History of rail transport in Paraguay

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This article is part of the history of rail transport by country series
The locomotive Paraguay (1861), preserved at Asunción Central station.

In 1856 started the studies to make the first railroad of the country that would go from Asunción to Paraguarí. With the concession of the company to English hands the railroad extended to Encarnación.

The train in America[edit]

The beginnings of the train in America were in 1831 when, in the small town of Albania, United States appeared the steam train.[dubious ] On August 9 of the same year, with the still primitive machine called “Bull” imported from England, was made the first journey of this locomotive that carried three small wagons with capacity for only 6 passengers each.

It was 36 years after, on October 23, 1867 that was inaugurated the train that went from San Francisco to New York, known with the name of “Union Pacific Road”.

Later on, Cuba was the second country of this continent to have a train. In 1834 started the construction of a railroad that would communicate La Habana with Guinness (Unión), it covered 88 miles and was opened 4 years later, in 1838.

The third country to have one was British Guyana (Georgetown-Plaisance 1848), then Peru (Lima-Callao 1851) then Chile, with a railroad that went from Caldera to Copiapó (1851). The construction was directed by the North-American Engineer William Wheelwright; this was followed by Brazil (Praia de Estrela-Fragoso in 1952).

In Argentina, the first train was inaugurated on August 30, 1857. It extended from Buenos Aires to Moreno.

On February 22, 1862 started the work to build a railroad that would go from Buenos Aires to Ensenada, and the person in charge was once again the Engineer Wheelwright.

The same Wheelwright directed the construction of the Argentine Central Train, used to communicate Rosario with Córdoba that started on April 20, 1863.

In Paraguay the intentions to have a train manifested in 1856, but only 5 years later was possible to have one working. On June 14, 1861 was made the first journey from the station to the port of Asunción, so it could be said that the train in Paraguay was one of the first to function in South America.

A project on rails[edit]

The possibilities of starting the construction of the railroad in Paraguay were given in 1854, during the government of Carlos Antonio López, who hired English engineers in charge of the studies made to start the first railroad line that would go from Asunción to Paraguarí.

In 1856, while in the country, soldiers of the army worked on the tracks and level. In England, the firm BLYTH proceeded to fulfill the requests of the Paraguayan government with locomotives, wagons, rails, etc.

The construction of the track Asunción-Paraguarí was in charge of George Paddison, an English engineer hired by the government. All kinds of accessories for the stations were built from models, with local materials.

Between 1857 and 1859 the engineers Jorge Thompson, Enrique Valpi and Percy Burrel were incorporated in the project, which helped to speed the work.

The first local train started to work on June 1861; it went on a short track from the central station in Asunción to Trinidad. Six months later the track was extended to the city of Luque.

The extension was inaugurated on December 25 and according to the journal “El Semanario” it was a source of great joy for the citizens. “The locomotives have been functioning since 5 am until 12 pm, and it would be necessary to add three more trains to take the people that expected to get a ride and that came not only to Luque but also to Trinidad. In Luque were organized games, dances and a masquerade, in Trinidad, there were also bullfights” (transcript from the journal). In 1862 the rail tracks extended to Areguá.

Importance[edit]

When Francisco Solano López inaugurated the train in Paraguay, he brought to the Paraguayan citizens the new technology in communications that had made such great impact in other countries of South America. This way of transportation, in terms of cost and time, was an economical revolution, and its use helped to consolidate nations and empires. Unfortunately, in Paraguay that was not the case because it suffered, as well as other industries, the ramifications of the Paraguayan War, the armed conflict against the Triple Alliance composed of (Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay), and during the times after the war, the administration passed from the government to private companies.

During the war, the station of trains had to be used as a hospital.

Station Saint Francis[edit]

Of the public buildings that were finished before the war of 1870, the most noticeable are the Palace of Government and the Train Station, which are still nowadays true icons of Asunción City.

The original name of the Central Train Station was “Estación San Francisco” (Saint Francis Station), although it was originally known also as “Plaza San Francisco” (Saint Francis Square).

Today the building is still an attraction because of its architectonic proportions and its beauty, and it is not hard to imagine that it was even more outstanding in the time it was built. The architect Alonzo Taylor directed the construction. Taylor came from Europe in the ship “Río Blanco” on May 6, 1859 and he also directed the construction of the Palace of Government along with architect Raviza.

The journals of the time made many references to the Saint Francis Station. In 1863 the journal “El Semanario” wrote: “The construction work in the station is progressing well, soon the building will be complete and this beautiful construction will be considered one of the icons of the city”.

On July 30 of the same year, the journal also described a ball that took place in the main hall of the station, offered by chiefs and officers in honor to the President on his birthday.

Year Event
1856 The government of Carlos A. López makes the first payment of 200.000 pesos to London engineers for the purchase of construction materials.
1858 The English engineer George Paddison comes to the country hired by the government to be in charge of the project.
1860 The government sends 120.000 pesos to the English engineers for the construction of machinery.
1861 The railroad service from Station Saint Francis (Central) to Trinidad is inaugurated. In December the service reaches to Luque.
1862 The station in Aregua is inaugurated.
1864 The rail tracks are extended to the station in Pirayú, Cerro León.
1865 The train service is suspended due to the War against the Triple Alliance.
1869 The Paraguayan army dismantles the rail tracks that had been destroyed during the war. The wagons and locomotives are taken to Buenos Aires by the Argentine army.
1870 The government of Brazil repair several stretches of rails and machinery of the train, charging the Paraguayan government 20.000 American dollars. After that, the railroad service was able to function but it poor conditions.
1876 The government authorizes the sale of the train to Luis Patri, an Italian cattleman that at the time was one the wealthiest man in Paraguay. The government used the money to pay back the debt acquired with the Brazil.
1886 The government of Bernardino Caballero buys back the train. In August, is authorized the hiring of the enterprise Patri to continue the work on the railroad in Paraguarí and Villarrica. Four new locomotives, 91 wagons for people and cargo were bought.
1887 The government of Patricio Escobar authorizes the sale of part the train service to the transnational English company “The Paraguay Central Railway” (P. C. R. C.).

Start the construction of the stations in: Sapucaí, Caballero, Ybytimí, Tebicuarymí and Félix P. Cardozo.

1894 The construction of the stations in: Iturbe, Maciel, Sosa and Yegros, is finished. Four locomotives and 8 wagons are provided for the service.
1907 The government resignes to its stock shares, leaving the English company as only owner of the train service.
1908 Percival Farquhar, an American buys almost all the P. C. R. C.
1910 The Argentine government subscribes stocks for value of 220.000 pounds for the construction of the railway from Pira Pó to Pacu Cuá (Encarnación).
1914 The train service that communicates Borja, San Salvador and Charará is inaugurated.
1919 The rail tracks are extended to Abaí.
1959 The company stopped providing the service of trains and the government insists in maintaining it functioning, absorbing the deficit.
1961 The Paraguayan government buys the train again and all the stocks in 200.000 pounds. The Ministry of Public Works takes charge of the administration and starts the legal paperwork to make it into an autarchic entity.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Hollingsworth, J B (1980). Atlas of the World's Railways. Adelaide: Rigby. p. 205. ISBN 0727003054. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Rail transport in Paraguay at Wikimedia Commons