It was built in 1910 to serve the important saltpeter industry

The old Baquedano Railway Station, a wonder in the Atacama Desert

The saltpeter industry was one of the main economic drivers of Chile between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

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This industry gave rise to the construction of related infrastructure to sustain its activity. We recently saw here the example of two hydroelectric plants in the Atacama Desert, which were used to generate the energy necessary for that industry and which are currently abandoned. In addition to energy, the saltpeter industry also had a great influence on rail transportation, which was necessary to transport the mineral from its deposits to Chilean ports. This railway line would end up causing a war between Bolivia and Chile.

In 1868 the British-Chilean company Compañía Melbourne Clark was created, which in 1872 became the Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarril de Antofagasta (CSFA), which in 1872 received an official concession to build a railway line from the city of Antofagasta to the Atacama salt flat, where saltpeter was extracted. This line was located in a region that was then in the hands of Bolivia. In 1878, Bolivia imposed a new tax on the CSFA, violating an international treaty signed with Chile. After the Chilean protest, the Bolivian government seized the company. In response, Chilean troops took the Bolivian city of Antofagasta on February 14, 1879, beginning the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), also known as the Saltpeter War, which ended in a Chilean victory. Bolivia lost its access to the sea.

After the Chilean victory, in 1889 it was planned to build a new railway station on the line that crossed the Ollagüe pass. The works were delayed until 1910, when its construction began. This new station gave rise to the town of Baquedano. The Baquedano Railway Station experienced days of splendor with the saltpeter industry and also with the extraction of silver and copper. The decline of this mining activity in the 1960s and 1970s marked the end of activity at this station in 1978. In 1983, Chile classified the Baquedano Railway Station as a national monument.

This Sunday, Exploring the Unbeaten Path has published a video visiting this old station, which still preserves five steam locomotives of German and US origin, some diesel locomotives, carriages and old passenger cars:

You can see some screenshots of this video here. Here we see an aerial view of the station, which is an authentic railway wonder that seems to have stopped in time in the middle of the Atacama Desert:

The station had a workshop for the maintenance of rolling stock, workshops, a machine house and housing for the workers.

One of the jewels of the station is its splendid roundabout, with capacity for 16 locomotives. It is one of the few that is preserved in Chile today.

The Baquedano steam locomotives are in very good condition. There is a German Krupp 2-6-0 locomotive, number 3223, from 1911, and four American Baldwin 2-8-2 locomotives, built between 1921 and 1923. You can Read more information about these locomotives here.

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