item7 AlanCrottypic3
item7 Patagonia, item7
AlanCrottypic3 Home page Central of Chubut FCS to Neuquén FCE broad gauge EFE broad gauge Chiloe Island FCE 75cm gauge AlanCrottypic3
Estancia railways Coal  railways Ushuaia old & new The South Atlantic Salt railways Industrial lines Resources

Appendix 1

Law 5559 of 1908 - Development of the National Territories

The presentation to Congress of the Bill for Law No 5559 anent the development of the National Territories.

Source : La Patagonia Argentina, pp.056-061, (entered 25/12/13)

In May 1906, Doctor [of Laws] José Figueroa Alcorta, being President of the Republic, the Executive Power sent a message to Congress, accompanying a Bill for the development of the National Territories.

This message, as well as the other documents and evidence, which referred to the question, became called “of the Patagonian railways”, are transcribed in this section, since we consider that this is the best way of informing the opinion of the readers about a subject which had raised the passions of public opinion at that time. Moreover, the arguments and reasons presented in the memorable debates, which resulted from the initiative of the Executive Power, are strictly of the present time, now that the causes which motivated them subside, and the same aspirations await to be seen to be satisfied.

This book constitutes the best proof of what was done in one of the National Territories in thirty years, almost entirely with no official assistance, by the hard and persevering efforts of a few private foreigners. What they would have been able to do if the projects had come about, and the Law of Development No 5559 had followed others, inspired by the same aims as crossing the immense Patagonian plains with rails, in order to bring to the shores the riches, which nature had accumulated in the interior, or which man produced in these solitudes, which were the Territory of Santa Cruz and all Patagonia, if the work of development so patriotically initiated had been followed steadily; it is not possible to imagine, but beyond all doubt that, in this case, in order to reply to its ends, this book must have acquired magnificent proportions, and magnify what was also the reality which aspired to record and comment.

Message conveyed to the Congress by the Executive Power in 1906.

Buenos Aires, mayo 18 de 1906.

To the Honourable Congress of the Nation:

Complying with one of the promises contained in the inaugural message of your sessions, I present to Your Honours a Bill for the development of the National Territories, which I hope will be approved, given the great benefits which it is called on to produce.

Referencia 1224

The Patagonian railways

Source: «La Patagonia Argentina», pp.056-061, 1924

(entered 25/12/13)

The project is inspired by two fundamental concepts. The first, is that public land should be used to develop, with its produce, the regions in which it is located, always provided its condition does not cause a great many immigrants to be attracted. The second, that the essential basis of development of a country is the systematic multiplication of the ways of communication, essential for commerce in its three-fold aspect of land, river and sea.

There are now no wildernesses in the Republic.

They virtually disappeared with the expedition to the Río Negro [Roca's Conquest of the Desert], and then in the tangible and undisputed action to direct men towards the places once occupied only by the indians. But the word “wilderness” has remained in use, and even distorts the public judgement, inspiring tendencies which have kept in being theories which have dictated the agricultural legislation since the earliest times of our emancipation, which do not accord with the present-day situation, and before they collide with the modern spirit, less theoretical and much more practical.

There are no wildernesses now; what remain are unoccupied public lands, a coveted object of an almost febrile concern. There are no more savages, and those who venture into the heart of Patagonia do not need to band themselves into armed squadrons, since they have as safe a life, as they would have in suburbs of the cities.

In reality, what is there is thirty two million leagues of land, which represents for the Nation several hundreds of millions of gold pesos. And what are we doing with them?

Giving most of them to private individuals, with no other condition that they populate them, has always resulted in a complete illusion. It is exactly the same as giving away money, with all the characteristic of a gift of money, which all can appreciate, and there are few that take account of what it means to sell twenty thousand hectares in the Territories of the South, at the prices specified by law, which sets the price at one paper peso per hectare for the lessees.

The excessive liberality to those those acquiring land, who do not come from abroad, if in reality they populate territories, they depopulate greatly the provinces, as I have already hinted at in my initial message. There is an illusion in the generalized proposition of developing the population with the prodigal distribution of assets of public origin, because they do not increase the overall census figures and, in truth, what is wanted is not achieved, but is something that can bring grave disorders, and which the Honourable Congress surely do not want to stimulate.

With a sale for its true value in the market, there is no need to avoid all the inconvenience alluded to, but at least it has not involved the Government in responsibility, putting its strong influence to the service of proposals so sterile for the public good, as fertile in dangers which it may be advisable to avoid, and destining, in turn, the produce of the land to the progress of the part of the country which has not even felt the flattery of civilization, and which has achieved a double and considerable public service; crossing with railways the solitudes of the South, bringing close the commercial centres by lines of navigation, and creating abundant resources for finance, which will not draw from the national savings, nor increase expenses in the future.

Thus the solution of the problem arises from its own formulation. What plan is more advisable for the Nation – sell the land subject to conditions, whose verification is costly, humiliating and impracticable, in a form which depreciates the article on offering it to the bidder – passing it to the lessee at a despicable price right away, giving it at the end of the contract, applying wholly the precepts of the current laws on the one part, and on the other in the matter of public works being content to not do them, or else build railways, ports canals and steamers to increase the value of the state lands and then sell them at the highest price, paying for these great works with the excess money which they themselves will produce?

The whole question remains reduced to the possibility of realizing a proposal, which perhaps appears utopian, but which is perfectly feasible in the judgement of the Executive, and which the project which they have the satisfaction of presenting to Your Honours to resolve in an affirmative way.

It is an obvious action which goes without saying that railways double, if not triple the value of the lands which they traverse or serve, and there is no doubt as to the advisability to wait for those to be built where the State owns the lands, and to start to sell them after valuing them.

The advantage of the opposing system cannot be sustained with sufficient logic – selling them first, and then pawning the Nation's income in gifts to the adequately happy acquirers, and at the expense of the contributors, who will have the expenses and none of the benefits. As it is opportune to observe, that in this respect we find ourselves advocating a forced alternative – or the works are carried out in conditions which are shown to indicate with these sad effects, and is solved by private enterprises investing the capital.

My Government opted for the first approach, which involves a radical change in our agrarian policy, imposed by an equally radical change in circumstances, which is a natural consequence of the enormous increase in the value of property. If previously, the prodigious distribution of public land could be well-advised, today it would be an unjustifiable action, continuing in a system without a reasonable defence, and dominated by the just alarm which the present state of things produces, the Executive Power presents this to the Honourable Congress, asking for the revision of the general precepts on which Law No 4167 is based, and the authorization to initiate the new plans which are proposed.

If Your Honours concur in the fundamental thinking which is placed before you, no more lands at great distances from the ways of communication will be sold, and only will be disposed of when the works advance, even if slowly, each 100 kilometres of railway allow the sale of 200 to 400 leagues, which might even exceed the capacity of the market.

The previous figures inform of the economic possibility of the operation, then being the probable cost of the 100 kilometres of economical railway of 600,000 gold pesos, only 200 leagues would represent two million gold pesos, calculated at 4 gold pesos per hectare, which is certainly not exaggerated, given the current prices in notoriously difficult conditions.

To sum up, what is proposed is – first increase the value of the public land by public communication works, and then allocate this increased value to cover the cost of the self-same works which generated it.

Along with the economical railways, and as an obligatory corollary, the installation of a permanent service of sea communication among the ports of the South with the national centres of commerce is proposed, which would encourage the transport of the products to the shores of the sea, or they would remain subject to the precarious situation in which they find themselves today.

Moreover, because the State cannot send our great fighting ships to sea frequently, the Naval authorities consider that it is imperative for the practical instruction of the officers and ratings to re-establish of the services which the National Transports started, but with bigger and more suitable steamers. To this effect three high tonnage ships are proposed, which would provide a rapid, effective, and cheap service, amply favouring the commerce of those separated regions of the South.

Another of the works proposed is the canal linking two stretches of the Pilcomayo, whose detailed study is just completed, and which the Government could acquire under favourable terms, if it were to be authorised by Your Honours. It would give easy access to great areas of the most fertile land not yet taken advantage of, in which numerous immigrants could be settled, and to whom we cannot offer good land at the present time, and give the products of the North of the Republic an easy exit towards the rivers which constitute the great arteries of movement in the interior of the Country.

The financial instrument which is forged with the creation of the Development Bonds proposed in the Plan, which is submitted for your consideration, give a practical solution, which I consider effective, given the solid guarantees which the instituted mechanism provides for its service, and I have no doubt that it will be considered as an appropriate resource for the thought that gives rise to them. The moderation of their use, and the useful application to which they are to be used, will be, I hope, be a powerful incentive for their significant appreciation in the capital market.

Explained thus in general terms, I submit for your deliberation the Government's thinking, and it only remains for me to express to Your Honours the most earnest desire that it will receive your careful attention, and your decisive support.

May God protect Your Honours




The bill started to be considered in the Senate on 10 August 1907, and was completed on 27 August of the same month and year. The ministers of Agriculture, of the Treasury and of Public Works, who were Dr. Ezequiel Ramos Mexía, Dr. Eleodoro Lobos and Ingeniero C. Maschwitz, respectively, and senators González, as an informing member of the Special Committees which had studied the project, Manuel Láinez, Ovejero, Virasoro and Maciá spoke in the debate.

Doctor Joaquín González gave the speech which is transcribed below, and in which the paragraphs which deal with the Chaco and other territories not connected with Santa Cruz, have been omitted.

Doctor González said:

“Newly, Sir, as being in charge of the Special Committees of Public Works and of Agriculture, I seek to occupy the attention of the Honourable Senate, to inform you on this matter, naturally feeling, that my well-known lack of sparkle or interest in the word, is a motive for my honourable colleagues have to withstand a new inconvenience; and moreover understanding that the interests of this session must not be in the listening to the informing member, who can give little or no light in the matter of such magnitude, but that he has to fix the public attention more on the word of the Ministers of the Executive Power, who come together in the session, who, with their skill and illustration, will convince them of the appropriateness of the project than I myself can, I will limit myself then simply to expound the fundamental principles which the two Special Committees met together have supported to give counsel approval to the Chamber.”

“Of course, the Special Committees must declare that they have devoted all possible attention to this matter, an extraordinary attention, which is demonstrated by having modified the project several times, due to the intervention of the same members of the Executive Power, who sought in this manner to found it on more solid and better assembled bases for its greater efficiency.”

“All the precedents, which exist for the development of the territories, have been taken into account by the Special Committees, even as a stimulus, be it to pay attention to what has already been said on the subject, and to form their conviction that the moment for a definitive way of addressing the problem of old, so long debated, of the government of the Territories.”

“Numerous monographs have been published for each of these regions of the country, geographic and technical studies, reports of expeditions undertaken by men of science, or by their governors, whose observations are recorded in numerous books or documents, which I do not believe need to be mentioned, because this report would then take the form of a bibliographic note. I would only enunciate that the Special Committees had taken into account all these publications, which have served as a starting point for tackling the fundamental problem of making the National Territories more suitable for a better ordered life in a serious way, more in harmony with the objectives which the Constitution has defined.”

“I concur on the other hand, with the views of the members of the Special Committees, and of the personal knowledge, more or less direct, of the administrators of the Territories, because some in their parliamentarian life have already been able to understand the many issues relative to them,and of which they speak, having learnt about them during three years of study by the Ministry of the Interior, during which time it devoted a singular attention to the subject. I must be more frank, and declare that this study, closely undertaken in the presence of the events, and of the conflicts, which continually arose in the Territories, due to the state of their organic laws, and the motley accumulation of its parliamentary and administrative legislation, which existed in this respect, has convinced me that the remedy for curing the ancient wrongs does not lie wholly within the organic or legal legislative process.”

“Our Territories observe the same law of race, the same historic law, which has preceded the formation, and the development, of our provinces. I do not need to insist, for the illustration of the Senators, in demonstrating the historic process of their formation, we must admit only, as I believe will be admitted by all, that this historic process has not been more than the intention to make them the vital organisms of truly autonomous states, in which these historic laws have not favoured their social or political development in an efficient way, and which history offers these lessons and the experimental fields of the Territories, which we are obliged by the Constitution to prepare for their future political life as autonomous states. We need to develop all their own resources for life and prosperity, since it is a political and social axiom, that autonomy is a consequence of economic independence, and only the voluntary consent of opinion can attribute true independence to political organisms, which lack in it in its most positive acceptance.

“We cannot think on legislating in a solid and immovable manner for the Territories, as entities which have to become the future Argentine provinces without occupying ourselves in the first place with offering them an economic base. Their population is scarce, despite that we should not be pessimistic, neither optimistic, in respect of them which had not followed the development of other regions of the country, nor other similar nations, which have fewer natural and self-assured riches available. Until now, the population figures of the Territories cannot give us a source of legitimate pride. For me, one of the principal causes of the slow increase in the population of the Territories has always been the incoherence, the vacillation of the heterogeneity of our laws relating to land, always dictated by a variable and uncertain criterion since the earliest times of our national organization, until the present to which has to be added political and administrative instability. Perhaps one the consequence of the other, and the reason for the population's not easily expanding with vigorous flows to fill the immense empty spaces, which we have in the national domain.”

“Thus we have in the present time three groups of territories in order of their importance – those of the first line, which we may call prosperous and rich, such as Missiones, Pampa Central, Río Negro, Chubut; the secondary ones, which we may call rich in natural richness, but without a population sufficient to extract its produce and convert it into economic value. I place the territories of Chaco, Santa Cruz and Neuquén in this second group; and we have finally, the third group, which have made us think that perhaps they do not deserve the title of territory, considering these as organic and administrative entities governed by the general law of 1884 as are those of Los Andes, Tierra del Fuego and perhaps even Formosa.”

“The 1884 Law, which was a legislative consequence of the policy of occupying the wilderness, fulfilled its mission at that time, gave to the territories their first rough draft of administrative organization, even if the same criterion was applied to all. I do not criticize the authors of the law, since they followed experimental ideas, which were, in my own conviction, formed before there were the positive results of the available experience.”

“I cannot co nceive how they, so distinctive by the latitude in which they are located, and by their climatic and geological characters, can develop as regional entities under a uniform law; and, if in some cases it may be an incontestable truth of the said Spencer, that all progress is in differentiation, it would be exactly in the matter of territorial government, referring to regions located at such great distances from the political centre of the country, and from the economic interests which influence its vitality and government.”

“Applying the same political law to such distinctive territories was, since their creation, impeding development, specific to each one's own strengths, and this has been, in my judgement, one of the principal causes for their developing so unequally, so intermittently, and so inadequately, given the results that the country might have expected from the situation, intrinsic vitality and resources.”

“On the other hand, the same difficulty of organizing good government in these territories, so distinctive in regions so far apart, one from another, without the means of communication among them, and with the principal centres of the country, I do not see that it was possible to organise regular government capable of satisfying the legitimate requirements of the country's opinion. For all these reasons, the criticism which is directed to the governments of these territories seems to me to be a little unjust, and I say unjust, because the real cause, the fatal cause of this imperfection, is unknown.”

“It produces, then, in this development a similar phenomenon, which mentally we can compare to that of the first steps of the colonial foundation of our country, and for this I say that it would be a mistake in concept, a serious political mistake in the presence of this age-old example, to repeat the mistakes which occurred in our provinces in the colonial period – the isolation, the systematic poverty, the meanness of the soil, the incoherence of the administrative actions which refer to them, the lack of progressive discernment based on real studies of the natural and social laws which should pertain in these new entities.”

“The project, which is under consideration by the Senate, is visibly inspired by the new ideas. The Special Committees have found dignity in acceptance, and being put into practice, in view of these new bases on which are seated, and on which the future government of the territories is based – that is to say, it is proposed to offer a secure economic base, to facilitate the formation of their own financial capital, to develop the vital forces, independent and autonomous in each territorial region, so that the population which settles in them, may organise the social and political nucleus of the future on firm foundations, so the idea of independence, of municipal and political autonomy is born, and is seated on real concepts, which do not depend on simple conventional laws, or the more or less intermittent operation of our political laws. Taking account of the complete system of the project, and the diversity of works which it is intended to carry out, this doubt is clearly got rid of. It is proposed, above everything else, to build up the economic richness, which serves to sow the seed of social and political development of the powers or provincial entities.”

“Thus then, to sum up, the project contains the following elements – the construction of railways, navigation along the southern coasts, canalization and straightening of the rivers, with the objective of maintaining navigation, or using their waters to irrigate on a grand scale, a financial plan to carry all this out, along with the works and a special regime for the public landaffected by the carrying out of these works.”

“From the point of view of the railways, this project proposes to order the construction of the following – a railway from the port of San Antonio in the Territory of Río Negro to Lago Nahuel-Huapí; from Puerto Deseado to a junction with the previous line to Lago Nahuel-Huapí, passing through Colonia San Martín, with a branch to Comodoro Rivadavia, passing through Colonia Sarmiento, and another branch to Lago Buenos Aires, and another to Colonia 16 de Octubre [Trevelin]; from the port of Barranqueras on the River Paraná to a junction with the FC Central Norte in the most convenient spot, with a branch line to the line from Añatuya to Chaco and another line from Formosa to Embarcación.”

“In regards to the importance which the railway has which links the Atlantic Coast to the region of Lago Nahuel-Huapí, it appears to me that there can be no doubt whatsoever of its economic necessity. The importance of this region of Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz does not need to be demonstrated; for even if the human population has not increased greatly, the livestock and agricultural population has experienced a considerable development. It is made up of centres, distant one from another, which if they do not achieve a certain sufficient density, which is required by effective progress, since these vast domains are generally in the hands of capitalists, who run them from their residences in the principal centres of business, or from the political nuclei of the country.”

“I know the memoires of the Governors of the various territories, various explorers and men of science, which have been published about this region, and personally part of it, as I have visited it, accompanied by technical assessors, who could form a special opinion of the extraordinary richness of the region considering its agricultural, mineral, livestock value, in all senses enormous, which would give life to every public work of this class which might be built.”

“There exists, on the other hand, in these territories of the South, a type of divorce imposed by the wilderness between the settlements in the valleys of the Cordillera and those established on the shores of the sea. This has resulted in a double current of expansion, to which I draw the attention of the Senators.”

“As the natural law of expansion of social groups is centrifugal, the populations formed in the valleys of the Cordillera deal with overcoming difficulties within their own boundaries, and the intermediate wilderness which separates the large centres of population, their economic influence heads abroad, and the same occurs with the populations established on the shores of the sea, which being unable to communicate amongst themselves, with the other settlements of the territory, and with the principal centres of economic action of the country, foreign navigation, European interests, which are much more active and efficient than ours, take the excess, or overproduction, which ought to enrich our economic vitality, that is to say, deprive the country of its legitimate benefits.”

“This fails then, and in an evident manner, a programme of Government which resolves this fundamental problem – that of giving social, political and economic cohesion to the distinct centres of spontaneous, or deliberate formation, which have developed in those territories, and which currently live an isolated antagonistic life, very often without the capability of producing in common, in harmony, the sum of the benefits, which nature, by its collective richness, is destined to give.”

“Many times longitudinal railways have been spoken about, that is to say from North to South, which join the distinct settlements of the Cordillera, and those of the coast; but, for the reasons which I have expounded, a parallel system seems much more suitable for the high political and economic aims of the Nation, that is to say, a horizontal system, which links the settlements of the coast to the Andean valleys to give this cohesion to social and economic life to which I have referred.”

“All the memorials of the Governors of Territories, all the reports of the explorers, and all the studies which have dealt with this problem, insist on this aspect of the question, and although not expressing it with the frankness which I do, of the true motives of these links, all have concurred in the great necessity for building railways, which join the eastern and western regions, and which at the same time, link to the mother lines which leave from the great economic centres.”


“But the present project does not refer to this area in particular, but to that of the same territory in connection with it of Santa Cruz. In respect of this, even though the lines do not coincide mathematically, the opinion of Governor Lezana, which to me is of great worth, in its principal lines coincides with the project of the Executive Power. He says on page 81 of his memorial that 'from whichever of the said ports – he is talking about Madryn or ComodoroRivadavia – which the railway should leave from which, later or sooner, will have to be built from the coast to the area of the Cordillera, which needs no more than these means of communication to populate it, and provided the enviable advantages of its soil.' It is what is said, in summary, by the opinions of all those who have studied this problem of the territories.”

“The Southern Network, which leaves Puerto Deseado, reaches to form a junction with the previous line, and goes on to Lago Nahuel-Huapí, passing through Colonia San Martín, with a branch line to Comodoro Rivadavia, passing through Colonia Sarmiento, and another branch line to Lago Buenos Aires and the Colonia 16 de Octubre, completes a true system of economic exploitation, calculated in the real knowledge of the geography of the region, and the most important points for the prospective development as will happen with Lago Buenos Aires which, although at the present time, does not have any large nuclei of population, is called to attract a stronger current of national and foreign population.”


“And while the projected works on the rivers Chubut and Santa Cruz may be of secondary importance, they are of prime importance for these fertile lands.”

“And while the River Santa Cruz, has been studied by an intelligent officer of our Navy, Señor Padilla, and there are already general studies of these works, which could serve as the basis of a definitive study. It is necessary to bear in mind that the ports of Madryn and Rawson are of great importance for the South of the Republic. That of Madryn may be considered as one of the marvels of the world, and in this I do not solely reflect my impression, but I hold a more authoritative opinion, because it is that of very capable sailors and engineers who have studied it in depth.”

“I have visited a magnificent work of nature, and I have been amazed, lamenting that a century before our Country had not risen to a life of civilization and of political constitutional order.”

“Our internal dis-equilibrium, and all those works which have preceded our constitutional organization, have impeded, as is very well known, that civilizing activity extended further away from the seat of the ancient vice-royalty in its part more populated, and that this has not only impeded this, but has made possible tentative dispositions of our territorial domain. All this under the protection of that disorganization, of that lack of care which has been characterised by our way of being, our governments of earlier epochs; but presently this can not be produced – the current of population is established, and now it may not be possible to say that our domain may be considered as res nullius [worthless], as it could be considered in those times. This has concluded, before the opinion of the whole world which, I repeat, already will not have the idea enunciated in some book, that those domains may be occupied by whomsoever; but it is necessary that the governments do not sleep on their laurels, as is said commonly, and which do not have confidence in normality at times apparent of certain economic currents to abandon again those vast and rich domains; and this is one of the reasons why the Special Committees of Public Works and of Agriculture have believed that this project has a transcendental political thought, and that Congress ought to lend its support.”


Doctor González, after having spoken about the financial aspect of the project, finished thus:

“I do not want to further disturb the attention of the Honourable Senate, and I am going to finish with a brief consideration of the constitutional aspects of the matter.”

“The National Territories have been established by the Constitution, according to the masters of this matter, in younger conditions, to whom it is necessary to educate appropriately for an independent and civilized life. The Territories are states in formation, and as such, must be the subject of solicitous care on the part of the Nation; and the Constitution very especially charges the Argentine Congress with this task by virtue of Subclause 14 of Clause 67, which gives the authority to pass organic statutes for each one of them. The Territories are, moreover, the future theatre of the realization of the most votes which the Constitution has created that is those created in the Preamble and in Clauses 25 and 67, Subclauses 14, 107 and 108, since it is expressed in these clauses that the Argentine territory is open to all living and civilizing forces of the world who want to come to it, to create a home and to seek work. Moreover, it establishes the formation of new provinces, and these new provinces may not be in this sense National Territories, which remained outside the boundaries of the ancient provinces, and which, by a special law, ought to be governed by the Government of the Nation. The new provinces ought to arise from them, and will be so much more prosperous when the elements have concurred in their progress during their age of minority. The same thing happens with men who, have more or less strengths and efficiency, and have been the elements acquired during their elementary and moral education in their youth.”

“Indubitably, the execution of these works, such as have been projected, will develop the particular vitality of each region, will give it its own economic character, and this society, which forms on it, will take all these characteristics, and present them after the political organization to which we must aspire for each one of our provinces, that is to say, that they are organised within the general lines of the federal republican system, presenting individuals with their own individual characteristics, in order to realize thus the social law, which is inherent in the federal regime, and in which true progress consists in the essential differentiation of its constitutional elements.”

“Our territory has passed through various periods, which I am going to summarise in a few words, without dealing with the colonial period, which now forever lies in the shadows. I refer to the period which ended with the military expedition of 1879, and the complete occupation of what up till then had been called the Patagonian wilderness, and had been integrated into the administrative and economic action of the Country, represented at that time by the law of 16 October 1884, which was the first outline for the government of our territories and which it naturally gave their legal personalities, and in my judgement, made the initial mistake of considering all of them as of equal importance in conditions of social and political vitality on which I must formulate the vote for the possible or future reforms of this law, which are inspired by different ideas, and give to each Territory the law which is in best accord with its nature, with its importance, with its physical and climatic conditions, and which will make them a base for a vigorous future society. Not measuring each by the same law, because this is not materially possible, which would induce and occasion serious mistakes, as we have occasion to see daily.

The second period is from the sizing up of colonization, from 1884 to 1902, in which is defined the natural state of those Territories, ending the uncertainties with respect to peace and stability, by means of the definitive agreements with the Republic of Chile, which dispel completely, in my judgement, all causes for vacillation and doubt. It is natural then, during this long period, that the existence of a start to difficult arbitration, already in the treaty of 1856, ratified in 1881, and in the subsequent treaties which submit to arbitration vast regions of other Territories, and while the judicial solution of arbitration was not settled, an absolute confidence could not exist in respect of the future. For this, I say that the results of the agreements of 1902 with Chile ought to give an absolute and irrevocable character to the whole idea of the dominion and occupation of these vast regions.

Finally, in the new period, which is the present day, is this law, initiated since the great railway building, canalization irrigation, in one word, the works of true economic progress, which prepare the definitive period, which will be the development and political expansion of the Territories in their category of states of the federal union of the Argentine provinces.

We find then, at the start of the end of evolution in the economic life of the Territories, and if we give them a firm economic base, if we will develop at once their sources of production, of their own vitality, and we open up their natural resources, which are currently hidden, we may await in confidence for the next period, which I call political development, which will produce in the shortest time the protection of the peace already conquered, of the constitutional order, more or less definitively cemented, and those of us, who are presently alive, are able to, and may wish to, perhaps await saluting new states in concert with those that today form the national confederation.


The Bill drafted by the Senate's Special Committees of Agriculture and of Public Works, in collaboration with the ministers of both disciplines, who did not vacillate in accepting the amendments made in greater depth than those in the original Bill, sent by the Executive Power that subsequently passed, as revised, to the Chamber of Deputies, which started to deal with it in their session of 10 August 1908 and finished their work on the 28th of the same month and year.

Doctor Adrián Escobar, advised by the Special Committees of Agriculture and of Public Works, Dr. E. Ramos Mexía, who on this occasion discharged the portfolio of Public Works, Dr. Manuel de Iriondo, Minister of Finance, Engineer Pedro Ezcurra, Minister of Agriculture and Senators Emilio Mitre, Crouzeilles, Olmedo, Roca, Vocos Giménez and Méndez Casariego spoke in the debate..


Ley No 5559 de Fomento de los Territorios nacionales
y Decreto de 11 de Abril de 1907, incorporado a la ley de acuerdo con lo
dispuesto por el artículo 18 de la misma.

Buenos Aires, Septiembre 11 de 1908.


El Senado y Cámara de Diputados de la Nación Argentina, reunidos en Con-
greso, etc., sancionan con fuerza de

Law No 5559 anent the Development of the National Territories
and Decree of 11 April 1907, incorporated into the law in accordance with the
order of article 18 of the same.

Buenos Aires, September 11, 1908.


The Senate and Chamber of Deputies of the Argentine Nation, joined in Congress,
etc, sanction with force of


ARTíCULO 1. o - Autorízase al Poder Ejecutivo para estudiar, construir y explotar los siguientes ferrocarriles :
a) Desde puerto San Antonio en el Territorio del Río Negro, hasta el lago Nahuel Huapí.
b) Desde puerto Deseado hasta empalmar con la línea anterior que va al lago Nahuel Huapí, pasando por Colonia San Martín, con un ramal a Comodoro Rivadavia, pasando por Colonia Sarmiento, otro ramal al lago Buenos Aires, y otro a la Colonia 16 de Octubre.
c) Desde el puerto Barranqueras sobre el río Paraná, hasta emplamar con el ferrocarril Central Norte, en el punto que resulte más conveniente, con un ramal a la línea de Anatuya al Chaco.
d) Desde Formosa a Embarcación.
e) Otros ramales de las citadas líneas, que el Poder Ejecutivo considere convenientes.
ARTICLE 1st — Authorise the Poder Ejecutivo to study, construct and operate the following railways :

The Argentine Government operates in three arms :-
Poder Ejecutivo — Executive Power — The President, governors of provinces and conveners (or provosts of towns).
Poder Legislativo — Legislative Power — The national senators, the national and provincial deputies, and local councillors.
Poder Judicial — Judicial Power. The Judiciary.

a) From Port San Antonio in the Territory of Río Negro, to Lake Nahuel Huapí.
b) From Puerto Deseado to a junction with the aforementioned line which goes to Lake Nahuel Huapí, passing through Colonia San Martín, with a branch line to Comodoro Rivadavia, passing through Colonia Sarmiento, another branch line to Lake Buenos Aires and another to Colonia 16 de Octubre.
c) From Port Barranqueras on the River Párana, to a junction with the Central Norte Railway, at the most advantageous point, with a branch line to the line from Anatuya to El Chaco.
d) From Formosa to Embarcación.
e) Other branch lines to the said lines which the
Poder Ejecutivo consider advantageous.

NOTE — It should be noted that these railways are not solely in Patagonia, but also in the far north of the country.

ART. 2. o - La trocha de estas líneas será fijada por el Poder Ejecutivo según resulte en cada caso más conveniente, de los estudios y proyectos que practicará el Departamento de Obras Públicas, a cuyo cargo estará también la construcción y explotación des estas líneas.
ART. 2nd - The gauge of these lines shall be fixed by the Poder Ejecutivo according as be most advantageous in each case as determined by the studies and designs which will be carried out by the Department of Public Works, also in whose charge will be the construction and operation of these lines.

ART. 3. o - Las líneas serán de carácter secundario y su explotación, será regida por la ley especial de ferrocarriles secundarios. Mientras esta ley no sea dictada, las líneas quedarán eximidas de las dispociones legales que fijan el tiempo acordado para los transportes, el cual será reglamentado por el Poder Ejecutivo.
Las Líneas serán declaradas de primer orden y sujetas a la ley General de Ferrocarriles en vigencia, cuando el producto bruto pase del seis por ciento sobre el capital invertido y siempre que a juico del Poder Executivo, al tráfico de ellas lo requiera.
ART. 3rd - The lines shall be of secondary nature and their operation shall be regulated by the special law for secondary railways. While this law remains unapplied, the lines will will remain free of the legal constraints which set the time applicable to transport undertakings, which will be regulated by the Poder Ejecutivo.
The lines shall be declared to be in good order and subject to the current General Railways Law, when the gross receipts exceed six per centum of the capital invested and provided that the traffic on them, in the judgement of the
Poder Ejecutivo, so requires it.

NOTE - These lines are defined as secondary lines for which there was a special law. It may be that this was a respose to the need for economic railway construction analogous to the Light Railways Act (1896?) in the UK.

ART. 4. o - La construcción de cada línea podrá ser comenzada después de hechos los estudios de máxima de toda ella y siempre que se hayan terminado los estudios y proyectos definitivos, de los trozos iniciales.
La prosecución de los estudios definitivos podrá llevarse adelante a medida que avance la construcción.
ART. 4th — The construction of each line may be started on completion of studies of the whole line and provided the detailed studies and designs have been completed for the initial stages.
The undertaking of the detailed studies may be carried out in advance in stages as the construction is progressed.

ART. 5. o — El Poder Ejecutivo podrá licitar la construcción, ajudiciaria directamente si recibiese propuestas ventajosas subscriptivas por firmas conocidas de responsiblidad notoria, o ejecutarla por administración.
En este último caso, adquirirá los materiales de construcción y el tren rodante, mediante licitación pública o privada, pudiendo también en los otros casos, adquirirlos mediante una licitación especial si así creyera conveniente.
ART. 5th — The Poder Ejecutivo may invite tenders for the construction, negotiate directly if they receive advantageous offers from known firms of proven capability, or carry out the works by direct labour.
In this last case, they will acquire the construction materials and rolling stock, by public or private tender, being also able in other cases to acquire them by means of special tender if they consider that be advantageous.

ART. 6. o — Se autoriza al Poder Ejecutivo para construir en los puertos por intermedio del Departamento de Obras Públicas, los muelles, depósitos y demás instalaciones que fuesen necesarias para la carga, descarga y acomodo de todo lo que constituye el tráfico del ferrocarril.
ART. 6th — The Poder Ejecutivo are authorised to construct in the ports, through the Department of Public Works, the wharfs, warehouses and appurtenances which may be necessary for the loading, unloading and accommodation of all that which may constitute the traffic of the railway.

NOTE — This article would appear to relate largely to the Patagonian railways and make it clear that the ports were seen as an essential part of the railway system. Perhaps if this had not been done the Transpatagónico might have become a reality.

ART. 7. o — El Poder Ejecutivo tendrá derecho a adquirir o explotar el agua que se necesita para el sevicio de la construcción y explotación de las líneas, de los ríos, arroyos, lagos y manantiles que se encuentre a inmediaciones del trayecto, así como para conducirla por medio de canales, acequias o cañerias desde el punto de toma hasta el ferrocarril, declarándose de utilidad pública el derecho a la servidumbre de paso de éstas, por las propiedades que deben cruzarse.
ART. 7th — The Poder Ejecutivo shall have the right to acquire or make use of the water which they need for the construction and operation of the lines, from the rivers, watercourses, lakes and springs which may be found in the vicinity of the route and to lead it by means of canals, aqueducts or pipework from the point of extraction to the railway, declaring to be of public need the right to servitude right of access to these in the properties through which they must pass.

ART. 8. o — Los materiales destinados a la construcción y explotación de estas líneas, se introducirán libres de derechos. Las líneas y sus dependencias no podrán ser gravadas con impuestos nacionales, provinciales ni municipales.
ART. 8th — The materials intended for the construction and operation of these lines shall be free from tax. The lines and their appurtenances may not be burdened with national, provincial or municipal taxes.


ART. 9. o — Autorízarse al Poder Ejecutivo para acordar primas a empresas particulares que hagan el servicio de navegación de los puertos del Sur, y podrá destinar a ese fin la suma de ciento veinte mil pesos oro al año.
ART. 9th — The Poder Ejecutivo are authorised to subsidise the private undertakings which provide the shipping service to the ports of the South, and shall allocate to this purpose the amount of twenty thousand gold pesos per year.


ART. 10. — Autorízarse al Poder Ejecutivo para invertir hasta la suma de tres millones ochocientos cincuenta mil pesos oro, en los estudios y obras siguientes :
a) Estudios definitivos de las obras necesarias para hacer navegable el río Pilcomayo en todo su curso, desde el paralelo 22, y los de construcción de un canal navegable de unión entre el Pilcomayo superior y su trozo inferior, en lo cual podrá invertir la suma de cien mil pesos oro.
b) Limpieza y retificación del río Bermejo, construcción de una línea telegráfica y adquisición de una escuadrilla para su navegación, a cuyo fin podrá invertir hasta la suma de cuatrocientos cicuenta mil pesos oro.
c) Limpieza y dragado del río Santa Cruz y de la vía del Chubut, hasta Rawson, en cuyas obras podrá invertir hasta la suma de cuatrocientos cincuenta mil pesos oro.
d) Estudios definitivos y obras de regularización del régimen de las aguas del río Negro, por los medios más conducentes a evitar las inundaciones del valle del mismo, y a mejorar sus condiciones de navigabilidad y de su distribución para el riego, pudiendo invertir en ellas la suma de dos millones de pesos oro.
e) Estudios definitivos del río Colorado, sus afluentes y lagos o cuencas imbríferas, que comprenderán los relevamientos plani-altimétricos de toda esa cuenca y los estudios hiogrométricos para detreminar el regimén de las aguas y los embalses máximos, para formar las grandes reservas para la navegación y el regadio. Podrá destinar á este fin la suma de doscientos cincuenta mil pesos oro.
f) Estudios de los puertos sobre el Atlántico que deberán servir á la exportación de los productos de la zona á que afectan las obras y estudios autorizados por la presente ley, pudiendo invertir la suma de doscientos cincuenta mil pesos oro.
ART. 10. — The Poder Ejecutivo are authorised to invest up to the amount of three million eight hundred and fifty thousand gold pesos ($3, 850, 000 gold) in the following studies and works :

NOTE — If you add up the shopping list below it totals $3, 500, 000 so the above figure clearly includes a 10% contingency allowance.

NOTE — This list of projects makes it clear that development was seen not just in terms of railways. There are river navigations here, together with works to reduce flooding and provide irrigation.

a) Detailed studies of the works necessary to render the Río Pilcomayo navigable along its whole length, from the 22nd parallel, and those of the construction of a navigable canal linking the Upper Pilcomayo to its lower portion, in which they may invest the amount of one hundred thousand gold pesos ($100, 000 gold).

NOTE — The Río Pilcomayo forms the frontier between Argentina and Paraguay from its confluence with the Río Parguay as far north as the frontier with Bolivia (about 22o south). There is no reference to any joint action with Paraguay. This would have provided a link for shipping from Bolivia to Buenos Aires. Was this ever carried out?

b) Clearing and straightening the Río Bermejo, construction of a line of telegraph and the acquisition of a fleet of barges, to which end they may invest up to the sum of four hundred and fifty thousand gold pesos ($450, 000 gold).
c) Clearing and dredging the Río Santa Cruz and the same of the Chubut, as far as Rawson, in which works they may invest up to the amount of four hundred and fifty thousand gold pesos ($450, 000 gold).

NOTE — These works appear to be to improve the flow characteristics of the rivers rather than to provide for navigation. It is slightly strange that no reference is made to flood control on the Chubut which led to the Florentino Ameghino dam. Perhaps the decision to build one there had already been taken.

d) Detailed studies and works to control the regime of the waters of the Río Negro, by the most appropriate means to avoid the floods in the valley of the same, to improve its use for navigation and its distribution for irrigation, being able to invest the sums in them of two million gold pesos ($2, 000, 000 gold).

NOTE — This explains the opening bridge at Carmen de Patagones.

e) Detailed studies of the Río Colorado, its tributaries and lakes or adjacent basins, which make up the topography of this river basin and the hydrometric studies to determine the regime of the water and the biggest dams to provide large reserves for navigation and irrigation. They may allocate to this end up to the sum of two hundred and fifty thousands gold pesos ($250, 000 gold).
f) Studies of the Atlantic ports which should serve for the export of the products of the region which the works and studies authorised by this present law affect, being able to invest the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand gold pesos ($250, 000 gold).

NOTE — Clearly the Atlantic ports were seen as providing outlets for the produce of the region, rather than taking it north to Bahía Blanca or Buenos Aires for export.


ART. 11. — Las obras, los estudios y las adquisiciones autorizadas por esta ley, se pagarán en dinero efectivo. A este efecto queda facultada el Poder Ejecutivo para hacer uso del crédito interno o externo hasta la suma de veitecinco millones de pesos oro, pudiendo afectar al pago de la amortización é intereses de la suma tomada en préstamo, las líneas construídas en virtud de la autorización acordada por el presente ley, y sus entradas, así como el producido de la tierra a que se refiere el artículo 13.
ART. 11. — The works, the studies and the acquisitions authorised by this law will be paid in currency. To this end the Poder Ejecutivo remain authorised to use internal or external credit up to the amount of twenty five million gold pesos ($25, 000, 000 gold), the lines constructed by virtue of the authorization granted by this law and their receipts, as also the income from the land referred to in art 13, being used to effect payment of the repayments of and the interest on the amount borrowed.

ART. 12. — El producido de esta operación de crédito se depositará en cuenta especial en el banco de la Nación Argentina, y el Poder Ejecutivo no podrá disponer de estos recursos sino un pago de los certificados definitivamente aprobados por obras ejecutadas, o gastos autorizados por esta ley. Igualmente se depositará en cuenta especial en el banco de la Nación Argentina, desde la promulgación de la presente ley, el producido de la venta y arrendamiento de las tierras a que se refiere el art. 13, a fin de asegurar el servicio de intereses y amortizaciones de la operación de crédito que autoriza esta ley.
ART. 12. — The income from this credit operation will be deposited in a special account in the Bank of the Argentine Nation, and the Poder Ejecutivo may not disburse these funds except by duly authorised certificates for works carried out, or expenses authorised by this law. Equally the proceeds of the sale or lease of lands referred to in art. 13, from the promulgation of this present law, shall be deposited in a special account in the Bank of the Argentine Nation in order to secure the service of interest and repayment of credit which this law authorises.


ART. 13. — El Poder Ejecutivo no podrá comprometer en forma alguna la disponilidad de la tierras afectadas por esta ley, por ventas, contratos de arrendamientos o permisos de ocupación, en las regiones servidas por las obras proyectadas. Las ventas de las tierras ubicadas en las zonas de influencia de las obras utilizadas por la presente ley, quedarán en adelante sistemáticamente subordinadas al adelanto de las que ejecuten para colocar dichas tierras en condiciones de explotación económica, y al pago del costo de las obras. La zona de influencia será fijada por el Poder Ejecutivo, dentro de los doce meses de la promulgación de la presente ley, con un mínimum de valor de aproximado al duplo del costo de las obras.
ART. 13. — The Poder Ejecutivo may not undertake in any form the disposal of any of the lands affected by this law by sales, leases or permissions to occupy in the areas served by these projected works. The sale of the lands located in the zones of influence established by this present law will remain systematically in advance of, and subordinate to, the advance payments which are made in order to place the said land in a state of productive development at the expense of the works. The zone of influence will be fixed by the Poder Ejecutivo within twelve months of the promulgation of this present law, with a minimum value of about twice the cost of the works.

ART. 14. — Las tierras propias para la agricultura quedarán reservadas, mientras no se hayan puesto en comunicación con los centros comerciales del país por obras proyectadas o a proyectarse con ese fin, y luego serán destinadas a la colonización agricola, de acuedo con las leyes vigentes.
ART. 14. — The private agricultural lands will remain reserved while they have not been put in communication with the commercial centres of the country by the works projected or to be projected with this objective, and will then be destined for agricultural colonization in accordance with the current laws.

ART. 15. — La reserva de las tierras a que se refieren los artículos anteriores, durará en cada zona, hasta tanto se haya amortizado el importe de la obra que las afecta. En caso de que alguna de las obras autorizadas no hubiera podido tener principio en un término de cinco años, el Poder Ejecutivo dará cuenta al H. Congreso para resolver sobre la disponibilidad de las tierras.
ART. 15. — The reservation of the lands referred to in the aforesaid articles will remain in each area until the amount of the works which affect them has been repaid. In the case of any work authorised which has not been started within five years, the Poder Ejecutivo will give an account to the Honourable Congress in order to resolve the disposal of the lands.

ART. 16. — Al realizarse las ventas de tierras de pastoreo comprendidas en la zona de influencia, se acordará el título definitivo al aprobarse el remate, quedando constituída una hipoteca a favor del Gobierno de la Nación, por el valor total de la venta, en las condiciones determinadas por la ley orgánica del Banco Hipotecario Nacional, en todo lo que no sea modificada por el presente.
ART. 16. — On realising the sales of the pastoral lands within the zone of influence, a definitive title will be agreed on the approval of the sale, granting a mortgage by the Government of the Nation for the total amount of the sale in accordance with the conditions laid down by the law of the Banco Hipotecario Nacional, all of which shall be not be modified by the present law.

ART. 17. — El pago de las tierras así adquiridas, se hará abonado un servicio semestral de cinco por cento de interés anual, y de, por lo menos, un cinco por ciento de amortización anual acumulativa. El primer semestre se abonará en el acto del remate al firmarse el boleto de compra, cuyo importe será devuelto integro en el caso que la venta no fuese aprobada por el Poder Ejecutivo. La desaprobación de los remates deberá hacerse dentro de los sesenta días de realizados, pasados los cuales quedarán de hecho aprobados.
ART. 17. — The payment of the lands thus acquired will be by monthly instalments of five per centum annual interest, and, at least five per centum, annual accumulative repayment. The first instalments will be due on the signing of the deed of sale, whose amount shall be returned intact in the event that the sale be not approved by the Poder Ejecutivo. The disapproval of sales must be made within sixty days of being effected, failing which the sale will become approved.


ART. 18. — Declárase incorporado a la presente ley, el decreto del Poder Ejecutivo de once de Abril de mil novecientos siete, estableciendo reservas permanentes de tierras para tránsito.
ART. 18. — The decree of eleventh April one thousand nine hundred and seven years of the Poder Ejecutivo, making permanent reservations of land for transport purposes, is declared incorporated into this law.


ART. 19. — El Poder Ejecutivo podrá atender a los primeros gastos que sea necesario anticipar la ejecución de estas obras, con las entradas de la Dirección de Tierras y Colonias, no afectadas por el cálculo de recursos vigente.
ART. 19. — The Poder Ejecutivo may use for the initial expenses, necessary for the execution of these works, the income from the Directorate of Lands and Colonies, not affected by the calculation of current appeals.

ART. 20. — Los estudios y contratos de construcción de las obras autorizadas por esta ley, quedarán a cargo del Departamento de Obras Públicas, con la intervención que corresponda al departamento de Agricultura.
ART. 20. — The studies and construction contracts for the works authorised by this law remain in the charge of the Department of Public Works in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture.

ART. 21. — Autorízase al poder Ejecutivo para expropiar las tierras de propiedad particular, cuya ocupación sea necesaria para la ejecución de las obras autorizadas por la presente ley.
ART. 21 — The Poder Ejecutivo are authorised to expropriate lands in private ownership whose occupation may be necessary for the execution of the works authorised by the present law.

ART. 22. — Quedan derogadas las disponiciones de las leyes vigentes que se opongan a la presente.
ART. 22. — The parts of the current laws contrary to the present law are hereby revoked.

ART. 23. — Comuníquese al Poder Ejecutivo.
ART. 23. — Communicate this to the Poder Ejecutivo.

Dada en la Sala de Sesiones del Congreso Argentino, en Buenos Aires, a veintiocho de Agosto de mil novecientos ocho.
Given in the Session Room of the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires, the twenty eighth day of August one thousand nine hundred and eight years.


B. Ocampo Alejandro Sorondo

Secretario del Senado Secretario de la C. de DD.
Secretary of the Senate Secretary of the Chamber of Deputies

Registrada bajo el número 5559
Registered under the number 5559

Téngase por la ley de la Nación, cúmplase, comuníquese, publíquese e insértese en el Registro Nacional.

Take this as the law of the Nation, comply with it, communicate it, publicise it and insert it into the National Registry.




to home page

to top of page

to FCE broad gauge overview page

the Chilean broad gauge



Site map

Chapter 4

The FCE broad gauge network

Main pages

Ambitious plans

Towards Bariloche

And back to Viedma

Bariloche line locos

Bariloche line rolling stock

Bariloche line extra photos

From Com. Rivadavia

Com. Riv. line locos

Com. Rivadavia line extra photos

From Pto. Deseado

Pto. Des. line locos

Pto. Deseado line extra photos

Pto. Deseado line extra photos 2


1 Text of law 5559

2 Chronology of Patagonian railway proposals

3 Bariloche line route itinerary

4 Com. Rivadavia route itinerary

5 Pto. Deseado route itinerary

6 Bariloche line loco list

7 Com. Rivadavia line loco list

8 Pto. Deseado line loco list

9 FCE wagon diagrams

10 Map of Com. Rivadavia

11 Pto. Deseado lines plans

12 Examples of tickets

13 FCP 1957 report 1

14 FCP 1957 report 2

15 FCP working timetable instructions 1960

16 Report on construction 1912 A

17 Report on construction 1912 B

18 Two reports from 1912

19 Telegram about labourers •

20 Account of a journey

21 President Alcorta address

22 Purchase of rails decree

23 Purchase of wagons decree

24 Bailey Willis summary

25 Early Patagonian proposals

26 Progress to Bariloche 1926

27 Arrival at Bariloche

28 Restructuring report 1953

29 Neneo Ruca accident






Home page Central of Chubut FCS to Neuquén FCE broad gauge EFE broad gauge Chiloe Island FCE 75cm gauge Estancia railways Coal  railways Ushuaia old & new The South Atlantic Salt railways Industrial lines Resources