Brief Historical Summary of the Railroads in Peru

By Elio Galessio

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Introductory note

It is the intention in this brief historical summary of the railroads in Peru to try to inform the reader of the main facts that affected the development and the construction of the railroads in the country. Basadre (1) refers to the history of the railroads, especially in the boom period of their construction during the second half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th and the lamentable history of the period. He says "Most of the railroads were not completed in the time limits stipulated and there were complex problems surrounding their financing, or of their administration or of their completion". It is no coincidence that the majority of the railroads included here no longer operate.

From the smallest to the largest, passing from the amazing Marañón, to the Ucayali and to the Madre de Dios, they have their history and their anecdotes. Since the first railway line was built here in 1851 the rail network extended to more than 4,500 kilometres, a considerable amount. The subject is extensive and this summary is not exhaustive but is intended to give an idea of what happened with our railroads during the time that has elapsed since they began to run.

Trains exercise a special attraction upon people; some musicians have even been inspired by them to compose. Such is the case of Gershwin and his "Rhapsody in Blue" or Honegger with his "Pacific 231", a type of locomotive. This fascination combines nostalgia and interesting history and of course we play with our children with train sets! The history of the railroads in Peru is linked inextricably to the history of the country. The railroads marked an era and they contributed in their final form to consolidation in the good and bad times. In the war with Chile more than 500 km of lines were destroyed, out of a total of 1,500 that existed in 1877. That length was reached again in 1910.

The order in which the history is summarised is geographical, beginning in the north and continuing down to the south. The data has been obtained from several sources, which are cited at the end. In some cases we do not have exact data, so the information given is that which has been deduced or is the most logical. In time when more references are found they will be incorporated into the text.

There were Presidents that tried a great deal to provide Peru with a railway system to meet the needs of the progress that the country required. Castilla, the initiator, later Balta, the Pardo’s, Piérola and Leguía, figure among those that did most. It was in the period up to 1930 that railroads were built in Peru; since that date development has stopped and decline has begun.


Historical Survey

On 13 May 1826 John Begg an English businessman living in Lima and Francisco Quiroz a Cerro de Pasco mining man, presented the first request to the Peruvian Government for permission to build a railway from Callao to Lima. Among other requests presented in that time, there is one very unusual: a water-power railroad. The proposed railway from Callao to Lima in Perú, said a newspaper article of 1845, will neither need the agency of steam nor the aid of fire. The ground has a gradual unbroken rise the whole way. Above Lima flows the river Rímac, which passes through a part of the city in its way to the sea near Callao. It is therefore proposed to propel the cars by means of belts attached to the trains, and passing over large drums at each end of the road, and these drums to be driven by one or more water wheels erected on the stream by the road side. It seems the idea didn’t work.

The first railway built in Peru was a short line from Callao to Lima 14 km, which was opened to traffic in 1851. The Arica to Tacna railway was constructed in 1856 and was followed the next year by a line from Lima to Chorrillos 14 km. The first real era of railway construction began in 1867 and continued until shortly before the outbreak of the war with Chile 12 years later. The outstanding in this pioneer period was the famous American engineer, Henry Meiggs, through whose vision and initiative were made the beginnings to the more important lines now still in existence.

Proposals for the constructions of the Southern and Central systems were made by Meiggs in 1868 and both of these ambitious projects were pushed simultaneously during the next decade. In 1869 the Southern Railway was the first to be started and by 1876 the line was completed to Puno, a distance of 522 km. The Central Railway had penetrated as far inland as Chicla, 141 km, by that year. Other important lines undertaken during this period were those from Lima to Chancay and eventually Huacho 1870, Pacasmayo to Guadalupe and Yonán 1871, Ilo to Moquegua 1871, Eten to Ferreñafe 1873, Paita to Piura 1875, Salaverry to Trujillo and Ascope 1875, and Chimbote to Recuay 1876. The problems of the national finances caused by the heavy expenditure on these railways brought construction to a standstill in 1876 and the situation became hopeless by the outbreak with the war with Chile in 1879. The Chileans who had planned for a long time to take the rich territory of Tarapaca had now the opportunity of seizing it by the force. During this struggle several railways were destroyed, among them Ilo to Moquegua 101 km, Ancón to Huacho 66 km of which had been finish to the port of Chancay and 30 km of a line which had been started to the Cerro de Pasco mines. In 1878, 44 km of the Pacasmayo Railway were destroyed by a flood leaving the terminal at Yonan. 500 km of track were lost by Peru during the war from 1879 to 1883.

After the war further railway construction was out of the question, except for the completion of the line from Paita to Piura in 1884 and the construction of a short line narrow gauge from Piura to Catacaos. Finally in 1889 an agreement was made with the British bondholders of the Peruvian foreign debt known as the Grace Contract. An entity, the Peruvian Corporation was formed in London to take over the main Government railways in return for the cancellation of the debt owing to British creditors. This was the beginning of English control over the major portion of the railway network of Peru. Although the contract of January 11th 1890, has been describe many times, it is important to repeat here its most relevant points.

The following lines were turned over the to the Peruvian Corporation for a period of 66 years from the time the contract was signed:

The corporation obliged itself to construct the following extensions: Chicla-La Oroya in three years, Santa Rosa-Sicuani in four years and 160 km of other lines not specified on the contract in six years.

The free use of the piers at Mollendo, Pisco, Ancon, Chimbote , Salavery, Pacsmayo and Paita was conceded to the corporation. The Government agreed to pay the latter an annual sibsidy of 80,000 pounds for 33 years and also granted it two million ton of guano from the islands along the coast. At the end of the 66 years all lines and the railways property were to be returned to the Government free of encumbrance. Many other mutual condition were agreed upon. None of the contracting parties found it possible to live up to the terms of 1890, especially in respect to the payments of annuities by the Government and the construction of the stipulated additional mileage by the corporation.

In order to adjust the many differences, a supplementary contract was drawn up in 1907, which included the following modifications: The life of the concession was extended for 17 years or until 1973. Thirty annual subsidies of 80,000 pounds were agreed to by the Government. The corporation agreed to construct the following lines by September 1908: Oroya-Huancayo, Sicuani-Cusco, Yonan-Chilete. Mutual concessions regarding tariffs, taxation, exchanging rates and other were made.

After the construction of the Huancayo, Cusco and Chilete extensions included in the 1907 contract, the Peruvian Corporation ceased to build any additional mileage. Therefore construction was undertaken by the Government and other private companies. The Cerro de Pasco Mining Co. completed its line from Oroya to Cerro de Pasco and Goyllarisquizga in 1906/1907. The Government replaced the Ilo-Moquegua Railway in 1909, destroyed by the Chileans during the 1879 war and also built a short line from Tumbes to Puerto Pizarro in that same year. The Northwestern Railway of Peru was completed in 1911 from Ancon to Huacho with a branch to Sayan opened in 1912. In 1928 it was extended to Barranca 46km north of Huacho. In 1918 the 46km Lima-Lurin Railway was built mainly for strategic purposes. In 1928 a line from Cusco to Santa Ana was opened to the traffic.

From 1930 the Peruvian Railways system started to decrease in both length and importance. Most of the lines were abandoned and replaced by other means of transportation. During the second part of the 20th century only the Southern Peru Copper Co. Railway was built with 240km for the company’s needs. A short line between Santa Ana and Quillabamba in Cusco was inaugurated in 1978.

In 1972 all public lines were nationalized and a Stated owned company was created, Empresa Nacional de Ferrocariles del Peru or Enafer. By that time The Peruvian Corporation had only two lines under operation the Central and the Southern Railways. In the late 90’s they were leased under a new Governmental policy. The Cusco-Machu Picchu line was included in this operation. Only the Tacna-Arica and the Huancayo-Huancavelica lines remain under Government control.

An Unfulfilled Dream

In January, 1923, a concession was granted to Robert W. Dunsmuir, a Canadian citizen, for the completion of all line under construction by the time in charge of the Government as well as the building of a number of new lines which had been long planned. The railways included in this ambitious project were as follows:

  1. Completion of the Huancayo-Ayacucho Railway, with a branch to Huancavelica. Later this train became the Huancayo-Huancavelica line, still under operation.
  2. Extension of the Chimbote Railway to Huaraz and Recuay, and continuing to Tambo del Sol, a station on the Cerro de Pasco Railway.
  3. Completion of the Pachitea Railway from Tambo del Sol to Pucallpa, on the Ucayali River.
  4. Construction of a line from Ayacucho to Cusco via Abancay.
  5. Contruction of the line from Pisco to Huancavelica.
  6. Contruction of a line from Lima to Pisco utilizing the Lima-Lurin Railway.
  7. Construction of a line from Chimbote to Lambayeque.
  8. Completion of the line from Chuquicara, a station of the Chimbote-Huallanca Railway, to Cajamarca and Jaen.
  9. Construction of a line from a point of the Southern Railway of Peru, Tirapata, to a navigable river on the Madre de Dios region.
  10. Extension of the Pacasmayo-Chilete line to Cajamarca in case the arrangement could be made with the Peruvian Corporation.
  11. The construction of a mega railway from Yurimaguas, a port on the Marañon River to Moyobamba, and from that place to a point on the coast between Paita and Pacasmayo, a total of 1,000km

It is needless to say that none of these lines was ever built, except the branch from Huancayo to Huancavelica which became the only train not planned that was completed.


The Railroads in the north of Peru

Tumbes - Port Pizarro Railroad (closed)

This short railroad, the property of the State, also called the Tumbes - Palizada, had a length of barely 11 km and was of 0.75m gauge. It was authorized by Law 697 of 1907 and also included a new port. In 1933 a branch to Zarumilla was authorized but it was not started. Construction began in 1908 and it was opened in 1909. It always had the problem, as did many others, of working at a loss, given the little traffic that it carried. It stopped operating in 1949.


Petroleum railroads of Piura (closed)

The railroads Talara-Negritos-Talara of 93 km and 0.75 gauge and Lobitos-The Tablazo-El Alto of 34 km and also 0.75 gauge served the needs of the petroleum companies of the zone. The International Petroleum Co also had a total of 160 km of lines of 0.75m gauge for its operations. The workshops and main locomotive roundhouse were at Negritos. The length of the tracks were subject to increase or decrease depending on the exploitation of the fields. When the company commenced operations in 1914, the only power available were a few small locomotives inherited from its predecessors. In 1916, the company bought a Balwin gasoline loco of 9 tons which was used as a shunter at Talara. Additional engines of this type were supplied by Baldwin in 1923, 1925 and 1926, making a total of 8 gasoline engines by 1927. The train gradually suspended its operations until it fully stopped by 1960.

Paita-Sullana-Piura Railroad (closed)

This line was proposed in 1869 and construction was started in 1872 by Federico Blume the same person who designed the first Peruvian submarines. Its opening on April 5 1879 to Sullana coincided with the war with Chile and it was destroyed in part by the Chileans. In 1874 it was completed to The Huaca, in 1876 to Viviate, and in 1879 as stated to Sullana and finally in 1887 to Piura. From 1929 it was operated by the Peruvian Corporation. It stopped operating in 1959 and the line was removed in 1962. It was of 1.435m gauge and 105km long.

Piura-Catacaos Railroad (closed)

Owned by Ferrocarril Piura Catacaos Co., 10km long and of 0.75m gauge, servicing from 1889 until 1937. It was operated by the Peruvian Corporation for some time.

Bayóvar-Reventazón Railroad (closed)

This was built in Piura by the State in 1903 in connection with mining sulphur. It was a concession of the Azufrera Sechura Company. It ran next to the Illescas.hill .It was 46 km long and was of 1m gauge and stopped operating in 1920.

Pimentel-Estate Pomalca Railroad (closed)

This private railroad of 43 km was built to a narrow gauge of 0.914m and ran from the port of Pimentel to the estates at Pomalca and Pucalá, connecting several plantations. It opened in 1916. In Pimentel the closed station can still be seen, where the narrow gauge once operated. Is a very large station but in very poor condition.

Pimentel-Chiclayo-Lambayeque Railroad (closed)

This line opened in 1873 and in 1897 arrived at Vista Alegre. It was 24km long and 0.914m gauge and ceased operating completely in 1975.

Railroad Eten-Chiclayo (closed)

This line of 1.435m gauge went from the port of Eten to Chiclayo with a branch to Ferreñafe and another from Chiclayo to Pátapo that passed through the estates of Pomalca and Tumán, a total length of 67km. It began to operate in 1871, being the oldest one in the north and continued to operate until 1965. There is a good collection of old steam locomotives of this private line belonging to the Compañía del Ferrocarril y Muelle de Eten. By Law 15974 its rolling stock was handed over to the municipalities of Chiclayo, Ferreñafe, Pimentel and Monsefú. Some old passenger coaches exist and a wagon all in very bad condition. They are in charge of the municipality but are the responsibility of the Peruvian Institute of Culture. An abandoned station can also be seen at Eten.


Eten-Estate Cayaltí Railroad (closed)

Eten was the terminus of another railroad that connected the port with the Estate Cayaltí. It was 66km long and of 0.60m gauge and operated from 1904 to 1970. The line crossed the Panamerican Highway North in the desert between the port and the estate. It was owned by the Aspíllaga family. An old Fowler engine can be seen at Cayaltí.

Pacasmayo-Guadalupe-Chilete Railroad (closed)

This railroad connected two departments, La Libertad and Cajamarca. Originally it was intended to reach the city of Cajamarca but it only reached Chilete. It was built by Meiggs and was the property of the State; subsequently it passed to the control of the Peruvian Corporation. In spite of not being completed it was one of the of the most important freight carriers in the north of Perú. Its construction was started in 1871 by Ernesto Malinowsky who worked for Meiggs and it was opened to Chilete in 1908. It was 105 km long with a branch of 26 km from San Pedro to Guadalupe. Its gauge was 1.435m and it was in operation until 1967. At present the station at Pacasmayo has been restored and converted into a museum. In the back there are two locomotives rusting away. Likewise in Chilete, at the other end of the line, there is material rusting abandoned and being wasted.

Port Chicama (Malabrigo)-Valle Chicama Railroad (closed)

This rail network served the various sugar estates in the valley of the River Chicama, such as Casa Grande, Sausal, Roma, Chiclín, Chicama and others. It was the property of the Sociedad Agrícola Casa Grande which later became the Empresa Agrícola Chicama. It was administered by Gildemeister and Co. It was of narrow 0.914/1.06 m gauge and was 194 km long, including branches and other lines. It started in 1915 from Malabrigo and by means of the Ascope-Trujillo railroad it was connected to that city. It came to have to 16 locomotives, including a diesel, 3 passenger carriages and the surprising quantity of 974 freight wagons. In 1950, the last figures that have been found, it transported a total of eleven million tons. It reduced its operation over time and was replaced by other modes of transport. The agrarian reform of 1969 affected the Chicama complex and the railroad finished operating completely.

Internal railroad of the Estate Cartavio (closed)

It served exclusively the Cartavio Estate in La Libertad, to the north of Trujillo. It was owned by The Cartavio Sugar Co and was 26 km long of 0.914 m gauge. It began operations in 1906 and connected with the railroad in the Chicama Valley (see above). It had 7 locomotives and 200 freight wagons.

Ascope-Trujillo-Salaverry Railroad (closed)

This line began to operate around 1875, connecting Ascope with Trujillo and the port of Salaverry to the south, a total of 76 km, and was of 0.914m gauge. It belonged initially to the State. It had a branch Trujillo-Laredo-Galindo-Menocucho of 53 km opened in 1896 and another from Ascope to Chocope of 24 km opened in 1876. It was built by Pedro Telmo Larrañaga. The line was abandoned progressively to 1966 and was administered by the Peruvian Corporation. Trujillo had also a railroad that went to Huanchaco, 14 km long, opened in 1914 and closed in 1920. There also existed a branch from Huanchaco-Tres Palos of 34 km in use between 1898 and 1920.




Estate Roma Railroad (closed)

Rail network internal to the Roma Estate, to the north of Chicama, consisting of 53 km of lines of 0.914 gauge. It was connected to the Chicama Valley railroad and was the property of the Larco Herrera family.

Chimbote-Tablones-Huallanca Railroad (closed)

This is one of the railroads of more interest for study. Originally it was planned to serve all the Callejón de Huaylas, connecting Chimbote and Recuay, a total of 265 km. It was planned in 1872 under Meiggs and it was opened in 1876 to Tablones. It was extended to Huallanca but never continued further. It reached this town in 1912, its total length being 170 km. Chinese labourers were used almost exclusively in its construction. The Chileans, under the command of Lynch, utilized it to destroy the Palo Seco estate owned by Dionisio Derteano, burned 7 locomotives and then they destroyed the railway. This line was privately owned initially, later becoming the property of the State, subsequently passing to the Peruvian Corporation, which sold it in 1943 to the Corporación Peruana del Santa, a state company. It was of 0.914 m gauge and had a total of 42 tunnels, an impressive number for its length. It operated 280 Baldwin built locomotives. It had a short branch from Chuquicara to La Galgada of 29 km opened in 1921 which was planned to be extended to Cajabamba. The railroad was completely abandoned after the earthquake of 1970 which caused great damage to the line (60%). It transported an appreciable quantity of freight, especially coal for the steel works and foundry, but it was not reconstructed. Pieces of locomotives can be seen on exhibition in the Botanical Gardens at Chimbote. Its trackbed has become a highway that utilizes its many tunnels. The main station at Chimbote is now a market.

Samanco-Nepeña Railroad (closed)

This railroad served the estates of the Nepeña Valley to the south of Chimbote, especially San Jacinto. It had some branches to Agua Hedionda, Mitán, Moro and Vesique and was 47km long of 0.914/1.060m gauge. It started operations in 1920 and some remains exist in Samanco. It was owned by the Negociación Azucarera Nepeña SA (NANSA).

The Railroads of Central Peru and Lima

Sugar Railroads north of Lima (closed)

In the present province of Barranca various railroads serving the sugar estates existed such as: Supe-San Nicolás 5 km, 1.070 gauge; Pativilca-Paramonga 7.5km, Knew-Barranca-Pativilca 11 km and Barranca-Alpas of 27 km, the last three all of 0.60m gauge, a total of 52 km. They were built between 1899 and 1913. By 1928 they were connected with the Northwest Railroad.

Playa Chica-Las Salinas Railroad (closed)

This line served the extraction of salt to the south of Huacho. It opened in 1873 and was of 1 m gauge and 10 km long. It was owned by the Pedro Martinto Co and ceased operating in 1920.

Chancay-Huaral-Estate Palpa Railroad (closed)

Connected to the Lima-Ancón-Chancay line before the war of 1879 and opened in 1875, it belonged to the Negociación Agrícola Palpa, which also operated the dock at Chancay. It was 29km long and of 1m gauge. The Chileans destroyed it, but it was reconstructed and abandoned around 1920.

Lima -Ancón-Chancay Railroad (closed)

Another very interesting railroad to study. There was a proposal in 1867 for a railroad from Lima to Huacho. The first section started operation at the beginning of 1870 between Lima and Ancón, 42km of 1.435m gauge. The work was done by Waldo Graña. At the end of that year the section Ancón-Chancay was opened, following a dangerous section of line at Pasamayo which suffered from landslides. In Chancay connection was made with the line to Huaral and Palpa. The war of 1879 and nature destroyed the section Ancón-Chancay – the bombardment of the Chileans and a sand storm. The section Lima-Ancón, which was not affected, was from 1890 in the control of the Peruvian Corporation as a branch of the FFCC Central. In Ancón there was a branch to Arsenal of 7 km opened in 1953. It was connected in Lima to the Central Railroad by means of a bridge, remains of the pillars are still to be seen across the River Rímac that connected it with Desamparados station. Originally, that is to say before the war, the station was on the right bank of the Rímac located on Tajamar Street, today the Rímac malecón. People had access to it across a bridge called La Palma from jirón Rufino Torrico. The line followed almost the line of the present Tupac Amaru Av. and then the freeway to Ancón. It became abandoned in 1964 when the Peruvian Corporation finally suspended the traffic. There are also some pillars remaining of the bridge across the Chillón river, a tunnel that passes under the freeway to Ancón, the station in this town and some trackbed, besides the pillars across the Rímac.

Northwest Railroad of Peru ( closed)

This line must not be confused with the Lima-Ancón line. Although originally they were both part of the project to unite Lima with Huacho, this railroad did not form part of the previous one. At the start of the 20th century the old idea was revived to build a railroad to Huacho. A contract with an American company, the Northwestern Railway of Peru, was signed and work started in 1909. A new line was made and the dangerous Pasamayo cliff section was abandoned, by building the line on a new route via de Pasamayo in spite of the gradient. It was arranged by Law 470 to build the line to Lima, but because of the existence of the Lima - Ancón line by means of Law 1530 this idea was modified, probably due to the Peruvian Corporation’s pressure to protect its interests. Although the Laws 2912 of 1918 and 4131 of 1920 authorized the extension of the line to Lima, this was not done. The line had a total length of 194 km, including branches, of 0.914 gauge, incompatible with that of Lima-Ancón which was 1.435m. The construction company did not comply with the time limit established in the contract and the line reverted to the State. The railroad left Ancón, where a transfer could be made with the line from Lima, followed it to Huaral with a branch to Chancay of 13 m, passed Las Salinas and arrived at Huacho. It was finished to here in December 1911. At Huacho there was another branch of 56 km to Sayán opened in 1912. From 1920 it was administered by the Peruvian Corporation. In 1928 an additional section of 46 km connected with Supe and Barranca. In this area they operated lines that served the sugar industry, such as Supe-San Nicolás, Pativilca-Paramonga and Supe-Barranca-Pativilca, which were all connected to the Northewestern line. It had 7 locomotives, 3 passenger coaches and 100 freight wagons which brought among others things salt to Lima. It was the only extensive railroad that ran parallel to the coast; they called it the FFCC Costero. Its main headquarters was in Huacho, also its workshops. The section Huacho-Barranca was closed in 1960 and the remainder in 1964. The rolling stock was reused on the lines from Huancayo-Huancavelica and Cuzco-Santa Ana. There exists some remains such as bridge on the River Huaura and the station in Huacho. President Balta arranged in 1869 the construction of the Huacho-Sayán railroad as part of the one that eventually would reach Cerro de Pasco, this being the shortest route to remove the minerals from there to the sea. The project never materialised. With the money raised by the auction of the remaining material other State owned railways were improved, according to Law 15663.

Central Railroad of Peru (operating)

This remarkable line, the most important of Peru from an economic point of view. It is one of the two large railroads that exist at present in the country. It begins in Callao and is standard gauge (1.435 m) and 535 km long. It is well known as the highest railroad in the world, and at Oroya it divides toward the north and south with a series of branches. It then reaches Cerro de Pasco and Huancayo. At present it is operated by the Ferrovía Central Andina. This line originally was projected as a railroad to Oroya and the proposal for its construction dated from 1859. The contract for construction was signed in 1869, together with the railroad from Arequipa to Puno, with Henry Meiggs. On 1st January 1870 work began to build the station at Monserrate. The railroad followed the route of the River Rimac to Chosica. In August 1875 the line reached Chicla near Matucana, 142 km from Callao. There it stopped for a time due to the lack of financing and to the war with Chile. After the war the country was devastated, and there then started the gigantic task to restore it; a great deal having been destroyed by the invaders. It was impossible for the country itself to reconstruct and to extend its railroads, and Peru signed in 1889 the so-called Grace Contract with the Englishman Michael Grace, by which the means was found to repair and to complete the lines. In exchange he was to receive three million tons of guano, payments in cash and the concession of the railroads for 66 years. In 1890 Grace formed in London the Peruvian Corporation to operate the railroads for 77 years although he then had only a concession for 66. In 1891 the Corporation created 7 subsidiaries. Prior to 1890 the line was under the control of Ernesto Malinowsky, arriving at Oroya in 1893 after defeating an endless number of obstacles between all the points that it joins in central Perú. It arrived at Huancayo in 1908. It has 61 bridges and 65 tunnels, many of which are true masterpieces of construction. By Law 6281 of 1928 all the State railroads were handed over to the Peruvian Corporation in perpetuity, although they were only supposed to be leased for 66 years, according to the contracts of 1890 and 1907. The lines were: Paita-Piura, Pacasmayo-Guadalupe-Chilete, Salaverry-Trujillo-Ascope, Chimbote-Huallanca, Pisco-Ica, the FFCC South and the FFCC Central.

Railroads of the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation (operating)

Before the creation of Centromin, the State owned National Mining Co, and nationalisation, the part of the Central railroad between Oroya and Cerro de Pasco city belonged to the Cerro de Pasco Mining Corporation, with the name of the Cerro de Pasco Railway. It arrived at Cerro de Pasco city in 1906. It is 152 km long, out of a total of 314 km controlled by the Corporation.

Mining railroad of Cerro de Pasco (removed)

This railroad provided a service to several mining businesses established in Cerro de Pasco before 1879, with a total length of 30 km of 1.076 m gauge. It did not have communication with the coast. It was completely destroyed by the Chileans. Some lines were reconstructed by the Cerro de Pasco Corporation and other businesses. It worked with two 1869 Manning Wardle locos.

Lima-Lurín Railroad (closed)

This closed railroad was part of an attempt to connect Lima with Pisco, dating from 1868. After the war with Chile the strategic need arose to enable the transportation of troops to the south of Lima to prevent or at least hinder the disembarking of an enemy army. The railroad to Lurín was the first phase of the one that would later extend to Chilca, Mala, Cañete and eventually to Pisco. The government passed laws in 1888, 1889, 1895 and 1901, but the railroad to Pisco never was built. The railroad to Lurín was started by the State in 1913 as the first section of the Lima-Chilca 75 km line. It was opened to traffic in 1918, when the fears of a new invasion had already passed. It was from 1932 administered by the Peruvian Corporation. It had its station in the jirón Amazonas near Viterbo. Its gauge was 0.914 m and its total length was 48 km. It operated at its height 2 locomotives, American built 2-8-2s. Its main traffic was the material extracted from the quarry at Atocongo and taken to the old Maravillas cement plant. Its first station could be seen until a Mayor of Lima decided to demolish it and use the land as a shopping centre. The stations at Pachacamac and at Lurín can still be seen and are converted to houses. It had 11 stations. There also remains the small bridge over the El Pino road. It stopped operating in 1963, incredibly for lack of income. If it still existed it would transport an enormous number of passengers. The same thing can be said of the line to Ancón. The money from the sale of its material was used to improve other State lines.

English railroad Lima-Callao (closed)

In order to avoiding confusion with the Central Railroad of Peru, we have called this line by the name given to it by the people of Lima. This was the first railroad that was built in Peru and the first one in South America. Its planning started in 1833 when the Government of Orbegoso published a notice in the newspaper The Conciliator (later called The Peruvian, the official gazette) calling for its construction. The only bidder was Tomás Gill. The government approved a proposal on March 20, 1834, but the work was not started. Its construction, agreed by Castilla on November 14, 1845, was the start of railroads in the country. Its plans were approved in December 1848, and a concession offered to the businessmen Pedro Gonzales Candamo and Vicente Oyague and his brother. Prisoners were used during its construction. Eleven months after they began the job, in 1850, the trains travelled through the station of San Juan, and an old church and convent were later demolished to form the present plaza San Martín station. It was one of the busiest railroads of its time, in spite of only being 14 km long, and was of 1.435m gauge. It cost 550,000 soles and produced 400,000 soles of income annually. Between 1851 and 1860 it transported a total of six million passengers, that is to say more than three times the population of the country at that time. Upon building of the plaza San Martín in the 1920s, the station was moved to San Jacinto and it became a freight railroad to Callao. It was owned by The Lima Railways, formed in 1865. It had 8 stations, one of them in La Legua and two branches, one to La Punta opened in 1903 and another to Bellavista, dating from 1897. It was electrified in 1907 and disappeared at the end of 1938. The tramway inaugurated in 1904 affected it since it almost travelled the same route. In some areas of Lima Industrial Zone the remains of the line can still be seen.

Lima-La Magdalena Railroads (closed)

First railroad: Compared to the success of the railroad to Callao, the first line to La Magdalena was a failure. It opened in 1875 and was 6 km in length of 1.05m gauge, and operations were suspended in 1878. It was re-opened in 1886 but in 1899 was abandoned and remained in a deplorable state. It was the property of the Frenchmen M. Bichon and M. Guibert. Its station was in the first block of the Av. Bolivia to the side of the old Prison, now the Civic Centre of Lima. It followed the Tingo María Av, passed the plaza de la Bandera and continued to Sucre, and from there by its own track until it reached Magdalena Nueva. In 1899 its concession expired. A curious custom was the use of locomotives on Sundays and on holidays, and mules in the week, for hauling the trains.

Second railroad: In 1901 a second line was opened to La Magdalena that left from the plaza San Martín following the Quilca, Alfonso Ugarte and the Brazil Avenues. It was 5.3 km long of 1.435m gauge. It was operated by the same company that operated the "English Railway" to Callao and that to Chorrillos, known as the The Lima Railways Company. It became an electric tramway in 1909.

Lima - Chorrillos Railroad (closed)

The third railroad built in Peru, after the Lima-Callao in 1851 and Tacna-Arica in 1856. It was opened in 1858 and was the second in the Capital. It was 15 km long of 1.435m gauge. They called it the "English railroad to Chorrillos". The work was started in November 1856 and as we have mentioned in 1858 it began to run trains. The cost of the work was 350,000 soles. The contract was signed between the Peruvian State and Felipe Barreda and brothers on January 9, 1857. The first station, called Encarnación, was in the plaza San Martín on the street Pacae jirón Carabaya and was connected with the San Juan station of the line that went to Callao. As it progressed towards Chorrillos it followed the present Express Way of the Paseo de la Republica, to reach Javier Prado where it followed the Av. Republica of Panama and the street Dionisio Derteano, continued to Recavarren and again along the Paseo de la Republica to the bridge on Angamos Ave. approximately. In Miraflores there was a station and a small electric tram that went to Balta Street. At the Benavides Av. the line deviated to the area called Tejada. It crossed the plaza Balta, and then along the Av. Bolognesi. In Barranco there was another station. It entered Chorrillos by the Av. Panama, took the Calle del Ferrocarril and the Av. Alejandro Iglesias or Alfonso Ugarte to the terminus where it had its workshops. It had a branch to the estate Villa. It influenced the development of Miraflores and Barranco. It was utilized intensely for the movement of troops during the Chilean invasion of 1881. It had an annual income of 110,000 soles on average, and was therefore profitable. The electric tram began in 1904 and for some time three lines functioned simultaneously to Chorrillos - two electric trams, one of the Empresas Electricas Asociadas that operated until 1965 and another of the Compañía Nacional del Tranvia Electrico (CNTE) that worked to 1910, and the steam railroad that was electrified in 1907. It closed in the 1930s. In 1934 the Lima Light, Power & Tramway Co, a subsidiary of English Electric, became the Lima Light & Power Co and the tramway to Chorrillos was transferred to the company. The National Tramways became a separate business. In 1937 the Lima Railways sub let its Chorrillos line for 50 years to the Compañía Nacional de Tranvías or CNT.

The Decauville Railroad (closed)

During the construction of old Lima Prison, 1856-1860, by Mariano Felipe Paz Soldán there was on the site at the San Bartolomé hill a portable railroad of the "Decauville" type, of 0.60m.gauge, as used in agriculture and mineral work, for carrying material to the building site. It was also called "the train to the quarries". The line was also employed to transfer the statue of Bolívar when this arrived from Europe in 1859 to the plaza of the same name, now the station of San Juan in the plaza San Martín.

Cañete-Cerro Azul Railroad (closed)

In 1866 Esteban Crosby obtained permission to build a line from the port of Cerro Azul to the village of Cañete. Apparently he did not completed the work and it appears the contract was annulled in 1867. In 1870 Juan Miguel Montero y Rosas was granted a permission to construct a steam railway over the same route. The privilege extended for 25 years after which the company could remain private property for 99 years and no one else would be permitted to construct a line between these two points. This railroad was opened in 1870 by the Scot Henry Swayne and in 1925 was 15 km long of 0.914m gauge. It served almost exclusively to assist in the agricultural production of the fertile valley, especially cotton and sugar. It was taken over by the British Sugar Company, one of whose Directors was August B. Leguía, later President of Peru. In August 1881 a Chilean column, under the command of Baeza and Sergeant Sofanor Parra used it to destroy estates and to murder Peruvians natives. It ceased operations in 1943. Until recently in Cerro Azul there could be seen the station with the remnants of the old buildings, but there was no track remaining except parts of the line on the shipping wharf.

Huancayo-Huancavelica Railroad (operating)

We return to the mountain area to study this railroad which still operates. Originally it was designed to serve Castrovirreyna and Ayacucho. It is called the Macho Train because it leaves when it wants and arrives when is able!. It is one of only two railroads that are still the property of the State. It is 148 km long and of 0.914m gauge. It was begun in 1908 and opened to traffic in 1926. It was proposed to build for some kilometers towards Castrovirreyna and Ayacucho but then this was abandoned. It has two steam locomotives at Huancayo and also operates Alco diesels.

Chincha-Tambo de Mora Railroad (closed)

This line was built in 1898 and administered by the FFCC de Tambo de Mora that also administered the wharf, and was 12 km long of 1m gauge. It had a station at Sunampe. Its main station was on the street Mariscal Castilla at Chincha. It ceased operating in approximately 1940. A branch was built to Chincha Baja in 1924. It served to transport the produce from the valley to the sea, including wines and piscos (Peruvian brandy) and to bring in fertilizers.

Pisco-Ica Railroad (closed)

This railroad was started in 1861 was completed in 1871, to convey the produce of the important valley of Ica to distant markets. It was built, with the help of Malinowsky, by José Francisco Canevaro who sold it to the government, then it was leased to José Boza. Its main offices and workshops were in Pisco. In 1881 a Chilean garrison under the command of Colonel Leoncio Tagle invaded the valley and destroyed the railway. It was 74km long of 1.435m gauge, including a branch of 6km to Guadalupe. In 1928 the State transferred it to the Peruvian Corporation, which rented it in 1940 to a gentleman named Alvarez Calderon. Later it was decided to abandon it due to lack of traffic - this happened in 1956. Almost no trace remains of the line with the exception of the old station in Pisco. It crossed the desert by the Villacuri plains or tablazo of Ica, where is found Pozo Santo, the place in which Father Guatemala discovered water in the middle of the desert.

Railroads in the South and South East of Peru

Southern Railroad of Peru (operating)

This is the largest of all the railroads that have been built and that still operate in Peru. It was started by Meiggs. It is 1.435 gauge and 940km long. It begins at the port of Mollendo, climbs to Arequipa, and then proceeds to Juliaca, where it forks into a branch towards Puno on Lake Titicaca and another to the city of Cuzco. The highest point is reached at Crucero alto y La Raya. At present it is operated by Peru Rail. This railroad opened with the section Mollendo-Arequipa on 1 January 1871 where construction was started a year before. Subsequently the section Arequipa-Puno was completed and was brought into service in January 1874. Peruvians and Bolivian workers were employed on the job. The cost of this section was 33 million soles. The cost of the section Mollendo-Arequipa had been a million eight hundred thousand soles. The section Juliaca-Cuzco cost 25 million soles and was started in 1872 but was halted in 1875 by economic difficulties. In 1890, after fifteen years of inactivity due to the war and other causes, the Grace Contract was signed, and the Peruvian Corporation restarted the construction to Cuzco. In 1892 it opened to Maranganí and in 1894 to Sicuani. It reached Cuzco in 1908. It was transferred to the Peruvian Corporation in 1928.

Ilo-Moquegua Railroad (closed)

The construction of this railroad was finished in 1873 under Meiggs and barely 7 years later, in 1880, the Chilean army destroyed it completely, after utilizing it to get to Moquegua city and demolishing it. The Presidents Iglesias in 1884, Cáceres in 1886 and 1889 and López of Romaña in 1899 tried to reconstruct it using private capital but they did not find anyone interested. Only in 1907, 27 years later, did the State rebuild it and it began to operate in 1909. It was 98 km long of 1.435m gauge. The line served the commerce and the developing mining activities of the area. In 1964 it stopped operating due to lack of traffic. Some of its material was transferred to the Tacna-Arica railroad. Its trackbed can still be seen and also the station at Hospicio, approximately in the middle of its route. This railroad should have been administered by the Peruvian Corporation under its contract with the government of 1911, but this never was done, and it was always in the hands of the State. Its lack of profits would explain this disinterest.

Southern Peru Railroad (operating)

The most modern railroad in Peru was built to serve the needs of a gigantic mining business. It unites Ilo, including the foundry and the copper refinery, with the mines of Toquepala and Cuajone, and connecting eventually with the ore deposits at Quellaveco. It utilizes the standard gauge of 1.435 and is 240 km long, with 5 tunnels, one of which is of 8 km, being the sixth largest in the world. Its track and rolling stock are the most modern and suitable for that type of activity.

Cuzco- Santa Ana-Quillabamba (operating)

This is one of best known railroads in the country. It is 110 km long, of the narrow 0.914 gauge, and connects Cuzco with Machu Picchu and other towns and villages along the line, which is an important route and very profitable. In 1927 it was transferred to the Peruvian Corporation and in 1931 it returned to the control of the State. It is now operated by Peru Rail which has made a series of improvements to the service. However an avalanche of clay destroyed the part of the line that goes to Quillabamba, opened in 1978, which now has to be reconstructed. The section to Quillabamba has not been privatized yet. It was opened in 1914 and opened in 1925 to Santa Ana. It has a branch of 13 km, from Huayllabamba to Pachar that is at present disused.

Matarani-La Joya (operating)

This line is 62 km long of 1.435 gauge, built between 1947 and 1950 by the State to shorten the line to the coast. It forms part of the Southern Railroad that starts in Matarani and Mollendo. It was operated temporarily by the Peruvian Corporation.

Tacna-Arica Railroad (operating)

This railroad holds various records – it is the only international one that we have and the oldest one still operating, as it was the second to be built in 1856 when Arica was Peruvian and governed by Ramón Castilla. Is the only railroad that is partially in another country. Is the most historic one of all for the part it played during the war against Chile, and finally it is one of the two lines that still belongs to the State. It is true to say that this line is more a national monument than a railroad. Although its use is very limited it does not seem that it is going to be either abandoned or privatised. It is administered by Enafer since 2000, in which year there was a landslide and it does not have any traffic on the Arica side. It is 62 km long and of 1.435 gauge. Its building was authorized in 1851 and its construction was undertaken by José Hegan. The train service was started in 1856 and it was given a concession for 99 years. Upon occupation by the Chileans the railroad was in the hands of the Arica & Tacna Railway Co, an English concern. The Chileans were not able either to touch or to expropriate it, by express agreement included in the Ancón Treaty. From 1955 upon reverting to the Peruvian State the railroad remained the absolute property of the State. By then Tacna had returned to Peru and the Chilean section of the railroad on the Arica side also remained Peruvian property. In 1869 President Balta ordered studies to be done for its extension to La Paz, Bolivia but it was never was carried out. If such a line had been constructed it would have helped during the war with the transportation of troops.

Tambo del Sol-Ucayali Railroad (unfinished)

The great project of 1887 to unite the jungle area of Perú to the remainder of the country has in this railroad its greatest expression. A contract was signed in 1907, Law 718, and was modified in 1912, Law 1563, but the work was not started. A new contract in 1927 revived the idea. Up to 1930 80 km was built out of a total of 580 as narrow gauge. 6.5 million soles were invested by then. In 1949 it was converted to standard gauge but in 1957 work was finally stopped. Tambo del Sol is near Cerro de Pasco.

Railway Museum

In Tacna, in the station of the line to Arica, on the corner of 2 de Mayo and Albarracín, the Museum Railways of Peru operates. It has a collection of valuables items belonged to the various railways of the country. The most important one is the locomotive number three with its tender belonging to the Tacna-Arica Railway that was used for the movements of troops to the port during the war against Chile. The locomotive number 3, which arrived at Tacna in 1868, is currently at display on a park and it is in an excellent operating condition, and utilizes coal as fuel. There exists also a railcar of luxurious finish in which Bolognesi, Inclán and other heros were transported.

Other railroads

In the annual statistics of the old Department for the Promotion and Public Works in 1966 appear, besides some of those already mentioned, the following railroads; the information given is Department and (where known) gauge; length; dates of operation.

1 Hacienda Laredo-Menochuco (Trujillo) 0.914 gauge

2. Shelby-San José of Huarón (Pasco) 0.750m; 51km; 1896/1966

3. Port Chicama-Licapa (La Libertad) 0.914m; 31km; 1898/?

4. Hacienda Pampa Blanca (Arequipa) 0.750m; 20 km; 1924/?

5. Hacienda Cartavio (La Libertad) 0.914m; 13km; 1906/?

6. Vítor-Sotillo (Arequipa) 1.435m; 14km; 1905/1950

6. Estate Chucarapi (Arequipa) 0.60m; 43 km ; 1912/?

7. Cailloma mining railroad 0.6 m; 12km; 1899/1931?

Railroads of Tarapacá

In the old Peruvian department of Tarapacá there existed, until it passed to the control of Chile, three railroads built by the Peruvian State and dedicated exclusively to the transportation of nitrate or sulphur in its natural state from the interior towards the sea. These were:

1. Pisagua-Sal de Obispo-Agua Santa, 80 km long and of 0.60 m gauge, built between 1870 and 1876 by Ramón Montero and brothers, authorized in 1869.

2. Iquique-Pozo Almonte-La Noria, 113 km long also of 0.60m gauge also built between 1870 and 1876 by Ramón Montero, authorized in 1868. A concession was given by Castilla in 1860 to Federico Pezet and José M. Coast, but was not taken up. In the atlas of Peru by Mariano Felipe Paz Soldán in 1865, on a map of Iquique, this planned line appears. In 1871 the Montero family were authorized, without achieving it, to unite this railroad with the previous one and to extend it to the Bolivian border.

3. Patillos-Lagunas, 85 km long and 0.75 m gauge, granted also to the Montero’s, but built by the Sociedad Salitrera Esperanza. It functioned between 1872 and 1877, when it was abandoned without being finished (it was planned to be 110 km long) and due to a tidal wave which destroyed Patillos as well as legal problems.

In 1873 the three were transferred to the FFCC Salitrero of Peru, with Montero as associates. During the campaign of Tarapacá the Peruvian army started the job of connecting the lines without achieving it.

Some equivalents

The gauge of the railroads are quoted in metric, rather than in feet and inches. Table of equivalents:

Metric Feet and inches

1.435 4ft 8˝in

1.060 3ft 6in

0.914 3ft

0.750 2ft 6in

0.600 2ft


(1) History of the Republic of Peru, Jorge Basadre, (Lima, 1970)

Annual Statistics of the Department of Promotion and Public Works, Direction of Railroads 1966

Bibliographical Historic Dictionary of Peru, Mile Batres, (Lima, 1986)

Great Geography of Peru, Manfer, [Juan Mejía luggage Rack,] (Lima, 1987)

Reseña Historic of the FFCC. of Peru, Federico Coast and Laurent, (Lima, 1908)

The Railroads of File, Alberto Regal, (Lima, 1965)

Basic Encyclopedia of Peru, (Lima, 1984)

National Congress Archives of Perú


In the Annual of the Latin-American railroads published in London in 1911 by John Vavasour Noel, he gives the following information about the state of the Peruvian Railroads:


Railroads in use, under construction and proposed:

Operating 2528 km

Under construction 722km

Proposed 3686km


Railroads in operation, wide gauge 1.435m

Paita-Piura 97 km; Eten-Ferreñafe 43; Chiclayo-Pátapo 24; Pacasmayo-Chilete 135; Lima-Callao 14; Lima-Chorrillos 14; Callao-La Punta 2.6; Callao-Bellavista 3.4; Lima-Ancón 38; Callao- Oroya 222 (part of the central railroad); Ticlio-Morococha 16 (part of the central railroad); Oroya-Huancayo 122 (part of the central railroad); Tambo-Jauja 2.5; Huancayo-Extension 20; Oroya-Cerro de Pasco 132 (part of central railroad); Cerro de Pasco-Goyllarisquisga 43; Pisco-Ica 74; Mollendo-Arequipa-Puno 524 (part of the southern railroad); Juliaca-Cuzco (part of the southern railroad) 338; Ilo-Moquegua 100.

Railroads in operation, narrow gauge:

Piura-Catacaos 10 km; Bayóvar-Reventazón 48; Pimentel-Lambayeque 24; Eten-Cayaltí 36; Salaverry-Ascope 76; Huanchaco-Thes Palos 14; Railroad de la Hacienda Roma 53; Trujillo-Menochuco 26; Chicama-Pampas 45; Chimbote-Tablones 57; Knew-Pativilca 12 (part of the Northwest railroad); Supe-San Nicolás 6 (part of the Northwest railroad); Pativilca-Paramonga 7 (part of the Northwest railroad); Chancay-Palpa 25; Casapalca-El Carmen 4; Cerro Azul-Cañete 10; Tambo of Mora-Chincha 12; Playa Chica-Salinas-Huacho 10 (part of the Northwest railroad); Ensenada-Pampa Blanca 20; Tumbes-Puerto Pizarro 11.


Total in operation 2528 km


Under construction

Tablones-Recuay 209 km (section of the Chimbote-Huallanca-Recuay); Huancayo-Ayacucho 260; Ancón-Huacho 253 (part of the Northwest railroad)


Total in construction 722 km



Pacasmayo-Eten 65* ;Chocope-San Pedro 52*; Trujillo-Holy 113*; Yonan-Magdalena 62*; Menochuco-Quiruvilca 80 (of the line from Trujillo-Menochuco)*; Lima-Pisco 246 (only completed to Lurín in 1918)*; Goyllarisquisga Pucallpa 346*; Oroya-Tarma-Port Whertman 528*; Ayacucho-Cuzco 500*; Vitor-Camaná 198*; Ilo-La Joya 158*; Cuzco-Santa Ana 185 (completed); Paita-Marañón 704* Tirapata-Madre de Dios 357*; Tambo del Sol-Ucayali 580*

* Never built

Total proposed 3686 km

Part of the CLASIG narrow gauge web site.

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