I decided to go to the Museo de Reales Falúas (Museum of Royal Barges) in the Chíquitren and see the gardens during this trip with commentary given free with the price of the ticket (500 pesetas - about $3.33 U. S.). There were 45 minutes between different Chíquitrens. I calculated that I had enough time to get off at the Museo de Reales Falúas; see the museum and again board the next tren 45 minutes later to get off in the center of the village. The guide told me (in English) the Chíquitren made this special stop if a passenger asked for it. Everything was arranged perfectly. At least that's what I thought.
A young bilingual woman was our guide. She gave us descriptions in English and Spanish. Her notes were brief compared with those in the Royal Palace because the Royal Palace is more complicated than the gardens. I was comfortable in my seat, but it was difficult to take good pictures easily when we were moving because I couldn't aim the camera with certainty. We did stop briefly for pictures at Jardín del Príncipe (Prince's Garden) (picture to right, 26K).
Soon we arrived at the Museo de Reales Falúas. There were more or less a dozen people waiting for the tren. It stopped not far from the museum, and I got off to try to enter the museum with my ticket from the Strawberry Train. The man at the door told me, «You can't enter. It's necessary to enter with your group from the Strawberry Train. You have to wait until your group arrives at about 5pm.»
I decided to wait there 45 minutes until the next Chíquitren arrived. In this way I could see the remainder of the gardens. Fortunately, I had a book to read, Tres Sombreros de Copa by Miguel Mihura. I sat down in a chair with a table under the big trees and with a cool breeze from the river (left, 23K), all of which reminded me of my birth state of Illinois. I ate an ice cream bar and read. I had a very good time because soon the next tren came. I got up and began to walk rapidly to the place where the tren had stopped when I arrived. Nobody was there where before there were a dozen, and, amazingly for me, the didn't stop even after I shouted two times «Espere» (wait) and waved my hand over my head. I am sure that the driver and the passengers heard me. It seemed to me that the tren decreased its velocity a few seconds before going away more rapidly. Perhaps they expected me to run - - something that I can't do today. I don't know. Now I didn't have enough time to wait for the next tren to go to the center of the village. I simply sat down inside the doors of the museum with my book and waited until I saw the first Strawberry Train identification tags (right, 24K) stuck to the chests of the excursionists. Finally I could enter the museum and rejoin my group.
After 45 minutes in the museum, we reboarded the tour bus that took us to the station. We got off at the station, and I wanted to take photos of the old station (1850) and of the young hostess (a little over 20 years old). «Please, I would like to take your picture, señorita.»
«It's not possible now because there isn't time. Later.»
Well, I started to go away from the station to take it's picture because, for certain, the station was not busy. But the hostess didn't understand what I was trying to do, and she became worried: «Señor, don't go away, or there is danger of missing the train! Right now we are going to the station there.»
«But, Señorita, I only want to take a picture of the station. I don't require more than a minute. I won't get lost.» I had to tell her this twice before she heard me.
She understood and left me in peace to photograph the station. Perhaps it wasn't worth it because the photo on the internet is better than mine. Well, see mine here, at any rate (above right, 23K).
Now I want to give you a picture of me with the locomotive, a Mikado (2-8-2) constructed in 1957 (Left photo, 36K). The train crew didn't waste a minute, and you can see two members cleaning the locomotive carefully (Right photo, 22K).
Also (below: left, 20K; right, 35K) you can see pictures of my new friends from San Francisco: the father and his daughter, the architecture student. The daughter was the person who took my picture with the locomotive.
Again, I missed the opportunity of taking a photo of the hostess serving us the strawberries because my strawberry was so wet. But after finishing serving the strawberries three hostesses ended up together in the rear part of our coach. With dry fingers and ready camera, I approached the pretty hostesses:
«Beautiful hostesses, I have traveled the great distance between San Diego, California, United States and Madrid, Spain to take your picture.» They were sure dressed to the nines like the ladies in the paintings in the Prado Museum.
«Pilar, Rosa! (names I have invented) Come over here so that this gentleman can take a picture.» called out the tall handsome one. See the result to the left (29K).
About seven-thirty at night, the train arrived at Atocha Station where we have departed more than nine hours before. We said goodbye to one another and got off the coach.
I used my last picture to be able to show you the engineer of the locomotive (right, 37K). On departing the scene, I said to him, «Thank you for the pleasant trip!»
Finally, I ran into our own hostess, the one who appeared in both previous pictures, and I gave her my web-page address so that she may see my animation of the Strawberry Train. «I have a nice description of an imaginary trip on the Strawberry Train on my page together with my own animation of the train itself. I hope that you can see it.»
But I don't know if she ever saw it.
(With some browsers you may have to refresh the page to see the Strawberry Train animation here.)
(Note: I have again translated this from my Spanish version which explains why it may sound a little strange.)