The Tren de Montserrat, as the rack railway between Monistrol and Montserrat was known, has been in existence since the 19th century. It was originally built to meet the need for improved access for worshippers and pilgrims to the Montserrat sanctuary.
The traditional way up Montserrat mountain had been on foot or horseback along the Collbató. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that an alternative and much quicker access way was inaugurated. This was the wide gauge line operated by Ferrocarrils del Nord to Monistrol-Montserrat station. This made it possible for a stagecoach service to do the journey in three and a half hours.
The lack of a permanent means of transport and an increase in the number of visitors led Joaquim Carrera, engineer and admirer of both Montserrat and Swiss mountain trains, to persuade local businessman Josep M. González to build a rack railway that would link Monistrol station with the monastery. In 1881 the company Ferrocarriles de Montaña a Grandes Pendientes was constituted for the purpose. The rack railway was inaugurated on 6 October 1892, and it soon became the most popular railway in Catalonia. It cut the journey time between Monistrol station and the monastery to one hour ‑and five minutes.
But the greatest novelty for the time was that the rack railway and its link with the Ferrocarrils del Nord 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 dream of the new rack railway
The old Montserrat rack railway made its last journey in 1957, but the dream of seeing it back in action one day was never lost. During the 1980s this desire, coupled with the increase in visitors and consequent congestion of vehicles in the natural park area, led the Generalitat's Transport Authority and the FGC to commission various studies and alternatives with a view to resolving the problem.
This culminated in 1991 with the drawing up of a project that would form the basis of the current railway. The project was presented in 1999 and then updated and adapted in 2000.
In July 2001 work began on the new rack railway. Finally, on 11 June 2003, the new rack railway was opened.