The Narrow Gauge 2-8-2s of Patagonia, by Robert Humm
Book published by the Narrow Gauge Railway Society, 50 pages. Softback - c.17cm by 23cm (N5565)
From the opening page: In the past 30 years there has been a steady trickle of overseas visitors to the Ingeniero Jacobacci to Esquel line in the Western Patagonia region of Argentina. This has resulted in one Englishlanguage book, Keith Taylorson's Narrow Gauge Rails to Esque/, regular tour reports, and occasional articles in a handful of US and European magazines. Travellers on the line, now the world's last long distance, steam worked, narrow gauge railway find much to admire: the stark desert scenery and mountains, the sharp curves and steep gradients, the way the line has clung to life against all odds, and above all the 90-year old locomotives that have provided the motive power during the whole history of the line.
Inevitably these locomotives have accumulated their share of myths. The Patagonian locomotives belong to two classes, 25 from the Baldwin Locomotive Works and 50 from Henschel, both batches being delivered in 1922-23. That was 23 years before the Esquel line was completed. Visitors and writers observed that the 402km line could not possibly have required so many locomotives and drew their own conclusions.
These ran on the following lines. This overprovision was the result of a crooked deal at the Argentine Government's expense. The actual total was not 75 but 150. The boilers, frames and other components have been so switched around that it is now impossible to tell which locomotive is which. The most enduring of these myths, repeated from one author to the next, is that of the stock of 'unassembled' locomotives that over many years was used as a source of spare parts for the active fleet.
Viewing the dump of apparently abandoned and unidentifiable derelicts in the yard at EI Matten, the main operating centre of the Esquel line only added to the feeling of helplessness. How was any sense to be made of it? "All too long ago, all too far away, all too difficult" seemed to be the general conclusion.
Following a visit to the line in late 2004 it was my dissatisfaction with the existing accounts that led me to attempt the compilation of a more comprehensive history. Surely if researchers had managed to trace thousands of kriegsloks across 18 countries it should be possible to assemble a history of 75 locomotives in one country....
The condition of the book is generally excellent. The covers are clean and bright, the spine is tight and intact and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound. There is a small price sticker on the rear side cover.