Gustavo Gillman's electric car. Certainty or possibility "

Photo of the Serón Station made by Gillman in 1894.

When Gustavo Gillman arrived in Spain in 1875 with his older brother Fredrick, fate awaits you with a long list of challenges that will transform the Spanish southeast. The first of them was love, well, just 6 years after his arrival, marries the young Granada-born María del Rosario Sirvent de Berganza in Gibraltar. After settling in Linares, Granada and Lorca, the family establishes their residence in Águilas, place from which you start in 1889 the adventure of directing the construction of the railway that will join Lorca and Baza.

Al frente de la Great Southern of Spain Railway Company Ltd. (GSSR) faces a project of enormous technical and orographic difficulty, demonstrating in each performance the great talent he had as an engineer, although he was not the only one. To his work chores he spontaneously joined another series of virtues that made Gillman a Renaissance man. He was always accompanied by a camera and a tripod, with whom he photographed and documented the daily life and landscape of some regions that were willing to open up to the world. He took notes of everything that happened around him, to the extent of assessing the weather conditions or the comfort of the hotels where you were staying. Also painting and astronomy were arts that seduced him, but without a doubt, photography will be the one who makes it an unavoidable reference to understand the evolution of our territory.

Among the valuable photographic legacy Gillman left to his family, highlights a beautiful picture of the Serón station, in which a group of carts pulled by mules cross the train track, loaded with esparto grass, in front of some freight cars waiting to be hooked to some locomotive. The manners of the scene suddenly vanish when we analyze one by one all the elements that make up the photograph. Next to the station building, behind the platform, a strange vehicle appears parked. The design matches the concept of the vehicles that began to be developed from 1828 powder Ányos Jedlik, Davenport and 1834 and Robert Anderson, between 1832 and 1839. We will have to wait until the Paris International Exposition of 1881 to find ourselves before the version evolved by Gustave Trouvé, who managed to secure a rechargeable electric battery that was coupled to a Siemens motor. Electric cars began to circulate in more modern Europe at the hands of bourgeois and aristocrats.

Thomas Parker's first electric car, circa 1894.

It is known that the first business initiative to build electric cars in Spain, on the 1898, when Emilio de la Cuadra Albiol founded in Barcelona the Spanish General Automobile Company Emilio de la Cuadra. The ambitious project crystallized into a prototype that showed an autonomy of 4 oh 5 kilometers, which placed it very far from the advanced European models.

The photograph taken by Gillman at the Serón station, is dated 1894, 4 years before Albiol started its business adventure to manufacture the first car in Spain. There is no certainty that this is the first photograph of a car in Spain, nor that this was the first car that arrived in our country. Before starting the registration and control of pioneer vehicles in Spain, The Count of Peñalver was already driving through the streets of Madrid at the wheel of a car brought from Paris in 1898. As recorded in the DGT files, It was José Sureda Fuentes who is registered for the first time as the owner of a Clement quadricycle., in the town of Santa Catalina (Mallorca) the 31 October 1900. And that the first car registered in Almería, the 20 December 1907, It was an Aries brand tourism, owned by Luis Bardón de la Serna.

The innovative and advanced character of Gustavo Gillman, at the forefront of its time (as an example his very modern camera), fits perfectly into the conjecture that being aware of the existence of these vehicles, do not miss the opportunity to acquire one. The physiognomy of the vehicle does not match that of an Electrobat, but if with the bodied versions by Jeantaud in Paris or Parker in London. Possibly, his stay in these underdeveloped and practically isolated lands made him go unnoticed in the eyes of urban society, unlike the aforementioned Count of Peñalver, where without a doubt, it would have been a milestone properly documented. The image of the mysterious vehicle is open to all hypotheses. Is it a modified buggy? Without animals? Is it one of the strange evolved cars that were all the rage among European engineers and industrialists?? An invention of Gillman himself? Some hypotheses circulate in the network. The legend of the charismatic Englishman continues among us.

There is no certainty, but yes the possibility, that the first car that circulated in Spain also did so on the roads of Serón.

Francisco Javier Fernandez Espinosa.