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The Buenos Aires Al Pacifico (BAP) was one of my favourite railways in Argentina. This was mostly because it rostered an almost exclusively Alco/MLW fleet of locomotives, with one of the major shops located in Mendoza where the company's exploration office was located. The BAP was a broad gauge railway running between Buenos Aires to the interior of Argentina; to my knowledge it never made it to the Pacific but only as far as Mendoza. A narrow gauge railway ran into Chile from Mendoza but it was out of service while I was there. I was working in Argentina during 1995/96 in gold and copper/gold exploration between Uspallata in Mendoza state and Rodeo in San Juan state. Uspallata is somewhat well known as many of the scenes in "Seven Years in Tibet" were filmed in the valley north of the town. I wasn't in the area when Brad Pitt was there, but apparently he caused quite a stir in the small Argentinian town while he was there. I met an older South African geologist who was in Uspallata at that time who had a hilarious story about sitting in a restaurant (one of the few in town and one that I went to regularly) while a crowd of gawking people stood outside the window. He asked the server why all the people were there and the server said "Why, it's because Brad Pitt is having dinner here." to which the geologist said loudly (as only a South African geologist can) "Who the %$@& is Brad Pitt?" - this was still in Mr. Pitt's heart throb era when he wasn't quite as well known as he is today. The guy sitting behind him at another table said "I'm Brad Pitt..." and introduced himself. They had a nice chat as I'm sure both were happy to find someone else who spoke English. If Mr. Pitt reads this perhaps he can give his version of the story. Anyway back to our main story: unfortunately by that time the railways of Argentina were a shadow of their former selves, with things being in a very poor state after decades of mismanagement. The railways were re-privatized in the early 1990's and the BAP was at that time owned by an American company who were trying to revitalize the operation. Much of the infrastructure from the glory days of the railways was still in place, it's British heritage being obvious from the signals to the equipment and buildings. The British were major investors in the early decades of the 20th century in Argentina. When I was in town between working at various sites in the region I would take a walk in the evening, generally trying to aim for the old station, shops and trackage near the office. The station was no longer used but was in decent shape, with all the track, signals and buildings still in place.The shops were still active, and occasionally I would find locomotives and freight cars moving around. I met a few crew members who were happy to chat while they switched. The town of Palmira was east of Mendoza and I ventured out there on occasion on my way back to the field (a slight detour from the normal route) and often found lots of action. The BAP operated a selection of Alco/MLW units like the RSD16, RSD35 and DL500, along with a few EMD GA8 locomotives as well. Solid sets of the Alcos were common, as were single units leading trains.
The DL500 was an export version of the Alco FA/PA series with a cab on the back end of the unit as well - probably pretty uncomfortable for long trips given how small it looks. This unit was sitting in Palmira. I like the retrofitted hood scoops.
The RSD16 was an export version of the RSD12 riding on broadgauge trucks. These units seemed to be everywhere in Argentina. They were pretty much the tallest locomotives I saw while there.
The RSD35 was another common unit throughout Argentina. Many (most?) were MLW built with Dofasco cast sideframes. A bit of Canada in a far away land. This unit was switching in Palmira. There was a footpath through the yard so I would wander in, take some photos and leave because the local security people didn't like anyone taking photos.
This DL500 was trailing the consist of the train that is at the top of this post. You can see how much taller the RSD16 is relative to the RSD35 and DL500 units. This train was departing westward from the Palmira yard. The ever present Ford Falcon also graces the photo. They built Ford Falcons from the early 1960's until the early 1990s with the same body design but small changes to the headlights, tail lights etc. These were THE Argentinian car.
RSD35 at the Mendoza shops being tested. It looks like it also has fresh paint after a rebuild.
Westbound RSD16 from Palmira. If I can relocate the prior photo to this I'll post it as well.
RSD16 in a consist. It towers above the rest of the locomotives.
RSD16 8510 heading to Mendoza from a large petrochemical plant south of the city. The hopper cars are loaded with coke. Previous to this I had shot an RSD35 with a similar train at this location, but somehow had not loaded the film properly in my camera so none of the shots worked as the film didn't spool. Trust me, they were GREAT shots!
The boxcars looked like they would fit well into the North American railway network except for the buffers and link and pin couplers.
Steam locomotive tender repurposed to haul diesel fuel.
Cement service cars
Grain hopper design that would not look out of place in North America.
Open hopper for coal and coke service.
Oil tank cars
Work service car. Arch bar trucks and wheels with holes in them. Neat stuff.
These passenger cars were now in work service. Once upon a time there was an extensive passenger train network in the country. Not when I was there unfortunately.
On a few of my trips I had a layover in Buenos Aires so I would hop on a commuter train and ride out to various parts of the area and see what I could find. This was before the internet was widely in use so I was flying blind as finding anything or anyone who new anything about railways in Argentina was next to impossible. I stumbled across a few areas with the BAP working, but I'm sure today I would be much better prepared for railfanning. I'll cover the Buenos Aires commuter trains and the narrow gauge that I saw in a future post as those were interesting as well.
One unit I never saw were the export Baldwin RF-615E cab units that operated until the mid 1990's in the southern part of the country. I was not aware of them until after I had returned back to Canada. One unit has been preserved at a museum, but it would have been something to see active Baldwins switching and running freight trains. I did come across this photo of one of the units prior to delivery at a railway trade show in New Jersey in 1953:
In a future post I'll cover the Buenos Aires commuter trains and some the remaining long distance trains that ran between Mar Del Plata and Buenos Aires. I very much enjoyed my time chasing trains in Argentina. I hope to do it again someday.
This article first appeared on ageologistchasingtrains.blogspot.com
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