Reportar Trabaja home






The Roots of Ferronor
By Ian Thomson


The Ferronor network owns another branch that is of the highest interest. This is an international railway, that begins in Antofagasta, same as FCAB´s main line, and runs separately starting at O´Higgins Station. It crosses the formerly-owned line of the Chilian Northern (currently Ferronor) in Palestina, a position located south of Baquedano in the II Region. Its Chilean section runs up to the border with Argentina, at Socompa, located 3 914 meters above sea level.

The railway west of Augusta Victoria has historically belonged to FCAB, and was originally developed in order to meet transportation needs of a number of nearby saltpeter offices. The railway east of this location is owned by Ferronor and was inaugurated in 1948 after an extended project period. Until 1963, the entire line located in Chilean territory was exclusively operated by the FCAB. Thereafter, the operation of international trains was taken over by EFE (currently, part of Ferronor´s inheritance). Ferronor and FCAB signed an agreement that enables each company to run trains on the tracks belonging to each other. Currently, FCAB utilizes the tracks to transport acids towards and copper from Zaldivar mine site. [See reference (xvii).]

In October 2000, Ferronor and Belgrano Cargas company, a state-owned company that operates the Argentine section from Socompa to Salta, signed an agreement under the same rights as the FCAB agreement. In January 2001, Ferronor trains began transportation towards the Argentinian city of Ledesma. Unfortunately, this initiative was short lived due to a disagreement between the two companies based on differing interpretations of the agreement. The end result was that the international service was ceased from both ends for a period of time. Once the issues were solved, the only traffic that picked up was liquefied gas imported by Chile, which came to a harsh stop in March 2006, due to the derailment of a Ferronor train in Argentinian territory. Restarting service has been on the table ever since but has been postponed a number of times. Since September 2008, this has yet to occur.

Northern Transandine Railway was originally projected during the golden years of Chilean saltpeter exploitation. Back then, one of its main functions was to transport food products for nitrate workers and their families from Northwest Argentina – receiving the loud objection from the National Society of Agriculture. After one too many obstacles and the passing of time, it was inaugurated in 1948. By then, most of the nitrate industry was in outright decline, making the supporting 500 000 tonnes projections overstated; this branch has consistently carried less than 30% of the projected volume. However, its business perspective is encouraging, since its location makes it suitable to be part of a future bi-oceanic railway.












Much has been lost….. (Photo: @ Ian Thomson)




Yet not all. (Photo: © Iam Thomson)