The international conference Railroads in Historical Context: Construction, Costs and Consequences brought together more than 40 specialists to discuss both the history and the future of the Tua railroad and Tua Valley.
The conference occurred within the context of the FOZTUA Project, a joint interdisciplinary project between MIT (USA) and University of Minho (Portugal), sponsored by EDP and under the auspices of the MIT Portugal Program. The projects aims to study, preserve and disseminate the memory of the Tua valley and its historically significant narrow gauge railroad.
During the three days of the conference, scholars from different disciplines shared their research results based on the Tua Line or similar railroad projects focusing on themes such as decision-making processes, the management of labor, technical engineering concerns, or the economic and social impact of completed railroads.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century the railway line of Tua / Bragança (begun in 1883, completed to Mirandela in 1887 and to Bragança in1906) was the “great highway” for the transport of people and goods in and out of the region of the upper Douro River, home to the viticulture made world famous in Port wine.
EDP, the largest Portuguese utility company, is building a new dam in Tua river, close to Foz Tua station, where Tua river meets Douro river. The new dam will submerge a section of Tua railtrack (around 11 kms), close to Foz Tua station. Tua line operations have been already closed since 2008 due to safety issues. Consequently, a new mobility plan was designed incorporating trains, boats and a cable railway. The new plan is being managed by the Agência de Desenvolvimento Regional do Vale do Tua (ADRVT) and represents an investment of 40 million euros (10 million from EDP and 30 million from European Community funds).
The historical project intends to challenge the academic community to study one century-long history of railways and development in a peripheral region of a peripheral country. FOZTUA Project was born to preserve the memory and the “stories” of the line and to discuss its role in the region and enhance its common heritage through an integrated, interdisciplinary, scholarly approach to the history and memory of the communities related to Tua valley.
Eduardo Beira (formerly School of Engineering, University of Minho and MIT Portugal Program Faculty, now Senior Research Fellow at IN+ Center for Innovation, Technology and Public Policy, Lisbon ) is leading the FOZTUA Project and according to the researcher: This could be the rebirth of the railway, where, so far, the time has stopped. According to Beira, this plan, especially within the context of tourism, can be a great opportunity for the region.
The project is also the basis of two PhD theses, one of which is from Bruno Gonçalves, MIT Portugal Program PhD student at Doctoral Program Leaders for Technical Industries (LTI), that is studying the Long term material and structural behavior: reverse engineering of Tua railways works and the use of advanced technologies of Life Cycle Assessment of infrastructures. The project also has supported several MSc dissertations, some already closed and others going on. A team from LTI also designed a transportable and easy to use family railrider [video]
powered by two bicycles giving origin to a transportable prototype for modern ages. The project was Integrated on the 1st year LTI Product Design and Development course, by Carlos Barbosa, João Figueiredo, Jorge Marques, Lídia Teixeira, Miguel Oliveira, Eduardo Beira and António Araújo.
The coordination of the project is also supported by Anne McCants (History Dpt., MIT, USA) ; José Manuel Cordeiro (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Minho) and Paulo Lourenço (School of Engineering, University of Minho). The international team of scholars assisting with the project also includes numerous scholars from across Portugal as well as members from Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Canada and the United States.