The completion of the Neuquen route of the FCS, and the proposed Southern Trans-Andean route; translated from Chapter 30 of William Rögind's book.
THE RIVER NEUQUEN AND THE TERRITORY OF THE SAME NAME
Description of the River Neuquén. – Construction of the bridge to the new Neuquén station. – Difficulties in the unpopulated country and with the transport of materials. – The great flood of 1900. – Vicissitudes suffered by the workmen. – Rescue. – Break in the line to Chos-Malal. – The Territory of the Neuquén: some interesting data. – Discovery of mines: of gold and silver. – Tale about the cacique Purrán. – Opening of the bridge. – Neuquén is proclaimed capital of the territory. – Dr. Joaquín V. González‘s speech. – Operational data of the Neuquén line.
In the concession authorising the Southern Railway to extend its main line from Bahía Blanca to the Neuquén one of the essential conditions was the construction of a bridge across the River Neuquén.
The River Neuquén is the natural outlet for a region of some 30,000 square kilometres in the Andean Cordillera between latitudes 38º and 40º south.
About 45 kilometres to the west of Fortín Roca, this river joins the Limay to form the great River Negro, which, in turn, has its mouth discharging into the Atlantic Ocean, between the villages of Viedma and Carmen de Patagones.
The source of the River Neuquén is near Chos-Malal, at that time the capital of the territory. The source is three steep streams which come down from the Cordillera. It flows south to a point near Paso de los Indios which is some 20 kilometers from the confluence. It receives its principal tributary, the River Agrio, which flows along the foot of the Cordillera passing the villages of las Lajas and Neuquén.
At the point where it had been intended to cross, it was, at that time, about 300 metres wide (at normal depths of water) and it ran in a shallow course whose depth varied between 1 and 5 metres.
While the studies of the area were being undertaken, there were various floods, and for that reason, it was considered essential to move the line of the crossing some 100 metres upstream, where the valley sides reached the edge of the river. This change brought with it the need for extensive clearing of woods, but this disadvantage was more than compensated for by the presence of an island in the river which allowed two of the piers to be constructed in the dry when the water level was low.
We record here the enormous difficulties [end of page 250] experienced by the Undertaking in the construction of the bridge and the line from the confluence. This was due solely to the lack of data and accurate reports in this sparsely populated region which is, particularly in respect of the River Neuquén. Three exceptional floods during the construction resulted in great damage, washing out embankments, bridges, etc, and interfering with traffic for a long time.
These floods, according to some, are periodic and occur every twenty years; but there are good reasons to think that they are the result of meteorological phenomena. During a series of winters with a great deal of snow, followed by cold summers, it follows unquestionably that a greater amount of snow accumulates in the Cordillera than would be the case if we had warm summers every year.
It may also be accepted that, in certain years, more snow falls than in others and, over such a wide area it may give rise to considerable floods on thawing. Thus, it is more reasonable to consider that extraordinary floods may occur in any year, and to design the project accordingly.
The young engineer, Carlos Krag, from whose report we have taken these notes, was selected to construct the bridge and the line from the railhead to the new Neuquén station. In September 1899, he went to the confluence to carry out a very detailed study of the river at the most obvious points for constructing the bridge.
These studies were sent to Messrs. Livesey, Son & Henderson, consulting engineers [end of page 251] to the Undertaking in London who prepared a scheme for the bridge over the River Neuquén as it is today.
The principal works were: a bridge of seven spans of 52.20 metres each; a wooden viaduct some 352 metres long; a bridge of three spans, of 20 metres each, over the Roca irrigation canal; a bridge of three spans, of 20 meters each, over the marsh-land near this canal; and another 20-metre single span bridge at Kilometre 1240.292, where the flooding regularly washed out the embankment.
Due to the effective help of the Government, it was arranged that telegrams would be sent morning and evening from Paso de los Indios as to the state of the River Neuquén.
A gauge recording the water level was set up outside the telegraph office at this point, and thus it was possible to work with perfect confidence at the confluence, even in the middle of its bed. In the event of a flood at Paso de los Indios, there was from 24 to 30 hours warning before the time it would reach the site where the bridge was being constructed, thus allowing time for men and plant to be withdrawn safely.
In the event of an extraordinary flood, the warnings had to be sent from Chos-Malal, which gave about 60 hours notice. This arrangement worked well, and the losses and damage resulting from the flood of July 1900 were limited.
As the temperature during the few months of winter rarely dropped more than a few degrees below zero, it was possible to accommodate the workmen in tents. Of more consequence than the cold was the extraordinary dry heat of summer, making it unbearable beneath canvas through the day, but building reed shacks overcame this difficulty.
For the convenience of the workmen, a company store was provided in which all sorts of things, from clothing to food, could be bought at moderate prices. This store was supplied twice a week from Ingeniero White station.
The connection between Bahía Blanca and Neuquén was provided by two passenger trains per week and one conditional goods train. For this reason it was necessary to establish a depot for construction materials at the site. [end of page 252]
Neither the limestone in Roca, nor the red ferruginous sand of the south bank was suitable for use in construction, and it was necessary work the granite quarries at Pichi-Mahuida some 300 kilometres from Bahía Blanca. These quarries had been worked for the construction of the line to Neuquén and produced excellent building sand and stone. For the foundation stones, the quarries at Tandil were used as the stone here was denser than that at Pichi-Mahuida.
The most interesting part of the bridge was, without doubt, the foundations, because the spans were of a type commonly used for similar bridges.
To construct the foundations for the abutments and piers for the bridge over the River Neuquén the modern method of compressed air was used for the first time in this country.
The placing of the first corner stone of the south abutment was celebrated with a small ceremony in the presence of Mr. A Shenan, a director of the Undertaking, and senior officers of the Southern Railway.
On 14 July 1900, an extraordinary flood occurred which merits noting.
At 10 p.m. of 12 July a telegram from Paso de los Indios told of a rising of 1.70 metres, adding that the surroundings of Chos-Malal were flooded. On the following morning, another telegram advised "River level rose 6 meters more and is rising quickly." At once all the workmen started moving everything which could be washed away from the lower levels, leaving only the temporary bridges and railway lines.
All the loose tools, sleepers, timbers, coal and small installations were loaded on to wagons and rescued immediately.
Two boats and a steam launch were moored at the south bank with instructions to keep steam up day and night.
At 8 p.m. another telegram from Paso de los Indios said "Just now the height of the flood is the same as that of the last great flood, 8 to 9 metres approximately, it continues to rise rapidly."
At 10 p.m. of the same night all work was stopped, and all the staff in the encampments were moved to the station. Immediately afterwards, the river started to rise and rose rapidly through the night, reaching 3.5 metres above low water, rising at 0.25 metres per hour. At mid day information was received the the River Limay was also rising.
In a shack five men who had refused on the day before to shelter in a higher spot had to ask for help at the same time as the staff of the company store. Two [end of page 253] trips were successfully made with the small boat, despite the extraordinary current, and five people were saved. The third time, when the last three men were on board the boat was unfortunately turned broadside by the current and capsized at once. However, there was time for the men to save themselves at the shack, and to accommodate themselves on its roof. This they managed to do at 2 p.m.
Lacking a boat, the men found themselves in a desperate situation because the shack could collapse at any time.
Responding to signals the launch made a rescue attempt. With great nerve on the part of its crew, and running the risk of being impaled on obstacles, they reached the shack, the three men were rescued, and taken to the north bank.
Meanwhile, the water had risen rapidly, reaching 4.80 metres above its ordinary level at 4 p.m. The river appeared as a great expanse of water from the station to the south escarpment, running at 15 to 20 kilometres per hour, and impetuously tearing up trees, corrals, all sorts of vegetation, shacks, etc, and any other obstacle in its path. The two caissons number 4 were now in the middle of the strongest current and despite being under water, their location was clearly visible by a standing wave nearly two metres high over them and the resulting overfall. This caused great anxiety, given that at that time they had been sunk only 15 feet into the ground.
From 4 until 10 p.m. the river rose only 0.20 metres and reached its maximum at 10 p.m. whereupon it started to go down.
The embankment between the station and the tank was cut by the water at five different points during the afternoon, leaving gaps of 30 to 40 metres, through which the water rushed at high speed. Practically the whole of the valley from escarpment to escarpment was now under water and the men, who had in vain sought refuge on the highest parts of the line, had to climb on top of the wagons to stay dry.
To crown this miserable situation, it started to rain with strong squalls of wind.
The telegram received that evening from Paso de los Indios told of a decrease in water level of 1.50 metres noting at the same time that the (telegraph) line to Chos-Malal had been broken.
By order of the National Government, Dr. Gabriel Carrasco made an inspection trip in 1902 to the territory of the Neuquén and tells us of his impressions in the book entitled "From Buenos Aires to the Neuquén" from which we reproduce some paragraphs.
"At that time the territory was [end of page 254] four fifths populated by Chileans, some 20,000 Chileans and 5,000 Argentines. This was equivalent to one inhabitant for each 4 square kilometres.
The commerce of the inhabitants was almost exclusively with the Republic of Chile for two reasons of capital importance. The first, because there were no railways or passable roads from the confluence towards the Andes, and so it was economically impossible to carry goods from the Atlantic as easily as it was from the Pacific, from which they were separated in summer by only a few days‘ journey.
The second, because there were no customs posts in Argentine territory, movement was free between both sides of the Cordillera.
The result of this was that everything, from clothing to flour, came from Chile, firmly binding all the inhabitants to the commerce, people, customs and ideas of the neighbouring republic.
As there was no place to baptize children, they were taken to Chile. Thus, thousands of Argentines today pass as Chileans, due to their having been baptized or educated to the west of the Cordillera.
Things changed radically on completion of the works of the Southern Railway from Bahía Blanca to the new Neuquén station and on the construction of the coach-road to Chos-Malal,
Chos-Malal, capital of the territory, was, at that time, the most expensive place to live in the Republic. Bread cost one peso ten cents the kilo. A can of kerosene, which in Buenos Aires cost 3 pesos, sold there for 14 pesos.
The food for a horse cost 70 pesos a month; a man could eat for somewhat less.
Judge what a wooden floor of a house in Chos-Malal would be worth considering that the cost of transporting the material from the railhead was 25 cents the kilogram.
A gold mine was found in 1894, in Manzano, 12 leagues west of Chos-Malal. It was discovered by Chileans, who after working it briefly, gave it up as it did not pay.
Mr. Quiroga, aquired it, went to the mine, studied the site and understood that lack of water was the reason for the work being difficult there and not worthwhile.
He set to constructing a canal to divert the water which flowed from the high ground to the sites of the gold-bearing sands.
The auriferous earth was made to pass through a type of chest or square wooden box where a flow of water washed the pebbles and the dust, leaving at the bottom the shining heavy particles of the coveted metal which was retained by its own weight.
The "Milla Michico" and "Chacay" mines were worked thus. The mines worked by Mr Quiroga since 1895 gave a small return in their early years, but in 1901, improved methods of working and more men were producing greater quantities.
In addition to Mr. Quiroga‘s mines, there were many others, more or less active, in the territory, among which were "Buta Mallín", some twelve leagues to the north west of Chos-Malal; "Campana Mahuida", 25 leagues to the south; "Pulmari" and "Ruca Choroy" in the area which Moreno has called the garden of the Neuquén.
In all cases the working was by washing, [end of page 255] with some 300 people engaged in this work.
By this primitive method and without anything more than a gold pan or box and water. Each worker obtained two and a half grammes of gold, which was occasionally increased by the chance find of a nugget, which was a greater reward for their toils.
When these nuggets were very large, they came into the category of "mi señora doña Josefa". What a shame that "Josefas" were so rare!
Some of these gold washings and certain silver mines, showed signs of having been previously worked, although in a rudimentary way, when the territory was occupied by the national army.
There are tales, too, about this, among them the one told by Dr. Gabriel Carrasco of the peak which may be seen from Chos-Malal from which silver ore so rich was taken that it had to be removed by hammer and chisel.
"It wasn‘t his fault then that he was the innocent victim of these tales."
"It is told hereabouts, that the celebrated cacique Purrán, lord of this area, who had been captured by our troops, was confined on the island of Martín García for a long time, while his family too were expatriated."
"The indian happened to be one of those who knew about those mines and, taking advantage of the covetousness of an officer, offered to show him the mine in exchange for his freedom, as in Atahualpa‘s token of submission to Pizarro."
"The deal was closed, he gained his freedom, and the officer organised an expedition at great cost which, crossing the Argentine Republic, reached Chile and passed from there to the Neuquén. Guided by Purrán, he returned to those areas in order to point-out the hill where silver was removed by chisel."
"Having reached there, they spent a great deal of time undertaking expeditions, until one day the cacique‘s servant ended by declaring to the officer that ‘he had forgotten where the site of the mine was‘."
"The officer‘s face may be imagined, after having spent a fortune, on receieving this revelation."
"It is said that he had a desire to draw his gaucho‘s knife and behead the cacique, but, thinking better of it, understood that he was worthy of such a practical joke by the guileless offence of having been left smoking by an indian at the point farthest away from the start."
On 26 June 1901, the load testing of the bridge over the River Neuquén was undertaken in the presence of the government engineers. By a decree of 12 July 1902 (sic), the Undertaking was authorised to start a public service to the terminal station of Neuquén.
At the start of 1902, the neighbours on the north side of the Neuquén presented a petition for the station, which had existed there previously, to be reopened because of the lack of a means of communication with the south bank of the river was seen to be very disadvantageous to their interests. [end of page 256]
In view of the fact that the sidings and triangle of the old station were still in place, it was easy to bring them back into use for passengers and goods without incurring major expense.
They mentioned in the petition that a village was being built around the old station, and that already 78 parcels of land had been applied for. The associated irrigation works which Mr. Godoy was constructing on behalf of Colonel Fernández Oro, the owner of Colonia Lucinda, were to be completed immediately.
Once created, this colony made this place more important. It had already very active business houses, such as the one of Mr. Miguel Muñoz, who supplied merchandise to all parts of the territory as far away as Chos-Malal.
On 15 October, the station on the north side of the River Neuquén was reopened under the name Limay, nowadays Cipolleti.
By Law 4523 of 28 October 1904, Neuquén was declared to be the capital of the territory and, by the same law, the Executive Power was authorised to accept the donation of the necessary lands for farms, orchards and building sites by Messrs Casimiro Gómez and López Lecube.
This town had an area of 2,375 hectares. The official survey was carried out by the engineer Carlos Sourigues and approved by decree of 2 November 1904. It was founded by Señor Carlos Rouquet Roldán on 12 September 1904.
As an interesting piece of information, we transcribe a further part of the speech by the then Minister of the Interior, Dr. Joaquín V. González, at the ceremony inaugurating the capital of Neuquén.
The political indecision of other times, fruit of the uneasy and dissolute servants, always gave forms of separation and of repudiation to the strategy against the indian. The line of the frontiers dividing the dominions appeared to signify an indefinite divorce from the unknown continent and when this idea became materialized in a deep and lengthy ditch – something like an inverted great wall of China – the political concept of this war reaches its most intense crisis, at a gloomy and insurmountable boundary in the which the eternal renunciation had to be inscribed on the point of inspiring legal ideas of absolute and definitive plundering the earth, it was dressed with clothing then dazzling of an international communism full of great perspectives.
How and what multiple problems this instant of our history plants in the mind . From that point of view has it to be considered that it does not suggest deep and extended thoughts? And as always, in the secular life of nations, a sword blow cuts the indecipherable knot of mystery and a moment of will, and of action, is enough to dilate dominions, disadvantage preoccupations erected in systems, to extend life‘s horizons, and to incorporate into civilization thousands of men separated from her by prejudice and routine. Already the wise come to study the abstract laws of the consummated deed, the villages continue their march towards their destiny, as the stars their celestial way before science discovered the reasons for their movements and revolutions.
Guided by a sure purpose, and towards secure objectives, the national army advances with the serene majesty with which it treads in its own sovereignty, and as an ancient king does in lands of vassals, goes seeding peace and confidence in all parts, subjecting rebels, pacifying the irritant tribes, raising tents and flying flags among the huts and the wild woods, converting the furious into obedience, the men who turn hate into friendship and make re-echo in the solitudes, for the first time, where the howl of death lulled since infancy, the clarion of the victorious reveilles and intense echoes of the native hymn, to evoke the ancient souls in the immaculate land of the future expansion.
Converted thus in deed, since May 1879, the possession of the territories, which the Constitution took into account, and which were outwith the boundary of the old provinces, as native seed of new states, start to develop a policy previously unknown, which is not that of simple review of the land claimed, but that of the organisation, government and impetus which the hamlets of the advance or the military fort, laid out with the sword, and baptized with the ashes of the bivouac, which the law of 16 October 1884, endowed with a collective personality.
The energies, worn away or lying idle in the old soil, had a distinct orientation full of promise. A call to faith in the unknown and uncertain, will and initiatives were put to the test. A youthful republic started to grow with renewed sap in the plains of the savage, from the River Colorodo tothe water of the Strait of Magellan and the mists of Cape Horn.
Numberless theories and formulae arise and arose about the political regime of the territories, and all of them are as fallacious as those relating to education in infancy, because one or other forget that doctrine and experience march together in such an uncertain age, helping and complementing each other. An expert educator and a genial ruler can do more against the uncertainties and surprises of nascent organisations than the most respected doctrines and the most thorough education in abstract science. The laws are substituted formulae for human deficiencies. The moral of the law replaces the absence of innate virtue. When a moral and honest will is joined in a complete sense of patriotism, this sense, which makes visible the honour of all citizens [end of page 258] in each one of the acts of public life, the strictness of the law losses its directive power, and the actions of government become prolific shoots and surprising creations. The government of the territories cannot be as that of far-away colonies in certain periods of history, a refuge of the conquered, nor a field of unsatisfied disordered appetite; they have been opened to hard work, good health, and the making of character, to the assembly of strengths and productive energies, to the apprenticeship of good citizenship and undertakings of common reputation; as much the citizen who comes in the name of the Republic to represent its protection and justice, as the workman and the industrialist, who launch themselves from the metropolis, or the stranger to work the land, cutting through the waters, or breaking the rocks, obey a superior law, the highest and most democratic of all laws – that of work ,which levels and unites men of all races and conditions, which true justice without prejudices and penalties teaches them; which build homes, nations and indestructible empires, because they rise above this unique love, engendered by the community ofeffort and assembly in the ideals of collective work.
Perhaps the highest moral sentiment of my thesis was exactly expressed, saying, the equal of an ancient philosophy in which the homeland as the soul is in the body of man, is all in all the territory and in each one of its parts. If this concept were to be better understood, and the soul of youth of the great cities does not confuse so blindly, the erroneous notion of personal destiny, a vigorous current of energy, like new blood, would ceaselessly flow through the remote ways, renewing in them the sources of life with original elements, and diffusing in turn, progress and material benefits and the habits of conquered culture in to the most remote areas of the homeland. If the link of material fortune is strength, which perturbs so much and throws contemporary societies off-balance, and if it is this same lever so powerful in social mechanics, they are not part to divert us from our sedentary customs and of our vague and restless ambitions the example of the many adventurers of humble condition, converted in a brief space of time into rich capitalists and great lords, with only the assiduous dedication to work during a quinquennium or a decade; nor the innumerable cases of regeneration from vice or from infirmity by the influence of the fight, the charms of nature or the honest advantages of personal labour without the insatiable burden of vanity or pleasure which goes to enlarge new found fortunes or to ennoble shameful officials; many forget that there was true greatness and certain sublimity in employing the hereditary inheritance in the cultivation and expansion of this land torn away from the usurpation of the savage by our glorious and noble soldiers, worthy followers of the tradition of sacrifice and collective virtues, not surpassed not even in ancient times, when their captains were emperors and their ideal was the conquest of the world, and whose endless absences from land and home fireside admit no other comparison, those nakednesses and miseries of Dante, among which there had to be an hero in the sudden affray, or in the night-time invasion; those trading of nameless insults in the infected camp, where the bones of unknown heroes sowed hunger and bodily martyrdom through these regions, whose souls will appear as that of Ossian, in the nights of future ages, to others warriors, to guide them to new victories.
The first settlers of these Patagonic lands acquired illustrious worth in the Republic, not only for having stamped on them, with their advanced position, under the national flag, the seal of proper sovereignty, since they constitute from then the venerable origins of the cities of the future, which will rise above these present day humble foundations with all the drive of those of Anglo Saxon and Anglo American temperament who improve in the sands of South Africa, or in the woods of Australia and New Zealand, or in the forests where the Mississippi is born and dies, and in the snowy solitudes of the Klondyke. In the history to come, the present villages where the industrial life of the [end of page 259] territories is concentrated will be judged and described as mother cities of civilization of the Argentine south. That of Pampa Central with its complete assimilation of the fashion of Buenos Aires. Viedma, Choele-Choel, Roca and other happy users of the riches of the River Negro; Rawson, Trelew and Gaiman in Chubut, this new Nile, as variable in its course as it is full of silt, generator of opulence; Madryn, Santa Cruz, Gallegos and Ushuaia, which dominate the sea, collect, in the wealth of the Andean rivers, the continent‘s fruits and treasures, open their generous arms to the flags of all the world, and offer their natural ports guarded by our young and high-spirited navy as in universal assembly of fertile activities and civilizing enterprises.
The capital of the territory, which the Neuquén and the Limay bind in their triangle of unconfused outlines, was born of the spontaneous imposition of nature. It is located as in the vertex of a constellation of spread-out villages, in the most daring advance which the any railway has achieved in this America. It is a strategic centre, without equal, of a double flow of river and land communications, which join the sea and the heart of the Republic. It has a natural leaning which will make the productive vitality of its vast hinterland up to the Cordillera, and even beyond the frontier, flow towards it, associated with the strength and in certain way incorporated into the family of villages which the River Negro feeds and makes fertile. It is surrounded at a distance by protective hills and preventive heights against noxious external influences, and is supplied with ample and spread-out horizons, shaded by remote mountains, which stimulate us to achieve without annihilating our strength. It is favoured by even the biggest and most valiant of the agents of civilization and richness – the railway which adheres to the patriotic organism, whose regular palpitations may be felt and counted. It will be a proud city in the not distant future, a focus of arts and powerful industries, of widespread and brotherly influences towards the west, of strong attractions towards the interior and of the love of its sky. Because of its climate and of its fertility, fed by its two protective rivers, a new, healthy, friendly and expansive society will flourish which will justify the founding homeland‘s virtues and will be like a mother always young with children of work. It will be a generator of energy and of constancy, of serene moral and patriotic virtues, of practical and free institutions, where social corruption will never engage its degrading tyrannies nor its culpable complaciences. In its hollow the tree of civic paternity will bring forth fruit trees overflowing with sap, in mutual help and reciprocal unselfishness and in the renounciation with which its children dedicate themselves to the glory and communal wellbeing.
Gentlemen: this ceremony, of the most modest appearance and such deep significance – since we have associated all the territories of the South with it – has been placed under the auspices of the President of the Republic, Lieutenant General Roca, whose political and military foresight changed the direction and nature of our ancient frontier war. It has changed it into a civilizing action to reintegrate the secular unity of the historical legacy of the viceroyalty, and before whose objectives, neither the isolating ditches, nor the navigable rivers, nor the desolate plains, could stop the serene march of the national army going towards a conclusive conquest; an immense conquest, which freed the Patagonic domain from the uncertain outcome of a secular debate about boundaries, then submitted to arbitration since 1856. The possessions acquired in 1879 to 1884 have changed in to material dominion, adopted as a guiding principle by the arbitration verdict of 1903.
On designating this town as the capital of this territory, the government has exercised proper legal powers, and has had in view only the most general interests of the whole region, in its relations with the rest of the country and with the progressive expansion of the urban centres. The isolation from the assemblage of the national life will ever be a means of progress for these villages; before good, it will lead to the ruin by its rivalries and by the strange absorption which is the fatal end to domestic improvidence. Thus, then, when this foundation has given its fruits and the natural current [end of page 260] of sympathy and products it reestablishes with the previous temporary capital and with the other settlements of the north, west and south of the territory, all these will understand the benefits of the present concentration which allows the use of the navigable currents of the River Negro and the powerful resources of the Southern Railway both of which bring a great Atlantic port near to the seat of justice and business and will convert it, in reality, in to one of the nearest and favoured provinces of the Nation.
On declaring the capital of the Neuquén inaugurated, with its own historic name, and on behalf of of the President of the Republic, and my own, I thank the proprietors of the land for their patriotic gift for the urban base and official installations, to the Governor and other officials of the territory for their active and intelligent zeal in the creation of a new administrative seat, and I give thanks that in this community, and in its sisters of the same territory, and of the neighbouring, now and always, peace and abundance may reign so that nature will be favourable to it at all times of its existence, and may the Almighty maintain among its residents and their descendants for all successive generations, the love of work, of liberty and justice.
I conclude my speech.
Not withstanding the adverse factors such as the great floods in the months of June and July 1899 and the sparse population of the area traversed, the result of the working of the line from Bahía Blanca to the Neuquén could be regarded as satisfactory in the first year.
Some 5,252 first class passengers and 8,621 second class travelled from the various stations on the line.
The service from the start comprised two mixed trains per week in each direction.
A total of 4,965 tonnes of wool, of which 1,199 tonnes were loaded at Río Colorado and 872 at Gaviotas.
If it were not for the above mentioned floods, which caused a considerable loss of sheep over the whole area to the west of Choele-Choel, the transport of wool would have been much more important.
A total of 11,182 tonnes of general merchandise was carried of which some 2,023 were received at Río Negro station.
The salt traffic started this year, with a total of 389 tonnes loaded at Kilómetro 70 siding.
During the year 113,013 sheep were carried of which some 33,000 were owned by Messrs. Luro & Co. and taken from Cuatreros to the fields near Pieres (on the line to Necochea) for fattening.
Some 1,739 bulls were sent from Neuquén, 896 for La Colina and 843 for Bahía Blanca. These animals were owned by the Compañía Sud-Americana de Tierras and had come some 100 leagues to Neuquén station.
A new village was set up near Río Colorado with the name Buena Parada.
The great flood, which in 1899 almost completed razed Roca village, obliged the residents to re-establish themselves on lands which would be clear of future floods, selecting for that purpose the spot on which General Roca is now being built.
The new Roca village has grown rapidly, and before the end of the financial year, 30 June 1900, it already had about 300 houses, of which 64 were commercial houses.
In 1901 the Undertaking received a gross profit of 1?% on the capital invested on the construction of the line. In 1902, the results were no more favourable, but this was due in part to a long lasting drought, but on the other hand, the results for the following years were very satisfactory, which may be seen from the following table.
Passengers 30, 702 43, 840
Parcels (Tonnes) 536 788
Goods (Tonnes) 30, 759 36, 806
Horses 284 439
Livestock Cattle 9, 389 3, 488
Sheep 178 ,115 148, 195
[end of page 261]
The BAGSR's route to Neuquén