Image of one of the first grinding machines used by Metro.

The 'predecessor’ Draisine, pioneers of our 'crazy contraption' railway support vehicles

The first Metro rail support vehicles were introduced a long time ago; interesting contraptions known as draisines whose main purpose were to transport the personnel and material necessary for the maintenance of the railway network.

Last February, an article in Crazy About Metro was devoted to learning about draisines, and we promised to bring you more interesting facts about their history. So here they are, as promised... our 'predecessors'.

In the early days of the Metro, when construction began on L1 between Cuatro Caminos and Sol, the draisine did not yet exist. In fact, their earliest antecedents were not machines but pack animals, used mainly to transport materials for the construction of the underground railway. At that time, more than 100 years ago, carts and wagons drawn by animals were the closest thing to support vehicles, which were developed shortly afterwards for tunnel maintenance.

Alfonso XIII underground, Cuatro Caminos Cocheras construction site   Alfonso XIII underground construction site

The first reference to the use of machines as railway support vehicles can be found in December 1920, when they were still powered by petrol engines. These draisines were used to support construction work on the first railway lines, both in the tunnels and on the surface.

Train of wagons pulled by a petrol locomotive in 1924.

From then on, the use of auxiliary vehicles expanded and became more specialised. Trucks were used to an increasing degree, such as those shown in the image below of the vehicle fleet at Pacífico metro station in 1924.

Vehicle fleet at Pacífico metro.

In the 1920s, the first draisines were used to maintain overhead lines supplying electricity to the trains. Several workers with one of these vehicles in the Cuatro Caminos area, 1924, are shown in the photo below on the left. Maintenance work on a catenary over two draisines of the period is shown in the adjacent image.

Maintenance work on the catenary by airline personnel with the first specialised draisines.   Maintenance work on the catenary by airline personnel with the first specialised draisines.

From that time, specifically 1929, Metro has kept the D-2 tower draisine which was also used for airline maintenance. This draisine, together with the T-1 tractor and the W-10 carriage, are Metro heritage vehicles. The T1 tractor is unique in that it was manufactured directly by Metro in 1941, while the D-2 draisine is the oldest of its kind in Spain, and was made from wood by the French construction company Campagne.

The Metro's D-2 draisine is the oldest of its kind in Spain.

The number of draisine increased over the years to include a wide variety of vehicles and specialisations. Here is a summary of some of the most significant ones.
The first grinding machine consisted of a motorised vehicle and a towed vehicle for grinding the rails on which the trains run. This auxiliary vehicle was commissioned by Metro in approximately 1935. It was fitted with blocks of emery (a very hard mineral used for cutting and polishing) between the wheels, which were cooled by water from tanks on the vehicle itself that also served as a counterweight. This draisine moved slowly back and forth in a rocking motion that earned her the nickname 'La Carioca'.

Image of one of the first grinding machines used by Metro.

In the 1940s, the Madrid Metropolitan Company built several tractors or motorised service vehicles in its workshops. The T-2 and the T-3 were two-axle vehicles which, in practice, were motorised wagons. The T-1 was built in 1941 and was Metro's first electric traction support vehicle.

T1 Tractor

‘La Matisa’, also known as the DC-1, was the first specialised vehicle acquired by Metro after the Civil War. Initially a draisine for track control, it was later developed into a catenary control vehicle. Eventually, it was modified to record digital images of the tunnels. The vehicle was de-registered in 2018.

‘La Matisa’ support vehicle.

And finally, this is the towed carriage, made of wood and aluminium, which was used to assist trains until the 1980s. A draisine 'best predecessor'.

Towed carriage for train assistance.