1st Region



2,100 km north of Santiago
pop. 1907, 4,886; 1986, 154,422
an tw?
quasi-gas tw 1920s-1930s; 1435 mm; 62 km; 10 pm

Chile's 1st Region, including the cities of Arica, Pisagua and Iquique, belonged to Peru before the War of the Pacific in the late 19th century. In 1884 Chile acquired not only this area but also the Peruvian district of Tacna, including the city of that name, and for a while its land area extended even farther north than it does today; but Tacna district was returned to Peru in 1929. The railroad that runs between Arica and Tacna was entirely in Peru when it opened in 1856, was entirely in Chile between 1884 and 1929, and is an international operation today, one of the few such lines in the hemisphere. It is also one of the oldest passenger-carrying railroads on the continent. [The original Arica and Tacna Railway Company was English, but the line was built by American engineer Walton Evans, who also worked on Chile's first steam railroad at Copiapó and built its first street railway in Santiago. See GENERAL HISTORY and chapters on
COPIAPÓ, CHAÑARCILLO and SANTIAGO.] Since 1913 Arica has also been the terminus of another international railroad that climbs the Andes to La Paz, Bolivia, and provides the city's only rail connection with the rest of Chile. There has never been a direct railroad line between Arica and Pisagua.

Today, Arica is Chile's northernmost city and is an important trading port, both for Chile and, by special arrangement, for land-locked Bolivia. It is the principal food producer in northern Chile, thanks to the fertile valley along the Lluta River. Arica's population increased dramatically in 1954 when it was made a free port and became the center of Chile's automobile industry.

Old postcards show rails in the streets of Arica, but no trams. Published evidence of a tramway could not be found, inquiries to its mayor and historical museum remain unanswered, and the author did not travel there in order to investigate further. Arica is considered in this book because of the tram-like gasoline-powered vehicles that ran during the 1920s and 30s on the Ferrocarril de Arica a Tacna, between that city and Tacna, Peru. The 62 km 1435 mm gauge line operates conventional locomotive and gasoline-powered trains today.

1,980 km north of Santiago
pop. 1889, 4,114; 1981, 327
an tw 1889-1917; 1000mm; 1 km; 3 pt

Pisagua was once an important port in the nitrate mining industry and, like other towns of the 1st Region, belonged to Peru before the War of the Pacific in the 1880s. When it was connected to Iquique by the Nitrate Railways after that war, it became the northernmost point on Chile's railroad system. Both the nitrate industry and the railroad are gone today and the city is almost abandoned.

Pisagua may also have had the northernmost street railway system in Chile (since the existence of a tramway in Arica has not been confirmed). Tramway data are reported in both the Sinopsis and Anuario between 1889 and 1917. The author owns an old postcard that shows passengers waiting for a tram in Pisagua, but, like the postcards of Arica, it does not show a tram.

The Nitrate Railways led to a vast mining area on the Tamarugal plain that sprawls east of Pisagua and 100 km south toward Iquique. Railroad lines from the ports of Junín and Caleta Buena climbed to this plateau on spectacular inclined planes; the passenger cars on the Caleta Buena funicular, which rose 726 m, provided an extraordinary funicular experience. There were many short railroad branches in the mining area; some were animal-powered [see PAPOSO chapter].

1,875 km north of Santiago; capital of the 1st Region
pop. 1885, 15,391; 1920, 50,000; 1986, 127,491
an tw 1885-1920s; 1435 mm; 29 km; 41 pt
bat & gas tw 1913-1930; 1435 mm

Iquique is the northern terminus of the government's 3,000 km Longitudinal Railroad, which uses meter gauge north of La Calera. The 1435 mm gauge Nitrate Railways continued another 100 km to Pisagua. Iquique is a mining center and fishing port and, after Antofagasta and Arica, the third-largest city in northern Chile.

The Ferrocarril Urbano opened a 1435 mm gauge tramway in 1885, shortly after the resolution of the Pacific War. Early maps show tram lines on several streets; oddly, no two show them on the same streets, so either the maps are inaccurate or the routes changed frequently. The Síntesis of 1901 reports 26 cars on 16 km of track. A 19th century stereoscopic slide shows a double-deck tram, but postcards from the 20th century show only single-deck cars.

Describing Iquique in 1913, Lloyd (1915) notes two streetcars with "tracción mecánica," one built locally. Presumably two horsecars were fitted with gasoline motors. On 19 April 1916 the company ordered a 4-wheel battery-powered tram from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia (o.n. 19957). The car was built, but it is not known if it ran in Iquique or was even shipped to Chile. [After publication of this book a photograph was found that shows a battery tram carrying passengers in Iquique.]

Halsey (1926) reports that Iquique trams carried 2,358,455 passengers in 1921. Long (1930) says that in the mid-1920s the Iquique tramway was owned by an Englishman named David Richardson, had been converted to gasoline traction, and, due to competition from unregulated bus companies, was in process of liquidation. Iquique data are last reported in the Anuario of 1926. The system is said to have closed in 1930.

55 km southeast of Iquique
an tw [1919]; 1435 mm; 4.43 km

The English-owned Nitrate Railways served the mining areas along the Tamarugal plain, an inland strip parallel to the coast about 50 km inland from Pisagua and Iquique. There were many short railway branches, some owned by the mines, that ran between the mining offices and the towns. Some were animal-powered: a common sight in the early part of this century was the little mule train transporting workers between a residence camp and a railroad station. Such a line connected Paposo mine, owned by W. R. Grace & Co. of the USA [see discussion of Grace in CONCEPCIÓN chapter], with the Limeñita station of the Nitrate Railways, near San Antonio.