This was the first Chilean railway, inaugurated officially on December 25, 1851, between the cities from Caldera to Copiapó with a 81 kilometers tracing.
Contrary to what our historiography has indicated, our railway would not be the first one of South America, as Thomson and Angerstein point out, since the first South American railway would be the one that was constructed in the British Guayana and inaugurated in 1848, with a 13 kilometers tracing. The second South American railway was in Peru, inaugurated in 1851 with a 14 kilometers distance, between the cities of El Callao and Lima.
As Thomson and Angerstein point out, the Copiapó, “it was not disembarked from the American frigate called Switzerland, in the por of Calderat, until the railway Callao-Lima had already been inaugurated”. The locomotive Copiapó initiated its works in July, 1851, “eight months later that the first Peruvian locomotive had been disembarked and armed in port El Callao”.
The first test trip realized by “La Copiapó” on July 29, 1851, began the definitive service on the first of January, 1852. This line was constructed by the propulsion of the North American William Wheelwright.
The first locomotive that did the trip, still survives in the School of Mines of University of Atacama (in very good conditions) in the city of Copiapó, III Region, being one of the more ancient steam locomotives that exist in the world, having few transformations, except the cabin that originally was of wood and today it is metallic. Neither it preserves its tender (pond of water and wood), lost in a no determined period, but it is possible to think, that might to have been re-used in another machine. It is about a Type 4-4-0 machine, made in 1850 by Norris Brothers of Philadelphia in the United States, built to work with wood (in a place where this element was not so abundant). The route was stretched in the gauge that would turn into the 1,435 mm the normal one.
It is interesting to point out that this locomotive was exhibited in an international fair in Buffalo the United States in 1901.
This machine was designated a National Historic Landmark by Supreme Decree N ° 4543, on May 27, 1952.
© 2014 Patrimonio Ferroviario Chileno. * Derecho de imagen Juan Pablo Ugalde * Resolución optima pantalla 1280 x 1024 * Diseñado por Miguel Estay Ortiz