3rd Region

175 km north of Copiapó
an tw [1896]; 14.5 km

The 3rd Region, at the lower end of the Atacama Desert, had several unusual animal-powered railways.

The northernmost and apparently last-built of these was a 14.5 km horsecar line between the town of Las Bombas and a mine at Carrizalillo. It is mentioned only in the Sinopsis of 1896 and seems to have disappeared by the 1920s. The site was not visited and no photographs or other information about it was found.

804 km north of Santiago; capital of the 3rd Region
pop. 1890, 9,500; 1986, 75,791
an tw 1890-1904?; 1435 mm; 5 km; 8 pt

The silver mines near Copiapó made this city one of Chile's most important in the early 19th century. Ojos del Salado mountain east of Copiapó is the highest in Chile and the second-highest in the western hemisphere. [Altitude 6,893 m (22,572 ft). Highest in the Americas is Aconcagua peak in Argentina, 7,021 m (22,834 ft).] Copiapó is notable in any case as the terminus of Chile's first steam railroad, which was the second to be built in the southern hemisphere. [A 14 km line between Callao and Lima, Peru, opened a few months earlier. See note 3 of GENERAL HISORY.] The 81 km line to Caldera, which opened in sections between July and December 1851, was built by American engineers Allan Campbell and Walton Evans, brought to Chile by transportation pioneer William Wheelwright [see GENERAL HISTORY]. Campbell and Evans had worked on the New York & Harlem Railroad in the United States and equipped the Chilean line with the same 1435 mm gauge, rails and cars. The first locomotive, built by Norris in Philadelphia in 1850, is displayed today at the Universidad de Atacama in Copiapó [see PABELLÓN-CHAÑARCILLO chapter below]. The railroad was regauged to 1000 mm in 1929.

Unfortunately, not much is known of the horsecar line that ran on the streets of Copiapó, from the railroad station to Plaza Prat and beyond. The Sinopsis last lists the Ferrocarril Urbano de Copiapó, 1435 mm gauge, in 1904. It carried 122,259 passengers in 1901, 112,210 passengers in 1902, and 110,216 in 1903.

37 km southeast of Copiapó
an tw 1859-1869; 1435 mm; 42 km

In 1852 American engineer Allan Campbell left Copiapó to survey the Valparaíso-Santiago railroad, Chile's second, 800 km south [see COPIAPÓ chapter]. William Wheelwright and Walton Evans extended the Copiapó line another 37 km to Pabellón, after which Evans went to Peru to build the Arica-Tacna railroad [see ARICA], and then to Santiago to supervise construction of the continent's first street railway. On 30 July 1857 Wheelwright and five English investors obtained a franchise to build a 42 km animal-powered railway between Pabellón and Chile's largest silver mine at Chañarcillo. The Compañía del Ferrocarril de Pabellón a Chañarcillo was formed in London that year and completed construction by September 1858. Chief engineer was another American, Edward Flint. Chile's first known interurban horsecar line, which carried miners and their families and other passengers between Pabellón and Chañarcillo, was inaugurated on Sunday afternoon 30 January 1859.

This was the same day - coincidence? plan? - that an Englishman in Brazil opened that country's first tramway in Rio de Janeiro. The Chañarcillo line was the second animal-powered passenger railway known in Chile, preceded only by the Santiago line that began revenue service in June 1858. The Anuario says that FPC's horsecars carried 9,901 passengers - 2,469 First Class and 7,432 Second Class - in 1862.

The FPC was acquired by the Ferrocarril de Caldera a Copiapó on 10 November 1868 and was rebuilt for steam traction. The town of Chañarcillo eventually had 7,000 residents and was renamed Juan Godoy, after the Chilean prospector who discovered it in 1832. The mine was flooded in 1888 and railway service declined. According to Titus's Monografía [see BIBLIOGRAPHY], by 1910 train service had dwindled to only two round trips per month.

The three passenger coaches displayed today with the Norris locomotive at the Universidad de Atacama in Copiapó are believed to be the trams built in 1858 for the horse-powered Chañarcillo railway. The car bodies bear no identification, but the wheels are engraved "BARNUM RICHARDSON CO., SALISBURY, CONN., U.S.A." and the axle mounts are of the type manufactured by Eaton, Gilbert & Co. in Troy, New York. The vehicles resemble horsecars that ran in the 1850s in New York, Brooklyn and Boston and the cars that inaugurated the Santiago tramway in 1858 - all of which are believed to have come from Eaton, Gilbert & Co. in Troy. [See SANTIAGO chapter. The tram builder was renamed Gilbert, Bush & Co. in 1864, Gilbert Car Manufacturing Co. in 1882. Another car of this type is displayed at a railroad yard in Coquimbo (4th Region) [see chapter on that city].

If the assumption is correct, the four "passenger coaches" displayed today behind locomotives in Copiapó and Coquimbo are among the world's oldest trams.

750 km north of Santiago
an tw 1860-1867; 1270 mm; 53.1 km

Another mining railroad began construction in 1856 at the port of Carrizal Bajo, about 150 km south of Caldera. The Ferrocarril de Carrizal began operation with animal traction on the first 29 km of the line, which used wood rails, from Carrizal Bajo to Canto del Agua, on 1 June 1860. This was the third known animal-powered passenger railway in Chile; supervising engineer was another American, George Paddison. Cars traveled at 15 kph and the journey required 2 hours. Track gauge was a peculiar 1270 mm = 50 inches. The Anuario of 1862 reports 53.1 km length and an extenion to Carrizal Alto.

The FC's president in 1864 was David Thomas, who owned a bank in Valparaíso and had financed the construction of the first street railway in that city. An advertisement for the John Stephenson Co. of New York lists Carrizal as a customer. Unfortunately, no illustration of either the railway or its cars could be found.

The horses were relieved by locomotives on the Carrizal Bajo section of the line in 1866, but began pulling trams on a new extension from Canto del Agua to Cerro Blanco, another mining area, in November 1867. All horses were eventually replaced by locomotives. The Titus Monografía of 1910 says that the line had four First Class 4-wheel cars with seats for 16, and four Second Class 4-wheel cars seating 20.

Like the animal-powered railways at Carrizalillo and Chañarcillo, the Carrizal Bajo lines were not tramways or street railways in the usual sense. But they used tramway equipment on low-grade, tram-type railways, and provide the earliest known examples of animal traction in Chile.