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A particular rail cable in La Rioja

A cable rail of 260 towers, one of them double, 11 tensioners, two horseshoes and a tunnel, a monument that must be known.

It all started with the gold rush in an Argentina in the early twentieth century. This was how studies carried out in Cerro Famatina in La Rioja gave certain evidence of this metal for its extraction. This was how the La Mexicana Mina was born, at this elevation to 4600 meters above sea level. The place is located 34 km from the city of Chilecito in the center-north of the province.


With the contribution of a national state overflowing with foreign exchange, it was decided to carry out, in 1902, an epic construction requested by the Rioja deputy Joaquín V. Gonzalez. The whole structure was made entirely in Germany to arrive by boat to Buenos Aires and from there by train to La Rioja where it was assembled, after climbing each of the parts on donkey back to the hill. To finish it by taking two years of work for 1600 workers. At that time, the Argentine State invested the equivalent of some $14 million.

The goal was to transport the metal from La Mexicana to Chilecito on a cable rail, which ended up being one of the largest engineering works in the world and the highest with those characteristics on the planet. The aerial cable could transport 25 tons per hour downstream and 15 in upstream direction. Gold arrived in the city and from there it was transported to the port of Rosario and then to England headquarters of the Famatina Development Corporation. An English company, founded in London in 1903, owns La Mejicana and the Santa Florentina foundry.


Chilecito's Cable Rail

Nine stations are deployed along its 34 kilometers. The number 1 called Chilecito for its proximity to the homonima city. It is located near the railway station and has hoppers to unload the ore directly into the railway wagons.


The two was called El Durazno because it was near some hills with peaches. It had a steam engine that gave traction to the section between stations one and three. Then the line crosses the Amarillo River and climbs the mountain. Between station four, which was where the maintenance workshop was located and the five crosses the San Andres Canyon and skirts the slope of Cerro Negro, then crosses a 160-metre tunnel. From station 7 onwards, the temperature is below zero most of the year. The nine, called La Mexicana, is located 4,603 meters above sea level.

The results expected by Famatina Development Corporation were not enough because it had to go out looking for partners who eventually transformed it into The Famatina Company in 1912. Despite all this in 1914, only 9 years after the inauguration of the cable lanel work was paralyzed in La Mexicana. Local capitals created the Corporación Minera Famatina and continued, from 1918 to 1927, exploitation. The debts incurred led the mine to become the property of the Argentine Bank of the Nation, which, in turn, transferred them in 1942 to the General Directorate of Military Manufacturing and Mining of the Province of La Rioja.


At present you can reach by car by asphalted road to stations 1 where the Cable Carril Museum is located and the two where the machinery exhibition is located. To Station 3, only with a vehicle high by the stones of the road. The last stations are only reached by double wheel drive vans, on motorcycle there are also hiking trips.


The museum and exhibitions are open daily from 9:00 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00, with guided tours every hour. A contribution voucher is paid.

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