Ghost trains of South America

The end of the line in the Atacama Desert

Most countries in South America, including Venezuela, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile, have no functioning passenger railways at all. (Except for the odd small tourist track.) It’s a tragedy which must massively impact their economies.

It wasn’t always like this; most of these countries had flourishing railways back in Victorian times; many built using British engineers, finance and design. But for various historic, political and geographic reasons they have fallen apart over the last century.

Countries chose different gauge size on their tracks which didn’t make joining  up easy. The environment, including the rains in Ecuador and the mountains in Chile, took its toll and most countries prioritised freight over passenger services.

In Asuncion we saw the disused main railway station which is now a museum and in Uruguay we have just seen a museum of old railway carriages. So all we have now are the relics and the promise of what might have been.

All aboard – at the railway museum in Uruguay

One thought on “Ghost trains of South America

  1. I travelled the 850km from Santiago to Valdivia by train several times in the 1980s. Trains were the best way to travel in Chile with their socialble restaurant cars and comfortable sleeping compartments.


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