Herding llamas by train, unexpected locomotives, and other true tales: Trains’ Peru tour, part 4

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Friday, September 29, 2017

HUANCAYO, Peru – This day won’t be as exciting or amazing, Henry Posner told me as we boarded the C30-7 for Friday’s trip from LaOroya to Hauncayo, Peru. We were riding on a FCCA railroad branch that sees about one train a week. I’m sorry, Henry, but I have to disagree. Yes, it’s not crossing the Andes at 15,000 feet or traveling to the city that is eating itself. But this is truly a scenic beauty once we left the smelter town of LaOroya. We followed a river gorge that reminded me of Union Pacific’s Cascade, Idaho branch, and the UP main line at Echo Canyon. In order to select the best photo spots, Henry and I rode far forward – as far forward as possible, on the front of No. 1001. The view, as you can imagine, was immense and intense. We stopped for photos several times along the way, each one a breathtaking masterpiece of railroading and nature. We passed farmers in their fields, pigs, sheep, goats, and cows grazing alongside the tracks. And at one point, we even herded a group of llamas using the locomotive horn and bell, hand claps, and Henry’s trusty whistle. I’m happy to report that no llamas were injured in Friday’s excursion, although I was worried about one especially slow one. But it finally cleared the right of way.

The branch was supposed to be unoccupied other than our train, but at Pachacayo we found a genuine surprise in the siding: a Brazilian-built double-ended locomotive built under license from EMD. The shape was unique, but the sound was that of a good old fashioned American SD40. Our hosts even backed up our train for a better view of this rare beast. But that is not all. When we arrived at Huancayo, in the station complex was a small narrow gauge 2-6-0 that looked to be of American descent, on display in an avocado green paint scheme. It made the steam lovers among us (myself included) very happy. It’s been stripped of parts and empty liquor bottles rested on backhead oil can platform, attesting to the engine’s long service as a display piece.  

There was one more surprise at Huancayo, whose compact and fenced depot complex is surrounded by urban development and big box stores. We noticed a bagged cement transload that was straight out of another era. Here, workers struggled with bags of cement in containers, hand loading them onto pallets resting on a truck. Posner says cement is the only traffic on the line, but it is good business the railroad enjoys.

Today’s post is a short one as we have a super early call time tomorrow for our flights to Lima and then to Arequipa, where we will join the Belmond Andean Explorer train, a new luxury service that I am eager to sample. Have a great evening and be sure to check out posts from the explorer train over the weekend. Good night Trains Nation!

Ready to travel? Trains and Special Interest Tours are offering domestic and foreign trips in 2018. Be sure to check out the website, www.specialinteresttours.com.  

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