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Eighty-one new locomotives...

Some 'opaque' decision-making
Eighty-one engines are known to have been ordered for the proposed new 75cm. gauge network.

The FCE's thoughts and actions leading up to the ordering of locomotives are still unclear. The only account I have comes from the house magazine of the Baldwin Locomotive Works (1) which might be regarded as a little partizan! They reported in October 1922:

"Through the instrumentality of Mr. St. Phalle of The Baldwin Locomotive Works, who visited Argentina in the month of April in 1921, Dr. Beschtedt, Administrator of the State Railways, became interested in the matter of building small locomotives for the Patagonian narrow-gauge railway. An offer was made to build 200 "Prairie" type (2-6-2) locomotives to fill the needs of the Government lines, but due to the immaturity of the Government's plans the question was postponed until this year. Early in 1922 the State Railways called for bids on 50-75 "Mikado" type locomotives, (2-8-2) for the 75cm. lines in Patagonia. At that time, because of the state of the wool market, the Government invited bids embodying the purchase and exportation from the Argentine of an amount of wool equivalent in value to the total price of the locomotives ordered. Thirteen competitors filed bids, eight German, one British, one French, one Belgian and two American (Henschel, Arnold Jung, Hohenzollern, Schwartzkopf, Koppel, Borsig, Hanomag, Maffei; NBL; Fives-Lille; Cockerill; ALCO and Baldwin). On a price basis only the German bids were lower than the others and on first inspection their offer seemed the most satisfactory. However, when the delivery, terms of payment and details of design were examined, the proposal of the Baldwin Locomotive Works gave evidence of greater value to the Government than appeared on the surface. Moreover, this bidder was the only one who had complied with the requirements covering the wool exportation. Nevertheless the situation in the wool market had changed so greatly when the time arrived for making an award that the order for 50 locomotives was given to the German manufacturers. The Government, however, desired to commence operations on these lines before the present administration relinquished office in October, and recalling the speed with which The Baldwin Locomotive Works had completed their meter-gauge locomotives early in 1922, gave them an order for 25 "Mikado" type locomotives on the understanding that the first locomotive was to be completed within forty days after the receipt of the order."


A pair of Baldwin boilers sit on a metre gauge plataforma after being unloaded from the ship at Puerto Madryn, and amongst wagon bogies and loco crank axles. The picture below, as a contrast, shows two Henschels after erection, with rail stacks in the background and another set of Henschel frames mounted on sleeper stacks at the front left.


Four types ordered
Other evidence is limited to the invitation to tender() and the the report of completion of contracts (2). As will be seen later, there is some doubt over the nature of negotiations with Henschels. However, they did supply fifty 2-8-2s and a small number of tank and crane tank engines for use during construction and on the quays ('muelles').

The 56 Henschel locomotives cost a total of 2,330,143.89 pesos (approximately £212,000 at the then current exchange rate). The Baldwin engines cost 1,110,484,55 pesos (or £101,000). These prices equate to about £4,000 per loco for the 2-8-2s, with no clear difference in price between the two manufacturers (2).

The Baldwin magazine makes great play of the fact that their batch of 25 locos were all completed within that forty day period!

Basic details
Notes: Baldwin = Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. Henschel = Henschel und sohn of Kassel, Germany. CT=Crane tank.

Running nos.


Wheel arr.

Builder's nos.


Date of build

1 -25



55429 - 55453



101 - 150



19402 - 19451



? later 1 - 4



19452 - 19455



3 and ?



19456 - 19457



Baldwin 2-8-2s
The Baldwin works photo from 1922. Unusually for an Argentine loco a bell is fitted. Maybe there was such a rush that no-one thought to ask! Señor Diego de Bunder suggests that many of these bells were donated to schools in the area.


Nos. 1 - 25 were of typical Baldwin design, with outside bar frames, sand domes, and large bogie tenders with a full depth well suitable for carrying coal or wood. They had piston valves and outside Walschaerts valve gear. Their principal dimensions include: boiler pressure - 170psi, grate area - 14sq.ft., total heating surface 902sq.ft., cylinders 11 13/16ins. x 17 5/16ins., coupled wheel diameter 2' 7 1/2", total weight 47t 1cwt or 41,600kg (3). Tractive effort was 10,440lbs. at 80%BP. It is worth noting that these dimensions make much more sense when converted into metric units. Given that many of them are identical to the equivalent dimensions on the Henschel 2-8-2s it seems likely that Baldwins took the German measurements and ran up a design to the same specification.

A Baldwin 2-8-2 in use on the Esquel line in 1975.



The Baldwin magazine article records that the batch of 25 were shipped on the steamer Indian Prince which left Eddystone on June 23rd 1922. On arrival at Buenos Aires, six locos were transhipped to coasting steamer bound for San Antonio (Oeste) where they were erected prior to carriage by broad-gauge wagon 250 miles to the 'point of junction with the narrow-gauge railway.' The others were apparently taken on to Puerto Madryn. This does fit with the fact that the FCCC at Puerto Madryn had Baldwins nos 7-23 on its stock in 1940, but not the first six (or indeed the last two, which had moved on to Comodoro Rivadavia). Nos 1-6 seem to have been stored at San Antonio works until the Ing. Jacobacci line could accept them, some years later.


These locos operated most of the traffic on the FCCC after the regauging; for reasons given below they were much more suitable than the Henschels and 18 engines were more than adequate for the 150 mile line. Stories tell that No. 23 was the favourite, others being cannibalised to keep her going.

A Baldwin arrives at Trelew from the west in the early years. The loco still carries its bell, its smokebox numberplate and its worksplates.




Alterations in service, particularly to those on the Esquel line, have included new steel cabs replacing the original wooden ones, and the loss of the rear sand domes. A few boilers had superheaters as an experiment. Bells and front numbers have long since gone.

The following two photos show the Baldwin tenders both with the T-shaped oil tank and without. This type of well tender was common on small American locos, usually designed thus for carrying coal but without much thought as to the ergonomics of lifting the coal from floor level.



A Baldwin boiler on a 75cm gauge swivel stand to permit rotation when repairs are needed. In this case both sand domes are present. Since the locos almost always ran smokebox first, the rear sand domes were commonly borrowed and fitted to the Henschels in place of their running-board-mounted sandboxes.



The Henschel 2-8-2s

A Henschel works photo of no. 142, as published later on in a Spanish language Henschel catalogue (3A). Interesting features include the early couplers, still not clearly identified.




The principal dimensions of the locos as displayed in the Spanish language Henschel catalogue.




Nos. 101 - 150 have inside frames and obviously are of a more European style. Their principal dimensions are very similar to those of the Baldwins though they are somewhat heavier in total: boiler pressure - 170psi, grate area - 14sq.ft., total heating surface 902sq.ft., cylinders 11 13/16ins. x 17 5/16ins., coupled wheel diameter 2' 7 1/2", total weight 50t 2cwt or 44,200kg (3). As mentioned above, the dimensions are too similar to be coincidental. Were Baldwins given the Henschel dimensions when they offered to build their batch in a hurry?



Double-headed Henschels arrive at El Maiten with a stock train in March 1975. By then the low level sandboxes have given way to sand domes borrowed from the Baldwins, and the big headlamps have been replaced with small car type lamps.

There are a number of puzzles about these locos. The tenders are much smaller than those of the Baldwins and are clearly designed for the carriage of wood. They have no bunker as such but merely a set of rails around the gently sloping top of the tank. This is the first surprise, for Patagonia is not only patently lacking in wood fuel but the tenders would also have been far too small to carry the necessary quantity on the planned mainline. When they were used with coal as the fuel nets had to be fastened around the rails to keep the coal in place!(5)



Front view of Henschel tender. The wood rails and the absence of any sort of bunker will be noted.


There have been a variety of rumours about the origins of these locos. Tradition in Chubut has it that they were designed for military use on German field railways. This seems unlikely, though their inside frames would have allowed for a regauging from the standard 60cm. 'Feldbahn' gauge. Perhaps someone can examine the frame spacing more closely. Whether or not this story is true, they were certainly not well-designed for Patagonia. Not only were they constructed for the wrong fuel but they were also too heavy for the 35lb rails (17.4kg. per m.) on the newly built sections.

The Henschels seem to have lost their cabside worksplates early on, but the tender number plates have survived in many cases. This is probably because they get hidden under a layer of oil and grime and behind the vacuum pipe.


The next photo has been taken from a Henschel catalogue. It shows a line of these locos being assembled alongside broad gauge tracks. This must have been taken at San Antonio Oeste. A line of tenders are in the left background.




The picture below shows a number of the Henschels mounted on metre gauge plataformas after arrival at Puerto Madryn. If erected at San Antonio then they must have then been delivered by sea to the FCCC, and if erected at Puerto Madryn then they will still have needed transporting over the metre gauge to Trelew. The loco at the head of the train is FCCC Beyer Peacock 2-6-0 no. 3 now preserved outside the old Puerto Madryn station.


Two of these locos were apparently used during the construction of the line to Las Plumas, but after this they would appear to have been stored, at least temporarily. As mentioned above, they were not really needed on the eventual 150 mile line. This remains puzzling however. If they were virtually unused on the FCCC, then why were the remains of No.133 lying abandoned at Puerto Madryn in 1975? Surely any engine in good condition would have been moved to El Maiten with most of the others, or to one of the other lines on which they were later used.

Henschel no. 122 in action on the FCCC. This photo, with others, was taken on the occesion of an accident when a culvert collapsed under a rake of wagons, but whether the Henschel was the train engine or merely in charge of rescue operations is not known.


Two of the Henschels shortly after their arrival and erection on the FCCC. The photo has obviously been posed, presumably with the works staff.


A 1937 photo of Henschel no. 138 is shown in the page on the Rio Negro valley line (6). Close examination of this picture, and of the works photo above, shows that the locos were built with eight small sandboxes, mounted in pairs above the running boards on either side, and clearly distributing sand in front of each pair of wheels. Later photos, such as that above, show that these small sandboxes have been replaced by a single sand dome behind the chimney. I suspect these have been borrowed from the Baldwin engines, which in turn seem to have lost their rear sand domes over the years. Suspicions having been raised above about the origins of the Henschels, one idly wonders whether engines designed for use in semi-desert conditions would have had such comprehensive sanding gear as these were built with, though the Esquel line has snow to contend with of course. Other features of the locos as built include the traversing jacks mounted behind the front buffer beam.

Below is a Henschel hauling a long test train shortly after being erected. The location is unknown. This picture also comes from the Henschel catalogue previously mentioned.


A Henschel boiler at El Maiten works, illustrating the belpaire firebox.


A pair of photos taken in the cab of one of the Henschels in 2000.



Henschel 0-6-0 side tanks
A small number of these were also purchased. Note that these have works numbers (19452 to 19455) following on directly from the 2-8-2s. All four of these survived in 1975. By then two were lying derelict in Puerto Madryn yard bearing the surprising running numbers of 1 and 2, see photo below (6). The fourth one at Rio Gallegos similarly bore the buffer beam number 4. Another was derelict at El Maiten and has since been identified as 19454. Current information, 2000, is that the Rio Gallegos example exists on display at Rio Turbio, whilst the one at El Maiten was occasionally steamed until recently.

Henschel 0-6-0Ts nos. 1 & 2, and Henschel 0-8-0CT no. 3 at Puerto Madryn in 1975.




Of the two surviving Henschel tank locos the one at El Maiten is by far the most complete, the other at Río Turbio having lost its boiler to heat a school.




The works plate of 19454 at El Maiten.




0-8-0 crane tanks
These were used on the pier at Puerto Madryn to assist in the unloading of ships, and also in the construction of new lines. They were built by Henschel and are as illustrated below from a Henschel catalogue (6). By 1975 one of them lay derelict at Puerto Madryn, bearing the running number 3 (see photo above). Keith Taylorson's book (7) reports that another of these crane tanks was sent to the Rio Negro line in the 1930s. It moved on to the Esquel line () and then to Rio Gallegos, where it still exists but without its crane. The 1940/1 'Estadistica' seems to suggest that there were originally three of these locos (8), but this is unlikely.. Narrow gauge crane tanks must have been pretty rare anywhere in the world. It would have been nice to rescue one of them, for abandonment in the dry Patagonian climate is not disastrous, but the 1970s was before repatriation of such locos had become practicable.

Intriguingly, the design has French or Belgian elements and the inscriptions in the cab of the Puerto Madryn one were in French. Is this another sign that many of the 1922 locomotives were originally intended for use elsewhere?

One of the crane-tanks as illustrated in a Henschel catalogue. Compare this with a side view of the surviving example in a Río Gallegos park, in the Coal lines chapter.

The petrol tractor
The photo below shows a rather strange small petrol tractor which seems to have been based on a tractor engine and gearbox. The photos was found in Puerto Madryn () and appears to show the machine in use whilst the 75cm gauge steam locos were being erected. The machine still exists as a static museum piece at El Maiten works on the Esquel route.


The chopper couplers used on the metre gauge were replaced by Janney (MCB) type automatic couplers at some stage. This is a slightly confusing issue. The Baldwin official works photo of 2-8-2 No. 1 shows auto couplers already fitted. However, a 1937 picture of a Henschel 2-8-2 (on the later Río Negro valley line, and reproduced on that page) shows earlier style couplers still in use. The Henschels that went to Rio Gallegos in the early 1950s also initially used chopper couplings.

On the FCCC fuel changed over to oil during the 1920s. All FCCC engines had originally run on Welsh steam coal. The new locos had tenders designed for coal(the Baldwins), and wood (the Henschels) but with oil tanks fitted from new. The decision to change to oil fuel was a practical move for Argentina has substantial oilfields. However, it was discovered that the (the Baldwins?) could not reach Las Plumas without refuelling at Dolavon. A number were therefore fitted with an extra 200 litre tank. In 1975 I was told that in 1934 there had been a severe fuel shortage (presumably for financial reasons in the midst of the depression), and wood was substituted as a fuel. The locomotives needed a tender and a bogie wagonload for the round trip to Las Plumas. Sylvester Damus has recently cast doubt on some of these facts. He points out that fuel consumption figures are available for many years in the 'Estadistica' (4) though not for the years 1923 to 1929. He comments that coal was clearly the main fuel in 1923, but by 1930 the use was overwhelmingly of oil. Certainly the installation of fuel tanks at Puerto Madryn was under way as early as 1924 (4A). Apparently there is no obvious increase in wood fuel in any year. Conversely, on the Esquel and Rio Negro lines some of the locos were still burning coal at least in the 1940s. The Appendix to 1945's working timetable singles out Baldwin no. 5 and 0-6-0T no 19454 because they were oil burners.

Water supplies
Water for loco use was in extremely short supply at Puerto Madryn and had to be transported from Trelew. Experiments were apparently made in the use of sea water for boilers, but not surprisingly this led to the rapid corrosion of boiler tubes. I don't know when this occurred, but any railway with ten times as many locos as it needed could have been excused a fairly profligate attitude to boilers! On reflection, perhaps this explains the aforementioned abandonment of Henschel No. 133.

Number plates
Originally the Henschels bore their running numbers as individual brass numerals screwed to the cabsides. A worksplate was below this. The photo of no.138 at General Vintter on the Rio Negro line page illustrates this.


The letters E. F. E. A. (Empresa Ferrocarriles del Estado de Argentina) were painted on the tender sides. The Baldwins carried small oval brass plates on cab and tender sides, bearing the words 'Ferrocarriles del Estado' and the number (below).


On the takeover of the Esquel and Rio Negro lines by the General Roca system, 'G. ROCA' was painted on the tender sides (left) and that railway's standard large rectangular plates were fitted as shown below (9).

Later, the words 'Ferrocarriles Argentinos' appeared on the tender sides.

Identification of individual locomotives is complicated by the frequent exchange of boilers, cabs, and tenders, resulting in some engines bearing four different numbers.

The smaller tank engines, at least at Puerto Madryn, were numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4. Whilst this appears to conflict with the Baldwin number series, it should be remembered that Baldwins 1 to 6 never worked at Puerto Madryn and that sequence was therefore vacant.

The distribution of the locos
These 1922 engines were eventually used on a number of separate railways. This not surprising, given that the original 1922 network was never built. The locos are known or suspected to have worked on the following sections of line:
1 Puerto Madryn to Trelew (the original FCCC) and its extensions to Alto de las Plumas and Rawson.
2 Esquel to Ingeniero Jacobacci (later part of Ferrocarril General Roca)
3 Lorenzo Vintter to Conesa, and the Ingenio San Lorenzo sugar refinery at San Juan.
4 Comodoro Rivadavia to Punta PIedras
Each of the above lines is dealt with elsewhere in this chapter. However, two other sites seem to have received surplus locos from the store at Puerto Madryn:
5 The Ramal Ferro Industrial Rio Turbio, from Rio Gallegos to Rio Turbio. (See Chapter 8)
6 Lapachito to El Zapallar , west of Resistencia in the Chaco in the far north. This is mentioned in Related Lines page of this chapter.

Details of each loco, and their location at known dates.
An appendix page lists each loco individually and summarises locations and numbers identified at various dates. Click here to move to that page.

1 Baldwin Locomotives magazine, issue of October 1922, kindly copied by Christopher Walker.
2 Information contained in Situación Financiera de los Ferrocarriles del Estado. Informe Presentado al Poder Ejecutivo por el Administrador General, Dr. Enrique S. Perez. 18 Nov. 1924. Table no. 8 containing information on locos purchased for the FC Central del Chubut. Data kindly forwarded by S. Damus.
Narrow Gauge Rails to Esquel, Keith Taylorson, Plateway Press, 23 Hanover St., Brighton, BN2 2ST, UK, 1999.
3A Photos from an undated Henschel catalogue found by Fernando Carnero in Havana, Cuba, and kindly passed on by Sergio Barral.
4 Estadistica de Ferrocarriles en Explotación, Info via S. Damus.
4A Review of the River Plate. April 4 1924.
5 Interviews with ex-FCCC staff in 1975.
6 Photo by Gerallt Nash 1975.
7 Photos provided by Christopher Walker.
8 Narrow Gauge Rails to Esquel, as above, page48.
9 One on the Chubut line, one on the Esquel line, and one on the Rio Negro line.
10 Photo by Keith Taylorson.
11 Figures from'World of South American Steam' and the Continental Railway Journal quoted in Keith Taylorson's book (see reference 3 above).
12 La Trochita. 2001 by Sergio Sepiurka & Jorge Miglioli, Grupo Abierto Comunicaciones. Buenos Aires.


Chapter 7

The 1922 75cm gauge empire


Site map


Main pages

Grandiose plans

The 1922 locos

The 1922 rolling stock


FCCC extensions

FCCC reconstruction photos

FCCC operations

FCCC extra photos

The line to Esquel

Esquel route construction photos

Esquel operations

More Esquel line photos

The Río Negro line

Com. Rivadavia to Punta Piedras

More photos at Com. Rivadavia

Other users of equipment


1 List of locos

2 Rolling stock lists

3 The FCCC itinerary

4 The Esquel itinerary

5 The Río Negro itinerary

6 The 1942 FCCC timetable

7 1960 working timetable

8 Plan of Trelew

9 Track layout photos at Ing. Jacobacci

10 Perez report 1925

11 1955 report

12A 1957 report part A

12B 1957 report part B

12C 1957 report part C

12D 1957 report part D

12E 1957 report part E

12F 1957 report part F

13 1959 report

14 Calculos report

15 1961 report

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