The International Steam Pages
FC Indare, Uruguay 2013
James Waite visited The Indare railway at Boca del Rosario in December 2013.
It will help to read Tabare Bordach's
initial report (2007) and Marcelo Benoit's
photo report from 2012, which has some locomotives not shown here. There
are more pictures on http://www.railwayinternational.com/SA/Uruguay/Indare/
which show more of the 'estate'.
There are 'Google Maps' images at the end of the report which will clarify and confusion you might have as to the relative locations of the places mentioned in the text and which help orientate future visitors.
Arenara Indares SA was founded by Argentinian interests in 1888 to extract sand and stone on the Uruguayan side of the Rio de la Plata. They began their operations at Boca Del Rosario, at the mouth of the Rio Rosario around 130km west of Montevideo, in 1912. The 600mm gauge railway probably dates from that time and at its greatest extent consisted of about 5km route mileage and 15km of sidings. It must have been a sizeable undertaking in its day as by 1950 there were around 1,000 employees, most of whom were housed in the company village established at Boca del Rosario. Sand was extracted on both sides of the Rio Rosario. The company's main business was in shipping the sand and granite to Buenos Aires, around 80km away on the other side of the estuary.
Things started to go wrong in 1950 when trade with Argentina was suspended for 7 years as a result of a dispute between President Peron of Argentina and President Batlle of Uruguay. The granite quarrying appears to have ceased permanently then but sand exports were resumed in 1957. The railway closed in 1982, being replaced by trucks, but the sand pits closed a few years later. The place has been run as a nature reserve/low key tourist attraction since 1998 by a lady from Argentina who took up residence in the old quarry office.
Boca del Rosario must have been a flourishing village when the stone and sand business was at its height. There are more than 70 houses. Most of them were abandoned as the population moved away after the 1980s closure though a few have been renovated and are let out to tourists. A 1,000 seat cinema was built in the 1940s and theres also a school which is still in use to serve the small community which now runs the tourist operations along with a local store and restaurant.
The most historic building on the site is the old estancia or manor house which probably dates from the 1820s after Emperor Pedro I of Brazil, which then occupied the country, granted a charter which appointed one Nicolas de Herrera to be the overlord of the district. It passed to Francisco Oribe, the brother of one of Uruguays most respected presidents.
Many of the staff at Boca del Rosario are of Swiss origin. Theyre the descendants of Swiss immigrants who first established themselves in the district in 1862 and the estancia was used to accommodate some of them in the early years after their arrival. They grew to become a flourishing community and their pride in their Swiss heritage and culture is evident throughout the district.
The railway was at its busiest whenever the companys barge was in dock and being loaded. Several locos would then be in steam. It boasted a fully equipped repair shop capable of carrying out heavy overhauls, no doubt a necessity in view of the remote location. Altogether there were some 27 locos, all 0-4-0Ts, at the 1982 closure. Quite remarkably the repair shop, company power station and the storage sheds, complete with all 27 locos, were left in situ and remain to this day much as they must have been when the staff of the old railway stopped work for the last time. A few must then have been dismantled and today are just collections of parts. One of them is jacked up and appears to have been in mid-overhaul. The majority are more or less complete other than that their builders plates have mostly disappeared. This is the power station:
OK 20hp Nş 15, works no. 5835 and one of two locos built in December 1912 and supplied the following year via Bonneau Ibero Parodi & Figini of Argentina, was restored for the tourist operation and the first train ran on 6th December 1998. Its looked after by a gentleman named Pepe who has worked there all his life. I got the impression that the loco is his pride and joy and quite probably owes its continued operation to his efforts. The sign on the back of the cab in some of these photos refers to Pepe's "brunette" celebrating her 100th birthday!
The company's website is at www.estanciaindare.com/ and amongst other things there are contact details there if you want to book a stay in one of the guesthouses or just to ask if the loco will be running. The journey out to Boca del Rosario from Montevideo was surprisingly easy, a trip of around 124 km on route 1, a motorway-standard road with only light traffic followed by another 10km or so mostly on route 52, a well-surfaced secondary road. The directions on the website are somewhat out of date. Colonia Valdense, the town where you need to turn off route 1, now has a bypass but its open only for westbound traffic. As you approach Colonia Valdense from Montevideo look out for the first turning to Nueva Helvecia at around km100. At this corner theres a small park and childrens playground on the right which is home to OK 11099/1925, Nş 3 of the Compañía Arenera del Norte at Punta Dorado, Colonia province, and its easy to pull in to look at it.
Then keep going along the bypass until you reach a second sign to Nueva Helvecia on the right and to La Paz CP on the left. This is route 52 though its not marked as such. Turn left towards La Paz, cross over the eastbound route 1 and keep going for around 10km or so when you will reach a fork in the road and a sign for Estancia Indare. The tarred road veers to the left and the dirt track to the right leads to Boca del Rosario after a couple of km.
If you approach from the centre of Colonia Valdense then ignore the sign to route 52 at the roundabout in the town centre which leads to a minor road which degenerates to a rough track at the edge of the town. Instead head west to the edge of the town until you reach the La Paz turning at 123.5km signed for La Paz as above.
I was told that the loco is normally only steamed nowadays when they know that someone interested in it will be calling. I was the only person on the train, the small number of other visitors being there for the fishing.
Im immensely grateful to Fabiana Häberli who put up with me while waiting for Pepe to arrive and gave me much of the historical info in these notes, to her daughter Alexandra who came along to act as an impromptu guide and translator, to Fabian Iglesias and Marcelo Benoit of Montevideo for their help in arranging my visit and of course to Pepe and his young fireman for making this such a memorable day.
This is Nş 15 (OK 5835/1912), the working loco, brewing up inside the running shed. The loco to the left is no. 25 (Henschel 28518/1950), one of two locos supplied that year which turned out to be the railway's last and most powerful locos. To the right is Nş 1.
Of course, December is high Summer in Uruguay and the line runs south towards the river .First Nş 15 is seen twice near the power station and then again at the owner's house on its return journey:
Taking water on the outward journey:
This is the end of the run, the lifting bridge over a creek off the Rio Rosario another 400 metres or so along. When the line worked for real the normal method of operation was for the barge which was going to take the sand across the river to Buenos Aires to be parked under the bridge while the train ran over the top and the sand was tipped over the side into the barge.
Finally, here is Nş 15 being put to bed, the loco on the right is Nş 3 (OK 1784/1906) with a short train of stone wagons.
This is Nş 25 again. It seems to have been the last loco in use before the line closed to regular traffic in 1982 and was steamed one last time for a David Ibbotson party in 1985.
Twin OKs Nş 1 (1785/1906) and Nş 3:(1784/1906) inside and outside the running shed.
These are probably matching parts of Nş 22, there are few unresolved OKs here and with OK patent valve gear the loco matches that shown in Tabare Bordach's report.
The one confirmed Krauss (5718/1907) is Nş 18 outside the running shed.
This is inside the main works building close to the power station. The leading loco is Nş 1A (Decauville 526/1909), a really delightful machine. It was built as a 500mm gauge machine for the Montevideo port authority and sold on by them to Indare, when, presumably, it was regauged. Apparently it only weighs 3.5 tonnes. Behind it are Nş 26 (Henschel 28519/1950), Nş 19 (Jung 4252/1929) and Nş 20 (Jung 4248/1928).
These are Nş 20 and Nş 19 again.
This is Nş26 again and one of the four unidentified Jungs which is part of a group at the back shown below:
These show Nş 5 (OK, 2030/1906) with its 'wrong' OK worksplate (apparently the only one left): On the left is an unidentified Jung and to the right another OK which by process of elimination ought to be Nş 7.
The next pictures show the normally locked storage shed.
This is the 'rare bird' Nş 8, the Neumeyer (5/1923) with a MAN boiler.
Nş 21 Jung (3839/1927) There is another unidentified Jung next to 21, impossible to photograph satisfactorily owing to the clutter.
This is OK Nş 2 (1755/1906) and Nş 14 (said to Jung 449/1900): (It may not be clear at this resolution but apart from the valve gear Nş 14 has a lot in common with Nş 24 shown elsewhere, it's certainly very different from the other Jungs here although it is supposed to be somewhat older.)
OK's Nş 4 (1923/1906) and Nş 6 (2030/1906), the boiler on Nş 6 carries Nş 4's plate and this has obviously been transferred: OK Nş 2 (above) is behind Nş 4. The unphotographed Jung is at the back on the left.
Nş 13 Henschel (21144/1928) and a fragmentary Jung at the back of the storage shed.
A number of locomotives are in an accessible open shed near the owner's house.
Nş 23 (left) Henschel (19524/1922) and another unidentified incomplete Jung:
Nş 24 OK (4153/1910) (left) and Nş 16 (clearly another Krauss despite often being described as OK 5836/1911)
A provisional locomotive list from Marcelo Benoit was included in the original report of the railway on this site. It has since been amended following further information received from Fabian Iglesias and further modified on inspection of the locomotives and consultation with available works lists. A definitive list is almost certainly not possible but we would welcome further contributions and suggestions.We would also welcome photographs of the railway at work, there are known to have been several visitors in the 1970s before closure.
Locomotives are thought to have largely been delivered as wood burners but many were later converted as oil burners, except where indicated (C = Coal, W = Wood). All are currently 600mm gauge. Since several of the Jungs are unidentifiable now, it is impossible to give their current locations, there are actually five of them so it is not impossible one of them is the unidentified 17.
1. Only locomotive from this builder in Uruguay. Originally 500mm gauge, with boiler number 5040.
2. Often quoted as 1786, but this was an 0-4-4-0T delivered to Java, confirmed by observation there ca 1970.
3. Fry Miers & Co were agents who exported locomotives and other railway material to South America, several Kerr Stuart locomotives were sent through them to Brazil, where some survive today.
4. Nş 4's boiler is now on Nş 6
5. This locomotive carries a plate "Orenstein & Koppel - Arthur Koppel, Buenos Aires" which is not appropriate for it. It may have come from Nş 6 (4922/1911)
6. The only locomotive from this builder in Uruguay.
7. The running numbers vs the Jung numbers are unreliable. 3849 has been reported on Nş 9 (Jung List), Nş 10 (CRJ Nş 38, 1978) and Nş 21 (Fabian's list).
8. Nş 14 is usually quoted as Jung 449/1900 but it appears to have many characteristics of an OK (eg Nş 24) but with Walschaerts valve gear. Both makers built locos with valve covers which sloped away from the locomotive.
9. Earlier reports describe Nş 16 (OK 5836/1913) as being sister locomotive to Nş 15 with only the cab remains with other parts maybe scattered around the estate. The locomotive currently bearing 16 is more or less complete and appears to be a Krauss with an OK boiler (presumably off 5836).
10. Worked at the Port of La Paloma, cab only survives for certain but there is a suitable chassis for it as shown.
These images are courtesy of Google Maps, the first shows the location of Indare and what are probably the remains of some of the sand pits. The second shows the major buildings mentioned above.