Route Lima - Hyo Map
To the roof of the world
A journey over the central railway of Peru is without a doubt one of the highlights of the world, it should be in every train lover’s diary. Philip Wormald takes a trip from Lima-Huancayo over the highest Historical Standard gauge Railway in the world.
The railway took nearly 40 years to build. Construction started in 1870 and was completed in September 1908. The idea of taking the train to these heights was created by American entrepreneur Henry Meiggs. The design of the route was mastered by polish engineer Ernest Malinowski and the construction team was formed of a multi national workforce, 50% Chinese, 40% Peruvian and 10% Chilean.
The journey from Lima – Huancayo is a distance of 332 kilometers and today the scheduled passenger train runs mere six days a year. Since 1999 to six day a week operation of this train ceased and it is now primarily run for tourists. New roads and fast bus services have taken most of the regular passenger traffic. During the journey the train passes six climatic zones and can climb an average 27feet per minute!
The total length of the Central Railway is: Callao – La Oroya 222km, La Oroya - Huancayo 124 km. The branch line from La Oroya – Cerro de Pasco 132 km, the Ticlio – Morococha – Cut Off 32.9 km and the Pachacayo – Chaucha 80km.
The line has no fewer than 61 bridges, the four biggest are:
Carrion Bridge, 84.4 kilometers from Callao at 1,650 meters above sea level. It was built in 1937 by the “Cleveland Bridge Company” in north England. This bridge is the longest of the railway measuring 218 meters.
Chaupichaca Bridge is 117.2 km. into the journey and at 2,900 meters above sea level. It was built in 1909 by “American Bridge Company” This bridge has a length of 122,8 meters.
Infiernillo Bridge is at a height of 3,300 meters above sea level and is 129.5 from Callao. It was built in 1908 by the “American Bridge Company” and has a length of 62.78 meters. Its appearance is most dramatic as it has vast tunnel mouths at each end.
Anche Bridge is at 3,490 meters above sea level and 133.2 km into the journey. It was built in 1908 also by “American Bridge Company”. This bridge has a length of 91.71 meters.
There are 65 tunnels on the line, of which two are very big, The first is the Jose Balta or San Juan Tunnel at approximately 2,100 meters above sea level, and found 94 kilometers into the journey. It was built between 1983 and 1984. This tunnel is the longest of the railway with a length of 1,375 meters.
Slightly shorter at the summit of the line is the Galera Tunnel at the awesome altitude of 4,781.70 meters above sea level. It takes the main line through from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side of the Cordillera. It is located at 171.3 km from the start of the journey from Callao. This tunnel has a length of 1,176.85 meters.
The towns en route
The journey from Lima to Huancayo start from “ Desamparados” station, (trains actually come in from the port at Callao), 14 kilometers south of the city. The station is 150 meters above sea level and is directly behind the Presidential Palace and was built from 1908 to 1912. Sadly the station interior is no longer used for passenger access and entry is via a side passage onto the footbridge going down to the island platform with one track.
At kilometer 54 (40 kilometers after leaving Lima) the train arrives at the bustling town of Chosica and it is a tidy little station. The line has already climbed to 859 meters above sea level.
Here the offices of the Ferrocarril Central Andino are to be found within the heavily guarded compound.
The next main station is the important stop at San Bartolome located 1,513 meters above sea level and 76 kilometers into the journey. The train reverse here and the locomotive of all trains has to be turned on the elderly turntable. It is a manual turntable, so the big loco is pushed with a lot of effort, it is not recommended for tourists to assist as the altitude difference can be hard work as it is! As soon as the train leaves here the steep climbing really starts, before too long the station will look like a layout of a small model railway.
Next major stop is after 153 kilometers into the journey at Casapalca, already the railway has reached a height of 4,154 meters above sea level. Casapalca is the oldest mining camp in the richest mineral of Peru.
After traveling a little further to the 171 kilometer point the train reaches Ticlio station at 4,751 meters above sea level. This is the last station on the Pacific side and often a scenic stop.
Leaving Ticlio the train passes through the Galera tunnel and arrives at Galera station at 172.7 kilometers from Callao. Galera is the highest passenger station in the world and is a very popular stop for tourists after completing the amazing climb from virtual sea level a few hours earlier.
Next major stop is La Oroya, the principal mining town and the metallurgical capital of Peru. The station is 3,726 meters above sea level and is 222 kilometers into the journey. The station is often busy with many wagons from the branch line from Cerro de Pasco. The smelter used to boast the tallest chimney in the world, measuring 550 feet.
The final station is at Huancayo, 346 kiilometers from Callao. The line takes a comparative gradual decent to 3,261 meters above sea level.
There are 21 switchbacks (or zig-zags) on the line, it is amazing to see how quickly the train is handled at these reversals, the true professionalism of the Peruvian workers can be seen as the staff jump off the train, change the points and climb back on again without the train hardly even stopping reverse. The major switchbacks are as follows:
Viso lower – Viso Upper between km 111.6 and 113.9
Tamboraque Station – Aruri between km 120.4 and 122.8
Cacray Lower –Cacray Upper between km 130.7 and 132.3
Chicla Station – Saltacuna between km 141 and 145.5, (the longest zig-zag on the railway)
Backus Lower – Johnstone Upper – G.W. Morkill among km 154.7, 155.2 and 155.5
Rumichaca Upper –Rumichaca Lower between km 186.9 and 187.89
Huancayo and The Central Highlands