Portugal's royal family used to travel by train. Of course, not like everyone else, but on a splendidly equipped private train with its own wagons for the princes and the pompous queen Maria Pia. The Royal Steam Train from the 19th century is one of the highlights of the National Portuguese Railway Museum and stands next to its successor: the Presidential Train, which was used by the uncrowned heads of state from 1910 to 1970. But the museum, with its exhibition area of 4.5 hectares stretching over several buildings, has much more to offer. The extensive collection starts with the early days of steam locomotives and presents some 160 years of railroad history - mostly from the perspective of the people involved. Interactive features temporarily transform visitors into railroaders on an exciting time trip. In addition to rolling stock, this trip includes many objects that illustrate all aspects of rail operation, including a finely channeled telegraph table from the early days of data transmission. Small guests can climb a model train on the museum’s premises, and a ride on the pedal-driven trolley along one of the 19 museum lines is big fun for families.
The museum’s two carefully prepared luxury trains are real gems of the Portuguese railway era, and at the same time cast a light on the political history of the country. The opulently equipped wagons of the royal house stand for a monarchy, whose costly standard of living increasingly impacted the impoverished population, and finally had to give way to the First Republic in 1910. Democratic leaders preferred the advanced presidential train - just like the generals who successfully seized power in 1926. With the economist and clerical student Antonio de Oliveira Salazar they created a dictator who ruled Portugal with an iron grip until 1968 - and paid his business travels out of his own pocket so as not to burden the national budget.
The museum owns as much as 36,000 exhibiting objects - from the whistle to a richly stocked circular engine shed, from the steam locomotive to the rail transport of the future. It’s no coincidence that this collection, which is one of the best of its kind in Europe, is based in Entroncamento. In fact, this place, whose name means "branching", was founded in 1864 as the result of the crossing of two major railroads: the railway lines connecting Lisbon with Porto (Linha do Norte) and Abrantes with Spain (Linha do Leste). Only in 1991 the municipality gained the status of a city.
Thus, Entroncamento is itself a part of Portuguese railroad history. Even today, almost all trains are routed via this hub, in most cases passengers even have to change trains. The museum, housed in various buildings of this one and a half centuries old city of railroaders, looks at itself as a living organism that is constantly changing and expanding. This is why a visit is always exciting in a new way. Art exhibitions and concerts, as well as workshops and congresses, complete the museum’s varied agenda.
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Tuesday - Saturday 1-6pm