Machacamarca, Impressive Bolivian Railway History

Written by Peter Lauffer
June 8, 2020

The railway museum "Museo Ferroviario Machacamarca" is located 30 km south of Oruro in Bolivia. At the Museum, you'll learn about the fascinating history of the Bolivian Railways. You can explore a collection of historical railway vehicles and consult documents about Bolivia's industrial and social history.

The mining tycoon Simón I. Patiño built the FCMU railway in 1911.  Patiño constructed the railroad to transport minerals from his mining centers of Llallagua, Catavi, Siglo XX, Uncía, and Huanuni to Oruro. It was the first railway in service in the Ouro area.

The area of Oruro contributed significantly to the development of the mining industry in the Bolivian Andes. The museum showcases the history of the railways and their importance for the mining business in the region.

The village of Machacamarca was the junction where the private railway "Ferrocarril Machacamarca-Uncía (FCMU)" joined the railway line Oruro-Uyuni-Antofagasta.

Buick on Rails "Al Capone," Machacamarca
Buick on Rails "Al Capone," Machacamarca

Among the attractions is the German-built steam locomotive "Luzmilla." This engine carries the name of Patiño's youngest daughter and arrived in Oruro in 1913 to pull trains between the "La Salvadora Mine" and the city of Oruro.

Another attraction at the museum is a "Buick car on rails" built in 1938 and imported to Bolivia in 1940. The luxury car is better known as "Al Capone" and was used to transport Patiño between Machacamarca and his mines in the mountains.

You can also explore a swift black steam locomotive with red and yellow stripes, manufactured in the US in 1944. This locomotive could reach a speed of up to 60 kilometers/hour.

Swiss built Diesel Crocodile from Sulzer
Swiss built Diesel Crocodile from Sulzer

The main highlights of the museum (from a Swiss point of view) are the two so-called “diesel crocodiles” No. 20 and 22 (later LDE 846 and LDE 847) made by the Swiss manufacturer Sulzer.

You can also take a look inside a 3rd-class passenger carriage and experience how ordinary miners traveled to the mines. Or, catch a glimpse inside the 1st-class carriage that managers and administrative staff used to travel between Oruro and the mines.

Inside the Railway Museum Machacamarca
Inside the Railway Museum Machacamarca

The museum is located in the old railway depot of the FCMU and was inaugurated in 2009. It can easily be reached from the city of Ouro by taking the road toward Potosí for 30 km. The museum itself can’t be missed, as it occupies nearly half the space of the village of Macacamarca.

Get inspired by some photos of this amazing trip:
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