The need to join the principal port of the Republic with the capital of a faster way was becoming more and more pressing. Although a road that joined the two cities had been maintained at the end of the colonial period, its state was quite precarious after every winter. The mobilization of passenger and load carriages through this way was almost impossible, taking two days to the first ones and almost a week to the second ones, time that was increased if the climate was adverse.
This situation made difficult the commerce and the moving of people between the two cities, which leads to arise voices in favor of the construction of a innovative way of transport that was already used in Europe: the railway. Perhaps many of those who were requesting this way of transport, they had never seen it working before, but apparently the need to cover this distance was more imperious than the small detail of not knowing how it worked.
Already in 1842, William Wheelwright had conceived the idea of constructing a railway between the two cities, however the National Congress only managed to submit on June 19, 1849 a law that was allowing, for space of thirty years, the construction and development of a rail road. However, his project did not manage to assemble the necessary resources, which even would take him to Europe in order to try to obtain them.
Once that it was able to inaugurate the railway from Caldera to Copiapó, the general opinion was that the project to join the capital with the port, was an urgent need. That was how, by law on August 28, 1851, the government was authorized to create a national-capital society tending to carry out the soon as possible the project proposed by Wheelwright. “On the following year the government was allowed to transfer the Peruvian debt of four millions in Chilean pesos, in order to invest its product in the construction of the railways of Valparaiso to Santiago and from the capital to the south”. This more active attitude of the State, allowed carrying out the first corporation for the construction of this railway, which was named “Railway Company from Santiago to Valparaiso”. Between the shareholders were: the Chilean State, Matías Cousiño, Candelaria Goyenechea and Josué Waddington.
Of three proposals that were considered in that moment, it was finally decided to construct the railway through the valley of the Aconcagua. To do that, the American engineer Allan Campbell was hired, “who had come to Chile in 1849 with his brother Alexander to work as chief engineer of the railway from Copiapó to Caldera”. His studies determined that the best possible route was that one which, setting off from Valparaiso through the coast towards Viña del Mar, continuing up to Con Con, Quillota and from the slope the Tabón Hill they would continue on the rails with its destination, Santiago.
“On the first of October, 1852, (a memorable day) there had got up a kind of altar brought closer to the rocks, in the place that today is located the “House of Machines” in the center of the spur” there was placed the first stone of this great building. The ceremony was presided by the Governor, Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada, and the bishop of Concepcion, Diego Antonio Elizondo.
The above mentioned railroad should be finished within a period of five years, but due to a series of difficulties with the original tracing and with the engineers in charge of the work, what added to the absence of funds, delayed the finalization of the work in eleven years.
The first stretch was inaugurated between the cities of Valparaiso to Viña del Mar on September 16, 1855. In seven kilometers they had been used three years of Work!. This event summoned to big number of authorities and onlookers who located in the vicinity of the Station Baron to know this new transport system “without horses”. In the occasion the following speech was pronounced: "The victorious company over the obstacles overtakes the rewards of the future in Valparaiso, Quillota, Aconcagua and Santiago”. This speech was used to baptize the first ten locomotives of this railway.
There was such the sense of expectancy that provoked this new system of Transport that a big number of people started moving up to Viña del Mar and Valparaiso to appreciate in live the functioning of this new way of transport. According to Vicuna Mackenna the city of Viña del Mar about 1870 had a population of 1.318 inhabitants, number that would be increased thanks to this new way of transport.
The maximum speed bordered on thirty kilometers per hour. The time that the locomotive was using in moving between Baron and Viña del Mar was 9 minutes in the express trains, time that increased to 15 in the ordinary ones.
In 1856 the line came to Limache and on the following year it was achieved, not without difficulties, the extension of the rails up to Quillota, city where the works on the road were paralyzed due to the absence of funds. Considering this situation, the State decided to take part more actively. Because of this participation is that a loan was requested in London, authorizing the government so started to buy the shares that were in private hands, beginning the most active participation of the State in the railway construction. This was a precedent about what we know through the later years as the “Ferrocarriles del Estado” (Railways of the State). Together with it, Juan Nepomuceno Jara was named as the first State delegate on May 27, 1859.
Once the tracing came to Quillota, the works turned out to be temporarily paralyzed, which gave time so that the Engineer brought from France, M. Salles studied the possibilities of continuing the route through Melipilla, La Dormida, chacabuco or through the Pass of the Tabón.
It is, in this situation, when it makes its appearance one of the more important figures in the construction of the Chilean railway, we refer to an American who had left his country with some financial difficulties on his back, mister Enrique Meiggs, who one day introduce himself to the minister Antonio Varas and proposed to him to complete the railway to Santiago within a period of three years. After thinking about this, these two personages met again and in that opportunity, Meiggs said to the minister:
“- Sir Minister, my ultimatum is this one: I undertake to do this work in three years for six million pesos. For every month of delay I will pay as fine ten thousand pesos, but if I conclude it in the term, you my lord, will give me half a million pesos in gratuity, and also ten thousand pesos for every month that I go ahead in the set term”.
- Agreed! - the Minister exclaimed, with brave intention, and it threw the planes under the table.
In Meiggs hands, the railway begins his construction process again choosing to cross through the Tabón Hill. The work is done full speed day and night, even having nearly 10.000 people working.
The railway finally was inaugurated on September 16, 1863, one year before the stipulated in the contract. The day of the inauguration, a train in Santiago and other in Valparaiso are dispatched by authorities and fervent enthusiasts of the railway in destination to Llay Llay, place in which the route would be considered inaugurated by the president of the Republic, who indicated in a part of his speech, that: "The railways are the expression of the movement and industry, and the development of the intellectual culture, facilitating its communication to many people of the land”.
The trains for itinerary from now on would delay four hours and a half in covering 184 kilometers to the express trains, in the summer it was able to move nearly fifteen passenger carriages.
Once achieved this successful deed, the train would not be late in arriving to The Andes in 1874, line from which the Railway “Transandino” would leave in 1910.
The stretch between the port and the capital would be the first line of Railways of the State in being electrified. Around the 20s` it begins a process of modernization which included the purchase of the whole necessary material to initiate the energy spare, together with the buy of locomotives and the renewal of the passenger crew. This project had been already considered a decade earlier, which had possibly been suspended due to the outbreak of the World War I.
Railways of the State determined that the system that was more convenient for them was the one of electrifying 3.000 volts of direct current, used in the United States in the Chicago Milwaukee Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, which had been studied by a commission that the same Company destined in that country.
The first train that inaugurated this trajectory officially did it on October 6, 1924.
The passenger service would stop operating in the 80s’ and that of load is still operative in charge of FEPASA.
CHART N ° 1
CRITIQUE OF THE RAILROAD OF VALPARAISO TO SANTIAGO
On the 1st of October, 1852, being president of the Republic Mr. Manuel Montt, the works of the railway were inaugurated between Valparaiso and Santiago.
On September 16, 1855, the line was inaugurated up to El Salto.
On December 24, 1856, the train arrived to Limache.
On June 15, 1857, the lines arrived to Quillota, with a 55 Km distance
On the 1st of February, 1861, the railway is extended to the Limekiln.
On November 8, 1862, being president of the Republic Mr. José Joaquín Pérez, the railway arrived to Llay Llay.
On September 15, 1863, finally the port of Valparaiso is joined with the Capital.
On January 20, 1868, Baron Railway was extended from the Station up to Bellavista, in Valparaiso at least one kilometer from the port.
On June 25, 1871, the branch of Las Vegas was inaugurated to San Felipe, 30 kilometers.
On February 12, 1871, under the presidency of Mr. Federico Errázuriz, the locomotive arrived to the city of Los Andes.
On December 24, 1876, the line was extended between the Station of Bellavista up to the Station Port of Valparaiso.
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