item7 AlanCrottypic3
item7 Patagonia, item7
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
AlanCrottypic3
item7

A change of gauge, and new destinations

Puerto Madryn in late 1922 must have been a busy place, for all the engines, stock, rails and sleepers for the new network were arriving by sea, to be stored on quickly-laid sidings. Seventy-five locomotives, 100 coaches, and 750 or more wagons must have been an impressive sight - like Barry Docks for a British enthusiast, but all narrow gauge and all brand new! There exists a photo showing a line of new Henschel 2-8-2s all mounted on metre gauge wagons and hauled by metre gauge 2-6-0 No. 3 - on their way from point of erection to a storage siding in Trelew.

Crates of parts, wagons of sleepers, and Baldwin boilers dumped by the trackside; the scene at Puerto Madryn in 1922.

Pm75cmstuffarriving

New 75cm. gauge works
Work started immediately on the the branch to Rawson and Playa Union, being completed by November 1923. Construction then began on the new line westward. The new track used 35lb. rails (17.36kg. per m.) supplied by Thyssen in Germany. Sleepers were of wood at 1300 or 1500 per km.

A shipload of Famillereux wagons chassis (identifiable by the body upright pockets along the sides) are brought ashore on metre gauge flats.

 

PMwagonsunloaded

 

The stockpile builds up at Puerto Madryn. Visible are Henschel loco underframes supported on piles of sleepers, with rail stacks off to the right.

 

PMrailstacksetc

 

Laying wooden sleepers, probably west of Dolavon.

 

PM75cmtracklaying

 

Track being laid in a newly excavated shallow cutting.

 

PM75cmtracklaying2

 

At first sight the two single point blades look like a recipe for disaster if wrongly set. However the rod at an angle with a bob near the top is a clue. The two blades are linked together and to this rod which acts to hold the blades in whichever direction they are. The leading wheel of the train approaching a blade set against it will move the blade, which will tip the rod and its balance weight over to change the next blade to the correct position and hold it there.

 

PM75cmtracklaying3

 

A ballast train hauled by a Baldwin.

 

FCCC75construction20

Tracing the route using Google Earth
Readers who have the Google Earth program can right click (control-click on a Mac) on the following link:

FC Central del Chubut on Google Earth.zip

Save the file to your desktop and double-click to decompress it. Open the folder and drag the KMZ file onto Google Earth's Places palette. You will now find that you have placemarks for each of the main locations along the route, and four paths to enable you to 'fly through' the route as if in a helicopter. Select one of these and click on the start button to commence the flight.

FCCC Puerto Madryn a Dolavon A flight along the original route from Puerto Madryn to Trelew, and on along the extensions to Gaiman and Dolavon.

FCCC PM muelle to aerodrome branch From the muelle, through the town of Puerto Madryn and then south along the 4 km. branch to the aerodrome.

FCCC extension to Alto de las Plumas A flight westward along the 1920s trackbed from Dolavon to Alto de las Plumas, though it should be noted that the terminus has not yet been identified precisely in Google Earth.

FCCC extension to Rawson & Playa Unión The 1920s branch from Trelew through Rawson to the mouth of the Chubut river.

Generally the route is clearer without the overlying vector path being checked and visible, but with the appropriate station placemarks checked. Flights or 'tours' in this website are best done with the Google Earth touring preferences set to a camera tilt angle of about 60 degrees, and a camera range of about 300m.
 

The branch to Rawson & Playa Union
The FCCC itself had been thinking about a branch to Rawson since the early 1890s. The new operators wasted no time in getting started on its construction. The new line started 100 yards (metres) east of Trelew station, branching away eastward from the mainline to Puerto Madryn.

The track runs through Rawson close to the river and past the north end of the road bridge. The bridge continues to carry traffic to this day.

 

 

FCCC75atRawsonbridge

There were no major civil engineering feats, the whole line being on the level valley floor. Three unmanned halts ('apeaderos') were designated in the 19km. distance to Rawson, and there was another 6km. of track on to the terminus at Playa Union.

A simple passing loop and turning triangle comprised the layout at Rawson.

 

The station building at Rawson was fairly basic.

FCCC75Rawsonstation

The photo below was taken at Rawson station, possibly on the opening day, 17 November 1923. The cameraman was facing east. There are two trains both hauled by Baldwin 2-8-2s and both decorated with flags. The left hand one is on one of the two through lines whilst the right hand one stands on the turning triangle.

 

FCCC75FirsttrainsatRawson

 

It seems that the branch was sometimes worked by one of the two Henschel 0-6-0 tank engines (Nos. 19452 and 19453). The picture below shows one of these, again on some sort of special occasion. Note that whilst the tank wagon and bogie van are both 1922-built 75cm gauge stock, the passenger car is an old metre gauge 2nd class coach (No. 4) from 1886 converted by placing it on new 75cm. bogies.

 

FCCC75Specialtrainwithtankloco

 

On one occasion one of the 0-6-0Ts seems to have come to grief! The next two pictures show it 'in the dirt'. These photos are copies of those in Rawson museum and it seems likely that the accident was somewhere on the branch.

 

FCCC75Tanklocoderailment1

 

accident2

 

Another accident involved the overturning of one of the Baldwin 2-8-2s. There is no proof that this was on the Rawson line, but the original picture suggests that the left side of the track was flooded; The branch being largely on flat ground it seems quite likely that this was the location.

 

FCCC75Baldwinderailed

 

A set of three photos in Rawson museum recall the operation of an enormously long excursion at some point. Again the location is uncertain but the branch is the only line flat enough for a single Baldwin to cope with eighteen or more carriages! It would be nice to know the event which led to the running of this record-breaking train.

 

1 - The locomotive..

 

FCCC75longtrain3

 

2 - tank car, furgon, and...

 

FCCC75longtrain1

 

3 - about eighteen coaches!

 

 

FCCC75longtrain2

The extension to Playa Union had no regular passenger service, this stopping at Rawson. However, it is probable that there were weekend excursions to the beach and some of the trains illustrated above may have been on such duties.

The extension westward toward Colonia 16 de Octubre
Once the Rawson branch had been completed in 1924, work started on the extension towards the cordillera. This was intended to reach Colonia 16 de Octubre, now better known as Trevelin. There it was to meet the line coming south from Ingeniero Jacobacci, which was to have continued south towards the broad gauge lines at Sarmiento and Las Heras.

The new alignment started from Dolavon, the FCCC's 1915 railhead. There were no serious difficulties along the route, though steeper gradients west of Boca de la Zanja meant some wide sweeping curves to gain height.

The layout of Dolavon at the closure in 1961 is easy to reconcile with the photo below. However, it was taken from a Chubut cadastral survey dept. plan, and track accuracy will not have been their primary concern. In any case I suspect that the loops in front of the station building may have been taken out later on.

 

Baldwin 2-8-2 no. 9 awaits departure with a down train from Dolavon - or 'Valle Superior' as it was originally known. The loco still carries its bell (behind the front sand-dome) which suggests an early date.

 

FCCC75BaldwinatDolavon

 

Another Baldwin, this time it is thought at Boca de la Zanja.

 

FCCC75BaldwinatstationCV

 

As in many areas of Argentina, new stations often are identified by their distance along the track, until at a later date a more imaginative name can be applied. In the picture below the staff of estación Kilómetro 145 seem to be enjoying themselves!

 

FCCC75extraKm145

 

Km. 145 eventually gained the name 'Campamento Villegas', as seen here.

 

FCCC75CampVillegassign

Further west at Las Chapas the route passed through an area of rich Kaolin (China Clay) deposits. Short branches were eventually built to access these pits, which produced the railway's most reliable traffic.

The line eventually reached the high ground above the village of Las Plumas. It was here at Alto de Las Plumas in 1925 that work was halted by decision of the new Administrador General, Señor Enrique Pérez. Three years later work on the north-south line from Ing. Jacobacci ceased owing to a shortage of money. Whilst the latter line was restarted during the 1930s, no further progress was made beyond Alto de Las Plumas, though even in the 1941 timetable the route was still termed 'the line towards Colonia 16 de Octubre'.

Regauging of the metre gauge.
Of course a third rail had to be added to the metre gauge sections. The 1908 and 1915 extensions to Gaiman and Dolavon had been laid on wooden sleepers which meant that an extra rail could be laid easily for the 75cm. gauge. It seems likely that this would have been done early on, for transhipment between gauges would have been awkward enough without it occurring out in the wilds at Dolavon.

The original line from Puerto Madryn to Trelew was built on steel sleepers. These are normally pre-formed and punched at the factory to take rail clips or bolts and to hold the rail at a slight inward cant. It is therefore much more difficult to add a third rail. The original line therefore remained metre gauge for some considerable period until an extra rail was laid throughout by 1930, possibly by relaying with wooden sleepers. From 1931 the metre gauge stock was 'moth-balled' and the metre gauge presumably slowly removed (5).

Two photos from the dual gauge period of the 1920s. On the right is a Baldwin 2-8-2 probably heading west out of Trelew station with a train for the upper valley. On the left is one of the two metre gauge Fives Lille 2-6-0s bought second-hand from the FC Central Norte.

FCCC75Baldwinoldloco

A second picture of Trelew in mixed gauge times. Most of the stock on show is newly-built Famillereux material from 1922, but the locomotive is one of the original metre gauge FCCC 2-6-0s.

 

FCCC75Trelewlocoshed

 

List of places and facilities
An itinerary of places along the line, together with their facilities, is in the appendix section.

2-1-12

RETURN
to home page

RETURN
to top of page

NEXT PAGE
FCCC reconstruction photos

NEXT CHAPTER
Estancia & frigorifico lines

Chapter 7

The 1922 75cm gauge empire

Glossary

Site map

RAILWAYS OF THE FAR
RAILWAYS OF THE FAR

Main pages

Grandiose plans

The 1922 locos

The 1922 rolling stock

Railcars

FCCC extensions

FCCC reconstruction photos

FCCC operations

FCCC extra photos

The line to Esquel

Esquel route construction photos

Esquel operations

More Esquel line photos

The Río Negro line

Com. Rivadavia to Punta Piedras

More photos at Com. Rivadavia

Other users of equipment

Appendices

1 List of locos

2 Rolling stock lists

3 The FCCC itinerary

4 The Esquel itinerary

5 The Río Negro itinerary

6 The 1942 FCCC timetable

7 1960 working timetable

8 Plan of Trelew

9 Track layout photos at Ing. Jacobacci

10 Perez report 1925

11 1955 report

12A 1957 report part A

12B 1957 report part B

12C 1957 report part C

12D 1957 report part D

12E 1957 report part E

12F 1957 report part F

13 1959 report

14 Calculos report

15 1961 report

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