The Euskotren Basque Railway Museum has added a Seat 600E, donated by Itxaso Corrales, to its vehicle collection at its Azpeitia premises (Gipuzkoa). That vehicle is one of the main icons of the motorisation of Spanish society in the 1960s. The process would lead to the closure of main railways, the bankruptcy of the last private franchise companies such as Ferrocarriles Vascongados or Ferrocarries y Transportes Suburbanos de Bilbao and their being absorbed by the public sector (first as FEVE and then Euskotren), and the removal of electric urban transport, such as the tramway and the trolleybus.
The motorization process meant a shift in mentality in western societies, where no sacrifice was too great to promote the automobile: large-scale construction of new roads and highways, removing promenades and boulevards, narrowing pavements and occupying public space for car parks. As part of this new mobility, pavements and large-capacity means of public transport such as trains and trams were deemed unnecessary, as buses would be more than sufficient for the few people who could not enjoy that new motorised society, and would only be used by children and the elderly who could not drive.
In the Basque Country, the last step in the process was the closure of the Urola Railway – whose premises are now home to the Museum – in 1986. At the end of the 1980s, society started to become aware of the problems generated by the mass switchover to the car. Investment aimed at encouraging the return to the use of public transport began, with milestones such as the Bilbao subway and the new Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz tramways.
This Seat 600 will allow the Basque Railway Museum to put into context the serious crisis that public transport underwent in western societies after World War II. The first car of this model, design by the Italian company Fiat, was built at the Seat factory, a company of the Spanish National Industry Institute – of which the transalpine manufacturer was a technological partner – at the Barcelona Free Zone between 1957 and 1973. A total of 799,419 units were produced in four different models, along with versions such as vans or for sports competitions. Specifically, Antonio Corrales’s car, donated to the Museum by his daughter Itxaso Corrales, was built in May 1972.
The Basque Railway Museum is home to many examples of the rich history of the railway in our country: engines, coaches, tools, tramways, uniforms and a whole range of elements essential for the service. Some of which were manufactured by the leading companies worldwide in countries ranging from Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Great Britain and the United States. Other were produced by Basque companies of the ilk of CAF, Babcock & Wilcox, Euskalduna, La Naval, Herederos de Ramón Múgica, JEZ and Mariano de Corral. They were operated by the thousands of people in the railway sector who provided Basque citizens with the best of services, within the historical circumstances of each era. Thanks precisely to that expertise acquires over the year, the Basque railway now enjoys international standing as a leader not only in the construction of rolling stock, used on the five continents, but also in many other fields, including signalling, engineering and organisation of the operations.