The Préjano Greenway is a branch of the Cidacos Greenway.
We propose walking or cycling the 5 km from the town of Préjano, the Préjano Greenway proper, plus 4 km of the Cidacos Greenway, from Arnedillo to where the two routes converge.
We start off from Arnedillo, at one end of the Cidacos Greenway, and enjoy a gently downhill stretch towards the third intersection with the Préjano road. Here we make a right turn onto the road. From Arnedillo to this intersection we will have enjoyed the spectacular Arnedillo tunnel (which is well lit) and the Cidacos canyon where dozens of griffon vultures nest. (For a more detailed description, see the section on the Cidacos Greenway).
Now we leave the Cidacos Greenway and travel along the road to Préjano for nearly one kilometre. While there is usually very little traffic, it is as well to be on the alert. If we look to our left we can see what is left of the old mining railway.
AIf we follow the signposts for the Préjano Greenway we arrive at a dirt road which takes us down a steep slope to the left until we join the old mining railway route.
Km 0 of the Préjano Greenway proper is at the entrance to a tunnel visible from the Préjano road. To get there we need to backtrack 500 metres down the old railway line. Now we are at Km 0 and we can head for Préjano.
First we pass through the tunnel, which is equipped with lighting but is a little narrow as it was intended for mining cars.
Once through the tunnel we cross the Ombillo ravine by a stone bridge. A little further on there is a rest area from where it is possible to climb down into the bottom of the ravine.
After the ravine we begin to climb gently for 2 km before reaching the Préjano road again. From the trail we can enjoy splendid views of the Cidacos valley while we pass by groves of fruit trees. On the valley side there are railings for the safety of Greenway users, especially those travelling with young children.
At Km 2 we cross the local Préjano road before reaching another rest area: Las Viñuelas.
A little further on, a solitary stand of pine trees signals the site of the Préjano recreational area. The area has been equipped with a small car park for those who wish to start the Greenway from this point.
From here we have a clear view of the tower of Préjano castle, by far the most important building in Préjano’s modest town centre.
At this point the Greenway makes a sharp turn to the right and heads towards the second and final tunnel on the route. This is the Préjano tunnel, which is 80 metres long and equipped with lighting. At the other end of the tunnel there is a small ravine which is spanned by a narrow bridge, the original bridge used by the mining railway. Its height – six metres – is surprising considering how narrow it is.
Beyond the bridge the route joins a rural track which we follow for 700 metres before arriving at the apron of the Los Palomares loading platform, now refurbished as a rest area.
The Greenway continues on the rural track for another kilometre before heading towards the site of the fossilized dinosaur footprints at Valdemurillo. This section, on which there are some slightly steeper slopes than the rest of the Greenway, includes the last rest area, at Pozo de San Antonio. Some 100m further along, at Km 5.1, the Greenway finishes, but from here a path will take you to the Valdemurillo site, some 20 minutes away.
This railway spur was born out of the need to build the railway from Calahorra to Arnedillo or, more precisely, to transport the coal produced by the Préjano coalmines. Since the main line did not reach the mines but instead passed through Ariñano, some 5 km away, a narrow 60cm gauge mining railway was built to transport the coal to the metre gauge Calahorra railway.
Thus the two railways were born at the same time, entering into operation in 1924. In the early years the mining cars first travelled from the mine heads to the station of Préjano-pueblo. There trains were assembled and pulled by petrol-driven locomotives to the station of Préjano-empalme (or Ariñano), where the coal was transferred into wagons owned by the mining company to take it on to Calahorra.
This situation continued until 1938 when the State took over the running of the Calahorra-Arnedillo railway and the mining company decided to close the stretch between Ariñano and Préjano-pueblo. From then on, the horse-drawn cars would arrive at Préjano-pueblo where the coal was transferred to trucks which took it on by road to Ariñano. There, as before, the coal would be loaded onto railway wagons for the final part of the journey down to Calahorra.
The truth is that coal production from the mines was never exactly abundant (the mining company only ever had two wagons to transport the coal to Calahorra) and the quality of the coal was rather mediocre. There were even attempts to set up a power plant at Ariñano but, somewhat strangely, once completed the plant was immediately dismantled and taken to another region. Finally the last sections of the mining railway were definitively closed in 1966, at the same time as the Arnedillo line.
This chapter of the series "Vive la Vía" invites us to discover La Rioja on foot and by bicycle, along the abandoned railways. A magical journey through La Rioja lands following the tracks of the dinosaurs and crossing the Jacobean route, through the Valleys of the River Oja and the Cidacos. Popular festivals, natural and monumental wealth, fresh air to encourage us to practice active and ecological tourism.