2-10-2 number 705, built by Baldwin (64620/1942) is seen climbing away from Tupiza towards Villazon near Chuquiago with a permanent way train on 17/05/1978. Photo Tony Bowles
The railways covered in this section all connected to the former FCAB main line from
La Paz to Uyuni but were independently owned and operated, up until nationalisation
or closure in the case of the FC Huanchaca de Bolivia.
The Compania Huanchaca de Bolivia played a very central role in the formation of the FCAB. The company was formed in 1873 to mine valuable mineral deposits around Pulacayo, north east of Uyuni; but was severely hampered by transportation problems. Meanwhile the Compania de Salitres y Ferrocarril de Antofagasta had started building a railway in Chile to serve its nitrate fields that by 1883 had reached a point some 150km from the coast and was then granted a concession to extend the line up to the Bolivian border. However it lacked the capital and entered into discussions with the Huanchaca company to jointly construct the line through to Uyuni; resulting in a takeover by the latter company. The Huanchaca then approached the London Stock Exchange resulting in the flotation of the Antofagasta (Chili) & Bolivia Railway Company in 1888 which bought out the railway assets but granted rights to the Huanchaca Company to operate the line for 15 years. The new line reached Uyuni in 1889 and the Huanchaca Company opened its own line from there to Pulacayo the same year, which remained 2ft 6in gauge right up until the closure of the mines in 1959.
A later branch from Uyuni was that south east to Atocha, opened in 1913 and operated by the FCAB. This in turn was later connected to the state owned and operated FC Estado Atocha - Villazon which opened in 1924 and then fully as a through route to La Quiaca in Argentina in 1925. Privatised in 1996 as part of FC Andina, a regular through passenger service between Oruro and Villazon has been introduced.
The final railway dealt with in this section is the FC Machacamarca - Uncia opened in 1920, which connected with the FCAB main line at Machacamarca, 24kms south of Oruro. This railway continued to operate independently until absorbed by ENFE in 1987.
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