The Ferrocarril Central Andino is well known for being the highest railroad in the world although the lines status has been surpassed by the Chinese Railway line to Lhasa, Tibet. However if one wants to experience high altitude mountain railroading this is the place to go! Unlike the Chinese railway which mainly traverses a vast alpine plateau similar to the Peruvian Altinplano the FCCA traverses some of the most difficult territory found on any railroad in the world; clinging to cliffsides, crossing high steel bridges over deep ravines, snaking up the sides of hills through switchbacks, a spiral tunnel and reverse curves before cresting the summit in a 3/4 mile long tunnel surrounded by snowcapped peaks.
Construction began in 1870 under the direction of US Railroad builder Henry Meiggs and the railroad reached Chicla near the summit 8 years later in 1878. However the Peruvian-Chillean war in 1879 stopped progress for several years due to lack of funding and destruction of the existing line, it would not be until 1908 when the line reached its final destination of Huancayo. Due to the damage done to the Peruvian economy by the war the government could no longer afford to maintain and build the line so it was leased along with several other rail lines in Peru to the the newly formed Peruvian Corporation, owned by Englishman Michael Grace for 66 years. After the Peruvian Corporations lease ended the line passed to another private entity before being nationalised along with the majority of the Peruvian Rail network in 1972 under the newly formed ENAFER (Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarriles del Peru). However by the 1990’s the line was suffering from deferred repair, corruption and a host of other issues and the government chose to once again privatize the railway network. A consortium of Peruvian interests and Henry Posners Rail Development Corporation RDC won a 30 year concession and began operations as the Ferrocarril Central Andino. Under privatization the lines infrastructure has been greatly improved with bigger rail, new ties, and a vastly improved safety record. Of course for rail enthusiasts the most visible change has been the departure of the orange ENAFER ALCO DL560’s in exchange for a new fleet of remanufactured GE Dash 7 and Dash 8 locomotives adorned in FCCA’s bright red paint scheme.
The 346 KM line to Huancayo begins in Callao, the port district of Lima, Peru, the capital of Peru. From there the line makes a cuts through the sprawling metropolis of Lima, passing the historic Desamparados Station where seasonal tourist trains still depart. From there the line follows the course of the Rimac River up to Chosica, the railroads headquarters. We decided to forgo exploring the line through the dusty, traffic filled outskirts of Lima and went straight to Chosica where the line goes from average to extraordinary. Here the railroad has a yard and their main locomotive shops, moved from Callao when the port was expanded. The railroad is dispatched out of the old depot, there are no signals so all dispatching is done with trainorders. The photos below will take you on a quick trip from Chosica to the lines summit at Galera. Later there will be much more detailed coverage including in cab videos of the scenic highlights of the line.
Chosica: Heart of the FCCA
San Bartolome: The one ended switchback
Balta: Spirals and Horseshoes
Matucana: Start of the switchbacks
If you havn’t watched already check out the second part of the preview video for some in cab and lineside footage of the FCCA!