The Train of the End of the World is an experience like no other. It is a unique journey through one of the most remote places on earth. It runs along the southern tip of South America, winding through the rugged terrain of Tierra del Fuego. The train starts from the "End of the World Station" in Ushuaia and takes you towards Tierra del Fuego National Park.
The Train of the End of the World is an experience like no other. It is a unique journey through one of the most remote places on earth. It runs along the southern tip of South America, winding through the rugged terrain of Tierra del Fuego. The train starts from the “End of the World Station” in Ushuaia and takes you towards Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, located in the extreme south of Argentina. This city sits amid some of the wildest and most unforgiving landscapes in Patagonia, flanked by mountains to the north and the Beagle Channel to the south. If you are fortunate enough to reach it, you will be rewarded with some of the most panoramic views and an endless supply of the ‘world’s southernmost’ curiosities.
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This amazing city is a place of endless possibilities and adventures. For wildlife lovers, there is a wide variety of animals to spot, including penguins, sea lions, and numerous species of birds.
For those who prefer a more active vacation, there are plenty of hiking trails, kayaking trips and fishing charters to choose from. Moreover, you can cruise around the Beagle Channel or visit the nearby Estancia Harberton for a glimpse into traditional Patagonian life.
One of the unique experiences that Ushuaia has to offer is its train ride. This 500 mm gauge steam railway is known as the Train of the End of the World or the Southern Fuegian Railway. The line was originally built to transport timber to the prison at Ushuaia. Today it serves as a heritage railroad into Tierra del Fuego National Park (the world’s southernmost railway).
Tierra del Fuego, divided between Chile and Argentina, was discovered in 1520 by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was a frequent visitor to India. Several bonfires were built by the natives, which led Magellan to name the settlement Tierra del Fuego or Land of Fire.
Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, was used by the Argentinian government as a penal colony between 1884 and 1947, housing some of the country’s most notorious criminals and political prisoners. A major naval base contributed to the city’s growth.
The only remaining remnant of the city’s dark past is the fascinating Prison Museum, where visitors can view maritime artifacts and displays within the untouched confines of jail cells.
Petroleum extraction and tourism are the two primary economic drivers of Tierra del Fuego today. Europeans and missionaries arrived in the mid-19th century, displacing the indigenous population to make way for the civilization we know today.
Train of the End of the World
In the 19th century, Ushuaia was built on what was once the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego to house prisoners by the Argentinian government. As the island was remote, it was nearly impossible for anyone to escape the prison. It was built like a panopticon, a central observation tower within a circle of prison cells. A guard can observe every cell and inmate from this tower, but inmates cannot see into the tower.
In 1902, the construction of the Ushuaia prison began with the arrival of engineer Catello Muratgia. Timber from nearby forests was used to build much of the city’s infrastructure. To assist in transporting materials, including local rock, sand, and lumber, a railroad on wooden rails, known as the Xylocarril, was constructed in 1902 by inmates.
Wagons were pulled by oxen along a narrow gauge less than 1,000 mm wide. A Decauville railroad with narrow metal tracks replaced the Xylocarril in 1910, becoming the most important means of transportation in Ushuaia.
The train used to be called the ‘ten-of-the-prisoners train’ or ‘the prisoner’s train.’ A total of two locomotives were used at that time to transport prisoners to and from work daily to load material collected during the workday.
After leaving the prison in the morning, the train set off for Monte Susana. As the clock struck the end of the day, the train would return, sometimes with prisoners on the load they were carrying, otherwise with prisoners pushing it.
Over time, as wood was exhausted, the railway was extended further into the forest into more remote areas. The road followed the Pipo River valley up into the mountains. With constant building, the prison and the town expanded, with prisoners offering a variety of goods and services. A naval base replaced the prison in 1947.
A large portion of the line was blocked two years later by the 1949 earthquake in Tierra del Fuego. The government made every effort to clear the line and get the train back in service. However, the service did not prove viable and was closed in 1952. The rail route was abandoned for nearly 40 years until its restoration in the 1990s.
The legendary rail route was revived by Tranex Turismo S.A., which started its operations on October 11, 1994, as the famous “End of the World Train.” That’s how ten-de-Los-presos became the Southern Fuegian Railway or Train of the End of the World.
The Train of the End of the World has replicas of the old steam locomotives. The passenger cars have heating and an audio system that allows the passengers to relive the journey and the history of the train. In Ushuaia, the tour starts at the “End of the World Station”, which is just 8 km away from the city.
The Tren del Fin del Mundo railway from Ushuaia follows the century-old historic Convict Train route towards Tierra del Fuego National Park. This route takes us through Patagonian lakes, lagoons, and rivers. It passes Mt Susana and briefly halts at Macarena Waterfall Station, Redonda and Estorbo Islands, the Sampaio Mountains, Roca Lake, and Condor Hill. The 7-kilometre journey ends at the National Park Station.
It’s an old-world nostalgic ride that takes you back to the bygone era of steam locomotives. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most beautiful train journeys on earth. Travellers interested in visiting this region can find several great tour packages online.
Rupesh Kumar is an accomplished Journalist, Author, Graphic Designer, and Strategic Thinker. He has worked with scores of news and sports channels in India and is an expert in crafting engaging & informative content.