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Appendix 12

Various railways not constructed:
Chapter 5 of Arthur Coleman's book.

CHAPTER V.

RAILWAYS NOT BUILT

It is sensible to review today the different railway lines which had been proposed by the Southern Railway. Had they been constructed many years ago, they would have increased the value of immense portions of Argentine territory in the South. They were never completed for reasons outwith the control of the undertaking. The region has remained orphaned of railways, and therefore has been provided with only restricted road transport.

Among those projects prepared by the Southern Railway for the construction of lines in the far South linked to the Neuquén, line, are those from Rio Colorado to Conesa-, from Choele Choel to Conesa; from Conesa to Patagones, to Viedma, to San Antonio Oeste or to Valcheta, whichever was the most, advisable. The project for the line from Choele Choel to Patagones or Viedma was very far advanced in its studies and drawings, and had reached the point where enormous quantities of materials had been accumulated in Choele Choel (present day Darwin) and Rio Colorado stations.

Parties in Viedma, Patagones, Conesa, Coronet Pringles (Rio Negro), Choele Choel etc, who were interested in the construction of the railway, formed local committees, repeatedly lobbied the government authorities and legislative chambers, seeking a prompt and favourable award of the concession sought by the Southern Railway, drawing attention to the importance and value of extending the line, to give them security. All the committees returned to their home towns satisfied with the promises received, but the concession was not authorized, and the materials still awaited use.

Following an excessive delay, the Senate voted on 27 September 1929 for the authorization for the construction of various lines to extend the network sought by the Southern Railway, among them the line from Choele Choel to Patagones along the banks of the Rio Negro.

When the local population grumbled about the delay in building the railway, the cause of the delays was repeatedly criticised, and one of the most important newspapers gave the following commentary: "Works designed to encourage progress, to create new economic energies and make the working of the land easier, to increase the national wealth, eminently civilizing works, studied by government technical departments, and demanded repeatedly and clamorously by the locals, was not being carried out, let alone completed, to bring its great benefits to the country. It was as if the public power, called on to complete the legislative formula, had become the obstacle which delayed it, by pure inactivity or indolence, for all that it is not electoral politics or party egotism. The petitioning company had urged the authorization of the Choele Choel to Patagones railway. The company had the materials and the money ready to start work. The inhabitants of the whole of the lower valley of the Rio Negro, in repeated notes, memorials and personal negotiations of groups of representatives, who went to the capital to petition the legislators, who might vote once on the subject which did not require further studies, nor involve difficulties. But the Senate became a deaf blind body, holding back the authorization of the law for no good reason or cause until recently, the night before last, as we reported yesterday, it had a vote which authorized the construction of' this line. I have to say, here that the public powers became the obstacles against private initiatives aimed at stimulating the progress of the country and creating factors to generate work and wealth in areas which they need them as elements essential for life and its economic evolution.

One has to hope that the formal authorization, and its announcement by the Executive Power wi11 not be delayed, and that the Southern Railway Company will start work at once on the construction of this line, which is called to transform the loneliness of the middle and lower valley of the Río Negro valley converting it into an emporium of labour and wealth.

Two days later the same newspaper had to return to the subject, writing: "In last Friday's session, as we announced, the Senate approved the bill authorising the Southern Railway Company to construct, among other branches to its main lines, one which, leaving Choele Choel and following the right bank of the Rio Negro, will reach Patagones. The authority was granted without any debate, and with a unanimous vote by the Senators, mentioning the repeated petitions of the places which would benefit from this line on the basis that the parliamentary sessions would not be closed before approving this law.

With a great let-down, the people of the Rio Negro, to the south of the Province of Buenos Aires, had been informed that their wishes would once again be frustrated.

The Senate voted through the law on Friday, but the Deputies had decided for political motives, not to meet again, and thus allow the period of ordinary sessions to expire. Yesterday the Congress entered a recess, and the authorization to the Southern Railway to construct the line from Choele Choel to Patagones has remained deferred by the perfidious calendar, by act and grace of the legislators, who hold the interests of the country and the means of its progress in such low esteem." [273]

I could never understand the reasons for such an important railway encountering such obstacles and delays. The London Board of Directors of the Southern Railway, were interested in this project as, on several occasions, I accompanied them along part of the route, which was very costly and presented considerable technical difficulties. It is enough to say that the line had to cross the island of Choele Choel, which would have involved the construction of two big bridges on the Rio Negro, one to get on to the island and one to get off at the Peñalva ferry crossing. The idea which I strenuously defended, and was accepted, was that the inhabitants of the island of Choele Choel had to have the opportunity of using the railway. A branch line had been planned with its own stations for the Lamarque service, and the western part of the island, which is the more populated. Dr Victor Molina's "La Genoveva" would have used Lamarque station for the movement of its goods.

I sincerely regretted that all the efforts came to nought, and I must affirm that blame cannot be placed on the Southern Railway. Those rich areas, suitable for profitable working, lack railway transport to the present day.

The excessive delay in approving the necessary authorization allowed the country's periodic economic crisis to develop, thus projects to stimulate the logical river navigation on the Rio Negro, from Patagones and Viedma to Choele Choel, a journey which was parallel to the railway's proposed route, were Justifiably prepared. The two methods of transport were inevitably mutually exclusive. The Southern Railway abandoned its idea, and retrieved the material stock-piled at Choele Choel and Rio Colorado. The regrettable outcome was that neither was regular navigation established on the Rio Negro nor was the railway built, although inevitably one of the systems must be established in the future to stimulate efficient progress in that privileged area. [274]

 

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Construction

Along the route

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Over the Andes?

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The potash line

Appendices

1 Itinerary of route

2 Loco list

3 Irrigation map

4 Rögind chapter 25

5 Rögind chapter 30

6 Rögind chapter 49

7 Rögind chapter 55

8 Rögind chapter 56A

9 Rögind chapter 56B

10 Coleman chapter 2

11 Coleman chapter 3

12 Coleman chapter 5

13 Map of FCS system

14 1955 public timetable

15 Modern photos

16 FCS rulebook extracts

17 Wagon diagrams

18 Press articles

19 Potash line decrees

20 Fruit train timetable

21 Trasandino decree

22 Automatic couplings

23 Railmotor specification

Chapter 3

The BAGSR's route to Neuquén

Glossary

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RAILWAYS OF THE FAR
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