Nostalgia and history gather at Esquel on the circuit covered by the old Patagonian express known as La Trochita, a true emblem of the region.
A true journey to the past on a narrow gauge railway known as La Trochita
(The Little Narrow Gauge) Patagonian Express leaves from the Esquel
Railway Station. The tour takes half a day and starts at the end of the rail in the original line joining the districts of Ingeniero Jacobacci and Esquel with regular passenger and cargo services.
The convoy borders the great valley of Esquel. Through the windows, passengers may observe the high glacial mountains around. The train travels through an ecosystem known as “ecotone”. Travelers may observe the change in vegetation from the Valdivian rainforest to the Patagonian steppe.
In the summer, daily tours last two and a half hours –roundtrip- up to Nahuel Pan Station, with a formation that includes a Belgian and American steam locomotive from the 1930s.
Its particular narrow gauge, which measures just 75 centimeters, turns it into one of the five trains in the whole world with these characteristics which have survived the passing of time. The locomotive is technically referred to as “super economic gauge” due to the difference in the distance between one rail and the other. This ancient iron vehicle reaches a maximum speed of 45 km/h. Minimum speed is 5 km/h.
Visitors are amazed when La Trochita
is set in motion. The engineer must operate the valve manually in order to let the steam move from the dome to the piston, which powers the locomotive. For such purpose, the boiler must be working at full power, with its 10,000 liters of diesel-type oil and its 10,000 liters of water.
The column of smoke, the black locomotive and the narrow cars heated with a woodstove are postcards featuring a universal tourist attraction.
After a pronounced bend to the right, passengers may appreciate the Nahuel Pan mountain range (1,800 m.a.s.l.). It features a reddish shade with rocks of volcanic origin and high snow-capped peaks.
After going along the winding road and sorting out the whimsical geography of Patagonia in these cold latitudes, travelers get to Nahuel Pan station. Its surroundings are dwelled by some descendants of the native Mapuche
community, mainly devoted to pastoral activities and the production of crafts in their looms which they later sell in the markets.
Every year in March, the Mapuche community organizes and develops its main religious ceremony, called Camaruco, which summons all its members to gather at the foot of Mount Nahuel Pan in order to invoke their god with prayers related to various aspects of their lives, needs and customs.
After spending a few minutes at the old station and watching the locomotive making some maneuvers in order to detach and attach the cars and be placed again in front of the train, it was time for our journey back to the City of Esquel to begin.