The south end of the Chilean broad gauge
Pichi-Ropulli to Osorno report
At the present time the railway line which links the point called Pichi-Ropulli with the city of Osorno is complete. It forms the continuation of the great line from Valdivia to the South, or better said, is an intermediate length some 68+100 Km. long between the last named city and Puerto Montt.
The railway, which we are about to describe, is surely, without discussion, the most beautiful railway in the whole Republic.
It exceeds all those built up to today from all points of view; route, construction, the size of the immense engineering works, bridges, cuttings, embankments, and finally, the incomparable beauty of the landscape through which it passes.
Without doubt, there are not many people resident in this area who have visited this line. It would be wished that many had done so in order that they would be fully convinced of what we are saying.
With a simple glance at the map, it is noted that this railway is the most southerly in South America; as a consequence, it is easy to take account of the difficulties, which it has been necessary to overcome, to construct this work in these regions, so far away from the great centres of the country, and where all material for its construction is so expensive to transport.
The realization of this great enterprise has been brought to fruition thanks to the activity deployed by don Manuel Ossa, the contractor for the line. Injeniero don José Antonio Vadillo was head of Inspection for the Public Works Department.
The line will be formally handed over to the Department of Public Works in the middle of the present month of February . It was due to have been completed in April next; so the contractor will have advanced by two months the date stipulated in the contract. According to our data, don Manuel Ossa is the only contractor up to now for such an important railway construction, who has completed a contract without default, and carried it to conclusion with the perfection exhibited. This surely brings high honour to a Chilean contractor.
Everything requires effort, but it is here on these works where this model management is noted. The perfect order in the accounts, which allows at any time, with a simple inspection of the books, the amount expended daily to be determined. Any person, more or less knowledgeable in this type of business, remains admiring of the intelligence and sound judgement which he has exercised to direct this immense arsenal.
In truth the work, carried out in little more than three years of constant effort is worthy of admiration; it is worth contemplating that more than three and a half million cubic metres of earth have been excavated as has happened here, rivers and streams of no small consideration have been diverted, the construction of a great many bridges, culverts, some piers of concrete, and others iron tubes filled with concrete, in rivers whose depths did not fall to less than 7 to 10 metres, and with powerful currents, have been constructed. This line also has immense curved viaducts of wood, of an elegant and strong construction, which are called trestles.
We pass on to give a complete description of this line, which I have recently visited and travelled along its whole length.
The original route of the railways from Valdivia to the South which formed part of the survey by engineer V. Aurelio Lastarria carried out during 1884 to 1887, is divided in two sections:
The first from Valdivia to Pichi-Ropulli, which is under construction by the contractor Adolfo Nicolai, and the second from Pichi-Ropulli to Osorno already completed.
It is probable that next year the surveys for Osorno to Puerto Montt, the last stretch of the Chilean central railway in the South will be started.
The length of the second section has had important changes from the original study by Señor Lastarria, in particular the whole of the section between the city of Osorno and Rio Pilmaiquen, and a not-so-important one between La Union and Pichi-Ropulli.
Km. 0 is located at the point called Pichi-Ropulli, located in the middle of immense dense forests of gigantic trees. Leaving this point, the line traverses the side slopes of various fells where there are significant cuttings and embankments; on each side of the line there are endless impenetrable forests; beautiful oak trees of colossal dimensions can be seen, and other types of trees and bushes without number; the vegetation in this area has no equal in the rest of Chile.
Reaching Km. 15+200, we meet the first steel bridge, of 25 metres, over the Rio Llollelhue, which the line crosses three times because of the twists of the river, and then at Km. 17+800, the second bridge of three spans and 130 metres in length, also of steel is encountered; finally at Km. 22+400, the third bridge, 44 metres, over the same river is met.
At Km. 24+400 is the town of La Union, a village of two thousand five hundred inhabitants, which is very picturesque when seen from the railway station.
Various established factories, almost all of German industrialists, form the main part of the business of this locality. The station will certainly lose its importance once the whole line between Valdivia and Osorno is complete and it becomes a simple intermediate station.
The line leaves from La Union heading towards the south in an almost straight line, the vegetation, as is usual in these regions, is beautiful; great pastures are seen; the forests are already disappearing.
Reaching Km. 29+400, we meet the Rio Bueno, on which has been established a beautiful steel bridge of 110 metres in length, which rests on two pairs of metal cylinders filled with concrete, and on two abutments, also of concrete.
Leaving the bridge, and following on there is the first wooden viaduct, some 600 metres long. It is at once a solid and important construction, which presents all sorts of guarantees for the safety of traffic.
Between this last river and the Pilmaiquen, which follows it, is where the biggest cutting is met, it can be said of all the Chilean railways. The earth movement for this cutting has been 333 thousand cubic metres; it has a length of about 800 metres on a curve. We reach the bridge over the Rio Pilmaiquen, at Km. 23+450, exactly alike to the one over the Rio Bueno, with the only difference that it rests on magnificent concrete piers imitating dressed stone, in place of the filled cylinders. These piers gave the contractor a great deal of work, because the difficulties of execution were very great, since the rising of the rivers in the south in winter is considerable and they have very strong currents.
Here, in the same way as at the previous bridge, there is another immense viaduct or trestle of wood, 800 metres long, of the same form of construction as the one following the bridge of the Rio Bueno.
The line follows almost parallel to the river until reaching Puerto Nuevo station at Km. 37+100, located on the same Rio Bueno, and where presently the traffic for Osorno is generated. After going down this river for a kilometre and a half, the port of Trumag is to be found, where the small steamers of the Sud-Americana company and the Association of Ship-owners, which sail from Valdivia, reach. As in Puerto Nuevo, there is an adequate muelle; occasionally the steamers reach this point to discharge goods for the railway.
Puerto Nuevo will be a station of great importance once traffic is established between Valdivia and Osorno.
At Km. 43+100 there is another metal bridge over the Cuinco, of a single 37 metre span.
In the whole length between Puerto Nuevo and Osorno, the line is made up of long straights and sweeping curves. As of this date, it is totally completed and fenced over its whole length; the ballast which has been used is of very good quality, and the line is extremely smooth-running.
At last, reaching Km. 66+850, we find a beautiful concrete viaduct over the Pilauco gorge at the entrance to Osorno; from here one gets a pleasant panorama of the city and of the green fields of its surroundings.
At 150 metres beyond the viaduct, there is the bridge of two spans over the Rio Damas, on a curve, and 100 metres long.
Passing this point, the same city of Osorno is penetrated; the line follows an important street of the city until reaching the terminal station, which it is at Km. 68+100.
The whole length of this line is, as we have said, the most beautiful and the best constructed in all the Republic; a line which may serve as a model for all future ones, and for those in process of being built.
The time spent on the work has been only a little more than three years, except for the stations and appurtenances, which have not been built, as they were not included in the contract, but which will be built in a short time once the line is complete. The daily average number of workmen on the works was 800, counting all staff.
Decauville lines were employed on the works, extending to 27 Km, half of 60 cm and half of 50 cm, with 300 wagons of one and three quarters cubic metres capacity and 120 mules. With these elements, 110,000 cubic metres of embankments and cuttings of more than 300,000, were formed.
The brickwork of the engineering works exceeded 30 thousand cubic metres, and almost of the [mass] concrete comprised an arch bridge, with a span of 10 metres, to allow a road to pass overhead, constituted a work of some importance.
This is all that, at the stroke of the pen, we can say for now of the magnificent Pichi-Ropulli to Osorno line, and we end our narration by congratulating warmly the contractor, don Manuel Ossa, for the determination and activity which he knew how to deploy to realize this beautiful undertaking, as also to the engineers of the Government who directed the work
Santiago, 1 February 1896.
1 Manuel Ossa Ruiz, born Freirina (Atacama Region) 24-9-1854, died Viña del Mar 5-9-1929, studied engineering in Spain and England, contractor for the Arica to la Paz railway; elected Senator 1897.
2 Victorino Aurelio Lastarria, born Santiago 22/11/1844, died 27/7/1888. Graduated University of Ghent, Belgium, Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers London.
3 Enrique Labatut Bordes, born Santiago 1852, died 1946.