Clemente Menres: the skillfull strategist of the Tua train
Albano Viseu (investigator at CITCEM, FLUP; doctorate in History by FLUP)
O presente trabalho ajuda-nos a compreender como o comboio se tornou
necessrio ao desenvolvimento da regio transmontana (Nordeste e Alto Trs-os-
Montes), numa poca de transformaes nos transportes e nas comunicaes, o que
contribuiu no apenas para o escoamento para o mercado da sua rica produo
agropecuria e comercial, e de alguma incipiente produo industrial, mas tambm
ajudou a quebrar o seu isolamento de sculos.
Clemente Menres, como homem de negcios, investiu na compra de
propriedades e de sobreiros da regio e deu incio constituio da Quinta do Romeu e
de um patrimnio fundirio que acabaria por se estender ao distrito de Bragana. O
comboio seria essencial para canalizar a sua produo para os mercados, pelo que se
tornou num dos principais lutadores para que este meio de transporte fosse uma
realidade e para que lhe passasse porta.
A estratgia negocial que foi caldeando com a prtica da vida mostrou-lhe que
seria importante constituir uma firma indivisa que prolongasse no tempo a sua obra e os
seus investimentos, e os da famlia, pelo que constituiu a Sociedade Clemente Menres,
O comboio chegou em setembro de 1887 e a Sociedade constituiu-se em 1902,
polarizando realidades de uma abrangncia que importa realar e traar para entender
algumas das suas vertentes. Clemente Menres soube lanar-se nos dois projetos como
estratgia para a concretizao dos seus sonhos de empresrio e mostrou-nos uma viso
muito frente do seu tempo.
Palavras-chave: relevo; territrio; regio; comboio; cortia; empresa agrcola;
produo; transportes; firmas comerciais; progresso e crises; gesto empresarial;
This paper will help us understand how trains became necessary for the
development of the Trs-os-Montes region in na era of transformations in transport and
communications, which not only contributed to the flow of its market of rich
agricultural and commercial production, along with na emerging industrial production,
but also helped to break the regions isolation of centuries.
As a businessman, Clemente Menres invested in the purchase of properties and
cork oaks in the region and initiated the establishment of the Romeu Estate and of na
estate that extended into the Bragana district. The trains would be essential in
channeling his production to the markets. For this reason, he became one of the major
defenders of this mode of transport.
With the business strategy he had learned through lifes experiences, he knew it
would be important to constitute na undivided firm that would prolong his (and his
familys) work and investments. Thus, Sociedade Clemente Menres, Inc. was
The railway arrived in September 1889 and the company was established in 1902,
becoming the focus of a new reality, aspects of which are important to highlight and
comprehend. Clemente Menres knew to embark in those two projects with a strategy
that lead the achievement of his dreams as na entrepreneur and demonstrated a vision
much ahead of his time.'''
By presenting a bucolic scenery with a profoundly sculpted landscape, the terrain
of Trs-os-Montes conditioned, along time, the life of its people.
The orographic factor not only caused the secular isolation of this region, but also
lead to necessities and difficulties that involved private entities and the central
government to be resolved very slowly.
The peripheral situation of the region and the weak investment in mobilizing
structures of all aspects of human life lead to the abandonment of the region, either to
large coastal centers, or abroad.
Miguel Torga called Trs-os-Montes a Wonderful Kingdom and incisively
acknowledged the conditioning elements of human life in this region: A world! A never-ending rich, craggy, wild land, that rises to peak with the urge of
climbing to the sky, as it also drowns in the abysses of anguish, it is not known why there is such a telluric contrition.
Hot Land and Cold Land. Leagues and leagues of raging ground, twisted, burnt by the fiery sun or by snowy cold. Mountains overlapping mountains. Mountains parallel to mountains. In the intervals, squeezed between rivers of crystalline water, singing, quenching such an anguished thirst. And once in a while, () an immense valley, of pure humus, where the eye takes a rest from the aggressive cluster of rocks. () And they are mountains again, until the eye can see.
It seems impossible this soil is capable of providing bread and wine. But it does. On the banks of a golden river, crucified between the skys heat which drinks it from above and the seat of the riverbed which dries it, the walls of miracles rise. In steep ledges (), vines grow, like basil on windowsills.
Trs-os-Montes has this singular way of being in the Portuguese territory. And
who better than Torga to remind us of the two contrasting climactic realities of this
region: the Cold Land of snowy cold and the Hot Land of fiery sun?
Two areas shaped by terrain, by overlapping mountain ranges, by plateaus and
valleys shaped by rivers, chiseled onto earths crust, where fauna and flora flourished
and still flourishes.
Fig.1 Map: localization of Trs-os-Montes and Alto Douro
In this space, we see a sea of rocks, where the waves of the mountains remind
us of the waves of the ocean: a scenery that overwhelms with its beauty.
Fig. 2 Trs-os-Montes and Alto Douro
This terrain created difficulties in communication and in flowing of the regions
products, derived from agriculture, livestock, mineral and forestry extraction, the use of
its thermal and mineral springs, and the production of hydroelectric energy.
The soil produced and fed its people, having given them bread, wine, crystalline
and pure water, olive oil, potatoes, fruit, vegetables and herbs: in short, the humus of
life, separator of energy, capable of creating unity among the inhabitants in the fight
against a common adversity.
This difficult and particularly special terrain created a region where its inhabitants
were capable of making the best of the inhospitable nature and engendered ways of
individual and community living, exercising existence in its multiple aspects.
The struggle for life and for daily bread made hope sprout and snatched hearts that
rhythmically beat, dazzled with the transparency of a region that lies beyond mountains.
The complexity of life, in its all-encompassing multiplicity awaited a miracle: the
miracle of this region not continuing forgotten, not seeing its crops relegated to a plan
whimsically perceived by the observer.
Life beyond the mountains, in the deep plateaus and valleys, gave continuity to
the miracle of creation.
Access to the region was always a problem and an obstacle to its socioeconomic
and cultural development. The construction of communication routes, so necessary to
the region, was always made difficult by its geographical situation.
The fact that it was a peripheral region in relation the big decision-making centers
of the country, that it was subject to isolation due to the mountain ranges that made it
difficult to build roads and railways, since it was necessary to build tunnels and bridges
to smooth the curves and slopes, explains the symptomatology of the region known as
the Wonderful Kingdom.
Mountains systems such as Alvo and Maro explain this way of viewing this
framework. Para c do Maro mandam os que de c so (On this side of Maro,
those in charge are those from here.): a transcendental sentence, enlightening and of
substance, since this orographic system closed off the region, leaving it to live off what
nature provided. However, we cannot forget the other difficulties caused by the etchings
made by the Douro river and its tributaries that gave way to a rugged terrain, increasing
the grandiosity of a region that had to face these adversities.
The enclosed system was not only known in the nineteenth century the period
we are focusing on in this study, where changes were registered in communication
routes, means of transportation and communication systems since it has passed
through centuries and various generations.
The transformations that the country experienced in this context also reached
Trs-os-Montes, which is why it is important to ascertain what happened and how the
appearance of macadam roads, stagecoaches, the telegraph, the telephone, the postage
stamp, the mailbox, and essentially the train, were significant to envision a future with
Fig.3 Steam locomotive
Also significant was the constant and decisive insistence of Clemente Menres for
the acquisition of the Foz Tua-Mirandela train, a line that would promote the
development of the region.
The development was seen as an open door for the circulation of products, goods
and services and served in part to the dilution of the enclosed system that during
centuries separated the region from the rest of the country and Europe.