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Comodoro Rivadavia Railway

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Comodoro Rivadavia Railway

Comodoro Rivadavia and Colonia Sarmiento Railway
Cdoro. Rivadavia station, c. 1940.
Overview
Native name Ferrocarril de Comodoro Rivadavia a Colonia Sarmiento
Type Inter-city
Status Defunct company; rail line dismantled
Locale Chubut
Termini Comodoro Rivadavia
Colonia Sarmiento
Stations 27
Services 3
Operation
Opened 1912
Closed 1978 (1978)
Owner Government of Argentina
Operator(s) Argentine State (1912-48)
FC Patagónicos (1948-57)
FC Roca (1948-78)
Technical
Line length 208 km (129 mi)
Track gauge 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
Route map

The Comodoro Rivadavia and Colonia Sarmiento Railway ("Ferrocarril de Comodoro Rivadavia a Colonia Sarmiento") was an Argentine railway company that built and operated a broad gauge line that connected the port of Comodoro Rivadavia with Colonia Sarmiento in Chubut Province. The FCCRCS -belonging to Argentine State Railway- also connected to Central Chubut Railway.[1]

This railway, also known by local inhabitants as "Autovía", was the transport that joined oil wells of the region, where local companies Astra and YPF extracted petroleum that had been discovered in Comodoro Rivadavia in 1907.

At the very beginning, goods and passengers were carried by steam locomotive trains and then by railcars, nicknamed chanchitas due to their lack of comfort.[2] The FCCRCS' remmants are considered as cultural heritage in Comodoro Rivadavia and Sarmiento, where they are kept and exposed at Railway & Port Museum and National Petroleum Museum (in Comodoro) and Regional Museum Desiderio Torres (in Sarmiento).

Contents

  • History 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Construction 1.2
    • Expansion 1.3
    • Nationalisation 1.4
    • Decline and closure 1.5
  • Post-closure 2
    • Gallery 2.1
  • Relics and preserved heritage 3
    • Relics gallery 3.1
  • Bibliography 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

History

Background

A train arriving to Km. 3.
A freight train powered by a Baldwin leaving Comodoro.
May Revolution celebrations in Comodoro station, 25 May 1931.
Train carrying oil.
YPF Freight train.
Employees of Talleres station, 1940.
Coaches unloaded in Puerto Morán, 1943.
Drewry railcar serving in the line.
Train struck in the snow, 1950s.
Accident that caused the closure of branch to Rada Tilly in 1958.
1960 accident.
Km. 5 station in 1979.

In 1897 Colonia Sarmiento was founded by National decree N° 12161, by request of Welsh settlers that had the intention of establishing in the valley located between Musters and Colhue Huapi lakes, which they considered fertile lands for livestock. During the first years, the transport of merchandise that the intense commercial activity of Sarmiento generated, was made with carriages to the port of Camarones, with high costs and risks. The merchants reaalised that a closer port would be needed, so the city of Comodoro Rivadavia was founded in 1901.

On December 13, 1907, a search for potable water ended in a discovery of petroleum in the zone, which changed plans for the development of the region so Comodoro Rivadavia became the most important city of the region.[3]

Construction

The FCCRCS was created by Law N° 5559 on September 11, 1908, starting works soon after. Original project included to built a 150-km straight line to connect Comodoro Rivadavia Colonia Sarmiento although it would be extended to 200-km.[4] In March 29, 1912, the line reached Cañadón Lagarto, beginning to operate.

The railway line finally reached Colonia Sarmiento on May 25, 1914.[5] Years later the company built a new branch to join local oil company Astra when it established at the north of Comodoro Rivadavia. According to Clement Dumrauf, the railway was not expanded due to British settlers that were interesed in preserve the Patagonia region only for sheep farming. Other version stated that livestock company "La Argentina Southern Land Company" refused to the construction of a line when they realised about the poor quality of the soil, which would be used to finance the construction.[6][7]

Other reasons for the cancellation of the project were the crisis caused by the World War I, some politicians that considered that the Government had to destinate its funds to the Pampa region, and the death of Roque Sáenz Peña in 1914.

Expansion

During the first years of existence, the FCCRCS trains fueled with crude oil with no refination, being considered the most expensive trains for that reason.[8] This railway was also used to carry wood, livestock. Besides, local companies Astra and Diadema carried crude oil to the port of km. 3.[4]

Comodoro Rivadavia had a oil refinery that worked at a capacity of 340 m3 per day, serving both lines of the railway in Chubut Province.[9]

During the 1920s the branch to Astra refinery was completed, that was financed by the company due to their interests in the transport of passengers, goods, crude oil and bricks. In August 1923 the port of Antonio Morán was built. This port had an own railway line that carried soil and rubber used for construction from a quarry in Punta Piedras. This line would be later named as Rada Tilly. When works were interrupted, the port was set as terminus of the line until its closure in the 1970s.

In 1924 the FCCRCS was used to transport materials for the construction of the San Jorge lighthouse from Colonia Sarmiento to Astra station in Comodoro Rivadavia. Other companies that made their contributions were YPF (donating AR$ 25,000), Astra (bricks and lime), Compañía Forrairrilera de Petróleo (trucks).[10]

In 1927 another project (written by deputy Guillermo Fonrouge) was proposed to extend the rail line. This project proposed to join Holdich and Las Heras stations in Santa Cruz Province through a branch that also connected with the Patagonian Railway. Nevertheless, the project would never carried out.[7]

Nationalisation

When the Juan Perón's administration nationalised all the Argentine railway network in 1948, the FCCRCS became part of Ferrocarriles Patagónicos, finally being added to Ferrocarril Roca in 1957.

Prior to nationalisation the railway had carried 434,052 passengers and 45,969 tons of freight. However the volume of passengers and cargo carried decreased one year later, mainly due to the increasing road traffic. In spite of this, the Argentine state made significant investments for the FCCRCS, acquiring railcars (even a refrigerating coach), 13 wagons for livestock, apart of remodeling stations and building houses for the employees.[8] By 1949 the line had run 430,828 kilometers.

At mid-1949 brand new railcars were added to the FCCRCS although they were put on service one year later. By 1973 all the passenger services were operated with railcars.[11] With the improvements in the line, some passengers choose Sarmiento as their destiniy for recreational trips, and some of them even for their honey moon.[12]

Decline and closure

In 1953, there was a terrible accident on the Narrow-gauge railway that joined Comodoro Rivadavia with Rada Tilly, with 36 people died. When Arturo Frondizi became President of Argentina in 1958 the Government carried out a plan to reduce costs, including the railway lines among them. On August 20, 1958 the branch to Rada Tilly was definitely closed, among with the Central Chubut Railway.[13] The decision was largely based on the 1953 tragedy and the tracks were removed from the line.[8]

On August 12, 1960, a Ganz Works railcar that returned from Colonia Sarmiento lost brakes at El Sindicato, crashing a Drewry railcar that was leaving Comodoro Rivadavia at that time. Both railcars were destroyed with a result of 100 passengers injured and some killed by the impact.

In 1969 the lands were the railway line had been built were trasferred to the Municipality of Comodoro Rivadavia. The tracks that crossed the downtown were removed and a stop near the port was built.[14] During the 1970s the FCCRCS was restructured because of its deficit, obsolete rolling stock and the growth of population in the city. In 1971 the Comodoro station was closed to expedite the urban traffic, being replaced by a precarious stop near the port. The station became a heritage place.

The Sarmiento station building would become the Regional Museum "Desiderio Torres" after the first section was definitely closed in 1977.[15] In late 1970s the lack of investments in the railway was made felt in the rolling stock, with steam locomotives, Ganz and Drewry railcars that were obsolete by then. Morover, only one of the three Ganz Works was operating.

The employees of the FCCRCS made their best to keep the line active, sometimes collecting missing spares from Temperley, Tolosa and Haedo workshops, after driving from the Patagonia to Greater Buenos Aires. In other cases, the employees themselves manufactured the spare parts to keep Drewry railcars running on the tracks.

In spite of the efforts made by the employeers, the railway continued to decline until carrying only 5 or 6 people per trip. Besides, the freight trains only transported one or two wagons to the port, once a week. In 1977 passenger services were definitely closed.[8] Finally the entire line was closed in 1978. The

  1. ^ "Ferrocarril de Comodoro Rivadavia" on Google Earth, 16 Feb 2011
  2. ^ "Potencia motriz desde Comodoro Rivadavia"
  3. ^ "Trenes Turísticos Patagónicos" - Asociación de Trenes Turísticos y a Vapor de la Patagonia
  4. ^ a b "Museo Ferroportuario", Municipality of Comodoro Rivadavia
  5. ^ "Cronología de los ferrocarriles públicos de la Patagonia, incluyendo el Transpatagónico"
  6. ^ Las Tierras de los Ingleses en la Argentina: 1830-1914 by Eduardo Míguez, Editorial Belgrano (1985)
  7. ^ a b "Historia del Ferrocarril Argentino" on ONI Escuelas (Archive)
  8. ^ a b c d "El transporte en Comodoro Rivadavia" on El Rivadavia newspaper, 2 Feb 1951
  9. ^ "Destilados por la memoria" by Luis Beltrán, El Patagónico, 9 Oct 2011
  10. ^ "El faro San Jorge cumple hoy 86 años en actividad", Nuestro Mar, 9 Mar 2011
  11. ^ "Boletos del ferrocarril"
  12. ^ "Las primeras corrientes migratorias" on Nuevo Comodoro website
  13. ^ "El muelle de Comodoro Rivadavia y la línea a 'Rada Tilly' o Punta Piedras"
  14. ^ Crónicas del Centenario, p. 389-390 - Editorial Crónica (2001)
  15. ^ "Vista al Museo Desiderio Torres", InterPatagonia.com
  16. ^ "La construcción de la identidad barrial en la Patagonia Austral" by Graciela Ciselli, Archive (2014)
  17. ^ "Se inauguró la Plazoleta San Martín", El Patagónico, 25 May 2012
  18. ^ "Vecinos de Km 8 reclamaron por el saneamiento de “la escombrera”", Diario Crónica (Comodoro), 11 May 2013
  19. ^ "Cierre de ramales ferroviarios de la línea General Roca", Ministry of Justice of Argentina - 29 Dec 1992
  20. ^ "Cronología de los ferrocarriles públicos de la Patagonia, incluyendo el Transpatagónico."
  21. ^ "El ferrocarril transpatagónico", La Nación, 22 Sep 1998
  22. ^ "Cámara de Diputados de la Nación" - Nº Exped. 1381-D-2006 , 3 Apr 2006
  23. ^ "Chubut: Procuran reconstruir la historia de los durmientes", BWN Patagonia, 15 Nov 2006
  24. ^ "Bellos durmientes" on Comunicación Patagónica, 26 Ago 2007
  25. ^ "¿Alguien se animará a investigar?" by Cristian Sanz, Periódico Tribuna, 14 Feb 2007
  26. ^ "Bellos y olvidados durmientes"
  27. ^ "Chubut: siguen abandonados los durmientes", Crónica Ferroviaria, 12 Dec 2010
  28. ^ "Lorenzo enumeró temas “olvidados” en el discurso de Mario Das Neves", El Patagónico, 2 Mar 2011
  29. ^ "Se pondrá en marcha la reactivación del ramal ferroviario Puerto Deseado – Tellier.", El Periódico Austral, 28 Jan 2013
  30. ^ "Empresa del Estado chino quiere invertir en la construcción de un ferrocarril que una Chubut con Chile", El Chubut, 27 Apr 2014
  31. ^ "Sarmiento conmemora los 100 años del ferrocarril", Diario Crónica, 24 May 2014
  32. ^ "Dirección General de Gestión Interinstitucional" on Comodoro Rivadavia website (Archive) 17 Feb 2013
  33. ^ "El rescate de la historia detrás del puente" on Maraustralis.com
  34. ^ "Museo Regional Desiderio Torres", Guia Patagonia.Net
  35. ^ "Museo Regional Desiderio Torres", Argentina Turismo.com

References

See also

  • Aventuras Sobre Rieles Patagónicos: Ramal Comodoro Rivadavia – Sarmiento (Chubut) by Alejandro Aguado - 1996
  • Cañadón Lagarto: 1911- 1935 - Un Pueblo Patagónico de Leyenda, Sacrificio y Muerte by Alejandro Aguado - 1997

Bibliography

Relics gallery

In Rada Tilly, a Ganz Work railcar was preserved for many years, remaining along the station building. In Comodoro Rivadavia, some rolling stock is preserved at the National Petroleum Museum and Railway & Port Museum.[32][33] In Sarmiento, the railway station was restored after its destruction, reopening as the Regional Museum "Desiderio Torres".[34][35]

Fortunately, many rolling stocks and other objects, as well as station buildings could be preserved from deterioration and vandalism. Some pieces are currently exhibited at the Petroleum Museum of Comodoro Rivadavia.

Relics and preserved heritage

Gallery

On May 25, 2014, a ceremony to commemorate the 100th. anniversary of the FCCRCS was held in Colonia Sarmiento.[31]

In March 2014, a group of representatives of Chinese company China State Construction Engineering Corporation stated that Chubut Province was enable to built a railway line. They studied the ports of Comodoro Rivadavia and Madryn, searching for a route that allowed trains to join Aysén Region in Chile.[30]

Other project included the reopening of the Ferrocarril Puerto Deseado in the Puerto Deseado-Tellier section, with the purpose of connecting Puerto Deseado with Puerto Chacabuco in Chile. A second stage considers the possibility of a future connection with Comodoro Rivadavia.[29]

In 2013, an initiative planned to build a railway to the Pacific Ocean, establishing a new port at the south of Rada Tilly to Puerto Aysén in Chile, excluding Comodoro Rivadavia port from the route. Nevertheless, the project was dismissed because of the bad weather in the zone.

According to what happaned, the agreement infringed a national law that only allows the dismantle of rail tracks if they are destinated for other railway line. Natura Ecology was hired directly with no bidding procedures and the company was also accused of having stolen the material.[25] The rail ties were intercepted and seized by the local police in Trelew, totalizing four tracks with 100 tons of material with a estimated value of AR$1,000,000.[26] Nevertheless, the rail profiles were never found. Some reports stated that they had been sent to different locations in Chubut, Greater Buenos Aires, Córdoba and even the city of Buenos Aires.[27] The robbery of sleepers and profiles was never cleared.[28]

Nevertheless, the expectations for the reopening of the line ceased in 2004 when the Provincial Government requested to the Central Government all the line was dismantled. The permission was granted one year later.[24] The FCCRCS tracks were removed between 2005 and 2006 by company Natura Ecology, after signing an agreement which committed the company to carry 46,000 ties to El Maitén to refurbish heritage railway La Trochita. Works were made at a cost of AR$700,000. Soon after it was revealed that the agreement had been signed without been aproved by the Provincial Legislature, therefore it was annulled and the ties were never sent to El Maitén.

In August 1995, the Government of Comodoro Rivadavia announced they were negotiating to transfer the line to the Chubut Province. The project planned to join Comodoro Rivadavia with Chilean city of Puerto Chacabuco. Representatives from the Provincial Government flew over the rail tracks to corroborate how many kilometers had been dismantled, considering that Santa Cruz Province had previously removed several tracks. After studying the region, they concluded that a 75% of the tracks still existed, most of them in good conditions.[23]

[22] Other project was sent to the

Another ambitious project was introduced in 1996 by congressists of Chubut for the construction of the Ferrocarril Transpatagónico. The railway line would join San Antonio Oeste in Río Negro with Río Gallegos in Santa Cruz, including the construction off a bridge between Punta Loyola and La Misión in Tierra del Fuego. The project also included the reopening of Ferrocarril Puerto Deseado-Colonia Las Heras and Central Chubut Railway.[21]

In 1991 a group of neighbours proposed to establish a heritage railway that would run from Sarmiento to the Bosque Petrificado (Petrified Forest, 38 km. to the south of that city).[20] The project was revived in early 2000s with no successful results.

When the Government of Chubut Province decided to refurbish some railway branches by decree N° 2642, the FCCRCS was not included.[19] By December 1992 the branch to Muelle YPF had been eroded by the sea.

In 1991 the Municipality of Comodoro acquired the lands where Astra had operated.[18]

In 1979 the railway station was declared as National heritage. Years later the Port & Railway Museum ("Museo Ferroportuario") was established there, including other adyecent buildings and objects as a locomotive, a wagon, the tower, the water tank, the warehouses (currently a cultural centre), workshops (today a school), the port and Scalabrini Ortiz and San Martín parks, the last being inaugurated in 2012.[17]

Post-closure

[16]

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