The International Steam Pages
The Railways of Bolivia 2008/9, Part 1
John Middleton made two trips to an extraordinary country in 2008/9, this is the 2008 report based on an 11 day mining business trip to Uyuni, Oruro and La Paz between 31st March and 10th April 2008. Click here for the second part.
Ferroviaria Andina SA (FCA)
* International “Mixed” continues to Calama (Chile)
* International “Mixed” From Calama (Chile), see below arriving at Uyuni:
The time table also shows railbuses running:
MWFO Sucre (El Tejar) 08.00 – Potosi 14.00
Railcar 337 (without its trailer) ran north from Uyuni to Oruro on 3 April 2008, it appeared to take a load of parcels but didn’t seem to carry passengers (at least not leaving Uyuni).
Freight services appear to now be at least one daily between Oruro – Avaroa (Chile border) as mine concentrates are railed to Antofagasta from various locations in Bolivia (eg: Poopo (some 55 km south of Ururo) and San Diego on the Potosi branch). There is also Oruro – Vaicha freight but the line onwards to La Paz is closed. There are also freights on the Villazon line, possibly only to/from Tupiza where again mine concentrates are loaded for shipment to Antofagasta, 1014 was noted heading south from Uyuni towards Villazon with 6 box cars at 08.10 on 3/4/08. A southbound freight into Uyuni from the north arrived each day between 09.00-11.00.
The International Mixed from Calama was seen arriving at Uyuni on 3 April 2008, running about 30 minutes late with around 30 wagons and one passenger coach headed by 1008.
Due to a lack of suitable wagons, most of these concentrates are loaded by “Bobcat” loader directly into box cars (bizarre !), with about 20 tons in each car. There must be some spillage during the journey as no attempt is made to seal the doors.
A 65 km long new line has been opened from Km 72 on the main line near Rio Grande running south to the San Cristóbal Mine of Apex Silver. Traffic started flowing at a rate of 500 tons a day during 2007 and will build up to over 2000 tons per day by 2010. Initially 16 wagon block trains hauled by a 10xx series loco will handle the traffic but when production ramps up, 32 wagon trains operate by 2 x 10XX series locos will be run. To operate this service, FCA has to provide 4 dedicated locomotives which have been fully overhauled. There are also 216 new container flats being rebuilt by Uyuni Workshops from older redundant wagons. Of these 108 will be owned by FCA and 108 will be owned by FCAB (Chile).
The operating FCA fleet currently numbers 19 locos but further locos are being overhauled. Existing locos on FCA property are as follows:
This is SLM 980:
The operating locos are 951/53/54/55/58/62/65/68, 980, 1008/10/12-15/18-21/23
The second Sulzer (LDE 847) is preserved at the FCMU Museum at Machacamarca
1009/19/21/22 were ex FC Oriental during 2007, so all the class are now on FCA.
FCA have purchased 7 new MTU 1300 kW engines, four have been fitted to 1013/15/20/21 whilst 1023 is currently under overhaul and will receive one, 1019 is next in line whilst the seventh is spare at the moment, possibly for 1022 which is also due for overhaul.
This is the main locomotive repair facility for FCA. The most interesting resident is former FC Guaqui No.1 (0-6-0DM HE 1904 of 1939) the pioneering turbo charged high altitude diesel. This is stored by the half roundhouse at the back of the works and is relatively complete and still has its engine. Surely a candidate for preservation.
There are also two steam loco tenders present from FCALP Borisg 2-8-0’s (FCALP 106-108).
On 9 April 2008, there were some 28 locos present, including the Hunslet.
Note: The Trains Unlimited 2005 tour report, suggested that various locos at Viacha had duplicate identities, this is not the case. All of the 9xx and 10xx locos are accounted for and none have duplicate numbers.
Locos without the DE prefix are mostly in FCA Blue and Yellow livery, the exception being 1022 which is dark green. The DE / LDE prefixed locos are in the old ENFE liveries of light green and cream (9xx series) or orange (10xx series). The DH series shunters are all in a red / grey scheme. Many of the dumped and stored locos have varying degrees of accident damage.
The following Ferrostaal railcars were also present: M321 (worksplate Ferrostaal R321 of 1967), R322, M325, M341 and R342
Also in the area around the turntable was a 4-wheel Brill tram chassis in use as a flat wagon – it had no identification but by comparison with the photo on page 36 of “Railways of Bolivia” appears to be the underframe of the motorized tower wagon ordered by the FCG in 1904.
Viacha Station Yard
Outside the workshop walled area, dumped at the far north end of Viacha Station Yard beyond the goods shed is a cabless / tenderless steam loco. It is stamped EFCB 1603 on the motion and has boiler back plate Henschel 23827/1938.
FC Guaqui , Estacion Central, La Paz
The Central station remains in good condition, the ENFE offices are adjacent and needed some convincing before access to the yard was allowed. Two unidentified Ferrostaal railcar trailers in a livery advertising a local restaurant stand in the platform along with inspection car Z145. On the west side of the yard are two sheds, one holding FCG stock and the other ENFE. The ENFE shed was empty but another Ferrostaal railcar was stored outside. The two-road FCG shed was locked but had ample broken windows through which photos could easily be taken, stored inside were five locos and a tower wagon:
Former Workshops Pura Pura
The former Pura Pura workshops have been largely demolished and the area taken over by residential properties who have (probably illegally) sub-divided the area with high walls. Some track remains and one locomotive and a box car are accessible on the fan of tracks leading into the area. Local residents said another loco was trapped inside the area (possibly Shay No.1) but access was impossible, there was one building where it may be stored but if so several houses would have to be demolished to remove it!
The 15 July 2007 train mentioned in CRJ 153 was headed by Alco No. 6 and was intended to lay the foundations for a US$ 1.8 million project to establish a tourist operation between Guaqui and Tiwanaku (about 20 km east). Tiwanaku is already a tourist destination as there are important pre-Columbian ruins there. The funding is being provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Canadian and Japanese Funds and local Municipalities.
On 9 April 2008, an inspection car was noted about 10 km east of Guaqui complete with track gang busy on the line. In the works at Guaqui, both Alco No. 6 and Peckett No. 5 appeared to have been recently steamed and Baldwin 704 was undergoing repairs. At the FCA Viacha workshops, a superb former FCAB Cravens built wooden clerestory coach was in the yard and said to be for overhaul, presumably for this project.
At Guaqui, a military exercise was taking place in the Port area which was fenced off so the steam cranes were not closely examined although five were present, presumably as previously reported.
The locked workshops contained the 3 locos in good condition whilst the open shed contained the other 3.
No. 8 has no wheels and the front part of the frame and cylinders have been cut away. No. 4 is in poor condition but No. 9 looks relatively complete.
Oruro Shed (6 April 2008)
The biggest surprise at the shed was the first FCMU Sulzer 0-6-6-0DE LDE 846, last reported in 1993, it is quite well hidden amongst coaches which is why it may have been missed on recent visits but is very close to the Shay at the back of the shed. LDE 846 still has it worksplates (Sulzer ML45 of 1949). The steam locos are unchanged, comprising:
Note: Either 651 has swapped boilers with 652 or the ENFE numbering most commonly reported is incorrect – 651 should be OK 11771.
In the running shed were FCA 962, 1012 and 1018 all in use. Railcar 337 was also on shed (having been seen at Uyuni the previous day).
There were also a large number of coaches around the shed area as well as varied inspection cars including some Wickhams.
FC Machacamarca-Uncia (FCMU) Railway Museum (6 April 2008)
Note: the CRJ 145 report requires correction: OK 5392 is an 0-4-0WT not 0-6-0WT, and 12 is VIW built not Alco
This excellent site is now open as a free Railway Museum. I just wandered in and there is no access control. The main workshop building is being renovated, the cladding had been painted and the windows all replaced. Even though it was a Sunday, several workmen were busy painting. The three locos inside had all been stripped and painted with primer. Alongside the workshop is a two road shed containing more stock. Nearby is a small turntable with two half roundhouses either side, one bigger than the other. In the yard an isolated one road shed (with “1942” over the door) contains one loco. These contained:
Workshop: OK 5392, VIW 4236, Sulzer 24
Adjacent 2-road shed: VIW 4528, Railcar No. 2, GE Nos 1 and 2 and two similar coaches Nos 7 and 8 (7 carries OK worksplates)
Roundhouse Area: FCMU 3, FCMU 14, Mack Truck Conversion, FCMU 1 (Wkm)
“1942” Shed: GCMU 10
Yard: Various scrapped bits and pieces, many wagons
* Cab / Firebox plus about 10 feet of frame and two wheelsets as one piece, four cylinders with part of front bogie frame and other parts of boiler separate, other wheelsets lying around.
** Boiler, Four Luttermöller wheelsets, two cylinders and boiler remaining
There are also four more cylinders and parts of another boiler (or maybe 2) lying in the yard.
Notes on Sulzer Diesels: Available literature suggests the following numbering;
1949 Loco: Ordered as No. 20, delivered as No. 22 However: Carries small plates on frame “No. 20”
This seems to suggest the second loco was ordered as 22 not 23.
FCA Machacamarca (6 April 2008)
A fenced secure area at the station has two sidings which appear to hold stock between duties. Hitachi 1020 was standing on the “Expresso del Sud” trainset which alongside was Hitachi 1010 on a freight consist. It is thought the freight may stand here as it contains valuable metal concentrates which are loaded at Poopo a few kilometers to the south. On 8 April 2008, 1008 was noted at Poopo at about 13.30 with a long freight which was being loaded with concentrates, staff said this train ran daily but times varied. The “Wara Wara del Sur” trainset was noted the same afternoon stabled at Oruro station, it should have left later that evening but was cancelled for some reason.
FCA Rio Mulato (6 April 2008)
The shed contained Hitachi’s 955 and 968 presumably used on the Potosi line as well as an old US built wooden snowplough – No. 14003.
There are several items plinthed along Ave Ferroviara. In the station forecourt is a Wickham Type 5 inspection car (No. B-6) and a coach R11. Along the street outside are two more similar Wickhams (both un-numbered) and a stationary engine (no id but carrying No. 2). The main item is however:
“551” (552 orig FCAB 412) 2-8-4T HE 1103 1912
Uyuni Workshops (4 April 2008)
This used to be a steam repair works but ceased doing locomotive work in the mid 1970’s according to the works engineer. However, the former steam loco erecting shop was very busy with the contract to construct new flat cars for the San Cristobal mine. These are numbered in the 140xx series. The works has much fascinating equipment including a Craven 1927 wheel lathe still in use, old steam hammers in the foundry, Belliss & Morcom compressors etc. Despite persistent rumours that there were hoards of steam locos locked up in the place, I can confirm this is not the case, no locos at all are present in the works except one trackmobile machine used for shunting. At the back of the works are sidings full of stored and derelict stock including old wooden bodied clerestory coaches plus a repair facility for inspection cars, there were cars by Wickham and Fairmont present plus several of the latest type which come from IFACAL in Argentina. Two roads of the workshop are locked up and under the control of ENFE but contained only stored coaching stock.
Uyuni Locomotive Shed (4 April 2008)
This is located at the southern end of the works site and is within the same perimeter wall. Of the six road shed, two roads are used by FCA whilst the other four are locked up and contain more stored ENFE coaching stock, including a Wickham bogie railcar, stated to be No. 4 but probably FCG No. 3 (Wkm 5914).
The one or two digit numbers are painted on the locos as part of some ENFE inventory no doubt. 755 has previously been reported as 756 but careful examination shows that it is 755 which is visible on the cabsides as well as being liberally stamped 338 and 33 (its old FCAB number) on the frame and motion. 756 survives out at the graveyard south of town.
There are 12 tenders numbered T01-12, four are separate from the locos, amongst these were two original Meyer tenders one clearly still numbered “FCAB No. 54” in shaded lettering (T07), also another body without lettering (T10), also T06 (from FCAB 409) and T09 (from 852 above).
Also present was an interesting Walker Bros (Wigan) railcar No. 105 (with a 4w-2 wheel arrangement) and a 40 ton bogie steam crane No. 14000 (Industrial Works, Bay City, MI, USA 1211 of 1907). This latter is the crane shown as FCAB No. 1121 in the Locomotives International FCAB Book (note the works number is 1211 not 1121).
Uyuni Locomotive Graveyard.
If you can be here alone, at either sunrise or sunset it is a surreal experience. However, the place has become so popular with tourists that 4x4’s are continually rolling up in clouds of dust spoiling the atmosphere. The interest seems to wane rapidly and most groups only seemed to spend a few minutes before roaring off again. I spent an early morning and a late afternoon here when the light is superb I also did some detective work with a wire brush and scraper and believe that all but one of the locos can be positively identified. Of great surprise is that parts of all six Kitson Meyers are here. There are only five “complete” locos but parts of the frame of the sixth, with stamped BP works numbers were found partly buried at the northern end of the dump.
Close examination of the Meyers revealed the BP works numbers stamped into the top of the main frame members on both sides close to the smokebox saddle.
Corrections therefore to the CRJ 145 / Trains Unlimited Report are: Noroeste 716 is actually 715. Henschel Pacific 337 is not here, neither is VF 4-8-2 816.
The loco list now looks like this, with 18 locos present:
As at the Shed, each loco also carries painted two inventory numbers. Lxx and 0xx. There are at least 15 tenders around the area – only three of which are coupled to locos, these carry a separate inventory series from T01 upwards, one of these is one of the original Meyer tenders clearly still numbered “FCAB No. 53” as well as T15. Coaches are C01 etc and all other pieces of metal have some identification (eg : the partly buried frame parts of FCAB 453 are painted 0392)
715 has been reported many times as 716 (see CRJ 145) but the cabsides clearly show 715, which would be Borsig 14596 of 1935 but I cannot find any reference to this loco coming to Bolivia.
There are many other interesting bits and pieces such as the smokebox saddle and adjoining parts of the frame of FCAB 453 (BP 5619) partly buried in the ground, nearby was the front frame section and smokebox saddle of another Noro Este Borsig 4-8-2.
Arrival in Uryuni was by antique super-DC3 used on the Cochabamba-Uyuni route (Uyuni has a dirt strip and can't land jets) -
that's John in front of it,
Pulacayo is a fascinating ghost town, although there is still a population of several hundred who eke out an existence. The railway closed in 1959 but the trackbed back to Uyuni is clearly visible over much of its length. The town is being promoted as a tourist attraction and for an entrance fee of Bs 20 (about GBP 1.50) you can have unhindered access. I was the only visitor and was shown round by the de-facto curator. All the locos are outside except TORO which is locked in the shed.
Some co-operative mining continues and about 1 km of the 2’6” gauge line remains in use from the main mine portal out to some dumps, although handworked. A US based company, Apogee Minerals is considering re-opening part of the mine and have an office on site but no development has started yet:
Surviving Rolling Stock comprises:
Bogie Coach (axleboxes Hardie Valparaiso 1893 as well as FCAB 1913)
The identities of the locos seem to be open to more conjecture than anything else in Bolivia and those given above are from existing literature:
This is the RS 4-6-0
66: Carries Rogers 5644 worksplates
12: The frame has been subjected to major surgery which lends support to it being a rebuild of one of the Webb compound 4-2-4-2 T. However, many parts of the motion are stamped RS 2633 with RS 2292 and 2293 also being found. The boiler back plate is stamped A1891 (meaning not known)
No.5 motion and frame stamped with at least 6 loco numbers – HL 2944, 2945 and 2947, FCAB 177, 178 and 180 (also 11800). Although this loco is generally referred to as FCAB 165 (HL 2947), the number that appears the most (including part of the frame) is 180.
Baldwins: Neither carries any identification at all
Couillet (?) This locomotive still carries the worksplates off BLW 14301 but it is a plate framed loco of typically French (possibly Couillet) appearance. Some basic measurements were taken in the hope this may help identification, its cylinders are roughly 190 x 265 mm and it has 490 mm diameter wheels.
Pan American Silver (Bolivia) SA: San Vicente Silver Mine
Located at an altitude of 4700 m about 130 km south of Uyuni, this silver mine has been re-opened in a JV by Canadian Pan American Silver in conjunction with state owned COMIBOL (the national mining company). Mining has taken place since colonial times but more recently from 1972-1993 using Russian expertise after which the mine closed until the latest revival. San Vicente is famous as the town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the outlaws, died in a final shootout with the Bolivian army – but it looks nothing like the Hollywood recreation of this event!
500 mm gauge locos operate on a number of levels, three of which come to surface through adits. Some 15 locos were seen from a variety of manufacturers
Cantera Adit (0 Level) electrified with 250 v DC trolley wire
4 or 6 ton 4wWE Westinghouse-Whitcomb: One loco, under repair, still with an impressive worksplate (unfortunately, works number not readable). Four such locos came to Bolivia 80577-80 of 1953 and its probably one of these (Whitcomb lists show 80577-78 as 4 ton and 80579-80 as 6 ton). It has “EMO NM 205” stamped in the main frame on both sides, relevance not known.
San Juan Adit (-35 m Level)
2 ton 4wBE: One loco working to tippler
Underground (-70 m Level)
2 ton 4wBE Wingrove & Rogers: One loco (type W128 ?) with unreadable worksplate, numbered B2. Staff said there was a second loco (not seen)
Underground (-115 m Level) electrified with 250 v DC trolley wire
The lowest level in the mine, used for main rock haulage, with six locos
2 ton 4wWE Goodman Mancha Trammer: Two numbered T1 and T2 (T1 is Goodman MX 1111). These tiny locos require a crew of two, driver and someone to hold the trolley pole against the overhead wire!
2 ton 4wBE Goodman Mancha Trammer: Three numbered B1, B3 and B4 (B4 is Goodman South Africa ML 1021 of 1976). Goodman South Africa supplied quite a number of locos to Bolivia in the mid 70’s both of this Mancha Trammer type and larger Type 158 6-tonners.
Scrapyard and Workshops
4 ton 4wBE Goodman: mine said to have several “Titan BNX” type – the frame of one (works no: MX 0462 of 1975) was in the scrapyard.
2 ton 4wBE or 4wWE: Four frames in scrapyard, one in corner of workshops.
The mine manager said there were also some “VEB” locos – presumably of East German origin obtained during the era of Russian influence – none were seen.