The International Steam Pages

Steam (?) in Ecuador/Peru/Bolivia 2001

Torsten Schneider spent several weeks in the Andes in September 2001. One place he visited was the amazing graveyard at Uyuni: Dave Winfield has been there more recently and has supplied some pictures, there is a loco list for this dump available on this site (and another on, thanks to Jorge Héreth for this).

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He reports:

Ecuador Sept 13 to 21, 2001

Currently four sections of line are in operation:

1)    From San Lorenzo 35 km to Cachavi, once or twice daily with camiones no.26 or 28, exclusively for farmers taking their goods to San Lorenzo.

2)    From Ibarra 44 km to Primer Paso, daily with autoferros no.35 or 36, at least on the sunday when I travelled almost exclusively local tourism.

3)    From Quito to Cotopaxi to be reopened at the end of September after track maintanance work, Sunday excursions with diesel loco no.2405.

4)    From Riobama via Alausi to Sibambe, mixed train wed+fri+sun with diesel locos nos. 2404 or 2406, mainly for freight to Alausi and backpackers, in particular return journey frequently delayed by many hours due to derailments. On some days additionally autoferro no.98 hired by private operator (Metropolitan), also privately owned (Diliturs) autoferro no. 366 based at Alausi.

During this period, these 3 diesel locomotives and 6 railcars appeared to be the only operational motion power on Ecuadorian rails.

I did not see steam action. I found steam locos in the following depots:

No.14 in Ibarra, no.45 in Quito, no.53 in Riobamba, nos. 17, 44, 46 and 58 in Bucay and nos. 7, 11 and 18 in Duran. In additon, no.15 is displayed as monument near the depot in Riobamba. A number of these locos were described to me as "functional" although they had not been under steam since as long back as 1998. In particular no.14 appeared to be in good condition, nos. 44, 46, and others were partly stripped including of axles.

Perú, Sept 23 to Oct 1, 2001:

Several diesel hauled freight trains a day operate on the standard gauge FCA line El Callao - Chosita - La Oroya, and one per day goes to Cerro de Pasco, while the branch to Huancayo is disused. At Chosita depot Beyer Peacock steam loco no.206, in perfect condition, is parked near the turntable waiting to haul the occasional charter train. No.78 (Beyer Peacock, 1956) is displayed open air in a non-public museum of the Doe Run Perú mine at La Oroya. From public terrain a fence and trees obscure the view, but mine diesels can been seen shunting.

At the idle Huancayo main station 914 mm steam loco no.112 is nicely positioned. From here a three-rail line runs through town to the station and depot for the 914 mm ENAFER line to Huancavelica. Under a roof in the depot is steam loco no.177, described as functional. On Sept.24 operation on the line was normal (railcar and diesel loco hauled train). However, the October newsletter of the Swiss group Friends of the Latin American Railways (FLB, ) read that the service had been suspended. Miryam Brown in Lima told me that she had personally spoken to the manager of the line who had confirmed the closure on Oct.1 as result of insufficient funds to maintain the line. Whether this is a temporary or a permanent measure remained unclear. Thus, anybody going there should contact ENAFER beforehand.

PERURAIL's lines are now tourist and freight trains only, except for two pairs of "servicio social" for locals on the 914 mm line Cusco - Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) - Hydroelectric Station or part of it. A total of 6 train sets (4 diesel locos, one ex FS rail car, one DMU) is required for daily service, plenty of action in Southern American terms! The two stations at Cusco are connected by a three-rail line to transfer freight. Thus at the station for Puno locomotives of both gauges can be seen and a narrow gauge steam loco is unfavourably positioned as a monument between benches. However, Miraflores park in Lima features 914 mm ex Cusco no.102 as monument. The standard gauge line from Cusco to Puno is served by 3 tourist trains a week each way and limited freight. At Juliaca station non-functional steam no.252 stands on a siding. I did not go to Arequipa depot.

Back in Lima: the Surco park plus 500 mm railway with its tiny O&K ex Chaclayo sugar factory will be opened in December 2001. On the day of my visit the loco was under steam serving as background for fashion photography. The electric suburban train, built years ago, but later abandoned, will probably also go into service soon. In Barranca a 500 mm section of the former tram network was relaid and car no.97 has been restored. It runs on weekends only, but stands on the track next to the road the rest of the time. Southern Perú:

According to Dale Brown the Tacna - Arica (Chile) line is still out of service due to a washed-away bridge, while the industrial line to Ilo is working.

Bolivia, Oct 2 to 11, 2001

Absolute highlight in Bolivia is the locomotive cemetery at Uyuni at the FCA metre gauge line. Some 13 steam locomotives including several Garratts in various stages of decay form a spectacular sculpture park about one km to the south of the town. Just follow the track. There are no numbers or plates on the locos, no fences, no ticket sellers and no security guards, just occasional tourists. One more loco, no.551 is a monument on station road. Inside Uyuni station I could make out about 3 more steam locomotives in good condition in the distance, but I was not able to get to them "because this is a private company". I had no problem entering the Oruru depot of the same company, where 5 steam locomotives including nos.814, 667 and 821 are rusting away, 4 of them in a row. FCA runs passenger trains from Oruru via Uyuni to Villazon at the Argentinian border as well as freight trains. FCA diesel locomotives also operate on the FCAB line from Uyuni to the Chilean border.

At Pulacayo, 25 km from Uyuni on the road to Potosi, is a closed mine once connected to Uyuni by a 762 mm railway. The mine and railway yard are promoted as a tourist attraction, but is known only locally. On display at the shed and turntable are 4 steam locos, among them the biggest, 4-8-2 no.5, plus a diesel and remains of a railcar. A few hundred meters further into the village no.1 is displayed as monument, a tiny Baldwin with the claim to be the very first locomotive on Bolivian soil. Buses from Uyuni to Potosi stop at Pulacayo. However, though there are 6 a day, they travel in convoys, leaving Uyuni at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and there is little other traffic. My recommendation is to take a taxi from Uyuni, minimum one hour before the morning bus departure, visit the yard and get on one of the buses passing Pulacayo at about 10.30 a.m. for Potosi rather than returning to Uyuni.

Potosi was a surprise. While it does not appear to have regular rail traffic, three steam locomotives are dumped in the station, Garratt no.907 and two 2-4-2s, one of them no.655. Also, one of the mines on the famous Silver Mountain has a short 500 mm electric railway.

FCO operates train services on two metre gauge lines from Santa Cruz, one eastward to Quijarro on the Brazilian border, the other southward to Yacuiba on the Argentinian border. To Quijarro there are daily diesel trains and/or railcars, while freight is limited to the harvest season during the early months of the year. A parallel highway is under construction, with whatever future consequences for the railway. The southern line carries much less traffic, due to the long-lasting economic crisis in Argentina, high customs duties and better roads. At Santa Cruz depot steam locomotives nos.796 (still with Argentinian General Belgrano Railway plates) and 544 stand in the open near the perimeter fence (my locally hired guide got me the permit from head-quarters to get in), and no.4 is a monument on the station yard. As far as Santa Cruz itself is concerned, forget about all the warnings in the travel guides, the city is as safe as any other.

Rob Dickinson