The city that is eating itself, flamingos, and other true tales from South America: Trains’ Peru tour, part 3

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sometimes beauty and grit are next door neighbors. Thursday’s chartered FCCA train from LaOroya to Cerro de Pasco showed us that. We saw great natural beauty. And we saw scars that industry can leave on the land. 

On the third day of our special tour of Peru, we took FCCA’s branch to this mining community, nicknamed the city that is consuming itself because of the continuing mining activity that causes portions of the city to be relocated on a regular basis. We climbed from around 11,000 feet to about 14,000 feet.

The branch is interesting. It starts at a junction city where an industrial railroad once ran. Danish self-powered diesel cars purchased for an uncompleted passenger operation are parked on a siding, slowing rusting away. The yard is full of freight cars on arch bar trucks, some of them with roller bearings. Not far out of the city, we travel through the one and only switchback on this line, a moderate leap compared to what we saw on the FCCA’s main line the day before. Outside of there, we stopped for a photo runby, where a friendly couple and their dog greeted us at their house by the tracks.

From there, we traveled to what must be the most interesting photo runby ever performed. It took place at a wetlands, where flamingos take up residence. We stopped for a photo runby that, yes, included flamingos. And yes, I was as surprised as you are that they did not fly away when the train came. Our next stop was Shelby, where a rusting 30-inch gauge diesel of, we believe, eastern European manufacture, had been abandoned next to the FCCA freight station.

We completed the climb, pulling into the yard at Cerro de Pasci, where the local was making up its train. Mining activity was all around us, and we marveled at what we saw. The deep pit in the city of the city, a crater like one on the moon. The tall mounds of mine tailings as high as a roller coaster. Murky sedimentation ponds designed to hold back pollution.

Beautiful birds and deep mines. Preservation and consumption. Beauty and grit. They do exist side by side, and we saw it first hand thanks to this opportunity to explore the world by rail.

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