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At the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, a large number of
“bilbainos” (town people of Bilbao) are using the mountain of Artxanda as a recreational area and for strolling, that is the case that a casino and “txakolis” (a typical basque place to drink local white wine) was been constructed, where the people can enjoy their leisure time.
This is the reason that from the year 1901 to 1912 was taken into account the project prepared by Bernardo Jiménez of a rack rail train that will connect the centre of the Ville with the mountain of Artxanda. This project was not pursued due to lack of finance.
But in 1915, the Management of Public Work approved the project of Mr. Evaristo San Martín y Garaz. And on 19th July a letter was send to the Governor containing the approval of the construction of the funicular, but with a series of comments of improvement, as:
At this moment the Funicular de Artxanda society was been founded.
The machinery was designed by a Swiss company, specialized to this type of train at the L. Von Roll mountain.
The cost of the construction was 488.407,30 ptas. (2.935,39€).
On 7th of October, 1915 the first trip taken place, being the Mayor of the Ville Mr. Benito Marco Gardoqui.
During the siege of the city of Bilbao, due to the Civil War, the railways and the upper station was been destroyed by a bomb, service was interrupted until 18th July, 1938, after some provisional repairs, under the management of Mariano del Corral, funicular restarted to provide service to the public.
As some of the staff remember, those are times, that for the price of (60 cent of the peseta) ticket you can bring your product from the “caserios” (basque farmhouse) to the market for sale, including motorcycle to be repaired and also calf to be take to the slaughterhouse.
An unfortunate accident occurred on 29th of June, 1976, due to a long standby of the service. During the change of the cable force, an error to the handle brake and to the clam, it makes one of the wagon full down to the lower station with four operators inside: José Landa, José Mª Bilbao and Juan Rekalde, manage to jump from the wagon, but not Isidro Aurrekoetxea, that laying on the floor he reach until the lower station where after receiving the impact he was taken out from the rubble and taken to Basurto hospital, where he recovered. Julio Rodríguez the Manager during that time was slightly wounded.
After seven years of inactivity reconstruction was taken place in 1983, the installations, railways as well as the stations, taking charge as Manager Rafael Pineda and being inaugurated on 30th April, 1983. At the upper station there are a series of pictures that can be appreciated the construction and the assembly of the machinery, as well as the state of the previous installations.
August 1983, was a fatal year for the City of Bilbao and for the funicular in as much that a heavy flood fall in the area reaching the lower station, where a great amount of water, mud, rocks, rubbish… has fallen down from the mountain of Artxanda. On November the 4th of the same year service was been re-establish.