Trainspotters tramping through South America, take note. At the edge of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, lies what is probably the continent’s most picturesque train cemetery.
Dozens of hollowed out rusting hulks, these days covered in graffiti, line a series of unused tracks about three kilometers south of Uyuni, a nondescript market town of about 11,000 that sits at an altitude of 3,700m (12,139 ft) on the high Andean altiplano and where three-day tours of the vast Salar either begin or end.
They’re the corroded leftovers of a once-thriving mining industry whose boom in the first half of the 20th century was short-lived by rapid mineral depletion.
The rail lines, designed by British engineers for the British-sponsored Antofagasta and Bolivia Railroad companies in the late 1880s, served as a hub for the transport of cargo to Pacific ports. Co-existence with the locals wasn’t always pretty or peaceful either. Local Aymara saw it as an intrusion into their lives and regularly sabotaged the tracks which were used almost exclusively by the mining companies.
The trains, many of them steam locomotives, date back to the early half of 1900s and have long since been stripped of any useful parts. With no fences or guards, this boneyard is in fact a scrap yard with free pickings. And a cool photo op for travelers passing through the north side of the planet’s biggest salt plain.
Train afficionados: here’s an itemized list of all the locomotive makes and models.
Sixteen images below.