The International Steam Pages
Steam in Argentina, December 2000
Martin Coombs writes:
Am in Argentina at present collecting more info for my Patagonian website. Actually am writing this in Rio Gallegos on Christmas Eve!
La Trochita is alive and well but timetable has changed (No surprise). Out of season it has recently been just one Saturday trip per week from Esquel to Nahuel Pan and back (2pm Saturdays). The ´Jefe´ gave me the new timetable sheet for 6 Jan 2001 onwards:
El Maiten to Desvio Thomae (Desvio usually means siding, or loop in this case) and return (20km each way?) Tuesdays and Saturdays 3pm off El Maiten.
Esquel to Nahuel Pan (about 24km including the big pull up out of Esquel): Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 10am and 2pm off Esquel (2 round trips per day).
Note no sign of the weekly through train from El Maiten to Esquel and back.
Esquel had Henschels 105, 107, and 114, all presumably in working order. 105 (newly overhauled) was on our train just before Christmas, with paintwork unfinished, which was all to the good in my opinion - making ´heritage´shots much easier. There were about 100 passengers, almost all local. 3 2nd class coaches plus two ´furgon´vans, one being a ´bar´car.
El Maiten showed a couple of Baldwins on shed (numbers mislaid at present), Baldwin 22 under full overhaul and a Henschel boiler being worked on as well. With a wheel lathe, and the Henschel boiler getting a new firebox tubeplate, this works must be still capable of anything at present.
The big gap here is in marketing. No current timetable in the tourist office, and a total refusal to consider raising much needed funds by selling off surplus wagons, does not bode well. (I suspect Chubut Province has slapped an overall preservation order on anything in sight, but with about 200 wagons lying around, a bit of imagination could help a lot. An American short line had asked me to investigate them getting bogies (trucks) from here.
Rio Gallegos. The original Rio G. terminus (since replaced by new Punta Loyola terminal) is now being cleared completely. Very reminiscent of UK 1968, wandering through a derelict shed picking up any drawings that look interesting. The nine/eight stripped 2-10-2s here cannot last long. However, no. 117 has been externally restored and judging by the new length of track laid on the waterfront at the foot of Avenida San Martin (by ACA automobile club building) will be plinthed here soon. Strangely it bears RFIEP lettering ?! Also two 1st class coaches have been salvaged (for proposed passenger service to Punta Loyola?) and are safe in the council depot near the Rio G. bus terminal.
The outdoor exhibits section of the town museum (other end of Avenida San Martin by the big Route 3 roundabout, contains both the 750mm gauge Henschel 0-8-0CT and the ex-Swift meat co. metre gauge Avonside 0-4-0T (No. 1351). Both are absolute wrecks. It makes one wonder what 117 will look like in 5 years time!
I go on to Rio Turbio (and then Ushuaia) on 26th Dec. and will report further.