ALEJANDRO GOIKOETXEA OMAR
One of the designers of the Talgo train and became known
as the “turncoat of the Iron Ring”.
Born in Elorrio on 23 March 1895.He was the engineer in charge of the construction of the fortified defences in the hills surrounding Bilbao known as the Iron Ring, which were intended to protect the city against the advance of Franco’s troops during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1937 he switched sides, taking with him documents of vital importance including the locations of apparently impregnable bunkers, troop positions and trenches, all marked with great precision on sketches that he had drawn up. On the day when he crossed the lines to join Franco’s army he carried with him the key to one of Spain’s most important defensive networks: the Iron Ring around Bilbao. This was instrumental in the fall of the Ring on 12 June 1937, and the entry of Franco’s troops into the city a few days later.
Work began in 1938 on the design and building of a type of train that was to become known as the Talgo (an acronym for “Tren Articulado Ligero Goicoechea-Oriol” or “Goicoechea-Oriol Light Articulated Train”), which began running in 1941. He was involved in the design and construction of the Talgo 0, Talgo I and Talgo II models. The first two were merely prototypes, but the Talgo II remained in regular service for many years, and the successors of both the train and the company that built it are still around today.
As an engineer he was highly innovative for his times. He worked for years on the La Robla railway line, and put forward many ideas on how to reduce the weight of trains so as to save fuel and increase speed. Some of his ideas can still be seen today in the container systems used for goods transport and in lightweight high-speed trains. Although the Talgo, his best-known project, was a great success, some of his revolutionary ideas failed for various reasons. These included an articulated train for the island of Grand Canary and his ideas for crossing the Straits of Gibraltar.
He died in Madrid on 30th January 1984 at the age of 89.