THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS
MARCH 17-27, 2023
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 “La Trochita” and railroad management calls it “El Viejo Expreso Patagonico” 2022 marks the 100th year anniversary of this historic rail line. We will have all of the locomotives that pull our trains re lettered into the original Ferrocarriles Argentinos in honor of 100 years of operation.
Over the past 100 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 during the Covid Pandemic 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 being repaired in the workshops to keep the tourist trains operating. For several days in March 2023 we will turn back the clock and operate several charter trains that will look just like the way it was many years ago. Since 1987 we have now chartered 44 trains on this line.
TWO INTERESTNG VIDEOS OF THE ESQUEL LINEhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er3zE5SP6uc
DAY 1 FRIDAY MARCH 17: (D)
Meet the group at our hotel in Bariloche. In and the evening will will have our “Welcome to Argentina Dinner” Note: Short Option tour members can fly Buenos Aires to Bariloche and in fact some airlines offer a through fare from the USA or Europe to Buenos Aires and on to Barilcohe. Check with your airline. This flight is not included in your tour package.
DAY 2 SATURDAY MARCH 18: (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. But we also will have a charter train pulled by steam locomotive 121 a 2-8-0 North British built in 1913 for the first 25 miles out of Bariloche to the station of Perito Moreno. The railcar will depart Bariloche first with all of our luggage and then wait at the Perito Moreno station. In the 25 miles between Bariloche and Perito Moreno we will make several photo run-bys. Upon arrival at Perito Moreno the group will transfer onto the railcars and then continue eastbound to Jacobacci. Several photo run-bys will be made between Perito Moreno and Jacobacci. We will first pay a visit to the narrow gauge steam workshops before hotel check-in and dinner.
STEAM LOCOMOTIVE NO. 121, A 2-8-0 BUILT BY NORTH BRITISH IN 1913 WILL BE USED FROM BARILOCHE
TO PERITO MORENO A DISTANCE OF 25 MILES. ABOVE 121 IS SEEN AT PERITO MORENO AND BELOW
THE 2-8-0 IS PULLING A TEST TRAIN BETWEEN BARILOCHE AND PERITO MORENO.
OUR CHARTER RAILCAR WILL TAKE US FROM PERITO MORENO TO JACOBACCI
DAY 3 SUNDAY MARCH 19: (B-L-D)
We plan to depart Jacobacci very early with our charter pulled by one of the narrow gauge 2-8-2’s Jacobacci to Norquinco , a distance of 126 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 but this is going to be a very long day so the photo stops will be somewhat limited. Back some 50 years ago “The Old Patagonian Express” could make it between Jacobacci and El Maiten in just 8 hours but not anymore. Today it will take our train a good 13 hours just to make it to Norquinco. We plan to arrive at Norquinco at around sunset. Here we transfer to our charter motorcoach for the small town of El Bolson and hotel check-in.
THE JUNCTION OF THE NARROW GAUGE AND BROAD GAUGE LINES IS SIMPLY
CALLED EMPALME KILOMETER 648 IN THE EMPLOYEES TIMETABLE. THE
FIRST 10 MILES OUT OF JACOBACCI IS ON DUAL GAUGE. THE ONLY TUNNEL
ON THE ENTIRE LINE IS LOCATED A FEW MILES SOUTH OF CERRO MESA
DAY 4 MONDAY MARCH 20: (B-L)
Return Norquinco via motorcoach to reboard our waiting charter train for the rail trip south to El Maiten, a distance of 23 miles. Visit what is left of the steam workshops and running shed at El Maiten and a small railroad museum. Many of the original buildings have now been torn down. There is plenty of narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock stored here. The original roster was 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 workshop and yard as a switcher. We then reboard our charter train and continue our journey southbound to a the station of Thomae where the Mapuche Indian Blockaide is located. Our charter bus will be waiting and we will ride back to El Bolson for the 2nd night. Everyone will get to keep their same hotel rooms. Between Norquinco and Thomae is less than 50 miles so we will pack in the photo run-bys today.
BEFORE DEPARTING EL MAITEN WE VISIT THE WORKSHOPS, RUNNING SHED AND SERVICING AREA
DAY 5 TUESDAY MARCH 21: (B-L)
We return to Thomae where are train had tied up for the night. This morning we will be able to follow our train by highway through the 13 mile blockaide taking pictues at a couple of the scenic locations. At the station of Leleque we will reboard our train and continue south to the end of the line at Esquel. Transfer to a local hotel.
DAY 6 WEDNESDAY MARCH 22: (B-L)
In the morning we will visit the running shed and stage the steam locomotives on the turntable at Esquel before boarding our charter train. Today we will have a doubleheader with one Baldwin and a Henschel and a mixed consist of freight and passenger cars for the steep climb out of the Esquel Valley and up to the Patagonian Plateau at Nahuel Pan, a distance of 12 very scenic and steep miles. After a water stop at Nahuel 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 Nahuel Pan. When turning the steam locomotives on the wye track at Nahuel Pan we will also switch the locomotives around for variety. Same hotel and rooms tonight in Esquel.
DAY 7 THURSDAY MARCH 23: (B-L)
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 a authentic “Argentine Barbecue” to be served on an open fire BBQ pit built 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 Leleque where we will transdfer to our waiting bus for the short ride to El Bolson and hotel check-in. Meanwhile our train will run the 13 miles through the indian reservation to Thomae and then tie up for the night.
DAY 8 FRIDAY MARCH 24: (B-L)
We return by bus to Thomae and reboard our waiting train for the journey north to El Maiten. Here our engine will be serviced before we depart northbound for the 23 miles to Norquinco. Plenty of photo run-bys today. Again we transfer to our waiting bus for the trip back to El Bolson. Everyone will have the same room.
DAY 9 SATURDAY MARCH 25: (B-L-D)
Return to Norquinco to board our waiting train and head northbound to Jacobacci, a distance of 125 miles. This will be a very long day so we will only run a few photo run-bys today. We estimate between departure from the hotel in El Bolson until you check in at the hotel in Jocobacci will be at least 17 hours. This is why we are giving you dinner on the train today. Upon arrival in Jacobacci hotel check-in.
DAY 10 SUNDAY MARCH 26: (B-L)
Today we have a charter train with a different consist 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 have our charter train back in Jacobacci by sunset which will be around 7:30pm. For those interested you can take some night photos at the workshops as the crews put our steam locomotive away for the night. The Tren Patagonico is operated between Bariloche and Viedma and is due into Jacobacci at 9:44pm. Everyone is in sleeper class for the 518 mile journey across Argentina to Viedma. Tren Patagonico has three classes of tickets. Sleeper class, First Class, and Coach Class. This train also has a dining car, lounge/disco car and even a movie car if you would like to watch a movie tonight. Upon boarding and after you get settled in your room we suggest you go to the dinning car and get dinner.
COLORFUL DIESELS PULLING TREN PATAGONICO INCLUDING ALCOS AND EMDS
DAY 11 MONDAY MARCH 27:
Tren Patagonico is due in Viedma at 11:34am but is rarely on-time. Reports tell us that most of the time this train gets into Viedma in the mid afternoon. Short Option tour members can take a taxi from the train station directly to the airport to catch your flight back to Buenos Aires. There is a flight departing Viedma at 5:00pm and arriving Buenos Aires at 6:30pm by Aerolineas Argentinas. This flight is not included in your tour package.
ALL PRICES ARE PER PERSON
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY $5,295
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$889
DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED $2,000
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY DECEMBER 16, 2022
*9 CHARTER TRAINS
*10 NIGHTS OF LODGING
*PLENTY OF PHOTO RUN-BYS
*TREN PATAGONICO IN SLEEPER CLASS
TOUR CONDITIONS **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.