On February 1, 2019, while on a Viking Cruise, we took a train ride on a prison train that was built by Argentine prisoners in the early 20th Century.
A prison for hard-core and political prisoners was established in Ushuaia, Argentina in 1896 and the prisoners built their own prison.
They needed a train to haul wood from the nearby forests, so they laid the tracks and built a railway to haul wood and prisoners. Today, the train only hauls tourists and has expanded to about a half-dozen small trains running on narrow-gage tracks.
The trains are duplicates of the original prison trains and there is a shop at the station to repair and build them.
Each car has about 6 compartments with six seats facing each other in each compartment. It is a tight fit and you are warned about sticking your hands, or other body parts, out the windows.
The engines are steam engines, modified to run on diesel fuel instead of firewood to reduce the danger of a fire. There are water towers to add water to the steam boilers.
You can find out about the train and buy tickets at: Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino
The train station is about 20 minutes outside Ushuaia so you will need to be on a tour or take a taxi.
Following the train ride through beautiful country, with fields of horses, you take a bus to Terro del Fuego National Park, with its lake and hiking trails.
The trip is fascinating and the prison was closed in 1947 due to corruption and horrible prison conditions.
In Albuquerque, NM I visited the 2926 Restoration Project. The New Mexico Steam locomotive and Railroad Historical Society is restoring a steam engine that hit the tracks on May 17, 1944. It travelled 1,090,539 miles. It is being completely restored by volunteers and will be put back into service for excursions soon, we hope.
You can visit the restoration project on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1833 8th NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the members will give you a tour and explain what the restoration.
It is close to Old Town and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Try Cafe Azul for the best huevos rancheros with Hatch green chile – get the papitas, not the hash browns. BUT: the hot Hatch green chile may take you way out of your comfort zone. Remember you can always have it on the side.
In September there is always the model railroad exhibit at the state Fair. If you like New Mexico trains, ride the Amtrak, the Railrunner, and the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gage. At Christmas, take the Cumbres and Toltec through the snow.
You can see a video showing the history and restoration of 2926 on You Tube.
On March 15, 2017, while on a Road Scholar trip, thirty of us traveled by train along the Panama Canal from Colon, Panama to Panama City, Panama.
We had traversed the Panama Canal by small ship, spent the night in Colon and toured the city the next morning.
At 5:15 PM the train left from an old loading platform in Colon. We had seats in the dome car and rode along the canal for an hour and fifteen minutes to Panama City. The train runs once a day in each direction.
Our tour director lined us up to board at 5:00 and he had staked out the dome car for our group; sharing the dome with another tour.
Seniors get a break in the fare if they are Panama Citizens or Permanent Residents. Other wise it is full fare: $25. But the extra $7.50 is probably worth it; and, I am sure that our Road Scholar had worked some sort of deal.
The history of the Panama Canal Railway is fascinating as it predates the canal, was used during the California Gold Rush, and, in 1852, when it opened, was the only transcontinental railway. It was also immensely profitable, as the Panama Canal is today.
Don’t plan on taking a boat trip through the canal and catching the train the same day. It won’t work. There are too many variables in getting through the locks and to the train station. You don’t want to be stuck in Colon without a hotel reservation.
If you need transportation and are not on a tour, remember that Uber works in Panama and is reasonable.
Panama Canal Railway – Wikipedia
Road Scholar: Grit and Glory: Exposing the Panama Canal
On Sundays from 9-3, May 4 – Nov. 2, you can visit the Rail Yards Market near downtown Albuquerque, NM. The site is next to the tracks and is in a huge old Santa Fe Railway repair shop. The market has over one hundred vendors and artists. It draws thousands of people. Outside there is plenty of free parking and a line of food trucks.
Inside, which is free, you find artists, bakeries, local produce, music and crowds. Turn down your hearing aid.
Rail buffs, and most other people, especially those of us who can remember riding the train to college, will be fascinated by the interior of the Santa Fe Railway Repair Shop, now abandoned, waiting a new life, and used as the setting for a number of movies.
To learn more about the rail yards visit the City of Albuquerque web page.
Maybe you are looking for a second career in your retirement. Central New Mexico Community College in conjunction with the Street Food Institute offers a course in “Street Food.” Maybe you should apply. Visit Craigs List to find food trucks for sale.
The bottom line is that for a few hours on Sunday morning, you can’t go wrong, and you will see a part of American History. Drive through the surrounding streets and see “new town,” which came into being with the arrival of the rail road over a hundred years ago. Then compare it to “Old Town.”