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, seen here at viaduct La Polvorilla, the highest and westernmost point of the line. (2011)
Locale Salta Province, Argentina
Dates of operation 1932 (completed 20 February 1948)–
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Length 217 kilometres (130 mi)[1]
Headquarters Salta
Minister of Public Works Juan Pistarini at the opening of the line. (1948)

The Tren a las Nubes or Tren de 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 C-14 line of the Ferrocarril General Manuel Belgrano, 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.


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 Fontaine Maury,[2] after whom one of the stations has been named.

The Tren a las Nubes today[edit]

After several years of refurbishing, the train was again open to the public on 6 August 2008,[3] it is operated by a private company named Ecotren.[4][5]

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).[citation needed] 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.

Left image alt text
San Antonio de los Cobres as seen from the train station
Right image alt text
Viaduct La Polvorilla as seen from below

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).[citation needed]


Following are the stations the train passes through; height above mean sea level (in meters) is provided:

km 0 Salta (1,187 m)
Branch line Alvarado
km -- Gral. Alvarado (1,207 m)
km 17 Cerrillos (1,260 m)
km 29 Rosario de Lerma (1,332 m)
km 40 Campo Quijano (1,520 m)
km 48 V. Toledo (1,587 m)
km 53 El Alisal (1,806 m)
km -- 1º Zig zag
km 66 Chorrillos (2,111 m)
km -- 2º Zig zag
km 78 Ing. Mauri (2,358 m)
km 91 Gobernador M. Solá (2,550 m)
km 100 Puerta de Tastil (2,675 m)
km -- Tacuara (3,036 m)
km 109 Meseta (2,844 m)
km -- 1º Spiral
km -- 2º Spiral
km 131 Diego de Almagro (3,503 m)
km -- Incahuasi (3,553 m)
km 156 Cachiñal (3,739 m)
km 175 Abra Muñano (3,952 m)
km -- Los Patos (3,842 m)
km 196 San Antonio de los Cobres (3,774 m)
km 215 Mina Concordia (4,144 m)
km 217 Viaduct La Polvorilla (4,220 m)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]