Rosario and Puerto Belgrano Railway
|Rosario and Puerto Belgrano Railway|
Bahía Blanca station building in 1930.
|Native name||Ferrocarril Rosario y Puerto Belgrano|
|Status||Company defunct; rail line became part of Mitre and Roca railways in 1948.|
|Locale||Santa Fe and Buenos Aires Provinces|
|Track gauge||1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)|
The Rosario and Puerto Belgrano Railway (FCRPB) (Spanish: Ferrocarril Rosario y Puerto Belgrano, and in French: Compagnie de Chemins de Fer Rosario-Puerto Belgrano) was a French-owned railway company which operated a broad gauge, 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm), single track line between the cities of Rosario and Puerto Belgrano in Argentina. Puerto Belgrano, near the city of Bahía Blanca in Buenos Aires Province, is the main naval base in Argentina. The original idea behind the building of the railway was to link points that were closer to either Rosario or Bahía Blanca than they were to Buenos Aires, thereby taking traffic from the British-owned companies Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway and Buenos Aires Western Railway.
Since the line was constructed after many other east to west lines had already been laid these were crossed by constructing a large number of bridges. The otherwise near level course of the line was broken, at intervals, by short sharp gradients and this had an effect on the type of locomotives that could be used. In spite of this a considerable volume of goods and livestock traffic was carried by the line.
The original concession for the construction of the railway was granted to Diego de Alvear with the promulgation of Law N° 4.279 of 1903. That concession was then transferrred to French-owned company "Sociedad Anónima Compañía del Ferrocarril Rosario a Puerto Belgrano" in December 1906. The concessionary was committed to built a dock in Puerto Belgrano, terminus of the line.
The indian gauge 800-km. length railway ran from North to South, joining the cities of Rosario, Santa Fe and Punta Alta, crossing most of the main British-owned railway tracks. The railway had also a particular path with no stops in Buenos Aires but other cities of the Province such as Coronel Pringles and Coronel Suárez. The costs of construction were high so the railway required several engineering, for example the seven iron bridges that cross the Sauce Grande River, near Bahía Blanca.
The North-South orientation of the railway path revealed the purpose of competing against British companies for the traffic of merchandises in Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, the railway did not earn the expected profits due to better prices established by British railways. Besides, the RPBR crossed low developed agricultural areas instead of more fertile areas covered by British companies. For those reasons, the RPBR suffered a chronical deficit.
Construction and development
The line was built between 1906 and 1910 quickly, being definitely inaugurated for passenger and freight services in 1912. The military port of Bahía Blanca received all the goods necessary for the construction of the railway, including rail tracks and even prefabricated home for employees, steam locomotives and coaches. The line started in Rosario, reaching Punta Alta station and then Puerto Belgrano dock that was being built by then. A branch from Punta Alta to Bahía Blanca was built later.
The construction also included a total of 36 bridges, totalizaing 857 mt. The dock made for Puerto Belgrano was a 250-metre length structure where four 125-metre length ships could be enter at a same time to unload their cargo. There also were 12 cranes, 12 electric and 4 hydraulic.
Once the dock was finished, it was acquired by the Government of Argentina and added to the Navy in 1914. The company made the arrengements to get a concession to built an extension branch to Bahía Blanca and an access to Port of ingeniero White through a junction with Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway to freight services exclusively. Concession was granted so therefore the RPBR started to work. The line connected with Central Argentine and Western railways in Rosario and Timote respectively.
The company set headquarters in Villa Diego (Rosario) in 1909, where a passenger and freight station (named "Coronel Aguirre") was built. The building also included a locomotive warehouse, workshops and a switchyard. The buildings are currently part of Ciudad Universitaria de Rosario.
The construction of a 27-km length branch from Punta Alta to Bahía Blanca allowed the company to stimulate passenger and freight traffic. Works were directed by Swiss Engineer Armin Reimman who died short after the line was inaugurated, being replaced by his colleague Lucien Capelle. In 1921 the new terminus was inaugurated, it was placed on Colón Avenue between B. de Irigoyen and Rivadavia streets. The station remained active until 1949 when it was closed, serving as bus terminus since then.
After some testings, on March 2, 1922, the inaugural trip from Rosario to Bahía Blanca was carried out, arriving to the Southern city at 15:30.
In the nationalisation of the entire Argentina railway network in 1948, during Juan Peron's presidency, the southern and northern sections of the line were absorbed by Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway and Central Argentine Railway, respectively. These two companies then in turn became part of the state-owned companies Roca and Mitre railway, respectively.
- British Steam on the Pampas by D.S. Purdom - Mechanical Engineering Publications Ltd, London (1977) - ISBN 978-0852983539
- Foreign Capital, Local Interests and Railway Development in Argentina: French Investments in Railways 1900-1914 by Andrés Regalsky - Journal of Latin American studies - Cambridge Univ. Press (1989)
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