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Central Argentine Railway

Central Argentine Railway
Retiro station, inaugurated in 1915.
Native name Ferrocarril Central Argentino
Type Private
Status Company defunct; railway line active as FC. Mitre
Locale Argentina
Termini Buenos Aires
Stations Rosario Central [1]
Rosario Norte [2]
Santiago del Estero
Opened 1863
Closed 1948 (1948)
Track gauge 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
Route map

The Central Argentine Railway (CA) (in Spanish: Ferrocarril Central Argentino) was one of the Big Four broad gauge, 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm), British-owned companies that built and operated railway networks in Argentina. The company was established in the 19th century, to serve the provinces of Santa Fe and Córdoba, in the east-central region of the country.[1]


  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Construction 1.2
    • Progress 1.3
    • Nationalization 1.4
  • See also 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5



William Wheelwright, owner of the British company that built the railway line.
Famous "191" steam locomotive in Retiro.
Locomotive that ran the Rosario-Cañada de Gómez branch in 1866.
Tigre station, terminus (c. 1900).
Logo of the company engraved on a column in Retiro station.
A train stopped at Belgrano R station, prior the line was electrified.
Former Fisherton station (now Antártida Argentina) of Rosario.

On September 5, 1854, American Engineer Alan Campbell proposed to then President of Argentine Confederation, Justo José de Urquiza, to make a studio for a possible railway line between cities of Rosario and Córdoba.

In November 1855 the report (written entirely in English) was presented in Rosario. Campbell had been the engineer in the New York-Harlem railway line and been hired by William Wheelwright to make and study for the projecto of the Copiapó-Caldera line in Chile.

The costs estimated by Campbell in the report, were the following:

Description Cost ($)
Excavations, ditches 656,000
Bridges, gutters 153,000
Paths, tracks 2,673,000
Machines and rolling stock 350,000
Stations 280,000
Administration, managing, engineers, fees 300,000
Dock of Rosario 40,000
Lands 0
Workers, rooms, freight 70,000
Reserve percentage (10%) 452,200
Total amount 4,974,200

The distance estimated was 396 km and the costs were in Argentine Peso (GBP 1 = $5). The studio revealed a costos of GBP 4,000 per mile built. A decree promulgated on April granted the company "the lands to build roads, docks, stations and stops, that will be given to the company in perpetuity and free of lines."


In 1863, the government of Argentina granted the company, led by engineer William Wheelwright, a concession to build and exploit a railway line between the cities of Rosario (a major port in southern Santa Fe, on the Paraná River) and Córdoba (a large city near the geographical center of Argentina, and the capital of the province of the same name). The grant included a clause to populate the lands along and around the railway that were given to the company by the national state.

The construction works started in April 1863 with the establishment of the terminus in Rosario, at Rosario Central Station. The line, a 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge railway. On September 1867 the line reached Villa María, Córdoba and the works ceased. Minister Rawson expressed disagreement for the paralization of the works while passengers also protested against poor conditions of the service. The works for the Rosario Central station and other intermediate stations had not begun. The company alleged that they could not continue the extension of the line until the pending lands were given.

On September 1867 the Government authorized a new disbursement of funds for $1,500,000 to conclude the pending works. Finally in March 1870 the railway reached the city of Córdoba and it was officially inaugurated by then Presidente of Argentina Domingo Sarmiento on April 13. The CAR was the longest railway system at that time and the first to join two provinces.

The terminus station of Rosario, Rosario Central, began its construction in 1968 and was finished two years later. The opening of the line gave the company the right to receive $553,280 per year according to the contract of concession. This amount would be deducted from the passenger and freight revenues.

During 18 years the company did not built any km else so in 1888 the railway system still had 396 km of extension.


The company sent a commissioner to Europe to bring immigrants to form agricultural colonies, as required by the concession contract. They were settled first in Roldán, the first stop after Rosario, and then in San Lorenzo, Carcarañá, Cañada de Gómez and Tortugas.

In 1891 the CA opened Fisherton Station in the west of Rosario, as well as new branch entering Rosario from the southwest and a stop on said line (Eloy Palacios Station). Victoria station was also opened in 1891. Trains to Zelaya and Capilla del Señor departed from Victoria for the first time one year later. The CAR also installed the first crossbuck and manually-operated gates in the many level crossings existing by then.

The CA absorbed a local company, Ferrocarril Oeste Santafesino (F.C.O.S), in 1900. The lines handled by F.C.O.S., which served the southwest of Santa Fe Province and the south of Córdoba (up to the city of Cruz Alta), were merged with those of the larger company, and the passenger services handled by Rosario Oeste Santafesino Station were transferred to Rosario Central station, while the former was renamed Rosario Este.

In 1908, CA was merged with another company, Buenos Aires and Rosario Railway, which served the Buenos Aires–Rosario line. The passenger services were unified and optimized: Rosario Central Station was left in charge of short and mid-distance services, while Rosario Norte Station was set aside for long-distance and express services. The fused company opened two new stops in Rosario, Parada Cruce Alberdi (present-day Patio Parada) in the north-center of the city, and Parada Golf (or Parada Links), in the western limit of the municipality, near today's Rosario Golf Club.

During successive years, several new stations would be built by the company in the Greater Buenos Aires, such as Beccar (1913), La Lucila (1933), Acassuso (1934) and Virreyes (1938).

In 1916, the Retiro-Tigre line was electrified, becoming the first electrified railway system of South America. New British Thomson-Houston (BTH) multiple units were acquired to run on the line.[2]

The CAR also ran several express services to the North of Argentina, such as El Rápido (inaugurated in 1910) that was also the first express train of Argentina. That service could reach the city of Rosario in about 5 hours. In 1925, the new Campana building station -located nearer the center downtown- was opened. Another long-distance service was El Panamericano that reached Tucumán and allowed passengers to transfer Ferrocarril Central Norte trains to cross the frontline to Bolivia, opened in 1929. One year later, the Estrella del Norte (a train that would become a classic) joined Buenos Aires and Tucumán, towed by PS11 W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co locomotives.[2]

In 1931, the CAR electrified the Retiro-Villa Ballester services, acquiring a new fleet of Metropolitan Vickers electric multiple units to run on the line. That same year, the Belgrano-Tigre section (known as "Tren del Bajo" - currently "Tren de la Costa") was also electrified.[2]

The company continued its expansion. Between 1935 and 1940, already past the "golden age" of Argentine railways, Rosario Central Station managed seventy daily train services, with an annual average of 438,000 passengers.[3]

By 1948, the following companies had been added to CAR railway network:

Central Argentine Railway (1948)
Former company Province/s covered Acquired
BA Northern Buenos Aires 1888
BA & Rosario Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba, Sgo. del Estero, Tucumán 1902
Santa Fe Western Santa Fe 1900


British railway companies operating in Argentina, including CA, were nationalised in 1948 by the Juan Perón administration. Ferrocarril Central Argentino took over the northern section of Ferrocarril Rosario y Puerto Belgrano and then became part of the state-owned Ferrocarril General Bartolomé Mitre. The railway system as a whole was reconfigured and this meant the closure of many stations; in the case of the Ferrocarril Mitre, only the original Rosario Central station was left to handle passengers.

See also


  • Colin M. Lewis, British Railways in Argentina 1857-1914: A Case Study of Foreign Investment, Athlone Press (for the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London), 1983.


  1. ^ Original terminus.
  2. ^ Added to CAR when the company acquired the Buenos Aires and Rosario Railway in 1902.


  1. ^ Asociación Rosarina Amigos del Riel. Historia de los Ferrocarriles de Rosario (History of Rosario's Railways).
  2. ^ a b c Historia del Ferrocarril al Norte del Gran Buenos Aires: Ferrocarriles Mitre y Belgrano, by Ariel Bernasconi - Dunken Editorial (2012) - ISBN 978-9870257691
  3. ^ Rieles que corren sobre la memoria y el porvenir", La Capital, 10 Apr 2005 (Archive)
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