Illes Balears is the official Catalan name for a group of islands in the Mediterranean Sea, known in Spanish as Islas Baleares and in English as the Balearic Islands. They form an autonomous region and province of Spain.
The group is made up of four main islands – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera – and a number of smaller islands. Of these, only Mallorca has railways.
The first railway on Mallorca was the Ferrocarril de Mallorca, opened in 1875 between Palma and Inca as a 914mm (3 English feet) gauge steam railway. In 1876 the company combined with another company with plans for railways on the island, to become Ferrocarriles de Mallorca.
In 1879, the line was extended from Inca to Manacor, with a branch to La Puebla (present day Sa Pobla). In 1897, another branch line was constructed from Santa María to Felanitx.
The Ferrocarril de Sóller opened in 1912 between Palma and Sóller. Like the earlier lines, it was built as a 914mm (3 English feet) gauge steam railway. It was electrified in 1929.
The following year, the Tranvía de Sóller opened to connect the Sóller station of the Ferrocarril to the port of Sóller, a distance of almost 5km. From the start it was an electified tramway, partly running on street. It was also built to 914mm gauge. Today the Ferrocarril de Sóller and the Tranvía (Catalan: Tramvia) de Sóller are operated by the same company.
Later in the 20th century the Ferrocarriles de Mallorca opened several further extensions: Palma to Lluchmajor in 1916, extended to Santanyi the following year; Manacor to Artá in 1921; and a tunnel in Palma connecting the station with the port. All the lines, with the exception of the main line from Palma to Artá and the branch to La Puebla.
In 1980, under the ownership of the Spanish narrow gauge railway authority FEVE, the line from Palma to Inca was converted to metre gauge, with diesel operation. The lines beyond Inca were closed.
Under local government owned Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca (SFM) a programme of rehabilitation began. Inca to Sa Pobla reopened in 2001, Inca to Sineu in 2002 and Sineu to Manacor in 2003. Electrification work began in 2011 and was completed in 2019. Plans to reopen the line from Manacor to Artà have been shelved for the time being.
In 2007, a metro system opened in Palma, connecting the City Centre with the University. The original 7km, metre gauge electric railway runs mainly underground. In 2013, the Metro was physically connected to the SFM main line, allowing a new metro service to operate over part of that line as far as Marratxí. The Metro, along with the main line, is operated by SFM.
Photo image by Olaf Tausch from Wikipedia