The two-and-a-half hour journey from Porto up to Pinhão was hardly the most comfortable of our holiday, but the views - after we joined the Douro - were completely absorbing. Steeply-banked vineyards - a couple of rows of vines on each terraced "shelf" - rise up to a great height above the river. Goodness knows with what effort the grapes eventually arrive at the quintas!
Until half a century ago, the river ran fast, and flat-bottomed rabelos took the full barrels on a perilous journey 100km or more down-stream to Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto. Now, more prosaically, they travel in tanker trucks; and the river's power is harnessed for hydroelectricity.
It's not just the views that made this excursion worthwhile. Pinhão station is as beautiful as São Bento in its own way, with blue-tiled scenes both front and back. And during the long breather the train takes at Régua, we watched whilst the platform's weighing machine was opened up and given a thorough dusting by a smartly-dressed lady. Then there arrived the expert, whom we took to be her father, with his tools to make the necessary adjustments. Good team work.