|Above: Cartagena's train station; now |
greatly altered. Below: the building
still exists in the old city by the
To get to Santiago from his native north Colombian town, he didn't jump the two-hour flight to Bogota and take in the snow-capped Andes from the six-hour flight to Chile as I did. He took the three-week train journey.
I went to the Museum of Cartagena, from where I traced the fate of the railway that carried my elderly friend the 4297-miles (6915 km) to his university studies. The railway from Cartagena began in 1894 as a way to ship tropical products like sugar cane to the interior. Construction was undertaken by private companies and later, subsidized briefly by the government.
The line's use steadily decreased as another port city--Barranquilla--grew and operated its own rail service to the south. The Cartagena line was ripped out in 1951, pushed out also by air travel that was more cost effective for travel [Avianca, Colombia's national airline, is the second oldest (after KLM)].
The museum's curator gave me a series of original recording of the steam engines pulling into the Cartagena station; the collection was made by various train buffs over twenty years (how awesome!). The engines were never electrified or converted to diesel engines--another contribution to their demise as cargo needs increased and the little steamies couldn't make it up the steep Andean inclines.
|The station house in Antofagasta still exists|
happily; built from pine and lovingly
Stories of luxury train cars from the mid-1930's pale today as the trains no longer transport passengers, only mine freight. The big transfer spot was Antofagasta, in the northern Chilean Desert. From there, the trains went inland to Santiago. What remains of that depot is the Antofagasta Rail Museum just north of the city with a few steam locomotives, train sheds and a turn table. Riding those freight trains through the deserts would be an adventure. Next time.
Quite ironically, there is a Cartagena-Santiago railway--in Chile. The railway station in Cartagena, Chile is a beautiful historical monument on the coast south of Valparaiso, however not visited by the young Colombian traveler.
Here's a video of the train from Cartagena (Chile) to Santiago. Skip the first minute; the old footage is wonderful.