THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS
ONE MORE TIME
THE LEGEND STILL LIVES
NOVEMBER 5-18, 2021
The old Patagonian Express has gone down in folklore history made popular by the author Paul Theroux and others over the years. But this train does exist in a remote region of the Argentine Patagonia, some 1000 miles southwest of Buenos Aires. Most railfans know this as the Esquel narrow gauge line. Locals call It “El Trochita” and railroad management calls it “El Viejo Expreso Patagonico”
Over the years this 251 mile 2’ 5 1/2” (75cm) gauge line has seen good and bad times, has seen several trains per day to just one train per week and until just recently, no trains at all. One very important fact now stands out about this rail line… IT IS THE LAST AND LONGEST 100% STEAM OPERATED RAILROAD IN ALL OF SOUTH AMERICA! The Baldwin and Henschel 2-8-2’s are still receiving complete overhauls in the workshops at El Maiten to keep the tourist trains operating over a hand full of miles out of Esquel. At the moment the entire line is closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Argentina is now in a 300 day government ordered mandatory Covid lockdown which will end on January 31, 2021. Argentina is one of the smart countries that decided early on to nip-in-the-bud the Coronavirus before it could get ahold a hold on the country. No trains have operated over any part of the line since the lockdown started on March 20, 2020.
When Argentina reopens to business and the world on January 31, 2021 it will be very busy. Track crews on the Esquel Line will have their work cut out for them. At the time of the lockdown this 251 mile narrow gauge line was cut into three non connecting operating sections. 1. Jacobacci to Cerro Mesa 80 miles 2. Norquinco to Desvio Thomae 39 miles 3. Lepa to Esquel 58 miles.
We have requested to the railroad to repair the 74 miles that is out-of -service. Once the country comes out of the lockdown work will begin to repair roadbed and track for our planned charter trains. The railroad will have nine full months to complete the job.
The section between Lepa and Desvio Thomae has very little track damage to repair. The reason this section of track is closed is because the local Mapuche Indians near the town of Leleque has put a blockaide on train operations. Railroad management has no issues running our charters over this 39 mile section but we need to contact the Indian tribe and get an agreement signed with them. Soon after the lockdown is lifted our Argentine railfan guide in Buenos Aires will head out to Leleque with a “Peace Treaty” proposal. Wow, this is just like trying to run a train through the American wild west in the 1870’s and 80’s when Indians would try and stop the Union Pacific trains. We feel certain that we can sign a temperately peace treaty so our charters can run over this section of track in November 2021.
DAY 1 FRIDAY NOVEMBER 5: (D)
Independent arrivals in Buenos Aires. Self transfer to our downtown hotel and check-in. For those tour members arriving on morning flights to Buenos Aires we invite you to join us for an interesting tour to some of the main passenger stations in the city.
We will begin this tour at our hotel lobby at 2:00pm and walk to the near-by subway station. This afternoon excursion will be fully escorted by not only our American guide but our local railfan guides that live in Buenos Aires. We will introduce you to how most of the local folks get around the city. You will be amazed how all of the major train stations can be accessed by subway. In fact a person can visit just about all areas of the city by rail. We plan to visit these train stations: Plaza Constitucion (largest station in BA) has 16 platforms and hundreds of trains a day. Retiro Mitre, Retiro San Martin and Retiro Belgrano. These three stations are next to each other with easy access. Back to our downtown hotel to relax a bit before our “Welcome to Argentina Dinner”
We go out on the town to one of the many popular restaurants to welcome you to Argentina and meet your guides and the group. Buenos Aires at night is something that everyone should experience in their lifetime. The Argentine people love their night life and love to get all dressed up. The city starts to come alive after 9:00pm and takes on a whole new meaning of “Going out on the town”. Many Argentine folks enjoy a very late dinner so the upper scale restaurants do not even open their doors until 9:00 and even 10:00pm and stay open until 3:00am or later. The evening is packed full of nightclubs, theatres, live plays, concerts, dance halls and shows. The locals say an evening in BA without taking in the Tango is a sin. Music and live bands can be heard everywhere. If you want to take in all of the flavor of Buenos Aires be prepared to the fact that many of the nightclub parties do not get started until after 3:00am.
DAY 2 SATURDAY NOVEMBER 6: (B-L)
In the morning we visit the Ferroclub Argentino’s railroad museum at Lynch which is on standard gauge. We will first go to the La Croze Station and board our private charter train pulled by one of the Ferroclub’s steam locomotives. We have requested the Baldwin 2-6-0 pull us out of the city to Lynch which is where the club’s standard gauge museum is located. Before we depart the station you might be surprised to see one of the former Pacific Electric Hollywood cars parked on one of the tracks. As our train pulls into the Lynch look out the windows and you just might see the long deadline of ex-Pacific Electric motors built by Baldwin. These former PE motors once ran on this line. You will have enough time later to walk the deadline and climb up into these famous electric motors. Look hard and you might also just see the former electric motors that once ran out of Westwood, California on the Red River Lumber Railroad. By now the electric fans will be ready to jump off of our train and take it all in. But also there is plenty for the steam fans. We will put our locomotive on the turntable for a spin and in the engine shed are several more steam locomotives. By time everyone is off of the train and enjoyed all of this classic equipment the Ferroclub will ring the lunch bell. They will serve us a classic Argentine BBQ Lunch. After a very hearty Argentine lunch you will have the opportunity to try your hand at the throttle of one or more steam locomotives if you like. Late afternoon we return to our hotel in downtown Buenos Aires. Evening to relax or take in the night life.
DAY 3 SUNDAY NOVEMBER 7: (B-L)
Today we have a flight on Aerolineas Argentineas to San Carlos de Bariloche. (Air Tickets Included) We depart Buenos Aires at 9:55am and arrive in Bariloche at 12:20pm. We will first have a nice lunch in town and then take you on a city tour with a stop at the train station. Then we will take you around the many lakes in the region. This is the famous “Lakes District” of Argentina sitting up against the massive snow capped Andy Mountains. The scenery in this area is breathtaking. Bariloche was settled by Swiss and Germans and so this town gives you the feel of being in the Swiss Alps. After our tour we will check into our hotel. The evening on your own to explore the town and have dinner.
DAY 4 MONDAY NOVEMBER 8: (B-L-D)
Today we have a charter two unit Spanish built railcar from San Carlos de Bariloche to Jacobacci a distance of 121 miles on broad gauge. We are scheduled to depart at 10:00am and arrive at Jacobacci at 4:00pm including several photo run-bys. We will first pay a visit to the narrow gauge steam workshops before hotel check-in and dinner.
DAY 5 TUESDAY NOVEMBER 9: (B-L-D)
DAY 5 TUESDAY NOVEMBER 9: (B-L-D) We plan to depart Jacobacci at 8:00am with our charter pulled by one of the narrow gauge 2-8-2’s Jacobacci to El Maiten , a distance of 148 miles. The first 10 miles out of Jacobacci is a very unique dual gauge three rail line where the narrow gauge shares the rails with the broad gauge. We will stage as many photo run-bys today as possible and plan to arrive in El Maiten around sunset which is at 9:00pm this time of the year. Hotel check-in.
THE ONLY TUNNEL ON THE LINE IS LOCATED A FEW MILES SOUTH OF CERRO MESA
DAY 6 WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 10: (B-L)
Visit the steam workshops and running shed at El Maiten. There is plenty of narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock stored here. The roster is made up of 11 Baldwin and 11 Henschel steam locomotives of the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement plus one Henschel 0-6-0 that was used at the El Maiten workshop and yard switcher. We then reboard our charter train and continue our journey southbound to Esquel, a distance of 103 miles. Plenty of photo run-bys today. Hotel check-in.
EL MAITEN WORKSHOPS, RUNNING SHED AND READY TRACK (BELOW)
DAY 7 THURSDAY NOVEMBER 11: (B-L)
In the morning we will visit the running shed and stage the steam locomotives on the turntable before boarding our charter train. Today we will have a doubleheader with a mixed consist of freight and passenger cars for the steep climb out of the Esquel Valley and up to the Patagonian Plateau at Nahual Pan, a distance of 12 very scenic and rugged mountain miles. After a water stop at Nahual Pan we will continue on north for several miles to perform more photo run-bys in the rock cliffs. Also many photo run-bys will be made between Esquel and Nahual Pan. Turn the steam locomotives on the wye track for the return to Esquel.
BACK IN ESQUEL BOTH LOCOMOTIVES ARE TURNED , SERVICED, AND PUT INTO THE ENGINE SHED
DAY 8 FRIDAY NOVEMBER 12: (B-L-D)
Today our charter will run 103 miles Esquel back to El Maiten with plenty of photo-runbys. We will make a stop at the Lepa station for lunch. Arrangements have been made for an authentic famous “Argentine Barbecue” to be served on an open fire next to the station by authentic Argentine Gauchos (Cowboys). The Gauchos will start our barbecue in plenty of time before we arrive so it will be ready for us. Included in this barbecue is Beef, Pork, Lamb and fresh home made sausages, plus salad and French bread. This is a “All you can Eat” barbecue. After lunch we reboard our train and continue north to El Maiten and transfer to local lodging.
ON OUR NORTHBOUND JOURNEY ESQUEL TO EL MAITEN A PHOTOGRAPHER
CAN CAPTURE THE SNOW COVERED ANDY MOUNTAINS IN THE BACKGROUND
AT JUST ABOUT EVERY PHOTO-RUN LOCATION. THE SCENERY IS SPECTACULAR
DAY 9 SATURDAY NOVEMBER 13: (B-L-D)
Today we travel on our charter train from El Maiten to Jacobaccui a distance of 148 miles. Since today will be a very long day taking more than 12 hours to reach Jacobaccui we will choose the photo run-bys carefully. Arrival in Jacobaccui is planned to be alittle after sunset.
NOVEMBER IS SPRINGTIME IN THE PATAGONIA AND SOMETIMES IT IS
POSSIBLE FOR SOME LITE SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN TOPS. ABOVE OUR
CHARTER TRAIN IS 20 MILES NORTH OF EL MAITEN IN NOVEMBER 2004
DAY 10 SUNDAY NOVEMBER 14: (B-L-D)
Today we will schedule a run from Jacobacci south to Ojo de Agua and return a distance of 54 miles. We will stage photos run-bys both directions as time allows. We must be back in Jacobacci no later than 6:00pm as the eastbound broad gauge Tren Patagonico passenger train arrives at 7:00pm. We will board this train everyone in Sleeper space for the 519 mile journey to Viedma. Tren Patagonico not only has first class coach service, sleeper cars but also a dining car, lounge/disco car and even a movie car if you would like to spent
ON BOARD TREN PATAGONICO
COLORFUL DIESELS PULLING TREN PATAGONICO INCLUDING ALCOS AND EMDS
DAY 11 MONDAY NOVEMBER 15: (B-L)
The Tren Patagonico arrives in Viedma mid afternoon. We will have a charter motorcoach waiting for us at the station. We must transfer from Viedma to Bahia Blanca to catch our next train. There is a gap of 165 miles with no passenger train service. We will have a fast direct charter bus station platform to station platform but think about those poor tourist that do not have this fast service. They need to get off of the Tren Patagonico then catch a taxi to the bus station in Viedma, buy their bus ticket and travel 165 miles north of Bahia Blanca. Upon getting off of their bus they must catch a taxi for the train station and the connecting train time is only four hours and the regular public bus takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. To make matters worse none of these trains run daily. If a poor tourist misses this connection he/she may have to wait a couple of days to board the next train. This is a very good example of trying to work with classic “Latin Business Thinking” You ask, “Why not extend one of those trains the 150 miles to close the gap or allow a longer connection time or perhaps operate a direct connection bus between these two trains”? Even Argentines cannot answer this question. Oh this is not an isolated case. This kind of thing happens all through South America! Bottom line,if you travel in one of our tour groups you have a much better chance of making the connection between these two trains. If you travel on your own then good luck! If by change the train is running late then we will have the bus meet the train at a point west of Viedma and we head directly to Bahia Blanca. Departing Bahia Blanca at 7:00pm onboard “EL Bahiense” in sleeper class. Shortly after departing we will enjoy dinner in the dining car.
DAY 12 TUESDAY NOVEMBER 16:
Arrive in Buenos Aires at 8:30am at the Plaza Constitucion station. We will stay at the station for about an hour after arrival so that you can watch and photograph all of the trains arriving and departing. Since it is too early to check into our hotel we will take you on a short city tour of the points of interest in the downtown area. Hotel check-in and rest of the day at your own leisure to explore the city.
DAY 13 WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 17: (B-L)
Today we visit the FerroClub’s Escalada Museum which is on broad gauge. At the start of our tour we visited the club’s Lynch Museum on standard gauge. The club will have steam in operation for our visit. You will also see the diesel collection which includes a Baldwin Shark Nose.
DAY 14 THURSDAY NOVEMBER 18: (B-L)
Hotel check-out and Farewell Lunch before the end of our tour. Independent departures.
ALL PRICES ARE PER PERSON
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$5,995
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$995
DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED$2,000
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT BOOK BY DECEMBER 31, 2020-$200
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY AUGUST 5, 2021
*9 CHARTER TRAINS
*1 DOMESTIC FLIGHT
*13 NIGHTS OF LODGING
*PLENTY OF PHOTO RUN-BYS
*PHOTOGRAPH THE PE MOTORS
TOUR CONDITIONS FOR 2021 **PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Tour Price: All tour prices are subject to change without notice, at any time. All prices based on double room occupancy. Those people that use a credit card for payments a 3% conveyance fee will be added to the tour price. We reserve the right to change tour prices if necessary without prior notice.