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In South America, Argentina and Chile use 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) track gauge, as well as 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) or metre gauge.
The Argentine railway network consisted of a 47,000 km (29,204 mi) network at the end of the Second World War and was, in its time, one of the most extensive and prosperous in the world. However, with the increase in highway construction, there followed a sharp decline in railway profitability, leading to the break-up in 1993 of Ferrocarriles Argentinos (FA), the state railroad corporation. During the period following privatisation, private and provincial railway companies were created and resurrected some of the major passenger routes that FA once operated.
5 ft 6 in / 1,676 mm is the size of a broad track gauge commonly used in India, Pakistan, western Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Chile, and on the BART in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the Indian Subcontinent it is simply known as "Broad gauge", while in North America, it is called Provincial, Portland, or Texas gauge. Elsewhere it is known as "Indian gauge". It is the widest gauge in regular passenger use anywhere in the world. The British chose this gauge as the standard in India as it was thought to be more safe in areas prone to cyclones and flooding.
Brazil uses 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) (known as "Irish gauge", most common for passenger services and a few corridors in the Southeast) and 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) (known as "narrow gauge" or "metre gauge", most common for cargo services). Exceptions are the Estrada de Ferro do Amapá north of the Amazon River, which has 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)gauge, and the new Line 5 of São Paulo Metro, which also uses standard gauge.
Rail transport in Brazil began in the 19th century and there were many different railway companies. The railways were nationalised under RFFSA in 1957. Between 1999 and 2007, RFFSA was broken up and services are now operated by a variety of private and public operators, including América Latina Logística, Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos and SuperVia.
In economics, cargo or freight refers to goods or produce being conveyed – generally for commercial gain – by water, air or land. Cargo was originally a shipload. Cargo now covers all types of freight, including that carried by train, van, truck, or intermodal container. The term cargo is also used in case of goods in the cold-chain, because the perishable inventory is always in transit towards a final end-use, even when it is held in cold storage or other similar climate-controlled facility.
The Amapa Railroad was built by Bethlehem Steel to exploit the manganese deposits in the territory of Amapá. It is 4 ft 8 1⁄2 instandard gauge, the only railway in Brazil to use this gauge.
Argentina (partly), Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Peru use standard gauge. In the past a few lines in Northern Chile also had standard gauge, as the only international railway between Arica (Chile) and Tacna (Peru), slightly more than 60 km, uses standard gauge. The El Cerrejón Coal Railway in Colombia is also 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in).
The Rail system in Paraguay consisted primarily of a 376 km main line of standard gauge between Asunción and Encarnación. The infrastructure was administered by Ferrocarriles del Paraguay S.A. (FE.PA.S.A.), corporation established in 2002.
The Uruguayan railway network has approximately 2900 km (1802 mi) of lines, all of 1,435 mm gauge, diesel traction with only 11 km (7 mi) of double track. Only half of the network is currently active. All the Uruguayan lines start from Montevideo, connecting the cities of Paysandú, Salto, Rivera and Río Branco. The rest of the lines (closed) connected the capital city with Fray Bentos, Cuareim, Artigas, Km. 329, Melo, La Paloma and Colonia del Sacramento.
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.
There are and were also some lines using different narrow gauges; see the "narrow gauge" section in this list.
Transport in Chile is mostly by road. The south of the country is not connected to central Chile by road, except through Argentina, 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.
A narrow-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge narrower than standard 1,435 mm. Most narrow-gauge railways are between 600 mm and 1,067 mm.
In rail transport, track gauge or track gage is the spacing of the rails on a railway track and is measured between the inner faces of the load-bearing rails.
A dual gauge railway is a track that allows the passage of trains of two different track gauges. It is sometimes called a "mixed gauge" track. A dual gauge track consists of three rails. There will be two vital rails, one for each gauge close together and a third rail, a "common" rail further away. Sometimes, four rails are required using two outer and two inner rails to create the dual gauge. Dual gauge is not to be confused with a "third rail" or "check or guard rails".
A transporter wagon, in railway terminology, is a wagon (UIC) or railroad car (US) designed to carry other railway equipment. Normally, it is used to transport equipment of a different rail gauge. In most cases, a transporter wagon is a narrower gauge wagon for transporting a wider gauge equipment, allowing freight in a wider gauge wagons to reach destinations on the narrower gauge network without the expense and time of transshipment into a narrower gauge wagons.
With railways, a break of gauge occurs where a line of one gauge meets a line of a different gauge. Trains and rolling stock cannot run through without some form of conversion between gauges, and freight and passengers must otherwise be transshipped. A break of gauge adds delays, cost, and inconvenience.
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.
Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) is the national railway of Chile.
Railways with a railway track gauge of 5 ft were first constructed in the United Kingdom and the United States. This gauge is also commonly called Russian gauge because this gauge was later chosen as the common track gauge for the Russian Empire and its neighbouring countries. The gauge was redefined by Soviet Railways to be 1,520 mm.
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.
The Queensland rail network, the first in the world to adopt 1,067 mm narrow gauge for a main line, and now the second largest narrow gauge network in the world, consists of:
Gauge conversion is the change of one railway track gauge to another. This may be required if loads are too heavy for the existing track gauge or if rail cars are of a broader gauge than the existing track gauge. Gauge conversion may become less important as time passes due to the development of variable gauge systems, also called Automatic Track Gauge Changeover Systems.
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 standard gauge line across the high Andes meant that Peru went bankrupt.
Iberian-gauge railways is the name given to the railways using track gauge of 1,668 mm, most extensively used by the railways of Spain and Portugal. This is the second-widest gauge in regular use anywhere in the world.
In Hong Kong, the three ex-KCR lines and the Light Rail service use 1,435 mmstandard gauge.
The vast majority of North American railroads are standard gauge. Exceptions include some streetcar, subway and rapid transit systems, mining and tunneling operations, and some narrow-gauge lines particularly in the west, e.g. the isolated White Pass and Yukon Route system, and the former Newfoundland Railway.
Historically, Italy had two unusual dominant track gauges which were legally defined depending on the terrain encountered. The gauge of 1,445 mm was used for the national Italian rail network and was very similar to the popular 1,435 mm standard gauge.
Europe inherited a diversity of rail gauges. Extensive narrow-gauge railway networks exist in Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe.
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.
Asia has many narrow-gauge railways. The railways of Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines are predominantly 1,067 mm narrow gauge. Those in mainland Southeast Asia, which includes Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia, are predominantly metre gauge. The proposed ASEAN Railway would be standard or dual gauge, using metre- and standard-gauge regional railway networks and linking Singapore through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to China's standard-gauge rail network. In Western Asia, Jordan uses 1,050 mm narrow gauge.
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