A Short History of Paraguayan Trains

25 Jan

At the orders of then-president Carlos Antonio Lopez, between 1854 and 1856 Paraguay began to do studies and make plans to lay steam engine rail through out Paraguay.  It took five more years before the first train made its inaugural journey from the station to the port of Asuncion.  A disputed title, the train in Paraguay was among the first to function in South America.  However, according to most Paraguayans they can confidently say they were the first!

The government hired a team of English engineers to head the rail project in Paraguay, with the specific Asuncion-Paraguari leg led by Englishmen George Paddison.  The rails arrived to Paraguari on October 6th of 1864.  Sadly, further extension of the railway was then interrupted by the deadly Triple Alliance War against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay between 1865 and 1870.  During this war 90% of Paraguay’s male population was killed and existing train stations had to be used as makeshift hospitals.  The Triple Alliance War left deep scars that can still be felt culturally today in Paraguay.

According to an article by FEPASA, the current entity managing restoration efforts of the Paraguayan train, they returned to making daily trips between Asuncion and Paraguari after the war.  This trajectory took between 4 and 10 hours, depending on how many stops had to be made for track maintenance along the way.  Today, my bus ride between Asuncion and Paraguari can take anywhere between 1h15min and 4 hours, depending on how many stops have to be made for engine maintenance, traffic jams, or tasks such as moving the inventory of an entire store in the cargo hold of the bus.  Would I be better off taking the train?  It certainly would be more scenic!

To get a better idea of what it looks like, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyFZ_wK_QUQ

So much of Paraguayan culture is the nostalgia for a different time, different place, different government, different transport system.  Help us transform nostalgia for the past into preserved cultural history, as well as create a cultural center with programming and opportunities that give people reasons to look forward to the future:  https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009

Did I mention that this dream is tax-deductible?  

All aboard!




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