U.S. tourists injured in derailment on remote Argentina heritage railway
| November 13, 2023
Narrow-gauge train derails early in trip on railway made famous as ‘Old Patagonia Express’
RIO NEGRO, Argentina — Four U.S. tourists were reported to have been injured when a remote narrow-gauge, steam-powered heritage passenger train derailed Saturday in Argentina’s Patagonia region.
The train was operating on the 750mm (2-foot, 5½-inch) gauge La Trochita Railway, which came to international fame as the “Old Patagonian Express” in the Paul Theroux book of the same name. The full 402-kilometer route is closed, but portions operate as tourist rail operations; Saturday’s incident occurred between Mamuel Choique and Rio Chico, according to the online news site BNN. A translation of the regional Rio Negro newspaper reports two of the injured were taken to a hospital in Ingeniero Jacobacci, about 82 kilometers (51 miles) from the scene, with multiple trauma and fractures, while a third with a pelvic fracture and circulatory issues was transferred to Maitenes, some 265 kilometers (165 miles) by road. The fourth American, age 76, was taken to Bariloche, 260 kilometers away, for “extensive study of bruises.”
U.S. railfan Jim Fetchero was among those on board, and said the train hit a washout at 17 kilometers per hour (about 10.5 mph).
Fetchero said 48 passengers and 10 to 12 crew were on board, with U.S. and British passengers forming the majority of the riders, but Australian, Danish, and French also on board. The train was only 29 minutes into its trip to Norquinco. when the derailment occurred at 11:18 a.m.
“We didn’t get much warning,” Fetchero wrote in an email to Trains News Wire. “But the feeling of being in a wooden coach as it rolls down the hill is pretty scary. And the wood fire was even scarier; the other coach, they had some fire damage but were able to put out the fire.” In a Facebook post, he described kicking out the car’s doors and crawling out through the remains of the car’s vesibules. Fetchero said he had suffered bruised ribs and a hip.