitz in 2011.

What we see in Erlaitz from the GI-3454 road (the former tracks for the train of the Three Crowns), slightly below the summit, are the remains of three barracks housing the necessary staff for the construction of the fort. Near the top, in the direction of Irún and Hendaye, stood a tower. All that new work was to replace the older fort at the top of Mount Pagogaña (482 m). The fort of Erlaitz was intended to be the main installation on the right flank of the entrenched camp of Oyartzun. The Erlaitz position (498 m) was only previously guarded before the noted dates by a circular observation tower which housed the optical telegraph line to the Fortified Line between Endarlaza and Erlaitz (see below). This tower is no more to be seen today.

September 2011. The three 1891 barracks of Erlaitz.

The project of the temporary settlement was approved by Royal Decree on 1 August 1889. It consists of three rectangular barracks (16 x 10 m) with two-story gable roof. All three are built at the same level, half way between two plazas of 7 m wide; one excavated up to the upper floor and the other embankment at the lower floors. To be added to this was a weighbridge for weighing and barns for the dynamite and powder required for the sappers. According to the draft "... exterior walls are decorated with intersecting beams on a foundation of regular bricks masonry 0.60 m tall... " but this part of the project was later modified so that they are built of ordinary masonry.

The first building (South) was "... the housing for the official service buildings, the supervisor and the project manager;" there was also a drawing room and another one for the clerks, some offices and outbuildings such as kitchens and toilets. The lower floor of the building used to store lime.

The second building (central) contains at the top floor the park equipment and a mess for junior ranks, plus the room of non-commissioned officers and quartermaster stores. On the ground floor were stored wood and carpentry material.

The third building contained on the top floor the hay, the blacksmith and the kitchens for the soldiers. On the ground floor was the workshop of the stonemason, toilets and a stable.

Barrack 1  Barrack 2  Barrack 3
September 2011. The three barracks of Erlaitz.

What now remains visible: the walls of the three barracks of the camp and several small cabins. The last building is in the worst state, even if some parts are made of concrete. There is some archived evidence showing that they were maintained and repaired at least until 1913.

During the Civil War (1936), Erlaitz area was the scene of heavy fighting before the takeover of Irún by a contingent of troops rebelling against the Republic. The temporary barracks of the camp were involved. Manuel Iturrioz does confirm they were still manned by Carabineros. At the famous drowning incident during the 23 December 1943 crossing, Robert Grimes, Lloyd Stanford and Arthur Horning were captured and initially detained at this location.

The water for the project was pumped from a small source near the hamlet of Soroeta through two hydraulic pumps into a metal tank at the top of Mount Erlaitz. According to the draft, this water tank was "... 4 m in diameter and 2 meters high or 25.00 cubic meters of capacity, and was lying on four beams ... placed on a tower 5 m high. At the foot of the tower, the terrain elevation is 489 m, the bottom of the tank is thus 494 m and its summit at 496 m". To avoid water heating with the sun, it is planned to surround it with a masonry leaving a void of 10 cm and to place an ordinary tiled roof with a skylight to access the tank and also provide lightning rods, as a precaution.

Water tower
September 2011. Was that water tower the resting place described by Waucquez and Henry de la Lindi?

One pipe started from the tank that branched off to two outputs. One did lead the water to a fountain in the camp, the other on the workplace to be determined. The water tower is still partially preserved today, and is this hexagonal tower (the inside is circular) that still bears a half-metal bowl identifiable as the bottom of the tank.

Water tower  Water tower
September 2011. The 1891 water tower and the remains of the tank on top of Erlaitz.
To the left, one can see a post-WWII Spanish casemate of the Franco era.

The construction of the fort itself began in 1891, simultaneously with the execution of ancillary works and in accordance with the draft adopted in 1887. This work was to extract 9,955 cubic meters of hard granite rock from the summit of Erlaitz. This important excavation explains the current special character of the summit, although the work was stopped by 10 November 1892, after costing 87,043.04 pesetas, that is 10% of the drafted budget. The final draft of September 26, 1891 (when the work had already begun), is sent for approval by the higher level on October 23 of that year. On 10 February 1891, José Laguna signed a report about this project to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He described an interesting state of affairs regarding the development of new explosives (high explosive shells) concerning the art of fortification, and concluded that the project had become obsolete with its time, "... the weakness of a defensive fortification ... the likely penetration of a single shell fired from the French heights ... could certainly put an end to the defense of the fortified camp in a distant fight." A second problem highlighted is its budget (1,955 million pesetas), twice higher than that envisaged in the draft (890,000 pesetas).

The council of chiefs of staff from August 26, 1892 unanimously approved the proposed cessation of the Nieva project, technically suitable but economically out of order. The work of the fort being paralyzed, the draft is canceled and instructions are given for the drafting of new studies and a new final draft that will not be written.

The planned fort consisted of an open-air barbette battery, a battery under casemates, a semi-underground battery of howitzers, an Infantry trench, a ditch with his flanking shooting casemates and the corresponding ramp.

Project of fort
The projected fort of Erlaitz. Drawing from Juan Antonio Sáez García.
In Dark green: the casemate; in yellow: the combat mall and embankments in light green.

In a barbette battery, the guns are outside along a combat mall (a stronghold, or bastion). The guns are protected in front by a parapet and laterally by embankments of earth at right angles to the parapet, whose goal is to protect the guns from direct fire. Inside these embankments are ammunition and/or armour for artillery servants.

September 2011. Some barbettes, here at the Fort of Nostra Señora de Guadeloupe (located above Fuenterrabia/Hondarribia & Irún).

Under the barbettes bastion and the service road and protected by them, several vaulted and invisible outbuildings would be housed in the three excavations that can be seen on the summit of Erlaitz. The south side would have been occupied by ammunition depots and barracks, plus five vaulted rooms for the governor of the fort, the officers mess, the access to the Western semi-caponiere and the kitchen and toilets for other ranks. The eastern part of the excavation will have been occupied by the patio (courtyard), and terminated at its Northern end by a ramp that communicates with the barbettes battery and other facilities.

September 2011. A caponiere flanking the moat, here at the Fort of Nostra Señora de Guadeloupe.
The stairs on the left are the acces to the Infantry trench at the level of the outside ramp.

The battery under casemates is the highest part of the planned fort at an altitude of 500 m. It consists of a concrete building with vaulted niches. They would fit into a rectangle 13 x 30 m with a shield reinforced with a layer of soil. On the walls of the mask the thickness of ground would reach 15 m, except for the eastern part, where the thickness is 12 m. Seven gunboats opened in the wall of the mask, to enable the fire of the seven guns. In addition to guns, there is room for three ammunition stores in the East, North West and Southwest corners, and to accommodate a hundred men. This battery is therefore the main quarter of the fort.

September 2011. Two gunboat openings under casemate, here at the Fort of of Nostra Señora de Guadeloupe.

The current central excavation identifies itself completely with the plans of this bunker battery, which communicates through a short corridor with the battery of howitzers (third excavation), which would have been located below the casemates, and that required to negotiate the difference in height by a steep staircase that would have equipped the connecting ramp between the two batteries.

The battery of howitzers consists of three vaulted semi-buried casemates of concrete at 495 meters of elevation, without wall mask and for three howitzers of 21cm (± 8.25 inches). In front of this battery runs a small patio to the East, allowing access on the North side to ammunitions for the howitzers. The East side of the patio was planned to accommodate a gate to access the double caponiere in the moat at 490.2 m of elevation. The third excavation (Eastern) still existing in Erlaitz is easily identifiable with the room required for the three shelters and the patio, designed and cut into the rock to build the gate to the East caponiere. A battery of two machine guns would have completed this work.

The outside ramp is a gentle slope down, with no obstacles, around the fort and is so designed that the enemy cannot hide in any place. It is necessary to adapt the natural terrain, which justifies using the waste of the excavations to obtain an appropriate surface.

The heavy weapons for the fort would have thus consisted of:

Bunker battery: 7 guns of 15 cm with breech loading.
Barbette battery: 10 guns of 15 cm with breech loading. 5 guns in peace time.
Battery of howitzers: 3 howitzers of 21 cm in bronze, breech loaded.
Flanking caponieres (moat): 7 machine guns or rapid fire guns.
Entrance bunker: 1 machine gun or rapid fire gun.
Battery of machine guns: 2 machine guns.

Gun  Howitzer
Pictures showing a 15cm gun in a barbette battery and a 21cm howitzer.

The staff of the garrison would have amounted to:

Infantry: 192 men.
Artillery: 96 men.
Sappers, mine laying : 12 men.
Administration: 6 men.
Cavalry: 6 men.
Total: 311 men

2011. The perfect coincidence of the excavations with the plan. Drawing from Juan Antonio Sáez García.

Apart from the three ruins of this temporary camp and the remains of other smaller outbuildings, it still remains today the excavations and embankments resulting from one year of work. These coincide perfectly with the draft in progress and are structured in three excavations of considerable size. The Western pit is the largest. Trapezoidal (40 and 20 m bases and 64 m in height), its depth varies with the elevation of the ground between 3 m (West) and 14 m (East). The central pit is shallow (about 2 m) and oriented Southwest to Northeast, it is almost rectangular (40 x 22 m). It is connected to the third excavation by a short corridor that ends with a flight of 5 m in height, the depth of the latter being indeed more important (7 m). The third excavation is rectangular (21 x 17 m) and oriented on a north-south axis. Two access leave from there. The eastern corridor is the most striking in its width, its depth and length of 57 m. The southern corridor is 13 m long.

2011. The perfect coincidence of the plan with the terrain.


Source: La línea fortificada Endarlaza-Erlaitz by Juan Antonio Sáez. 2007, Dirección General de Cultura - Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa.

The line consisted of five fortified elements aligned South-East to North-West: an armoured redoubt which which enclosed the eastern end of the original bridge at Endarlaza, a fort on Mount Pagogaña and three towers, all of them built between 1878 and 1879. In the opinion of French military intelligence, such fortifications could be considered “... rated as almost zero value and inadequate against any troop equipped with artillery...”. We understand that their use was limited to hindering the Carlist movements should there be a new war declared.

1903. The armoured redoubt at Endarlaza bridge.

The armoured redoubt at Endarlaza bridge was shaped as a rectangular parallelepiped structure with a base of 7x2 m and 3 m height, armoured with metal sheets and convenient loopholes. That structure was raised on stone pillars allowing the passage of traffic underneath the redoubt and across the bridge. Devoid of any military interest, the redoubt was demolished in 1903. The bridge itself was destroyed in 1936 during the Civil War, replaced by the existing "old" bridge, which itself is now made almost redundant by the "modern", circa 2010, bridge of the new N-121a.

The three round towers of Endarlaza, Pika and Erlaitz were located at an altitude of respectively 30, 224 and 500 m on the ridge of the watershed basin Endara. The three had a circular outer perimeter of 26 m and 60 cm thick walls in ordinary masonry, arranged on two floors and with a roof. The door opened on the top floor and was accessed by a lifting metal ladder. 17 loopholes were pierced in the ground floor, surmounted by four semicircular opening skylights. Upstairs, the number of loopholes was lower, as four square windows and the aforementioned door took their place.

No vestige remains of the tower of Erlaitz, it having been demolished in 1891 at the start of work on the fort of the same name. There is documentary record that it was provided with moat or trench and that it housed the optical telegraph line. In 1915, the surviving towers were already abandoned and in disrepair with only their walls being preserved.

1947. Torreón Pika in Jouan's book.

Torreón Pika (Irún). Was originally plastered, masking the ordinary masonry and brick.

The fort Pagogaña was the most important fortification of the line. It consists of an octagonal tower in ordinary masonry with corner stones made of stronger materials than the rest and internally organized on two floors and roof with loopholes. From each of the four long sides there extended many rectangular single storey naves covered by a double pan roof, the whole cross shaped building could quarter up to 84 soldiers. A small musketry gallery linked two consecutive cross arms provided with four loopholes.

The fort had a external ramp and moat of triangular section of 3.75 m wide at the top. The water supply was assured by a cistern fed by rainwater falling from the decks.

September 2011. The ruins of fort Pagaña.

In May 1882, a unit of Spanish Infantry (Carabineros) settled in the fort and six years later it was decided that one sector of the fort would be transferred to the command of the police; which in 1893 took over the entire fort. In 1916, its state of conservation was poor and today one can only see its remains; even more so because the fort had endured heavy fighting during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).


This train was used in the exploitation of the zinc and iron mines of Arditurri. Its records mention it as an acquisition by the Royal Asturian C° and the mines of Katabera near Oñati in the province of Guipuzcoa, establishing the Capuchin factory in Renteria. Ore descended from Peña de Aya at 832 metres via a 750 mm-wide line, in a difficult route through several tunnels to reach the distillation furnaces. The journey was parallel to the bed of the Rio Oyartzun, reaching the city centre after 10.8 Km. The line was extending to a station to the North of Renteria.

September 2011. The entrance to the Arditurri mines, at the foot of Peña de Aya.

The Guipuzcoa zinc mine surpassed the importance of the ones of Cantabria. The main group of exploitation in Arditurri supplied material in 1890 to the factories of Olazabal, Arbildi and Ormezabal in Irún. In 1898, the company built a rail network of 8 Kms with a 750 mm wide line to the furnaces of calcification, transporting a total of 60 metric tons of ore per day during the next year.

In 1901, the brothers Chavarri leased the mines, extending the line from the quarries to the port of Pasajes, where ore was shipped through a loading carrier of the Cantilever type. The line reached 13 Km and was used by three locomotives of 14 HP, 35 HP and 70 HP.

September 2011. One of the tunnels along the former tracks between Arditurri and Sarobe.

The "Iron mines of Arditurri C°", established on 28 November 1905, issued shares amounting to 7,000,000 of pesetas in 28,000 titles of 200 pesetas. In 1906, the entire business, including the railway and the carriers, was transferred for 3,500,000 francs to a company controlled by French capital. In 1906, the mine production reached 69.419 metric tons of iron ore and 1.207 tons of blends. The production of iron from 7 to 14 meters and the mining of ore, was reaching 1,600,000 m³ in the exploited part (mining journal, Volume 57, year 1906, page 587).

The Board of Directors of the French company which leased the Arditurri mines, continued the exploitation until in the late 1930s and then reversed back to Spanish capital. In the 1950s the loading was shut down and steam traction was replaced by diesel locomotives. The line survived until 1964 and the whole exploitation closed in 1984.

Philippe Connart and Geoffrey Warren – 2011.