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The Prisoners' Train

 Estimated reading time: 1 min. Texts Karina Jozami   Photos Tren del Fin del Mundo
Train of the End of the World Ushuaia

In addition to being the southernmost train in the world, it also recalls the story of the convicts confined to the Ushuaia prison, the very same prisoners who contributed to building the city and populating the area.

The railway station, located 8km from the city inside the Tierra del Fuego National Park, was packed with tourists. In the hall, the quartet from Tierra del Fuego called “Del '65” was interpreting classic tangos live, entertaining us while we waited. But as soon as the whistle called for us, we got ready to get on the train. At 9:30, the “Camila”, one of the steam locomotives that lead the tour of the southernmost train in the world, was expecting at one of the platforms.

In 1994, after 42 years of a forced and silent retirement, the end-of-the-world train resumed its old circuit.

I made myself comfortable on the first car, sitting next to Mónica, the guide that would escort us during the tour, which started very slowly, just like 100 years ago.
Train of the End of the World Ushuaia
The Days of the Prison

“...The days pass without any change, as if time had stopped since we arrived. It is always the same: from the prison to the camp in the forest and after axing all day long, back to the prison, on the same train...”

Maybe that was the mind of some of the 90 convicts that arrived in Ushuaia. Since 1883, when President Roca passed the law authorizing the settlement of the prison in Tierra del Fuego, until 1909, when the railway branch lines were laid and the new city grew at the pace of the recidivist offenders prison. The new train played an essential role for the building of the prison to guarantee the necessary firewood used for cooking and heating all year round. The branch line would cross the eastern slope of Mount Susana and then the central part of the Pipo River Valley. Such water course was named after a convict who escaped and disappeared in the current. In those days, the first steam locomotive had been given the nickname “La coqueta” (Coquette), for she would hop along the rails.
We were traveling at 7km per hour through the El Toro Ravine, bordering the river until we crossed the bridge from where we saw the traces of the old crossing. Some meters ahead, we reached the “Cascada la Macarena” station, where we stopped to admire the wild beauty that the Tierra del Fuego National Park still preserves. This used to be a mandatory stop to load water for the locomotives.

As the whistle was heard, we went back to the train to resume our journey. Before entering the subantarctic forest, we passed by the tree cemetery. Mónica told us that the higher stumps (part of the tree trunk that remains joined to its root) are from the trees the prisoners would cut down in the winter.
Train of the End of the World Ushuaia
In the final stretch, we bordered the peat bog, characteristic of this natural environment where a kind of moss of the genus called sphagnum grows almost exclusively. The Estación del Parque, the final stop of our ride, was not far. As we arrived, the locomotive was unhooked and changed the rail, and then recoupled at the front to start its way back.

I got off at the station and continued touring around the national park. But before that, I waited for the train to leave. We had traveled 25km over the rails that lock the stories of those convicted to dwell and give shape to a city in the confines of the country.
Train of the End of the World Ushuaia
Useful Data
How to get here
Go along Route 3 till you reach km3042, 8km towards the West of the city.
departures 9:30am and 3pm. The train operates 365 days a year, adjusting timetables and departures according to season.
to appreciate the ride better and learn the history better, before getting on the train, it is convenient to visit the Museo del Presidio (Prison's Museum). At the ticket office, there is information available about the various trails that cross the area leaving from the Parque station, at the end of the rail.
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The southernmost train in the world
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1 hour
Tour Kind
Other Characteristics
The End-of-the-World Train offers three different kinds of services:
-The special service is provided in a finest car for eight passengers with private kitchenette and restroom, hosted by a polite waitress. Passengers may enjoy a wide array of sweet and salty snacks. Separate boarding.
-In premium class, passengers may travel in panoramic cars with individual seats. An exclusive catering service with typical Patagonian flavors and beverages is offered. Separate boarding.
-First class lets passenger travel in comfortable panoramic cars with individual seats and enjoy a delicious catering service. Separate boarding included.
Besides, the End-of-the-World Train has a dining car where they may enjoy spider crab, chicken and salmon sandwiches and casseroles for lunch.
Useful Data Useful Data


The Viewpoint

“The locomotive consumes 500 liters of water. The most important thing is to keep an eye on the boiler so that it does not run out of water. In order to become a steam locomotive driver one has to experience all the stages. I learnt from an English engineer. They know best. They used to do all the maintenance works. We are three drivers, in addition to John Mac Mahan, an Englishman who comes to Argentina exclusively to drive these trains."

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