The Train Graveyard of the Atacama Desert (Pics)

atacama-desert-trains (Image: Andrew O’Brien, cc-nc-3.0)

Arguably one of the world’s most spectacular railway cemeteries, the train graveyard outside the Bolivian city of Uyuni has become a major tourist attraction over the years. Located about two miles out of town beneath the blazing sun of the Atacama Desert, the engine graveyard boasts a variety of steam locomotives abandoned since the 1940s, when the mining industry collapsed in the region.

During the nineteenth century, Bolivian president Aniceto Arce saw an integrated transport network as key to Bolivia’s future prosperity. As a result, he invited a group of British engineers to construct the railway infrastructure that can still be seen today. Construction began in earnest in 1888 and ended in 1892, presided over by the British-sponsored Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Companies.

atacama-desert-trains-2 (Image: Jesse the Traveler (website: Jesse’s Life), cc-nc-3.0)

Unfortunately, President Arce’s vision for a thriving transport network was stymied by ongoing attacks from indigenous Aymara Indians, who saw its construction as an intrusion into their way of life. In reality, the line operated mainly freight traffic for the mining companies, and mineral depletion and other factors led to its closure in the 1940s.

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train-graveyard-atacama-desert-12 (Images: Josh Newman (website: JoshNewman.com), cc-3.0)

Today, former steam engines of the Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Companies lie abandoned on their original tracks, baked by heat of the Atacama – the world’s driest desert. Proposals are reportedly in place to construct a museum around the train graveyard – please notify us in the comments section if you have more information! (The train graveyard isn’t the only regional oddity. Check out the Giant Hand of the Atacama Desert here.)

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