The End of the World Train, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Argentina

by Ken Humphreys

In December 2003 my wife and I took a cruise around South America. One of the port stops was in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world. While there, we took the opportunity to make a trip on the Southern Fueguean Railway (Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino), perhaps the most unique and narrowest gauge railroad anywhere in the world. Proudly advertised as "The End of the World Train" (El Tren del Fin del Mundo), it quite literally is because no train anywhere is closer to one of the poles. Ushuaia is a jumping off place for Antarctic expeditions and Tierra del Fuego is the closest land mass to Antarctica.

To understand why this railroad is where it is, you have to realize that Tierra del Fuego is completely cut off from the rest of South America by virtually impassible mountains and is surrounded by water, wide rivers and lakes to the north and west, and the Beagle channel, the Straits of Magellan and Atlantic Ocean to the South and East. It is almost impossible to reach except by ship or air and hence, long ago served as Argentina's maximum-security prison. In the same way that England once banished those they considered undesirable to Australia, Argentina sent its worst criminals to Tierra del Fuego. It was the "Prison for Relapsed Felons", i.e., multiple offenders. Escape from there was virtually impossible and the convicts had to survive as best they could.

The railway was built primarily to transport wood from the forests for heating and building purposes. The railroad is incredibly narrow, having a gauge of only 50 centimeters (1.64 feet). It travels from Estación del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Station), eight km west of Ushuaia, to the otherwise inaccessible Tierra del Fuego National Park, the forest where prisoners once harvested timber. It runs alongside the Rio Pipo crossing the river twice, curves around a large "turbal" or peat bog and terminates at the Estación Andén Parque Nacional (National Park Station).

The line owns two steam engines and one diesel locomotive, 15 small passenger cars, and a few freight and MOW cars. The photos below show this unique railroad. Two of the photos were shot through a passenger car window and have some reflection but still give a good impression of the type of equipment used on the "End of the World Train"

Click on each image below to see its full sized version. Hit your back button to return and view the next photo. All images, with the exception of the map, are copyrighted by Ken Humphreys, December 2003

Map of the route.
One of the two 50-cm gauge steam locomotives. Note the external seat for the engine driver.
Builders plates on the locomotive
Steam powered train at the National Park Station
Passenger train in the Tierra del Fuego National Park
Crew members waiting for passengers to board the train
Diesel 50-cm gauge locomotive (shot taken through passenger car window)
Boxcar and a flat car. The boxcar has two rigid axles and four wheels much like the old "bobber" cabooses formerly used on some North American lines. This shot also taken through a passenger car window.

Prototype Images - Page 1
Prototype Images - Page 2
Prototype Images - Page 3
Prototype Images - Page 4
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