The industrialisation of Asturia began in the mid 19th century when companies with foreign capital (above all Belgian, French and British enterprises) began large-scale activities in the region, especially in the areas of mining and iron and steel production. They were joined at the end of the 19th century by a huge number of other industrial enterprises, all of which contributed to making the region a pioneer in the industrialisation of Spain, alongside Catalonia and the Basque country.
All these branches of industry have left behind their typical buildings. These include pithead towers, engine houses and coal washing plants in collieries, and blast furnaces, chimney stacks and huge workshops in iron and steel works. The various production sites and housing estates were linked by a complex and dense network of railways. In 1854 the first railway line was opened between Gijón and La Felguera.
Like other European industrial regions, Asturia has been forced to undergo an economic upheaval during the past two decades, in the course of which old factories and production sides have lost their original function. Nowadays these industrial monuments and expressions of a bygone engineering technology are part of the landscape which they once radically transformed. Some of the sites have been turned into industrial museums to recall the history of the last 150 years. They include:
• The Mining and Industrial Museum in El Entrego
• The Asturian Railway Museum in Gijón
• The Railway Industry Museum in Langreo
The Asturian Tourist Board has set itself the aim of marketing the industrial heritage of the region to tourists.