Some of the local Quecha Indian population wait on what is believed to be Don Diego station east of Potosi on the line to Sucre on 19/5/1978.
Photo Tony Bowles

The FCAB's 929km long 2ft 6in gauge main line from Antofagasta to Oruro was opened in stages between 1873 & 1892. The line on to La Paz was built as metre gauge from the outset, financed by the Bolivia Railway Co. built and operated by the FCAB. This opened to Viacha in 1908 and La Paz in 1917. The branch lines to Atocha, Potosi and Cochabamba were built and operated on the same basis as the line to La Paz presenting change of gauge challenges with similar issues arising within Chile with the construction of the metre gauge Northern Longitudinal Railway. The FCAB board made a decision to convert to metre gauge in 1913 and widening of the Uyuni to Oruro section was completed in February 1916. Elsewhere third rails were added in places but with the intervention of the First World War it was not until 1928 that these reached Calama and the section from there to Uyuni was closed for six days to allow the widening of the rails on the remaining 286km of line that had not been third railed.
The line from Potosi to Sucre is included here as it was part built by the FCAB and was a natural extension of the FCAB operated line from Rio Mulato to Potosi, although it then operated independently up until the time of nationalisation. The FCAB itself suspended its operations in Bolivia in February 1959 apart from the section between the Chilean border and Oruro; but on 6th October 1964 all FCAB holdings in Bolivia passed into the state's possession.

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