Type GR12U 1310hp Co-Co diesel electric number 1409, built by EMD (28552/1964) approaches Baquedano with a train of copper sheet from the Chuquicamata mine on 22/9/1990. Photo Richard Pelham
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 pictures with reference numbers pre-fixed "cjwfcab" in this section were all taken by a professional photographer around the 1950s to illustrate the construction of a new connection between the Chuquicamata copper mine and the FCAB branch to the main line at San Salvador and formed part of the Chris Walker Collection. This was presumably done to ease tran-shipment problems between the mine's standard gauge system and metre gauge one of the FCAB.The pictures are numbered in the same sequence as the glass slides from which they were scanned.
Until it was nationalised in 1971, the Chuquicamata mine was owned by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and to quote from the 1924 FCAB information booklet -
At kilometre 254 is the short branch (10 kilometres long) up to the Copper mines at Chuquicamata, 8846 feet above the sea. These mines, which in reality comprise a prolonged succession of hills, have been acquired in great part by the Anaconda Copper Company. A special process for dealing with low-grade copper ores by means of electolysis is employed, and on a scale hitherto unknown. The production of pure copper, when all the plant is working, is estimated at 600 tons a day, so that Chuquicamata has become one of the chief sources of the world's supply.
A visit to this vast and unique establishment, with its Railways, its Steam Excavators, its Depositing Tanks, and appliances capable of handling some 30,000 tons of copper ore a day, will not fail to be of the greatest interest to the traveller.
Following on are more general pictures of the FCAB section within Chile that include 5 shots of parts of a new Beyer Garratt being unloaded at Antofagasta which are scanned from very small prints that were included in a collection of photographs from Beyer Peacock. The quality of these is not very good but they are included because of the scenes they portray.
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