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Main pages

The coalfield

The Mina Loreto line

A Mina Loreto album

Building the RFIRT

RFIRT locos

RFIRT stock

Operating the RFIRT

RFIRT recent changes

The Río Turbio mines


1 Mina Loreto extra photos

2 The RFIRT route

3 RFIRT loco details

4 RFIRT loco list

5 RFIRT route photos

6 RFIRT extra photos

7 The 'Marjory Glen' •

8 RFIRT stock list

9 Proposed Punta Arenas tramway

Chapter 9

Coal railways including the RFIRT


Site map


Appendix 9

The proposed street tramway for Punta Arenas

Allen Morrison of New York is the specialist on street tramways in Latin America. His 1992 book The Tramways of Chile is now out of print, but the text is available on the internet (1). In it he states that there were three proposals for a street tramway in Punta Arenas, in 1907, 1921 and 1922, though nothing ever came of any of these. Mr. Morrison comments that the most southerly street tramway in the world was actually that in Invercargill, New Zealand.

We have recently discovered a document in the Biblioteca Nacional in Santiago, dated 1905, which gives details of the first of the above three proposals (2). This is appended below, preceded by some thoughts on its content.

The document is in four distinct parts
1 – A justification for the construction of a tramway.
2 – The basis on which a tramway company would be formed.
3 – The text of the concession granted to two individuals who would form a company and transfer their concession to it.
4 – Customs statistics for 1904.

In the first section the interesting information includes
● In 1904 the population was about 12,000.
● There were only four carriages for hire in the town; they were considered expensive, and used only for weddings and funerals.
● The road surfaces were poor.
● There was a need for more efficient movement of goods from the muelle to the various warehouses.
● Either animal or electric power would be suitable.
● For passengers, distance to be travelled and the climate are noted as the factors which would encourage potential passengers to use the trams.

The second section defines the proposed financial arrangements of the proposed company.

The third section defines the concession granted and contains a number of interesting details. Clearly the concession was granted with a plan defining the tramway, which was to be not less than 3½ km long.
● It was to serve both passengers and goods; for the latter, sidings to the various warehouses were envisaged.
● There was to be provision for both 1st and 2nd class passengers with a roof covering.
● The concession was limited to ten years, as this was the longest which a municipal authority could bind themselves to; however, it was anticipated that it would be extended to thirty.
● Where the carriageway was 8 or more metres wide, the line was to be down the middle of the street; where less, to one side.
● The tramway was to be responsible for the road surface between the rails and for 50 cm outside the rails (cf the British requirement under the 1870 Tramways Act).
● Only two horses / mules per vehicle could be used; or electric.
● Certain municipal personalities and the police on duty would travel free.
● On four school or public holidays annually, defined by the municipality, four trams would be contributed (presumably gratis) by the company.

The fourth section notes the totals of various types of customs dues received in the port of Punta Arenas in 1903. We are not clear as to the relevance of this to the matter of tramways.






Work an Urban Railway






Working of an

Urban Railway


Last year, the Honourable Council of Ballies in the Territory of Magallanes granted Messrs. Severo Salcedo and Camilo Feliú permission to construct an Urban Railway through the streets, avenues and squares of the City of Punta Arenas, under the terms and conditions which form the concession and are noted further on.

The reasons which have induced the above named persons to seek that concession are the following:

I. – The large area of the City which obliges its inhabitants to cover long distances to their places of work.

It is sufficient to glance at the map of the City of Punta Arenas to get an idea of its extent. Besides the scattered nature of the housing, the places of work, so too the public offices

End of page 1

workshops, saw mills, foundries, slaughter-house, ship-yards, etc, scattered across the City, obliges everyone to walk long distances to travel from one place to another.

II. – The population of 12,000 inhabitants who currently live in Punta Arenas and their rapid increase on a daily basis.

According to the recent census undertaken by the Police, the population of Punta Arenas amounts to, as said, twelve thousand people.

Given the significant increase in the population over the last few years, there is no doubt that in a short while will be at least doubled.

This is thought so, due to the considerable area of fiscal land already acquired by individuals, and the no less considerable amount which will be passed into the hands of the public; the establishment of livestock, mining and industrial companies, whose total capital is more than a hundred million pesos, and the development evident in shipping and commerce throughout the whole Magellanic region.

III. – The almost total lack of means of transport and the high prices paid for the few carriages in use.

Today there are only three or four carriages in Punta Arenas, which operate on Sundays, and special occasions such as weddings, funerals, etc.

The normal price that these carriages charge is five pesos per hour, as they are used only on isolated occasions.

End of page 2

Moreover the road surfacing leaves much to be desired in some streets, which explains why the public service of carriages has not been increased in proportion to the importance of the city.

At the times when there are horse races, the public has to go on foot to the race-course, equally on Sundays to the different restaurants which are along the beach at Miraflores.

The numerous passengers, who land from the steamers anchored in the bay, ask anxiously if there is a tramway, which will allow them to visit the city conveniently in the few hours which they have at their disposal. This transient population would be served by the tramcars.

IV. – The climate is so appropriate for the tramcars to protect the public.

The frequent rainfall in Punta Arenas, and the mud which it produces, obliges the inhabitants to take the tramcar to cover even short distances, and the traffic would increase in winter if trams with stoves were to be provided, which could easily be done at minimal cost.

As in summer there are strong winds all day from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, which raise dust clouds which are uncomfortable, and make traffic movement difficult, the tramway would offer an easy cheap refuge from this nuisance.

And even in the evenings, when the wind drops, and the daylight lasts in summer till ten or eleven at night, the public will be attracted to go out to the surroundings and seek their amusements

End of page 3

in the countryside, and would enjoy the restaurants at Miraflores, where there are dances, skittles, target shooting, and other attractions bringing people together. Particularly on days of festivity, the tramcars would be insufficient all the people who might wish to travel.

V. – The present day difficulties with taking goods from the muelle to the wholesalers' warehouses and vice versa.

The general complaint among businesses is the lack of means of moving the goods which arrive by steamer and are left at the end of the muelle.

Today it costs up to one peso fifty to take a ton of goods, from the muelle to the warehouse, and if they are not moved immediately, they can lie for up to eight days in the open.

As the Concession is also based on the transport of goods, the Concessionaires have approached the main importers, and these have indicated that they would be willing, with pleasure, to pay one peso for each ton of goods, noting that of these merchants, the furtherest from the muelle, is six blocks away.

All of them have their warehouses or stores fitted out in such a way that a short siding from the line can readily go in to the interior of their establishments.

VI. - The economic way of bringing about the installation.

The idea of the Concessionaires is to construct a horse tramway, although there are facilities to build one with electric traction.

End of page 4

Although the first is more economic, experience has shown that electric traction is only worthwhile when long distances are involved, and passengers get on and off several times along the way.

Many of the materials necessary for the installation of the line can be obtained at reduced prices.

The Mina Loreto Railway has bought sleepers at thirty five pesos per hundred.

Horses are cheap in Punta Arenas, but it would be advisable to use mares which are sold at ten pesos each, buying them in batches of forty. There are estancias where it is possible to select cross-breeds at the same price.

Wood is also cheap due to the large number of saw-mills.

Tramcars, rails, etc, can be got at favourable prices in Santiago and Valparaiso.

Land for offices, workshops, stations etc can also be obtained at favourable prices, be it the Government or interested parties making land available for the construction of the railway.

End of page 5



The Concessionaires propose to form a limited company to which the concession will be passed.

The capital will be two hundred thousand pesos, divided into four thousand shares of fifty pesos each, of which 3,200 will be ordinary shares, and the remaining eight hundred fully paid-up shares, which shall belong to the Concessionaires as the price of the concession transferred to the Company.

The capital will be collected in instalments of ten percent each, with the first paid on signing the purchase agreement, and the rest on demand by the Directors, with at least one month between each call.

According to the estimates made, the sum of 160 thousand pesos, which the ordinary shares will raise, will be sufficient for the construction of the line.

For the probable financial outcomes of the operation we have made the following estimate.

From the information gained from the operation of the Valparaiso Urban Railway, each inhabitant therre pays the undertaking an average of $3.80 a year.

End of page 6

On this basis, the Punta Arenas undertaking, which would be an analogous operation would have this same sum multiplied by the number of inhabitants, which is twelve thousand or, say, 45,600 pesos.

To this amount would have to be added the income from goods, which may be estimated as an equal amount; but to reduce this estimate to the minimum we assume that it will generate only a quarter of the passenger fares or, say, 11,400 pesos.

We then have an income of 57,000 pesos.

The expenditure will amount to, according to the estimates of similar undertakings, 30,000 pesos a year.

Accepting this figure, there would be a surplus of 27,000 pesos which would give a return of 13½ per cent on the capital.

But in reality the surpluses will be considerably more, because, deliberately, we have assumed the fares at Valparaiso prices, or five cents per passenger.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to advise that, in Punta Arenas, nothing can be got for five cents, and this coin is replaced there by the twenty cents coin which will be the real price of the fare.

There is another heading for income, that of advertising, which due to the commercial activity in Punta Arenas would produce some five or six thousand pesos a year.

Considering the two previous circumstances, it may be estimated that the income of the Ferrocarril Urbano de Punta Arenas will be at least double that indicated above.

Valparaiso, February 1905

End of page 7


Concession by the Honourable Council of Baillies

of Punta Arenas

in favour of Messrs

S. Salcedo y C. Feliú




1st Permission is granted for a period of ten years to Messrs S. Salcedo and C. Feliú, or to their representatives, to construct an urban railway in the streets, avenues and squares of the City of Punta Arenas, whose length is not less than three and a half kilometres in accordance with the plan previously approved by the Council of Ballies.

This concession is granted for a period of ten years as established by Article 1st; however, the Council of Ballies, being aware that, according to that specified in Article 26 of the Municipalities Law, they are not authorised to grant this type of concession for a longer period, have agreed to raise the matter of a concession lasting 30 years with the relevant party, without this implying any liability on the part of the Council in the event that this extension be not granted.

End of Page 8

2nd The Concessionaires may not place rails in other streets, avenues or squares, nor make sidings, nor change the direction or location of their lines, without the prior authorization of the Council. This authorization will be given in writing accompanied by the relevant drawings.

3rd The line shall be laid in the centre of the streets where the carriageway exceeds eight metres in width, but if narrower shall be laid at one side taking care to leave a clear space of forty centimetres between the kerb and the outside of the vehicle.

4th The Concessionaires are obliged to maintain a drainage path for water along the streets and other places where the line is located, and maintain the surfacing in perfect repair between the rails and for 50 centimetres on either side of the rails, and the levels may not be altered without the approval of the City Engineer.

5th If, for reasons recognised as appropriate, the existing levels are altered by the Council of Ballies, the Concessionaires will proceed with the work in their part at the expense of the undertaking and, if the change involves the surfacing material, the Concessionaires will likewise proceed to carry it out with the Council of Ballies providing the said materials.

6th The Concessionaires may not place obstacles of any kind in the way of the water supply and drainage services in the streets, and other places where they have their line nor will they have a right to indemnity should these installations

End of Page 9

interrupt their traffic in unforeseen and unresolvable ways.

7th The Concessionaires are obliged to maintain the tramways in perfect condition and cleanliness, provide them with adequate brakes to stop them when necessary, and to provide wheel guards.

8th It is a requirement that in the months of September to March the trams run from six in the morning to eleven at night, and in the rest of the year from eight in the morning to nine at night, without prejudice to the Concessionaires running trams at other times as they think appropriate.

9th Traction may be electric or animal, and in the event that the latter is selected, no more than one pair of horses or mules may be used on one tramcar. The use of postillions is allowed where necessary.

10th The trams may not stop on their journey except due to force majeur and the time necessary for passengers to board or alight, and other vehicles may not stop on the line impeding the free passage of the tramcars.

11th At least half the tramcars in service, shall have first and second class compartments, both enclosed.

12th The first class fare shall be twenty centavos for adults and half for children under five years; and in second class ten centavos for adults and five centavos for children.

These prices shall apply during the hours noted in Article 8th; at other times the Concessionaires may increase them up to double.

The charge for goods shall be conventional.

13th The following with have a right to free passage: the Governor,

End of Page 10

the three Ballies, the City Engineer and the chief, officers and constables of the police while on duty.

14th On four days a year appointed by the Council of Ballies, the Concessionaires will provide four tramcars for school or national holidays.

15th Only pedestrians will have free passage over the bridges which will be built for the line by the Concessionaires.

16th Innovations to improve the service, which during the duration of this concession are applied to similar undertakings, may be applied by the Concessionaires with the prior consent of the Council of Ballies.

17th The Concessionaires shall pay the following contribution while the contract is in force.

In the first decade, fifteen pesos a year for each tramcar; in the second thirty and in the third forty five.

The cars, which the undertaking applies exclusively to the carriage of materials for street works, shall be exempt from any contribution.

18th On the expiry of this concession, the Council of Ballies, or to the communal corporation which replaces it, will receive fifty per cent of the rights and assets of the undertaking, which may not be reduced below the average arising in the final five years. It is understood that the assets mean all the material in use, heritable property, materials in stock, etc.

19th This concession will be terminated if the Concessionaires do not start the works within 12 months from the date of signing of the concession, and the works should be completed within the

End of Page 11

following 24 months. If this limit is exceeded the Concessionaires will pay a fine of five hundred pesos for each month or part thereoff.

20th All disputes which may arise between the Council of Ballies and the undertaking will be submitted for resolution by arbiters, one named by each party, and without reference to other resources. In case of disagreement, the arbiters shall name a third, who will work along with them until a verdict is reached; and if they cannot agree on the third arbiter, he shall be selected by the eldest qualified judge in the territory.

End of Page 12


Punta Arenas

Urban Railway

Financial Activity

of the



Summary of the Commercial Statistics for the year 1903, which fell to be published under the direction of the Head of Customs, don Benjamin Carrion.


$ 3.920,048

National Exports


Nationalized Exports


Coastal shipping inwards


Coastal shipping outwards



$ 12.405,433

End of document.

1 The Tramways of Chile 1858 - 1978. Allen Morrison, 1992, Bonde Press, New York. ISBN 0-9622348-2-6.
2 The document is accessible from the basement newpaper reading and microfiche copying room in the Biblioteca Nacional.


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