Tours and Activities:
Pioneer Railway StationMónica PonsJorge González
Treasured inside a building featuring an original English style, multiple elements used for railway tasks are on display next to the accounts given by their faithful guardians: workers.
Long ago, the railway let Puerto Deseado develop and a short branch joined it to other Patagonian settlements, holding fast to the dream that San Carlos de Bariloche would lie on the other end. Today, the Train Museum shows those days when the rails were in action.
As we reached the old railway station we were planning to visit, we were welcomed by a former railway employee who was willing to be our cicerone around the museum rooms. He proudly commented that Asociación Ferroviaria 20 de Setiembre was formed precisely to pay tribute to those who brought progress, work and glory to the district.
We toured around each one of the facilities on the first floor, where huge and old photographs show images of the moment when the rails were built, along with several communication elements, furniture, tools, technical components, etc.
All that material is watched by former railway workers who, not so long ago, used to carry out the tasks. 'We have refurbished the old station and assembled the museum with our effort. Now we can give you an account of the facts and countless memories as we look at the glass cabinets, scale models and various spaces in the building', said the guide passionately.
A law passed to promote national territories backed by Ramos Mejía created the branch and terminal station at Deseado with a stylish building. The work force was in charge of Yugoslavian and Croatian workers and the stones used were extracted from the area and carved by hand.
September 20, 1909 was a reason of celebration for railway workers when Locomotive Number 163 traveled the first meters of the newly opened railway. Unfortunately, the work only covered 283 kilometers up to Colonia Las Heras. World War I frustrated the arrival of the necessary material in order to continue with the construction. Then, the project was shattered.
Fourteen stations were built, every 20 kilometers each. That was the estimated distance for steam locomotives to get water supply. Today, they are deteriorated and nobody visits them.
The railway was closed during the administration of Jorge Videla, in 1978, during the military government, because it was considered to cause deficit. A great part of the cars and locomotives were scrapped. One car still remains and is displayed at the downtown square in Deseado.
Such car was used during the 1920/1921 period on a strike known as Patagonia Rebelde (Rebel Patagonia), strongly repressed by the military under the orders of President Hipólito Yrigoyen's democratic administration.
We had the sensation of having traveled back in time and we could even smell the humidity on the walls, which took us back to the moment in which that building was alive. We experienced a certain kind of nostalgia for the times in which the railroad joined the country from north to south and how important it was for railway workers to have belonged to this trade union. In addition to all this, these buildings boast the category of constructions raised by the English.
We left the silent rooms through the creaky wooden gate which closed behind us to go on treasuring unique life stories. Those walls will continue keeping the essence of a frail but important past for the denizens of Puerto Deseado.