“El Ultimo Ramal” - Railway Journey from Talca to Constitución

Written by Peter Lauffer
February 23, 2023

This railway line, known as El Ultimo Ramal, offers a stunning journey through the countryside of Chile that is sure to leave you in awe. Along the way, passengers can admire the vibrant colors of the Chilean countryside. The lush green pastures and rolling hills are a sight to behold. Following the Maule River, the railway line also passes through some of the most remote areas of the Maule region, making the journey even more special. If you get inspired to take unique train journey, consider participating in our "Patagonian Rail & Cruise" tour. The journey on the "Ultimo Ramal" is a unique experience that will leave a lasting impression.

Interior of Ultimo Ramal carriage

The railway "El Ultimo Ramal" (‘the last branch line’) from Talca to Constitución in central Chile is among Chile's most exciting railway journeys. El Ultimo Ramal is an 88.4 km (56 mile) narrow-gauge railway line in Chile with a gauge of 1000 mm. It is the last meter-gauge branch line for passenger transport in Chile.

Located in the Maule region, south of Santiago, the train journey begins in Talca in the Chilean Central Valley and lasts for nearly three hours as the train travels along the beautiful Maule River to Constitución at the Pacific Ocean.  

"El Ultimo Ramal" de Talca a Constitución

History of the "Ultimo Ramal"

The railway between Talca and Constitución was opened on August 13, 1892, and extended to Pichamán on November 1, 1894. By 1902 the construction work had progressed to the sandy bank of the Río Maule opposite Constitución, where the railway ended in a provisory train station that remained in operation for 13 years until the "Banco de Arena Bridge" over the Maule River was completed. Passengers could reach the station by ferry from Constitución.

The "Banco de Arena Bridge" itself has an interesting background, as it was engineered by Gustave Eiffel, who also built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The railway bridge has a length of 350 m (1149 ft).

Banco de Arena Bridge near Contitución

González Bastías Railway Station, formerly known as Infiernillo (meaning "hell" in English), is the halfway point where the trains can cross. Locals called the area Infernillo because of the intense summer heat at this location. The station is attractive to railfans because of the old rail vehicles found there.

In the past, cargo trains similar to trams continued from the railway station in Constitución to the paper mill of Celulosa Arauco y Constitución (CELCO). The city council banned trains inside the city in the 1970s because they produced colossal traffic chaos. Nevertheless, the cargo trains continued to the paper mill until the 1990s.

González Bastías Railway Station

The Chilean Authorities named the train and the stations along the route a historical monument in 2007 because it is the only non-electrified, metric-gauge branch railway line in service today in Chile.

The "Ultimo Ramal" railway was severely damaged by the earthquake in Chile in 2010. Because of the difficulties in reaching the intermediate villages by car, Chilean Railways decided to repair the railway.

Rail Vehicles on the Talca to Constitución branch line

Because there is no significant population along the path of the railroad, a traditional train with locomotive and wagons would be too expensive to operate. Better suited to this kind of remote railway are the so-called "Buscarrils," buses on rails.

Ferrostaal SB56 Rail Cars of the Talca to Constitución Railroad

In addition to the scenery, "Buscarrils" are the other enjoyable part of this railway journey for the traveler and add an air of the 1960s to the trip. These buses on rails are Ferrostaal SB-56, of German origin, and were made in 1961. Operating with diesel traction, each Buscarril comprises two cars (driving car + trailer) with 80 seats in economy class; first class is not available.

How to get to Talca from Santiago

The railway station in Talca can easily be reached by train from Santiago. The Talca railway station is an obligatory stop on the Santiago-Chilean railway line and lies 249 km south of Santiago. There are various daily trains in both directions between Santiago Alameda Station and Talca.

Tren Talca - Constitucion

Since a television documentary titled "El último Ramal" (‘The Last Branch Line’) came out and a report on national television entitled "Frutos del País" (‘Fruits of the Country’) was broadcast in December 2005, the railway has become increasingly popular with Chilean tourists. The route offers delightful views of the Maule River and the rolling hills that border it.

We will travel on the "Ultimo Ramal" on our "Patagonian Rail & Cruise Tour" organized for 6-28 October, 2023.

Get inspired by some photos of this amazing trip:
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