Baquedano and the old wooden railway station buildings are a reminder of the past. The dry, hot Atacama desert has preserved the yard. Derelict locomotives, passenger cars, and freight cars litter the area of the roundhouse. The station itself was built of Oregon pine. The roundhouse could hold 16 locomotives. The railway line serviced by the Baquedano roundhouse was built in 1866. It originally ran from Antofagasta in Chile to La Paz in Bolivia. As such, it ran over the Andes at an elevation of almost 16,000 feet (the world’s highest railroad then.). Funding was provided by the “Huanchaca Bolivian Company.) Since Bolivia does not have any ocean ports, the railway was the means to transport minerals from Bolivian mines to the port of Antofagasta in Chile. Chile and the Peru-Bolivia Confederation went to war in 1884. After that, a Chilean-Bolivian consortium took control of the railway. Shortly thereafter, in 1888, ownership went to “The Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Company.” The railway continued to transport minerals (silver, copper, saltpeter.) FCAB (Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia) utilized the infrastructure to begin passenger service. The FCAB railway still exists now transporting copper ores and other minerals. An abandoned train yard of the FCAB also exists outside Uyuni, Bolivia (I’ve included a photo from there in 2008.) FCAB operated until the late 1970s when steam locomotives gave way to diesel engines. The old Baquedano station was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1983. The station is in the Atacama Desert, about 90 kM northeast of Antofagasta in the north of Chile at around 3,400 feet above sea level. (The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth.) The station and the town were named after General Manuel Baquedano. He was one of the commanders in the Chilean Army in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. If you’d like to see short video (in Spanish) click on this link: Museo Ferrocarril Baquedano .

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