10 Best Railroad Journeys in South America – #1 The Train Lima to Huancayo

February 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

Train Lima to Huancayo

Train Lima to Huancayo

The highest railroad in the America’s and the second highest railway in the world is the train journey from Lima to Huancayo. This 12 hour journey takes you through central Peru traveling from sea level to over a staggering 15,869 feet (4,782 meters) in elevation passing through 69 tunnels, over 58 bridges and 21 switchbacks.

In 1851 Polish engineer Ernest Malinowski (the same engineer who built The Devil’s Nose in Ecuador) began plans to build the railway line. While Malinowski was choosing the route, American railroad builder Henry Meiggs was given 6 years to complete the job. Construction began in January of 1870, it is estimated that it took 10,000 men and 40 years to complete the route. While neither man would live to see the completed work the railway line known as the Railroad In The Clouds was an incredible feat of engineering and stood as the highest railway ever built until the construction of the Qingzang railway in Tibet was completed in 2006.

The journey begins at the Patio Central in Callao and follows along the Rimac River until it reaches Chichan, then passes through the Galera Tunnel (the highest point on the route) then it continues down following the Yauli River until La Oroya and then the Mantaro River along the way the train passes through 6 climate zones.

Highlights of the trip include

  • 21 zigzag switchbacks
  • The Infiernillo Bridge at 10,820 feet elevation spanning a canyon with two vast rock tunnels at each end
  • The Bridge over the Verrugas Canyon at a height of 253 feet and 574 feet in length is one of the biggest in the world
  • The Balta Tunnel which travels ¾ of a mile underground
  • The Galera Tunnel which was bore at the route’s highest point
  • 11 special turntables allowing the train to change directions

As well as beautiful scenery including breathtaking rock cliffs of the Andes Mountains to accompany you along the way.

It is incredible to think about the creative effort to design this route or the amount of effort to build the railway line over 100 years ago without the aid of any modern day equipment. The railroad journey from Lima to Huancayo is the highest railroad in the western hemisphere and is the #1 Best Railroad Journey in South America.

10 Best Railroad Journeys in South America – #4 Andean Express

February 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Andean Explorer

Andean Explorer

The second highest railway with regular scheduled service in the world – the Andean Explorer links Cusco and Lake Titicaca.  This spectacular 10 hour journey through the Andes Mountains is operated by Peru Rail/Orient Express.  The Andean Explorer  is operated with a fleet of refurbished 1920’s Pullman cars.  The bar car offers passengers the chance to stretch their legs on board and purchase snacks and drinks while the stunning glass and open air observation car provides both a local for the on board entertainment and a place to see the ride.

Leaving Puno (Lake Titicaca) the train travels to Juliaca where an open air market is located along the train tracks.  The merchants quickly temporarily relocated their stalls just long enough for the train to travel through the middle of the market.  As the train passes by the stalls are quickly moved back into place on the train tracks.

The train continues up to La Raya the highest point of the journey at 14,150 feet (4313 meters) it is the highest point in the journey.  The train stops allowing the passengers to take photos, stretch their legs and purchase souvenirs from local vendors.

The journey continues towards Cusco through the Rio Hutanay and Urubamba River Valleys where small towns, farms and stunning mountain landscape dominate the scenery – vicuña and alpaca are often seen.  There are several archaeological sites along the way as well including Racqui and the Temple of Wiracocha.

10 Best Railroad Journeys in South America – #7 Tren a las Nubes

February 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Train a la Nubes

Train to the Clouds view of Llama Herd

The Tren a las nubes or Tren de las Nubes (Train to/of the Clouds) connects the northern town of Salta, Argentina with the boarder of Chile. The train ride travels through the Andes mountain range over 4,200 m (13,845 feet) making it the third highest railway in the world. Originally built for economic reasons the Tren a las nubes a Heritage Ralway the train continues for its tourist value.

Construction of the railway line began in 1921, constructed to service the local borax mines in the area. The La Polvorilla viaduct, the highest of the line, was finished on November 7, 1932. The complete railway was inaugurated on February 20, 1948. The railway has 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals, 2 zigzags and offers a spectacular experience. The 10 car train carries 640 passengers and operating from April to November with a yearly average of 30,000 tourists.

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