Menu Hamburger Logo Menu close Logo
Barcelona Travel Hacks home logo

Montserrat from Barcelona by train + Cremallera Rack Railway

A history, some technical details, photos and usefull links about the Cremallera rack railway and funicular cable railways at Montserrat Monastery.

Updated: Dec 23, 2023 by: Barcelona Travel Hacks Views: 1.9k

About Montserrat Cremallera and Funiculars

There are two ways to get to Montserrat Monastery complex via public transport: FGC Cremallera or Aire Cable car.

Additionally, there are two funiculars (santa Cova & Sant Joan) that link the monastery complex with other parts of the Montserrat Natural park mountains.

This page is specifically about the Cremallera, Santa Cova funicular and Sant Joan Funicular, all three railway's provided by FGC.

About Cremallera de Montserrat

Links Monistrol de Montserrat FGC station (on the R5 and R50 lines) with Montserrat Monastery via a stop in Monistrol vila.

The purpose for construction the Rack railway was to improve access for worshippers, pilgrims and tourists to the Montserrat sanctuary.

Cremallera de Montserrat covers a distance of 5Kms with a journey time of approximately 30 minutes.

Cremallera de Montserrat History

Traditional access up to Montserrat mountain had been on foot or horseback. Joaquim Carrera, engineer and admirer of both Montserrat and Swiss mountain trains persuaded local businessman Josep M. Gonzalez to build a rack railway that would link Monistrol train station with the monastery. In 1881 the company Ferrocarriles de Montana a Grandes Pendientes was constituted and inaugurated the montserrat Cremallera on 6 October 1892.

The greatest novelty for the time was that the rack railway and its link with the monistrol train lines meant that the return journey between Barcelona and Montserrat could be accomplished in a single day. The railway also gave a boost to the economy of the surrounding area.

The original Montserrat monastery rack railway made its last journey in 1957, but the dream of seeing it back in action one day was never lost. During the 1980 the Generalitat's Transport Authority and the FGC commissioned various studies and alternatives with a view to restoring the rack railway. This culminated in 1991 with the drawing up of a project that would form the basis of the current modern rack railway. In July 2001 work began on the new rack railway with inauguration on 11 June 2003.

For most of its five kilometres the rack railway follows the route of the original railway. Of these, four kilometres are in rack traction to cover a difference in height of almost 550 metres between Monistrol-Vila and Montserrat monastery station. Leaving Monistrol de Montserrat Station the rack railway enters a newly constructed La Foradada tunnel then crosses the river llobregat and C-55 highway via the Pont del Centenari bridge before pulling into monistrol Vila station where there is large car parking for tourists.

After Monistrol de Vila the Current day rack railway uses the original railway alignment and existing tunnel del angel replacing a previous level crossing with a new bridge. The tunel de Apostles just before arriving at the monastery is also reused from the original railway.

About Sant Joan Funicular

Is a cable pulled railway railway ascends from Montserrat Monastery to Sant Joan.

Sant Joan funicular gives the best views of the Montserrat Monastery complex as it ascends.

The journey up Sant Joan funicular is a unique experience, with a steep slope gradient (more then 65%), with an elevation gain of 503 metres.

Sant Joan Funicular journey time is about 5 minutes.

Sant Joan Funicular History

Sant Joan funicular was opened in 1918 and was built to connect the outside of the monastery with Sant Joan Chapel on the top of the mountain, where there is also a multiple viewpoints.

The line was so successful that the train soon became too small and in 1926 the installations were replaced, with a different track gauge and vehicles with a greater capacity. In 1986 the funicular railway became part of the FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) and in 1997 it was completely modernised, including new panoramic vehicles.

About Santa Cova Funicular

Cable pulled railway that descends from Montserrat Monastery to Santa cova station, over 118 metres of elevation loss.

Legend of Santa cova is that the cave is where a holy image of Mare de Deu de Montserrat was found.

Santa Cova Funicular journey time is about 3 minutes.

The Santa Cova chapel is about 1.5km walking distance along a paved path following the Rosari Monumental, a group of sculptures by Antoni Gaudi and Josep Llimona.

Santa Cova Funicular History

The Montserrat to Santa Cova funicular railway was built in 1929 by the FMGP (Ferrocarrils de Muntanya a Grans Pendents), a company that also owned Sant Joan funicular railway. FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) has owned both funicular railways since 1986.

Santa Cova funicular railway has been renovated twice (in 1963 and 1991), but the floods in Montserrat in July 2000 affected the installations. The lower station and one of the trains were partially damaged. The railways installations were completely renovated after the incident, with new panoramic trains that started to run again in June 2001.

For more context, the Montserrat Cremallera & Funicular map and the Train Map to get to Montserrat Monastery in the documents section will give a good overview.