Farewell to the Chaucha Branch

by Henry Posner III

 
 
 
 

The most obscure portion of Peru's Central network is the Chaucha Branch, a spectacular 50-mile line built in 1948 as the Cerro de Pasco’s Yauricocha Railway.  The Cerro de Pasco was subsequently absorbed by ENAFER and in turn incorporated into the Central concession with its privatization in 1999. Unfortunately, revenue traffic (occasional shipments from a mine near Chaucha) ended in the year 2000. Even in its heyday, its main source of traffic was the copper mines at Yauricocha, accessed via a 9-mile aerial tramway from Chaucha. The tragedy of this line is therefore that it is at the same time spectacular and devoid of traffic.

I had long desired to ride this portion of the Central, and had actually made it to someplace near Km. 40 years before but had to cut the trip short due to time constraints. It was therefore a bittersweet 50th birthday on August 4, 2005 as I spent it riding the work train to Chaucha that would begin the dismantling of the line; track material had been requisitioned by the national government for recycling onto the State-owned Huancayo-Huancavelica narrow gauge railway.   But the choice was clear as to how to spend my birthday: combining personal milestones with personal mileposts.

The views that follow reflect the day sequentially.  Beginning at dawn from the main line junction at Pachacayo, the train consisted of Alco #412 and the office car Paquita. For the final stretch from Capillayoc to Chaucha, the train became a work train, shoving work train equipment that had been left on the main line as sidings had already been taken up.  This was a challenge in of itself due to the combination of weight, curves and grades; and exhilarating to say the least as we had to make a run at the grade in two separate locations.

The final mile into Chaucha proved to be more than our locomotive could handle, and for this reason the Paquita was left behind while a third run at the hill was made, finally succeeding in propelling the work train into the station.  Riding the locomotive back down to pick up the Paquita was additionally significant, in that it meant that I had ridden for the last time into Chaucha twice!

 
     
 

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  Gateway to the Pachacayo Valley. Runaway track removed. Minor landslide.

The line passes various lakes.

 
 

 

       
 

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  Official Photo Stop. The road ahead. Official group photo. (L to R) FCCA President Jack Roberson discusses take-up with Operations Manager Gabriel Echandia and Engineer-Maintenance of Way Willie Cooper.  
           
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  Theft of sleepers, despite the isolation of the line, required their reinstallation on various segments. Yet another spectacular view. One of several crossings of the Continental Divide.

Taking a run at the hill.

 
           
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  Shoving the last mile into Chaucha. End of the line. Half of the local population that we met.

Taking up yard tracks.

 
           
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  Our return transportation, by hi-rail vehicle. Overview of Chaucha Station. Remains of aerial tramway (foundations remain, towers removed by thieves).


The final view.

 

[X]  CLOSE WINDOW


© 2005 Railroad Development Corporation
All photographs are the property of RDC.  Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.