Steel titans have been demolished by salt winds on the outskirts of a desert trading town on the Andean plain. Welcome to The Great Train Graveyard – the home of all your favorite old trains. And it’s so massive that it makes Bolivia’s Uyuni region look like the final resting place for every railway in South America. The distance from the Uyuni train station is only about 3 kilometers. There are no buildings, roads, or other signs of human habitation for hundreds of miles in either direction. The juxtaposition with a visit to the nearby train cemetery at Uyuni was remarkable. There are many abandoned trains there, which serve as both a reminder of human achievement and a metaphor for its inevitable decline.
The “Great Train Graveyard,” also known as Train Cemetery or “Cemetery de Trenes” in Spanish, is located on the outskirts of Uyuni, a tiny trading region high on the Andean plain, and is full of hollowed-out bodies that have totally rusted away, among other remains. Uyuni has long been recognized as a key connection point between numerous major cities in South America. A massive train network out of Uyuni was planned for the early 19th century, but the project was scrapped due to technical difficulties and friction with surrounding countries. Trains and other machinery were abandoned to rust away and be forgotten. There are no barriers to entry. Therefore many tourists take advantage of the opportunity to take pictures from atop or inside the railway cars. Great Train Graveyard Imagine a world full of trains with no idea where they’re going. That’s what it’s like for the engines that are left stranded here.
Many of the trains in the Graveyard were imported from Britain at the turn of the twentieth century. There are more than a hundred different railway cars, each with its own design and even some graffiti. These massive steel trains might have fared better in other parts of the world. All of the metal in Uyuni has been corroded by the salt winds that blow over the world’s largest salt plain. These items have long since been vandalized and picked over because there were no guards nor a barrier to prevent it. There are no buildings, roads, or other signs of human habitation for hundreds of miles in either direction. The juxtaposition with a visit to the nearby train cemetery at Uyuni was remarkable. There are many abandoned trains there, which serve as both a reminder of human achievement and a metaphor for its inevitable decline.
If you want to avoid the crowds and see the railway cemetery as the sun rises or sets, your best bet is to visit very early (before 8 am) or very late (after 5 pm). Because of the region’s flatness, you’ll probably see a sky full of crazy, vibrant colors that will stand in striking contrast to the trains’ rusty browns and oranges. Uyuni was planned to be a significant rail hub that would serve as a connection between many different cities.
Disputes with neighboring nations and a slowdown in the mining industry meant that those plans were never implemented. The combination of salt and strong winds has taken a heavy toll on the trains, giving the mammoth steel superstructure a weathered appearance. Each of the more than a hundred train cars has its own layout, so there’s plenty to discover. Numerous pieces of graffiti can be found on these transportation relics.
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The Train graveyard’s eerie atmosphere is often ruined by the throngs of tourists who visit it on day trips to the salt flats when they all seem to arrive at about the same time. After 5 o’clock in the evening or first thing in the morning are the best times to go because that’s when the tour buses full of tourists have left or haven’t yet arrived. You may go there on foot from Uyuni’s downtown or take a taxi for about 10 bolivianos. The Cemetery de Trenes is an undeniably eye-catching location. It’s also fantastic that there aren’t any rules preventing visitors from touching the train cars, going inside the carts, or taking pictures inside the compartments.
You may have to wait in line to take a picture if you don’t visit during the wee hours or the wee hours of the morning. Many people will also be seen risking their lives by leaping between train cars. Visit Jardines de Uyuni for breakfast following an early visit to Cemetery de Trenes. They provide a huge breakfast buffet with all the breakfast staples like fruit, eggs, pancakes, and coffee. You’ll feel refreshed after eating this meal and ready to explore the surrounding area, perhaps visiting the hot springs (Aguas Termales de Uyuni) or the Laguna Colorada, a lake whose water becomes a vibrant red because of the presence of algae and minerals.
The lake is only a few meters deep but covers an area of six thousand acres; locals believe its water to be the divine blood. Flamingoes fly to this area because of the high concentration of algae in the water, which is essential to their diet. As another gorgeous area in Bolivia, you may also see llamas and alpacas there. There is hardly much in any of these two areas, so plan your leave carefully. Uyuni is a city in southern Bolivia, some 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital city of La Paz. It lies 3,700 meters (12,139 feet) above sea level on a hilly plain.
The Uyuni Salt Flats, also known as Salar de Uyuni, is the largest salt flat in the world at approximately 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square miles), and this city serves as the primary entry point to the flats. In 1890, a trading post was established in what is now Uyuni. Given its location in the Andes, it served as a hub for travel between Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Based on the fictional railway in David Weidner’s children’s book and his Caldecott Honor book, “Great Train Graveyard,” this is a virtual train set for kids of all ages.
Great Train Graveyard is a vast selection of trains, train cars, and locomotives, many in original working order. Four different rail lines converged there, including the one from La Paz to Oruro, the one from Calama, Chile, the one from Potos, Bolivia, to the northeast, and the one from Villazón Bolivia, to the Argentine border. Between 1888 and 1892, a British mining company constructed the railway system with the encouragement of Bolivian authorities, who anticipated economic growth thanks to improved access to Pacific ports.
The railway was put into operation by the Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Companies. Under its current name, Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia, the company continues to operate as a Pacific freight carrier. President Aniceto Arce of Bolivia had a key role in the expansion of Bolivia’s railway system, which he then used to boost the country’s mining exports. Bolivia rose to prominence as a global leader in tin production due to the high value of this commodity.