The International Steam Pages

The Railways of Bolivia 2008/9, Part 2

John Middleton made two trips to an extraordinary country in 2008/9, this is the 2009 report based on an 8 day mining business trip to Potosi, Sucre and La Paz 1st to 8th October 2009. Click here for the first part.

Given the propensity for ENFE not to scrap anything and to leave locos in bricked up sheds, it is quite possible other gems survive in Bolivia. Definitely a place to explore!


Freight services continue, mainly hauling lead/zinc/silver concentrates from mines in the Potosi area, motive power being the smaller 950 series locos. Apparently the bogies have more play than the 1000 series and therefore they are better suited to the sharp curves of the line. The furthest freight reaches is a mill for processing mine ore about 20 km east of Potosi, there is no freight to Sucre. The two road sheds at both Rio Mulato and Potosi survive in use for stabling the locos.

Railbuses continue between Potosi-Sucre, thrice weekly in each direction, they are kept in the works at El Tejar between duties. There are two, one in FCA blue is un-numbered the second one was under repair, is numbered 202 and is in a red/grey livery. They have 22-seats and 202 has a VW badge on the front but who built them is not known. Interestingly they both have steering wheels – to guide the front bogie into curves perhaps? Times are as follows:

MWFO Sucre (El Tejar) 08.00 Potosi 14.00
TuThSO Potosi 08.00 Sucre (El Tejar) 14.00

The stations, particularly that at Potosi are staffed, recently painted and well kept, in fact Potosi looks considerably better than it did in David Ibbotson’s 1955 shot on page 60 of “Railways of Bolivia”

Potosi Shed (3rd October 2009)

The two road shed contained Hitachi 951 with ex-works date 13.2.09 painted on frame, also inside were inspection cars Z92 and Z361. The Garratt stands at the front of the shed next to a 1910 water column made in Yorkshire, the other two steam are at the back of the shed. The Garratt carries its FCAB number whilst the other two carry ENFE numbers.

FCAB 397 4-8-2+2-8-4 BP 7424 1950
ENFE 655 2-8-2 Alco 64214 1923
ENFE 666 2-8-2 Hitachi 2447 1958

397 faded cabside number, stamped 397 and 7424 in several places on frame / motion
655 faded cabside number, Alco details per “Railways of Bolivia”
666 faded cabside number, BBP 12447 / 1958, rods FCVA 206 in various places

Cerro Rico (Silver Mountain), Potosi

The famous Cerro Rico which towers over Potosi has been mined since the 16th Century. Numerous mines honeycomb the mountain, mostly operated by co-operatives of one sort or another in joint-venture with COMIBOL the State owned mining company. The typical mine has an adit with a short length of track running to a tipping point, almost all are hand worked with a couple of skips. Track gauge seems to be universally 500 mm. The largest mine is the one below:

Empresa Minero Metallugica Potosi SA (EMMPSA); Pailaviri Mine (3 October 2009)

This, the largest mine has a 500 mm gauge electrified line running from a sub-vertical shaft underground out to a tipping point. Ore is now taken away by road to another mill but there is a large derelict mill and a derelict aerial cableway adjacent which were closed over 30 years ago. I went underground as far as the sub-vertical shaft and hazardous would be a mild way to describe it – the 500 volt overhead wire for the locos dangling in places at shoulder height being one example. The main level is LEVEL 0 but there are 12 more levels going down some 700 metres, accessed via the sub-vertical shaft which likely use battery locos.

Gauge: 500 mm

1 4wWE  Siemens ? (a) OOU
2 4wWE Goodman (b) Working
3 4wWE Goodman (c) OOU
4 4wWE Schalker (d) Stored
6 4wWE Goodman 7328 (b) Frame Only
7 4wWE Goodman (b) Repairs
9 4wWE Siemens ? (a) OOU
- 4wWE Goodman (b) Working
- 4wWE Goodman (b) Working
- 4wWE Goodman (e) Working
- 4wWE ? (f) Working
- 4wBE Mancha (g) OOU
- 4wBE ? (h) Stored

This is one of the Goodman electrics:

(a) No identification but with Siemens characteristics, possibly from batch of 6-ton locos SSW 6317-6325 of 1971 delivered to COMIBOL
(b) Low profile Goodmans of about 6 tons
(c) Older Goodman, also of about 6 tons, type 232K motor
(d) Loco appears on mine calenders looking new, but not in use, about 6 ton
(e) Shorter frame Goodman typical of 1/2M75 type (5-ton)
(f) Large loco of about 10 tons, probably European manufacture
(g) dumped upside down in yard, probably 3-4 ton size
(h) small loco of about 2-ton size, unknown manufacture

Casa de la Moneda Museum, Potosi (3 October 2009)

This fascinating museum in central Potosi was the Royal Mint from the 16th until the early 20th Century making gold and silver coins. It had some very advanced technology for its day including some of the world’s first rolling mills, made mainly of wood and horse powered which were imported from Austria in the mid 18th Century, these quite incredibly survive intact. They were used for milling gold and silver ingots until the advent of steam power, to create the sheets from which coins were cut. Later equipment was steam and finally electric powered. Unfortunately you can only visit on guided tours, which are only in Spanish. Preserved in one corner is:

Gauge: 2’6”

1 PACAMAYO 0-4-2ST Porter 1398 1892

Placque states that it was restored by FCAB Uyuni workshops and brought here in February 1948. 

Atlas Precious Metals Inc (APMI), Karachipampa Lead Smelter, Potosi (2 October)

This is a Joint Venture with COMIBOL to operate the SCMK (Complex Metalurgica Karachipampa) smelter which was built in 1985 but never operated. The works is served by a 1 km siding off the Potosi-Sucre line about 10 km east of Potosi. APMI of the USA have an agreement to refurbish and open the smelter.

SCMK 3605  4wDH OK 26959 New Stored

Loco stored in as-new condition but is run regularly. Also matching slag car (SCMK 3604), this will likely will never be used due to changes in slag disposal.

El Tejar Works, Sucre (4 October 2009)

Amazing site – two large workshop buildings plus a number of locomotives completely overwhelmed by undergrowth. The works is still in use by FCA to house the modern railbuses used on the Sucre-Potosi service. The whole site could be turned into a museum. Contrary to previous reports of 6 or 7 steam here, there are 12 locomotives in various states of completeness including the remains of the two ex Nordhausen-Wernigerode Mallets. One of the two workshops contains an incredible collection of antique railcars all gathering dust. Although several are partly scrapped, the remaining locos are no less complete than some of those in the Uyuni “cemetery”. Incredibly it appears that together with Alco 655 at Potosi, the entire known roster of the FC Potosi-Sucre-Tarabuco survives.

Steam Locos:

FCPS 5 (orig 1 (1st))  2-6-0 VIW 2806 1918
FCPS 6 (orig 2 (1st)) 2-6-0 VIW 2993 1919
FCPS 3 (1st) 0-6-6-0T OK 3939 1910
FCPS 4 (1st) 0-6-6-0T OK 3940 1910
FCPS 2 “ 2-8-2 Alco 64215 1923
FCPS 3 “  2-8-2 Alco 65937 1924
ENFE 652 2-8-2 OK 11771 1929
FCVA 5 2-8-0 Borsig 12144 1929
ENFE 706 2-10-2 BLW 64621 1943
ENFE 662 2-8-2 Hitachi 2443 1958
ENFE 663 2-8-2 Hitachi 2444 1958
ENFE 669 2-8-2 Hitachi 2452 1958

FCPS 5, FCPS 3 (1st), FCPS 6, ENFE 669 – Behind workshop in a line, completely overgrown by undergrowth and small trees:

  • 669 – Boiler, cab and cylinder block only, frame mostly cut away. Tender on other side of yard. 669 on cabside and smokebox.

  • FCPS 6 frame, wheels, boiler, cab and tender lettered “FCPS 6”, tender identical to that on FCPS 6 photo in “ Railways of Bolivia”

  • (FCPS 3) (1st) – assumed - dismantled – the two frame units lying next to each other, firebox only remains of boiler, no cylinders but wheels intact, one side tank lying in undergrowth. Carries no identification.

  • (FCPS 5) – assumed – boiler (same as FCPS 6) and part of frame plus cylinder block of small US design loco, some wheels lying alongside. Carries no identification.

FCPS 4 (1st) – lying in undergrowth between the main workshop and the railcar workshop, behind a wagon and easily missed. Both frame units, wheels and part of smokebox survive, no cylinders. Some brass parts stamped 4.

FCPS 2 (2nd), FCVA 5, FCPS 3 (2nd) – In a line against the wall separating the works from EL Tejar station yard:

  • (FCPS 2) (2nd) – Assumed – one of the 1923 Alco’s - Boiler (part cut), cab and parts of frame plus some wheels survive. No cylinders or tender. No identification on loco.

  • (FCVA 5) – Assumed – but definitely a Borsig 2-8-0 - but no identifaction on loco. Boiler (part cut), part of frame and some wheels survive, no cab or cylinders, no tender.

  • (FCPS 3) (2nd) – one of the 1923 Alco’s – Boiler (part cut), cab, part of frame, tender (lettered FCPS 3) and some wheels survive. No cylinders.

652 – Inside Workshop, complete. This loco has been rebuilt with its running plate raised by about 18” and the smokebox side valances removed which completely changes its appearance compared with shots in “Railways of Bolivia”. BBP 11771/1929 which means either the boiler was swapped with 651 (at Oruro with BBP 11772/1929) or the accepted ENFE re-numbering from FCCSC 1-2 to ENFE 651-652 is transposed.

663 – Inside Workshop, complete. BBP 12443, rods stamped FCALP 203

706, 662 – Outside Workshop – complete. 662 has FCALP 202 on rods no BBP; 706 has BBP showing FVCA 12 and Baldwin 64621 of 1943, this is 706.


The working railcars, and the derelict Dodge rail lorry conversion are kept in the main workshop. The old railcar workshop alongside was locked but looking through the windows everything could be seen but not all the numbers. This collection is as incredible as the steam, with many of the original FCPS 1930’s railcars built by Wayne, Indiana, photos of which appear in “Railways of Bolivia”. Renumbering from FCPS numbers (which included 11 and 14) to ENFE is unknown. One still carried a Wayne worksplate.

- 4-2wDMR VW ? In use, FCA Blue
202 4-2wDMR VW ? Repairs, Red / Grey
- 4w-2DM Dodge rail lorry Orange - dismantled
215  4-2wPMR Car conversion Green / Yellow
217 4-2wPMR Car conversion Green / Yellow
257 4-2wPMR Wayne 1930s Red / Cream
261 4-2wPMR Wayne 1930s Green / Yellow
262 4-2wPMR Wayne 1930s Green / Yellow
- 4-2wPMR Wayne 1930s Green / Yellow
- 4-2wPMR Wayne 1930s Green / Yellow
- 4-2wPMR Wayne 1930s Green / Yellow
275 Bo-BoPMR  Mercedes 1950s? Light Grey-Green
261 4wPMR Inspection Trolley Red

One of the unidentifiable Wayne 1930’s railbuses has severe wreck (rollover) damage, another may be 260 a photo of which appears at Sucre on page 121 of “Railways of Bolivia”. Note there are two “261’s” in the shed. 215 and 217 are conversions of 1930’s US built cars, someone with a better car knowledge could probably identify the builders.

In the yard was a old road bus body painted yellow (no numbers) which looked as if it may have been undergoing (abandoned) conversion to rail use.

Sucre Station

The line from El Tejar to Sucre (about 3 km) is closed and most of the track lifted. The impressive Sucre station building still stands but there is no track. Marooned in the yard is FCG 9, complete but abandoned. The station has security with guard dogs.

FCG 9 2-8-0


3348 1948

Viacha Workshops (7 October 2009)

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 remains stored by the old FCALP half roundhouse at the back of the works and is relatively complete and still has its engine and turbocharger. When advised of its significance, the works engineer was quite interested in trying to preserve it in some way, may be plinthed at the works offices. There are also two steam loco tenders from FCALP Borsig 2-8-0’s of the 105-108 series, but sadly not the locos.

On 7 October 2009, there were some 27 locos and 5 railcars present, including the Hunslet. Two more locos are outside the workshop security area.

Heavy Overhaul: 1022 (getting new MTU engine)
In Service: DE953, 1012
Awaiting Overhaul: DE1009, DE1011
Shop Shunter : 980
Stored inside workshop: LDE 981
Shell painted in primer, stored: 958
Stripped for Parts: DE 1011
Underframe / parts of body shell (wrecks): DE 963, DE 969, DE 970, DE 1016
Stored inside half roundhouse: DE 952, 956, 957, DE 966, DE 967, DE 1017
Dumped in Yard: DH 523, DH 524, DH 842, DH 845, 960, DE961, DE 964

Officially in FCA stock are: Locos 951-55/58/62/65/68, 980, 1008-15/17-23 plus railcars 202, 337/41/42. Actually in use are 951/53/54/55/62/65/68, 980, 1008/10/12-15/18-21/23 plus railcars 202, 337. Strangely the un-numbered railcar used on Sucre-Potosi isn’t on the list.

FCA are trying to source replacement engines for the 9xx series.

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). Only DE953 in this livery is still in FCA service. 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. The latter two are being rebuilt for service and have been painted in FCA blue.

Inspection trolleys in the works included: Z85, Z89, 100, 106, Z394, Z397 (all in use) plus Z65, Z383, Z387, Z391, Z398, Z401 (all stored). The earlier series numbers look like Fairmonts, the Z3xx/4xx are built by Alfa Tecnica of Argentina.

Some very interesting coaches remain. Superb teak bodied former FCAB No.1 the General Managers Saloon (Cravens 1911) is standing in the yard, complete if very dusty inside. It is kept locked but works staff opened so I could have a look. It hasn’t been used in many years and should also be preserved.

There is also a caboose, carrying number R12 and a white painted steel bodied bogie coach of Germanic looking design but with no numbers. Neither appear in FCAB diagrams so are possibly ex FCALP.

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, the cab is lying next to the loco:

702 (EFCB 1603) 2-10-2 Hen 23827 1938 (c) Viacha Yard

Viacha Warehouse

About 500 metres north of the front gate of Viacha workshops is a bricked up 2-track warehouse with rails disconnected. Through the single door could be seen a stored DH520 series Nippon-Sharyo loco, it is either DH521 or 522.

FC Guaqui , Estacion Central, La Paz (7 October 2009)

No change from 2008. The Central station remains in good condition, the ENFE offices are adjacent and permission is needed to access the yard. Beware packs of wild dogs which roam the area. 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 FCG and the other ENFE. The ENFE shed was empty but at least one and possibly more Ferrostaal railcar vehicles were stored behind the shed where access was not possible. 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:

FCG 20 Bo-BoWE Brill 13833 1904
FCG 21 Bo-BoWE GE  1904
FCG 30 4wWE GE 1904
FCG 31 4wWE GE 4785 1904
FCG 32 BoBoWE EE Preston 768 1930

Rob Dickinson