Rail transport in Peru

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Railways in Peru (interactive map) Railways in Peru.svg
Railways in Peru (interactive map)

Rail transport in Peru has a varied history. Peruvian rail transport has never formed a true network, primarily comprising separate lines running inland from the coast and built according to freight need rather than passenger need.


Many Peruvian railroad lines owe their origins to contracts granted to United States entrepreneurs Henry Meiggs [1] and W. R. Grace and Company [2] but the mountainous nature of Peru made expansion slow and much of the surviving mileage is of twentieth-century origin. It was also challenging to operate, especially in the age of the steam locomotive. [3]

In the latter part of the 1880s, the principal public railways, the Central and Southern, with others, passed to the control of the Peruvian Corporation, registered in London and controlled by Americans Michael and William R. Grace. [4] In 1972 they were nationalized as Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarriles del Perú (ENAFER), but this survived as an operator only until 1999 when most surviving lines were privatized. Regular passenger traffic now operates over only a small proportion of the mileage.

The Tacna-Arica Railway crosses the boundary with Chile, running twice daily, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. The Southern Railway provides connection with Bolivia by ship across Lake Titicaca.

Principal lines

Lima - Morococha - Abra Anticona (Ticlio) - La Oroya - Huancayo passenger line Ferrocarril Central Andina 5 (4800m).JPG
Lima - Morococha - Abra Anticona (Ticlio) - La Oroya - Huancayo passenger line

The Central Railway, Ferrocarril Central del Perú (FCC), incorporates the first railway in Peru opened on May 17, 1851 linking the Pacific port of Callao and the capital Lima (13.7 km (8.5 mi) of standard gauge). [5] This was expanded to form the Callao, Lima & Oroya Railway, opened to Chicla by 1878, the original contractor being Henry Meiggs and engineer being Ernest Malinowski assisted by Edward Jan Habich. The line reached La Oroya by 1893 and Huancayo (346 km (215 mi)) in 1908. [6] It is the second highest railway in the world (following opening of the Qingzang railway in Tibet), with the Galera summit tunnel under Mount Meiggs at 4,783 m (15,692 ft) and Galera station at 4,777 m (15,673 ft) above sea level, requiring constructional feats including many switchbacks and steel bridges. Since 1999 it has been operated as the Ferrocarril Central Andino (FCCA) (with its associated maintenance company Ferrovias Central Andina (FVCA)) by the Pittsburgh-registered Railroad Development Corporation. [7] There is no regular passenger traffic but excursions are operated from the Lima Desamparados station. [8] In April 1955 the Central Railway opened a spur line from La Cima on the Morococha branch (4,818 m (15,807 ft) above sea level) to Volcán Mine, reaching an (at the time) world record altitude of 4,830 m (15,850 ft). Both branch and spur have since closed to traffic. [9] [ page needed ]

Contemporary Railcar manufactured by EIKON International with final destination to the Cusco - Machu Picchu line EIKON International Self Propelled Railcar.jpg
Contemporary Railcar manufactured by EIKON International with final destination to the Cusco - Machu Picchu line

The Central is extended by the Ferrocarril Huancayo - Huancavelica which was authorised in 1904 (engineer: Charles Weber) but work was interrupted during the World War I and it was not opened throughout (148 km (92 mi) of 3 ft (914 mm) gauge) until 1926. [11] Work was continued but never completed on extending the line to the Pacific coast. After a period under provincial government control it was agreed in June 2006 by the Peruvian government that FCCA should go ahead with converting the line to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge (as had in fact been intended prior to 1919). Estimated to take 16 months, the US$33m project was to be funded jointly by the government and the Development Bank of Latin America. [12] [13]

Also connecting with the Central, at La Oroya, is the Cerro de Pasco railway opened in standard gauge form in 1904 to serve ore mining in the Cerro de Pasco district. [6] It was thoroughly North American in all its operations [3] and, although primarily a mineral line, did run a passenger operation, latterly known as the “Flamingo” from the consist purchased from the Florida East Coast Railway. [5] The owning company was nationalised as Centromín in 1974 and operation of the railway was taken over by FCCA. [5] 80 km (50 mi) of 3 ft (914 mm) gauge was completed of a Tambo del Sol-Pachitea line intended eventually to extend to the head of Amazon navigation on the Ucayali River at Pucallpa; this aspiration was abandoned by the government in 1957. [5]

The Southern Railway, Ferrocarriles del Sur del Perú (FCS), another Meiggs concession, was completed from Arequipa to Puno in 1876 and to the coast at Matarani. The railway also operated steamers (including the Yavari ) and train ferries on Lake Titicaca connecting with Guaqui in Bolivia. Although work on the JuliacaCuzco section was begun in 1872 it was not completed through until 1908. The summit of this section is reached at La Raya (4,313 m (14,150 ft) above sea level). Since 1999 it has been operated by PeruRail, an affiliate of the Belmond Ltd. group, whose tourist trains form the only passenger services. [14]

From Cuzco, the 3 ft (914 mm) gauge Ferrocarril Santa Ana (Ferrocarril Cuzco á Santa Ana) (engineer: Mauro Valderrama) was authorised in 1907, originally at 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge, but the first section was not opened until the early 1920s. It was extended to Aguas Calientes (113 km (70 mi)) in 1928, passing to government control in 1931. Although further extended in stages through to Quillabamba (reached in 1978), landslides (attributed to effects of El Niño) caused it to be abandoned beyond Hidroelectrica in 1998. It is now operated by PeruRail and Inca Rail, and forms the only means of access for visitors to Machu Picchu. [11] [15] At the beginning of 2010 it was cut by landslides. [16]

The isolated Ferrocarril Tacna á Arica was completed in 1856. Following the War of the Pacific it and the surrounding territory passed to Chile; after a settlement in 1929 the Tacna end of the line was returned to Peru while the port of Arica remained in Chilean hands. The British concession for the line reverted to the Peruvian government during World War II. The line remained open for both passengers and freight for several decades, with a museum collection at Tacna station. [5] The line closed in May 2012; in June 2014 the Peruvian government sought bids for redeveloping the line. [17] Finally, in 2016 the line was reopened, offering two services daily. [18]


Tren de la Costa

A regional rail line, referred to as Tren de la Costa is planned, paralleling the Pan American Highway between the cities of Sullana and Ica, via Lima. [19]

Other lines

The newest railway in Peru is a standard gauge line opened in 1959 by the Southern Peru Copper Corporation from its opencast mine at Toquepala to the port of Ilo (187 km or 116 mi) with a later branch largely in tunnel to its workings at Cuajone. [5]

There were a number of other lines, all now closed, mostly for mineral or agricultural traffic, running inland from the coast north of Lima [20] and in Pisco Province. [5] There were also lines serving nitrate deposits in the Tarapacá Region, ceded to Chile in 1883. [5]

Some railway exhibits, including a working 500 mm (19 34 in) gauge pleasure line, are to be seen in the Parque de la Amistad in the Surco district of Lima.


Lima Metro line 1 Metro de Lima.png
Lima Metro line 1

Lima has a standard gauge metro service called Lima Metro or Tren Eléctrico. The line 1 is operating now with 21 km and 16 stations, the second stage of the first line is under construction, this line will reach up to 39 km in 2014. A fast bus system called metropolitano complements this system. [22]

A light railway Metro Wanka was partially constructed in the central Andean city of Huancayo but the project eventually failed.

See also

Related Research Articles

Transport in Chile

Transport in Chile is mostly by road. The far south of the country is not directly connected to central Chile by road, and water transport also plays a part there. The railways were historically important in Chile, but now play a relatively small part in the country's transport system. Because of the country's geography and long distances between major cities, aviation is also important.

This article describes the transport in Peru.

Mountain railway

A mountain railway is a railway that operates in a mountainous region. It may operate through the mountains by following mountain valleys and tunneling beneath mountain passes, or it may climb a mountain to provide transport to and from the summit.

Huancayo Place in Junin, Peru

Huancayo is the capital of Junín Region, in the central highlands of Peru.

Trans-Andean railways

The Trans-Andean railways provide rail transport over the Andes. Several are either planned, built, defunct, or waiting to be restored. They are listed here in order from north to south.

The Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarriles del Perú (Enafer) is a public company which ensures the management and the commercial use of the railway network of Peru.

Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado

Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) is the national railway of Chile.


PeruRail is a railway operator providing tourist, freight, and charter services in southern Peru. It was founded in 1999 by 2 Peruvian entrepreneurs and British company Sea Containers.

Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia

The Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia is a private railway operating in the northern provinces of Chile. It is notable in that it was one of the earliest railways built to 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge, with a route that climbed from sea level to over 4,500 m (14,764 ft), while handling goods traffic totaling near 2 million tons per annum. It proved that a railway with such a narrow gauge could do the work of a standard gauge railway, and influenced the construction of other railways such as the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas. It was later converted to 1,000 mmmetre gauge, and still operates today.

Ferrocarril Central Andino

Ferrocarril Central Andino (FCCA) is the consortium which operates the Ferrovías Central railway in Peru linking the Pacific port of Callao and the capital Lima with Huancayo and Cerro de Pasco. As one of the Trans-Andean Railways it is the second highest in the world constructed by the Polish engineer Ernest Malinowski in 1871–1876.

The Railroad Development Corporation is an American railroad holding company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It operates several short line railroads outside the United States and acts as an investor, with management and institutional investors as partners. It was founded in 1987 by former Conrail employee Henry Posner III.


Ticlio is a mountain pass and the highest point of the central road of Peru, in the Andes mountains, reaching a height of 4,818 metres (15,807 ft). It used to be a railway crossing loop on the Ferrocarril Central Andino (FCCA) in Peru, whose main claim to fame was being the highest railway junction in the world. The railway now crosses the pass through the nearby Galera Summit Tunnel at a lower elevation of 4,783 m and enters a different valley than the highway on the eastern side of the pass.

Rail transport in Bolivia

The Bolivian rail network has had a peculiar development throughout its history; owing to losses of land, prestige and credit rating due to the failure of the War of the Pacific, railway development came late to Bolivia. The demand for mineral wealth and communication to the inland city of La Paz, encouraged foreign investors, mainly British, to construct railways. However, into this mix came the experience of railway building in adjacent Peru, whereby overbuilding of 4 ft 8 12 instandard gauge line across the high Andes meant that Peru went bankrupt.

Track gauge in South America

In South America, Argentina and Chile use 1,676 mm track gauge, as well as 1,000 mm or metre gauge.

Arica–La Paz railway

The Arica–La Paz railway or Ferrocarril de Arica–La Paz (FCALP) was built by the Chilean government under the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1904 between Chile and Bolivia. The railway line was inaugurated on 13 May 1913 and is the shortest line from the Pacific Coast to Bolivia. It is 440 km (273 mi) long, of which 233 km (145 mi) is in Bolivian territory. The Railway is meter gauged. However, until 1968, it was rack worked over a 43 km section, on the Chilean side, between Central and Puquios. The line reaches a height of 4257 meters above sea level at General Lagos. The Chile - Bolivia border is crossed between the stations of Visviri and Charaña. When the railway is in operation, it is used for the export of Bolivian minerals and some agricultural production as well as the import of merchandise into Bolivia.

History of rail transport in Chile

The history of rail transport in Chile has gone through several periods of boom and bust. It began in 1840, with the construction of the first branch in the north. Further construction proceeded apace linking cities from Pisagua all the way to Puerto Montt.

Huancayo Metro

The Huancayo Metro or Wanka Metro is a failed metropolitan railway project which was to be the second metro line in Peru, after Lima Metro. It was constructed by the company Ferrocarril Central Andino in the city of Huancayo in the Central Andes of Peru. Its operation was planned for the first half of 2013, as announced in October 2012, However the railway never opened

Metre and 3 ft gauge lines are found in South America. Some of the 1,000 mm gauge lines cross international borders, though not as efficiently as they might.

Huancayo-Huancavelica Railway Railway in Peru

The Huancayo-Huancavelica Railway, also known as Tren Macho is a state-owned, non-electrified, single-track, 128.7 km long, standard gauge railway connecting the cities of Huancayo and Huancavelica in the central highlands of Peru. The railway is operated by the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) but is expected to be operated as a concession from the end of 2019.


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Further reading