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Madiera-Mamoré Railway


Porto Vehlo StationPorto Vehlo was the terminus of the Madeira-Mamoré railway. It was supposed to go as far as Riberalta, on the Rio Beni, above that river's rapids, but stopped short at Guajará-Mirim. The Brazilian government agreed to build a railway between the rivers Madeira and Mamoré to compensate Bolivia for the annexation of Acre in 1913. This was the third such scheme. In the 1870s, during the rubber boom, the American George Church was defeated twice by the heat, the difficulty of the terrain and appalling loss of life from fever. The contract for the third attempt at a railway was won by another American, Percival Farquhar. Construction began in August 1907 and was completed on I5 July 1912. The project cost US$33 million. At least 3,600 men died building the 367 km of track Guajaramirin-Station(popular estimates say that each one hundred sleepers cost one human life). The Madeira-Mamoré railway had about a year of full operation before the combination of the collapse of rubber prices, the opening of a railway from Bolivia to the Pacific via Chile and of the Panama Canal rendered it uneconomic. It was kept going until 1972. The BR-364 took over many of the railway bridges, leaving what remained of the track to enthusiasts to salvage what they could.

Quoted from Footprints South American Handbook 1999 Edition


Engine sheds at Porto Vehlo
The last train to Guajara Mirim
Stories like the one reproduced above have always fascinated me. Rooting around these old locos was great fun. There is a good museum in Porto Vehlo and of course the track is mostly still intact although overgrown. The train to the top right is just outside the station at Guajara Mirim and is occupied by squatters. We wondered if they were decedents of the original passengers still waiting for the train to arrive at its destination.
Watch out for snakes

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