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Monday, May 7, 2012

The Train Ride and Peñarol!

Wally and I took advantage of tourist week (also known as Semana Santa) here in Uruguay. Always looking for a bargain we just couldn't pass up a combination Rodeo and Train ride event. The purchase of a train ticket to a town nearby Montevideo called Peñarol included a free entry into the Prado where the rodeo was being held that week. The cost for the round trip ticket was only $130 pesos per person or about $10 US each. What was so special about the train ride was that it was aboard a restored 1910 steam engine train. This engine is considered a real heritage item for Uruguay.  Heritage in Spanish is also called, El Patrimonial (which can mean wealth or Heritage) So this train is being promoted as "Tren Patrimonial". It has no true name but is an N type locomotive and it's number 120.

The "Uruguayan Railfan Association" or "Amigos del Riel", have restored 2 historic rail cars as well and the steam locomotive that pulled these 2 cars full of us appreciative passengers to Peñarol for this event.

Peñarol is named after a city in Italy, in the region of Piamonte called Pinerolo. In 1751, a person named, Juan Bautista Crosa leaving the land of his birth immigrated to Uruguay and he was nicknamed (apodo) after his birth place in Italy. In his dialect of Piamontés,  Pinerolo sounded like Peñarol to Uruguayo ears and the name Peñarol stuck.

In 1776 Crosa a.k.a. Peñarol started a store (pulpería) some 10 Kilometers North of Montevideo where everything was just campo (fields) and established an Inn. These provided everything needed for daily life: food, drink, candles, medicine, and cloth. Together with the local church these constituted the principal places of the community. He died in 1790 and is buried in the churchyard that adjoined his store.

A century later in 1890 the English Railway or empresa de ferrocarriles inglesa bought 17 hectares of land and in 1891 inaugurated the train station and workshop for the trains. Peñarol became a"factory town", with general housing for the workers and also in the town places to live for the high ranking officials working for the railway. The town boasted a social scene with a theater (which plans on being renovated one day), areas for playing soccer (fútbol in Spanish) cricket, polo and tennis. As the area kept on growing in urbanization, Peñarol ended up integrating as a district with Montevideo.

Wally and I were impressed with the guided tour and information given. We were given a brochure and a card map showing the various landmarks of interest in the town. We were also given a little gift, some little pieces of coal as a reminder that the steam train needed coal to run it's engines. At the end of the tour we were given some original ticket stubs from those early years as a souvenir.

The Wikipedia says, that in "1803 - The first public railway, was the Surrey Iron Railway in London." It was really just a horse drawn plateway. The brochure we were given stated that the first railway in the world was established in 1825 in England between Stockton and Darlington. According to the Wikipedia it was, "the first publicly subscribed, adhesion worked railway using steam locomotives, carrying freight from a Colliery to a river port. (Passengers were conveyed by horse-drawn carriages)." "In 1830 - The  Liverpool and Manchester Railway opens, and the first steam passenger service, primarily locomotive hauled, is started. The line proves the viability of rail transport, and large scale railway construction begins in Britain, and then spreads throughout the world. The Railway Age begins."

The first railway line in Uruguay came in the year 1869 between Bella Vista station (2 blocks north east of the current station) and Las Pierdas. It was started by a firm of private capitalists of cattle men/cowboys or Criollos.

The name became FerroCarril Central del Uruguay (FCCU) incorporated in 1866. Ferrocarril means railroad in Spanish. In 1878 some English Capitalists bought the railway but kept the original name except calling it by it's English translation, so it became known as the Central Uruguay Railway (CUR). The railway arrived in Peñarol in 1890. The English inaugurated the Peñarol station in 1891, and some of the first workshops came into existence between 1891 and 1907.

The 200 passengers on board were divided into groups once we arrived in town and each group took off in a different direction so that we wouldn't be crowded.

Our tour guide was named Victoria. The tour was conducted in Spanish of course but she did come up to me personally and asked if we could understand her and if she was speaking loudly and clear enough to be heard, that was nice of her!  she spoke clearly and we understood her surprisingly well.

The tour guide had a loud yard whistle blow, it was deafening but exciting for the kids and us to hear and then we entered the main workshop (built in 1907). One of the high-points for Wally during our trip was seeing the workshop for maintaining the trains in Peñarol. If you look at his face it's like a kid in a candy-shop, you know guys and their tools!

As I mentioned before, the maintenance facility for the trains impressed Wally, due to the size of such tools needed to work on the trains, like the metal lathes, drill presses, drills and saws. All of these were powered by huge electrical motors at one end of the building, though originally they were steam powered fueled by coal. These drove long shafts at ceiling height that ran the length of the building. Pulleys and long and thick belts were attached to these shafts, which powered  each piece of equipment in the work area.

Various landmarks and buildings in town were marked before them by metal letters embedded in the side walk.

After leaving the train yard we saw where the workers had been housed. People still live in these dwellings today, I guess they didn't mind 2 tours a day of people trooping by their places for this special week of activity in their town. We also walked back to the train station and entered into a small museum. This museum featured some old time equipment used back in the early days of train travel, like a switchboard and morse code machine used to contact the stations in order to handle their traffic flow.

Wally mentioned how nice it was relaxing on the bench outside of the train station and how enjoyable it was watching the many children with their families' hand in tow strolling by him. He thought it was great that these families, just like we did, took advantage of an event like this. We look forward to other event offerings in the future.

All in all, we thought that the short train ride and our day trip to the barrio of Peñarol was very worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the first source of power for the maintenance yard was steam. The electrical engine came in the middle of XX century...anyway it is a nice post, I did the same trip; it was great!

Anonymous said...

Great trip report and interesting stuff to know!

Not to be too nitpicky (moi?) but it's Morse code, not morris code.

.-- .... .- - . ...- . .-. (whatever)


Ana Mateos said...

Hi Denise and Wally
My name is Ana, I was born in Uruguay, but now I'm living in Australia since 2011.. I really enjoyed your blog... I founded it by accident, but I love the way you write your experience in my country!!!
Looking forward your next post :-)

Wally said...

Thanks- the corrections have been made.

Anonymous said...

Hello Denise,
For us in Brazil, Peñarol is probably the most famous Uruguayan football club. I imagine that Nacional’s supporters will certainly not appreciate my comment... but that’s the way it is :-)
Is there any relation between the “barrio” and the club?

Wally said...

Geraldo- you are correct. The town of Peñarol is connected to the futbal team. The team is based there. Many barrios have a team to represent them. Nacional is based in Montevideo. Obviously Peñarol and Nacional are the 2 best known teams, but there are many, many more. One of the photos shows the train and the logo of the team together painted on a yellow wall.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the report Wally. I don't remember seeing any rail lines in Uruguay.

Wally said...

Dear "Anonymous"- glad you enjoyed the post on rails. And while I am always happy to receive credit, where credit is due- my wife has been writing most of the posts for quite some time. She is the travel writer. I am spending most of my time with cooking and food posts.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of curiosity, do you know if Peñarol is the most popular football club in Uruguay (in terms of number of fans)?

Wally said...

Geraldo- that depends on who you talk to. Hinchas de Peñarol dicen Peñarol is mas popular- pero los que aman Nacional, dicen "National es numero uno". Depende de su punto de vista. Yo prefero Nacional, y Denise- Peñarol. Es una casa divida.

Anonymous said...

Caro Wally,
Embora eu não fale espanhol, acho que entendi o que você quis dizer e estou feliz por isso.
O fator de vocês torcerem para times diferentes não é tão grave, afinal vocês não são brasileiros. Se fosse o caso, seria impossível a convivência amável, já que para nós, brasileiros, o futebol é coisa séria demais.
Um abraço... :o))))))

Marcelo Benoit said...

I, as a member of the board of directors of the Uruguayan Railfan Association (that is the correct way to say it in English ;)), am glad that you enjoyed the trip. Our train has no name, the locomotive (N type, number 120) is an heritage item and the train is called to promote it a "Tren patrimonial" but it is not a "name", only a denomination.

However I must do some small corrections: The first railway line was opened in 1869 between Bella Vista station (that was not located in their current place, but two blocks to the North East, over Uruguayana street) and Las Piedras. That company was the FerroCarril Central del Uruguay (incorporated in 1866), which in 1878 converted into the Central Uruguay Railway. However there were more companies in Uruguay that extended the railway network, mostly British but also some Uruguayan (state owned but also private) and North American ones. Railway arrived to Peñarol in 1890, when the Central Uruguay Railway built an small line to connect Sayago with Manga and the Minas line, that was owned by other company and was leased by 999 years, and arrived to Montevideo via Unión and Cordon stations. The branch between Manga and Cordon was closed in 1938 - after the connection was built, it was only a secondary branch line.

Workshops were built in their current form between 1891 and 1903, with modern additions a lot of years later.

Coal was used to move railway engines in Uruguay until 1920`s when fuel oil started to be burned in steam engines, and all were converted to this fuel, with exception of some small companies. However, coal was used by some shunter locomotives, cranes and fixed stationary engines in workshops.

The cardboard tickets that are given at the station museum were used until 1988 when all passenger trains were withdrawn, so they are of the "modern" era. When several passenger lines were restored in 1993, paper tickets were used.

Oh, and the telegraph was used to communicate between stations, not with trains. Trains in route cannot be contacted without stop until radio communication was developed in the 40´s.