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Rio Gallagos- A South American outpost of Steam.

September 4, 2008

The Rio GallagosRio Turbio line was/is a coal hauling railroad located near the straits of Magellean in the Extreme South of Argentina.

The Railway is 750mm gauge, essentially 30″ gauge! On30 Modelers take note!! How about an On30 2-10-2? It would be a sight to see.

As of 2007, the Line will be extended 28 miles to a South Pacific port in Chile, making it one of the few, if not the only Transcontinental Narrow Gauge railroads in the WORLD! Read the article posted below for more information about the rebirth of the steam program as well.

The Railroad hauls coal from the Mine in Rio Turbio, through a serpentine river valley down to the port city at Rio Gallagos. The Coal is used to fire a 20MW powerplant, and some of the coal is exported.

It seems obvious that steam has a universal aestetic appeal, but in some regions of the world, it is still more economical to operate steam locomotives. In areas where labor is cheap and coal and water are plentiful, why would you ever change? Such was the case in Rio Gallagos until the early 2000’s (correct me if I’m wrong) when the beautiful 750mm narrow gauge lines dieselized with ex-Romanian narrow gauge diesels. It looks like a good portion of the line has been removed, and all the out-of-service locomotives have been stored at Rio Turbio, at a series of shops. Some pretty exotic steam locomotives, a Narrow Gauge 2-10-2(!) and a locomotive equipped with a cyclonic firebox. Some of these locomotives were built by Mitsubishi in the early 1960’s, and will play a role in the future plans to make this a tourist railway, as they’re in the best overall condition.

What’s a Cyclonic Firebox?
“.. the cyclonic gas producer firebox. This locomotive has the air ducts arranged to produce a swirling effect in the firebox gases, augmented through the use of steam jets. This causes the air to more completely mix with the firebox gases for even more complete combustion, and centrifugally separates the few airborn coal particles to allow them to completely burn before exiting the firebox. New firebox designs shown in Porta’s technical papers would have a different shape to maximize this cyclonic affect.” (The Ultimate Steam Page)

Read more about a 2004 trip to Rio Gallagos’ Steam Railroad

READ about a 2005 report of progress along the Rio Gallagos Line

Check out this video of the Coal Trains in Action.

Here’s a news article:
Railway extension across Andes will use renovated steam locomotives

August 15, 2006

RÍO TURBIO, Argentina – The Argentine and Chilean governments have reached a formal agreement to extend the former coal-hauling Ramal Ferro Industriàl de Río Turbio 750 mm-gauge (2 feet, 5 ½ inches) railway across the southern Andes from Argentina into Chile, according to a joint press release. A special Bi-National Railway Transport Commission was set up during August 2005 to deal with the political, legal, technical, and financial aspects of the project.

The extension will run from the Argentine Patagonian mining town of Río Turbio to the Chilean port of Puerto Borries and will be linked to the provincial capital of Puerto Natales by a 5-kilometer long meter-gauge steam-operated rail passenger system. Total distance is approximately 43 kilometers (26.7 miles). When complete, the line will link the South Atlantic to the South Pacific, forming a Bi-Oceanic, Trans-Patagonia and Trans-Continental rail transport corridor for passenger and freight services.

United States companies are investing millions of dollars to modernize and bring the Río Turbio coal fields back up to a high production rate. As part of the project, the line extension is being built for tourist purposes with steam locomotives as power. It is planned to tap the considerable tourist traffic in the area but also to offer international and transcontinental freight and passenger trains. It is possible steam will also pull coal trains since diesel fuel has to be brought in especially for the operation.

The steam locomotives will be 2-10-2 Santa Fe type reciprocating engines modernized to 21st century mechanical and thermodynamic standards under the direction of Shaun T. McMahon. He has been contracted with special responsibility for locomotive rehabilitation along with further development of the 2-10-2’s. McMahon is applying and further developing the theories, practices, and philosophy of the late L.D. Porta, who previously modified the 10 2-10-2 locomotives built for the Rio Turbio line by Japan’s Mitsubishi in 1956.

The RFIRT was privatized in the 1990s, and the steam locomotives were replaced by diesels in 1997. During 2003 the railway changed hands once again, back to state authorities. During June 2004 the existing 11 engines of the RFIRT steam-locomotive fleet that are stored at Rio Turbio, along with a number of other items of rolling stock, were signed over to the Municipality of Rio Turbio by the Argentine National President.

The prototype “Advanced Santa Fe” locomotive is due to appear in 2007. Once proven further, locomotives from among those stored at Río Turbio will be similarly converted.

An Awesome Runby.

An RFIRT heavy 2-10-2 starting with a heavy train.

A Coal train rolling over a bridge, you have to love that whistle!

View from the Fireman’s Side

At Rio Gallagos, “Friends of the Railroad” steam up one of the venerable 2-10-2’s on a short piece of track..The running gear is apparently “beyond repair” (as cited in the 2004 trip log posted above) but it’s still able to hold steam, an interesting twist to the static display locomotive, isn’t it?

Finally, a runby in the late afternoon with what appears to be a mixed train or a tourist train:

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