One of the most picturesque sights in Salta Province is the General Belgrano Railway C-14 branch, connecting the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border, in the Andes mountain range. Located at 4,000 metres above sea level, it is known as the Train to the Clouds because clouds can often be seen around and under the bridges and slopes of the landscape through which the railway passes.
It is the third highest railway in the world, travelling through the towering Andes Mountains amidst spectacular scenery.
Once at legendary Puerta Tastil, the train will venture into an unknown world. Legend has it that the Diaguita natives would knock on the mountain top before trekking down into the valley; hence the name of the town. (“Puerta” is the word for door).
The next stop is Meseta (“Plateau”), at 2,844 m asl, an area dominated by a sense of solitude.
Travellers may be disoriented as the train seemingly enters a maze, only to find its way out of the valley and the arid plateaus.
From Salta, the train enters first the Valle de Lerma and then the Quebrada del Toro before reaching the Puna. The railway line has 19 tunnels, 29 bridges, 13 viaducts, 9 sheds, two spirals and several sewers, some of which are veritable works of art. The heritage railway was designed by Richard Fontaine Maury, whose pioneering efforts made it possible to bridge the Andes Mountains.
The railway is 217 kilometres long, and the roundtrip takes almost fifteen hours to complete. As the train stops at the various stations you will find picturesque stalls offering handicrafts, items of clothing and souvenirs to take home from the train trip. The train is complete with a dining car, sightseeing car, folk music shows, on board medic, audio and video ammenities and bilingual guides.
The zigzags allow the train to climb up driving back and forth parallel to the slope of the mountain. At the Quebrada del Toro, you will find El Condado cemetery on the left, where the bodies of fallen construction workers are buried. The lush vegetation and the peaks will come into view, slowly yet majestically.
Travelers will then take in the Piedra Azul viaduct, (82.60 metres long and 14 metres high), and El Candado, (110 metres long and 24 metres high), both built on metal pillars and having no upper railings.
Next, the Chorrillos station can be reached on a
52-meter high zigzag.
At the Ingeniero Maury station (2,358 m asl) the scenery is ever more breathtaking.
Then it’s on to the Gobernador Solá station, located in an area rich in mining deposits such as manganese, iron ore, lead and silver.
At kilometre mark 1,255, the train will come into the first “spiral”, (with a total curve length of 582,25 metres and a minimum radius of 131 metres). The spiral allows the train to pull out of a deep hollow of the mountains. The highest point of that spiral offers a view of the stunningly beautiful landscape.
At kilometre mark 1,262 , the second spiral brings the railway to a height of over 650 metres. Its minimum radius is 131 metres and its total curve length is 525 metres.
After travelling through an 181 metre-long tunnel, the train will take you through the Incahuasi, Cachinal and Muñano stations before reaching San Antonio de los Cobres, named after the Sierra de Cobre (Copper Sierra), rich in copper deposits. The town (3,774 metres asl) is the capital of the Los Andes Department and can be accessed by National Highways 40 and 41.
Before reaching Mina Concordia, visitors will take in the Nevado de Acay, a 5,950 metre black mountain which is a capricious red on top.
The final destination is the viaduct La Polvorilla, located 4,220 meters above sea level at kilometre mark 1,350. The viaduct is 224 meters long and 63 meters high. It is the highest viaduct on the whole railway line, ranking among the world’s highest.
As the Train to the Clouds takes you through the viaduct and over the abyss, you will find no railings but amazing pillars instead. The breathtaking view afforded by such a structure is what gave the train its name.
A must-see for travelers, the Railway is one of the world’s greatest engineering works. An estimated 30,000 tourists take the train ride every year, which is also the only public transport for some of the small towns on its path. The train runs from April to November and leaves at 7:00 a.m., returning to Salta around 10:40 p.m. During the summer, from December to March, the Tren del Sol ("Train to the Sun") travels from Salta to the Diego de Almagro station, at an altitude of 3,500 metres.
YouTube - Tren de las nubes (Train to the Clouds)
Tren de las nubes. Province of Salta. Argentina ...
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