Steam Trains On Top Of The World

Until Recently This Was The Highest Railway Station In The World


Mitsubishi Mikado at Condor, Altitude 4,786 meters

Highest Railway Station In The World For Many Years

In 1976, I left the safety of South Africa for South America, then a frontier mainly unexplored. We had come fro the remaining steam action on the continent which was dwindling fast, as it was all around the world.

The inspiration for the journey was an amazing book, now hard to find, “The World Of South American Steam”, featuring some amazing photographs.

The photos you see here are those of the author.

This amazing Railway Line spread out from Uyuni on the Bolivian altiplano, some 3,700 meters above sea level. The train trip from El Volcan on the Argentinian border was spectacular to say the least winding through incredible gorges.

This railway headed east, across the Andes to Potosi and then the silver mines at Sucre. It was a barren place well above the tree line as you can see from the photos. We hired a Landcruiser from La Paz, and literally drove it into the ground, leaving it in the desert after it rolled on some huge boulders.


You can see in this photo that only Cactus grows at this altitude.

It is hard to imagine what it is like to chase trains at this height. I had some sucrose tablets which I sucked as we attempted top run very short distances before becoming totally exhausted. We fought dizzy spells due to the thin air. The sky was almost black due to the altitude, and it was pretty easy to get sunburn.

Finally, after we rolled the Landcruiser, we managed to catch a train back to Potosi and bus out of the country.

This shot is of a 2-8-2 just before we lost our wheels. I have a poster hanging in my office.


This was well worth all the pain and effort reaching this remote part of the planet.


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