Tren a las Nubes

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This article is about the tourist passenger train service. For the international railway line, see Salta–Antofagasta railway.
Tren a las Nubes
Train rolling Viaducto La Polvorilla.jpg
The train running on La Polvorilla viaduct, the highest point of the line (2011).
Service type Heritage
Status Active
Locale Salta Province
First service 1948; 67 years ago (1948)
Current operator(s) Government of Salta
Former operator(s) Ferrocarriles Argentinos
Start Salta
Stops 20
End La Polvorilla
Distance travelled 217 kilometres (130 mi)[1]
Average journey time 15 hours
Service frequency Once a week
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Operating speed 35 km/h
Track owner(s) Government of Salta

The Tren a las Nubes (English: Train to/of the Clouds) is a tourist train service in Salta Province, Argentina. The service runs along the eastern part of the Salta–Antofagasta railway line of the Ferrocarril Belgrano (also known as the "C-14" line) that connects the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border in the Andes mountain range, over 4,220 metres (13,850 ft) above mean sea level, the fifth highest railway in the world. Originally built for economic and social reasons, it is now primarily of interest to tourists as a heritage railway.


The railway line has 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals and 2 zigzags. Because of the design decision not to use a rack-and-pinion for traction, the route had to be designed to avoid steep grades. The zigzags allow the train to climb up driving back and forth parallel to the slope of the mountain.

An average of 30,000 tourists visit the train each year. It runs from April to November, when the rain season is over, departing from Salta every Thursday and Saturday at 07:05, and returning around midnight. The train services include dining car, medical practice, audio, video, and bilingual guides. During the summer, from December to March, the Tren al Sol (English: Train to the Sun) travels from Salta to the Diego de Almagro station, at an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,500 ft)

Currently, the train leaves Salta station for the 15-hour, 434-kilometre (270 mi) round trip to the viaduct La Polvorilla, located 4,220 m (13,850 ft) above sea level. The curved viaduct is 224 m (735 ft) long and 70 m (230 ft) high. Once the train has left Salta, it firstly enters the Valle de Lerma, and then the Quebrada del Toro, before reaching the puna. It is known as the Train of the Clouds because clouds can often be seen around and under the bridges and slopes of the landscape through which the railway passes.[2]

The 10-car train can carry 640 passengers at an average speed of 35 km/h (21.7 mph).[3] The C-C diesel-electric EMD GT22CU locomotive with 2,475 hp (1,846 kW) has two triple-sets of powered axles for traction, weights of over 100 t (98 long tons; 110 short tons), and consumes around 6 L (1.6 US gal) of fuel for every 1 kilometre (0.62 mi). The train, which stops only at San Antonio de los Cobres station for tourists to get off, see the town and buy local handicrafts, has a restaurant, folkloric events, and onboard medical facilities.


The construction of the railway started in 1921, to connect the North of Argentina with Chile across the Andes, and to serve the borax mines of the area. The viaduct La Polvorilla, the highest of the line, was finished on 7 November 1932. The complete railway was inaugurated on 20 February 1948, but it was not until the late 1970s that it started being visited by tourists. The route was designed by American engineer Richard Maury,[2] after whom one of the stations has been named.

State-owned company Ferrocarriles Argentinos operated the service until early 1990s when the privatization process carried out by Carlos Menem's administration granted Tren de las Nubes in concession to a private local operator that took over the line in 1991.

In 2005 a train stopped at 3,500-mts height, being passengers to be evacuated using helicopters. Since then, the National and Provincial Governments made a restructuring of the line, replacing 60-km of rail tracks and granting a new concession to private company "Ecotren" to operate the Tren a las Nubes.[4]

The train was again open to the public on 6 August 2008,[4][5]

In July 2014 a train derailed near Abra Muñano, at 4,000-km height, 80-km. before reaching San Antonio de los Cobres. About 400 passengers had to be evacuated from the train.[6][7]

After the incident, the Government of Salta rescinded the contract with "Ecotren", alleging security failures. The Province also took over the operation and maintenance of the service, being in charge of the line since then.[8]

With the Government of Salta as operator of the service, Tren a las Nubes is expected to be running again in March, 2015.[9][10]


See also[edit]


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