The no service steam railway in Paraguay, 1999

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The no service steam railway in Paraguay, 1999

Modificato: Apr 9, 4:01pm

I'm reading At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette, 2003, and there's an interesting passage about the first time that Paraguay's railways officially ceased running trains in 1999. Gimlette arrived a month after the steam stopped and he visited Asuncion Central railway station to speak with the station master.

"The railway carried on. It carried on swallowing up eleven billion guaranis a year. Not a ticket was sold nor an ounce of freight moved. Once, these magnificent trains had rumbled all the way across the country and connected with others for Buenos Aires, for Brazil and the sea. They'd carried fruit and soldiers, girlfriends, sugar cane, Australian socialists to their Utopias and Polish peasants as far from feudalism as they could get. Then, line by line, the system had been overwhelmed by weeds and its sleepers pillaged for cooking. In the last few years it had run a wheezy service to the suburbs, but now even those trains had stopped.

But the railway carried on. It carried on employing nine hundred railway staff. Some, perhaps ten per cent, were fantasmas – ghosts – and were purely imaginary, the Mickey Mouses and Donald Ducks. Those that were real were often just planilleros or ticket-boys; moonlighting between their railway jobs and other distractions."

There have been a couple of half-hearted revivals since and Asuncion station is reputedly intermittently an official railway museum.

New York Times article about a 1988 journey here: