John Speller's Web Pages Chile

John Speller's Web Pages - Railway History
Chile

The Anglo-Chilean Nitrate and Railway Company

In 1882 a group of London businessmen founded the Anglo-Chilean Nitrate and Railway Company in order to exploit the valuable reserves of nitre and iodine in Chile. The company became especially successful after the "Nitrate King" John Thomas North (1842-1896) assumed the Presidency of its Board in 1889.

Under the auspices of the Anglo-Chilean Nitrate and Railway Company two 3 ft. 6 in. gauge lines were built — the 54¾-mile FerroCarril de Tocopilla al Toco (FCTT) and 113-mile FerroCarril Taltal (FCT). William Stirling (1822-1900) was appointed Engineer with the responsibility of building the Railways. He was the son of the Rev. Robert Stirling, D.D. (1790-1878), the inventor of the Stirling Hot Air Engine. He was also the brother of Patrick Stirling (1820-1895), successively Locomotive Superintendent of the Glasgow & South Western and Great Northern Railways, and of James Stirling (1835-1917), successively Locomotive Superintendent of the Glasgow & South Western and South Eastern Railways in Great Britain. The Chilean nitrate lines were completed in 1890

In 1861 the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Meyer (1804-1877) and his son Adolphe had patented an articulated locomotive. Because both sets of cylinders were placed on bogies, this type of locomotive proved much more stable at speed on undulating track with tight curves, and the space between the bogies enabled a much larger firebox to be used. William Stirling realized that this would be the ideal type of locomotive to use on the mountainous nitrate railways of Chile, and 15 of the 38 locomotives on the FerroCarril de Tocopilla al Toco were of this type while another 13 worked on the FerroCarril Taltal. They were mostly built by Kitson & Co. of Leeds and were known as Kitson-Meyer locomotives. They proved to be extremely capable locomotives and routinely hauled 125 ton trains up the tortuous gradients of the lines.

The FerroCarril de Tocopilla was electrified between 1915 and 1927 and is now owned by Sociedad Químicas y Minera de Chile (Soquimich). The original section to El Toco, however, was never electrified and closed in 1957. A video of the electrified section may be seen here.
Map of northern Chile in 1906 showing the location of the FerroCarril de Tocopilla al Toco (FCTT) and FerroCarril Taltal (FCT)
Postcard view of one of the electric locomotives on the FerroCarril de Tocopilla al Toco
FerroCarril Trasandino de Chile (FCTC, Chilean Transandean Railway) rack-and-pinion Kitson-Meyer 0-8-6-0 No. 7 of 1907. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Transandean Railway Kitson-Meyer rack engine No. 4 at work in a postcard view of around 1910
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