The word “trocha” refers to the track gauge of 750mm, one of the narrowest in the World. Planned as part of a broader rail network that would link much of southern Argentina, it belongs administratively to the General Roca Railroad Network in Southern Argentina.
The line has become a tourist attraction because of its steam locomotives that run the 402 km between the towns of Ingeniero Jacobacci and Esquel. In 1998 it was declared a National Historic Monument. “The Trochita” became famous internationally in 1978 thanks to the publication of the novel “The Old Patagonian Express.” written by Paul Theroux.
History of “La Trochita”
The Government of Argentina planned in 1908 a network of railroads throughout Patagonia. The mainline would link San Carlos de Bariloche in the central Andes with the seaports of San Antonio Este, located north of Trelew. From San Antonio Este, the railroad connects with the city of Buenos Aires via Viedma and Bahia Blanca. At the same time, the government planned many small branch lines connecting remote regions in Patagonia with this planed central railroad. One of these branch lines was Esquel – El Maiten ending in Ing. Jacobacchi which is located east of San Carlos de Bariloche.
The beginning of the First World War affected Argentina’s economy and the entry of technology and investments from Europe. The main north line reached Ingeniero Jacobacci in 1916. The whole Patagonian Rail project stopped after that. The only work that was done was to complete the union between Jacobacci and Bariloche, completed in 1934.
The government built the branch Jaccobachi – Esquiel with a very narrow gauge for reasons of cost. The railroad was a vital means of communication in the region for many years. Undoublty, the type of route with many curves, the rolling material, and the steam traction, made the journey for goods and passengers very slow, and the fright cost expensive. When automotive transport got more popular, the train was losing importance rapidly due to the costly operating cost. As a result of the lost income, the railroad neglected maintenance, and the train lost its importance slowly.
Decline of La Trochita
Anyway, the line was not profitable. Private investors were not interested in making the necessary investment. In 1992, under the liberal economic practices of the central government, it was decided to close the line. Local protests made provincial governments rethink the potential the line could have for tourism in the region and joined together to keep the train running.
La Trochita Today
The line currently circulates in two sections: the most visited runs between Esquel and Nahuel Pan; the other circulates between El Maitén and Thomas Diversion. A train can be chartered between Esquel and Jacobacchi.