Railways, Atacama: Englishwww.geovirtual2.cl
Museo Virtual, Chile
W. Griem, 2006 - 2021
|Gauges of the railway lines in Atacama|
|760 mm||The route between the Dulcinea mine plant
and the foundry (located in the Carrera Pinto sector).
Historically it corresponds to the "Bosnia trail" very common in parts of Austria, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic etc.. ...
|1000 mm||Current gauge of the
longitudinal path, of the line between
Chañaral and Potrerillos, as well as the
Vallenar and Los Colorados lines, etc.
Very common in the countries of South America, but also in Europe (as tram).
|1067 mm||The gauge of the laying in the beginning
Chañaral - El Salado y Las Animas.
"Cape Trail" then South Africa, parts of Australia, Sweden, Norway, Ecuador etc..
|1270 mm||The gauge of the
Carrizal Alto, Carrizal Bajo, Jarrilla, Yerba Buenas, Astillas,
La Negra and Coquimbana routes.
It hardly exists in other parts of the world (or?)
|1435 mm||In the beginning the line Caldera -
Copiapó, Copiapó - Puquios and Copiapó - San Antonio /
It corresponds to the Stephenson standard - very common today in Europe (England, Germany, France...)
|List of gauges used in Atacama|
Photo: Appearance of the longitudinal line in
the vicinity of Copiapó in the nineties.
Line between Vallenar and Copiapó near Travesía station. The section was built between 1913 and 1914 and is part of the longitudinal line between La Calera and Pintadas. (Foto: Wolfgang Griem; 1999)
Network in the Atacama Region, Chile
There are still some railway lines in the Atacama Desert. In the beginning, the 1435 mm gauge was installed, although later the gauge was changed to 1000 mm. In straight lines of many kilometers the rails get lost on the horizon. It is a unique contrast: The desert with its smooth, round morphology - generally curved, not even the horizon is a horizontal line - in this scene a straight line of the railway translates as the only support for the human eye to approach the horizon 1.
The routes are not the result of centralised planning, and the individual lines in particular have served a specific purpose. The main objectives were, of course, to satisfy the mining companies: the transport of minerals from the worksite to the port and vice versa the transport of products (tools, machines, foodstuffs) from the port to the worksite. Only the longitudinal path makes a difference - here it was a project to include not only industrial requirements, also the need to develop the country's infrastructure as well.
Interesting is the use of different gauges on different routes. In the beginning, the Stephenson standard (1435 mm) was implemented according to the predominance of English companies in the construction of the lines. But the Stephenson standard (unhappily) was not without competition. In Chañaral won the 1067mm gauge and Carrizal's railway line was left with the 1270mm gauge. Not to mention the internal railroads in the mines, for example in the Dulcinea mine which had a 760 mm gauge. In order to achieve a better compatibility, the majority of the trajectories were changed to a single 1000mm gauge.
Another major technical problem was the lack, or poor water quality. Steam locomotives needed relatively pure water to respect salts, especially calcium. Solar energy purifiers were installed in parts.
The desert climate also did not help the railway companies' operations: torrential rains often cut traffic. The planning of the journeys depended very much on the morphological situation. Large differences in level, especially the deep ravines, made it difficult to perform. On the other side there are large plains that allowed the construction of straight roads without major difficulties.
1) The Santiago-Copiapó stretch took three days to complete in the fifties.
2) The "gauge" is the distance between the two rails of the railway line. The different trails were the result of strategic thinking in Europe. On the one hand, military and strategic commercial strategies with the objective of producing an incompatibility between the different particular systems.
Longitudinal La Calera
Línea Mina Tofo
Línea Carrizal - Yerbas Buenas
Línea Chañaral - Animas
Líneas Salitreras (Taltal)
Locomotora La Copiapó
Viaje en Tren
Mining history of Atacama
History of Atacama
Animals of the Atacama Desert
Climate of the Atacama Region
The Andes mountains
Virtual viewpoint Atacama
Aeródromos en Atacama
Literature and Links (more
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