Today in Transportation History – 1932: The Highest Point on the Salta-Antofagasta Railway is Completed

A new viaduct was completed in northwestern Argentina’s Salta Province as a key part of the Salta-Antofagasta Railway (also known as the Huaytiquina Railway). La Polvorilla Viaduct, which measures about 70 meters (229 feet) in height, took two years to build near the city of Salta and became the tallest of the railway’s 11 viaducts.

Construction on the Salta-Antofagasta Railway started in 1921. The railway was developed within the formidable Andes mountain range to connect that region of Argentina with Chile and also to provide access to local borax mines. The route for the railway was designed by engineer Richard Fontaine Maury, who had been born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1882. Maury arrived in Argentina in 1906 and eventually became a naturalized citizen of the country. After Maury died in the Argentine city of Córdoba in 1950, he was buried under a monument honoring him at the Salta-Antofagasta Railway station in Salta Province’s community of Campo Quijano.

The steel used for building La Polvorilla Viaduct and other sections of the railway came from mills in Trieste, Italy. That steel, along with other construction materials, would routinely be shipped to the Port of Buenos Aires and then transported overland for approximately 930 miles (1500 kilometers) to where the railway was under development. More than 15 years after its tallest viaduct had been completed, the railway was officially opened.

Salta-Antofagasta Railway is the sixth highest railway in the world; its highest point — 13,845 feet (4,220 meters) above sea level – is at La Polvorilla Viaduct. The railway covers a total of 585 miles (941 kilometers) between the city of Salta and northern Chile’s port city of Antofagasta. Since 1972, the railway has been used for a tourist train service known as the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds).

For more information on the Salta-Antofagasta Railway, including La Polvorilla Viaduct, please check out–Antofagasta_railway and

Further details about La Polvorilla Viaduct are available at

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