[Originally written as a series of three posts in Jan 2008.]
Remedios de Escalada in the southern suburbs of Buenos Aires may be off most people’s radar, but it contains a testament to Argentina’s industrial past that’s very interesting: the largest, privately-owned railroad workshop that the British built outside of the UK.
The workshop & train museum occupy a massive site… over 1,250,000 square meters which housed all kinds of workshops, repair & production facilities. A ton of info can be found here (in Spanish), but to sum it up the need for more space drove the workshops away from Barracas out to the suburbs in 1900. As time went by, more facilities were added to handle new developments in technology. It survived both world wars by fabricating its own parts instead of importing from England & became an important training center after nationalization under Perón. But the decline of Argentina’s rail network also meant the decline of this facility. Only partially used today, most of the area currently houses the museum & a campus for the Universidad Nacional de Lanús.
On the map above, the train station is the small, red rectangle… that’s how big the complex is. Ignore the arrow & the green box for now. Just behind the station is the oldest of the workshop buildings, constructed in brick with a funky roof:
Normally, you’d have to walk around the entire complex to get to the entrance, but local residents demanded that a passageway be opened through the facility. An old service entrance was opened to the public recently & part of the main wall demolished… it’s a scenic shortcut (red arrow on above map):
Lots of restored equipment to see, from steam engines to sleeper cars:
The one-of-a-kind 1941 armored train used to transport all the cash earned in stations along the Ferrocarril del Sud line:
Most of the area is covered in grass these days & looks great in the late afternoon:
The Dutch equipment was pretty classy with obvious Rationalist elements… made from Argentine designs & waiting for restoration. I’d hoped to see a diesel engine that Luis recommended, a restored 1953 Baldwin Lima Hamilton, because evidently there are none left in the US. Maybe it was in storage in one of the warehouses the day we visited.
Fabio & I took a quick break in a restored 1928 dining car that’s now used as a cafe:
A mini-train nicknamed La Trochita (after the narrow-gauge engine in Esquel) makes the occasional back & forth trip along a straight track & covers most of the complex, including the section used for the Universidad Nacional de Lanús:
The most interesting part for me was checking out the workers’ housing, built for employees of the workshops. High-ranking bosses received free housing as well, but of course it was built on the opposite side of the facility along the main avenue. A total of 72 units were constructed with rents ranging from 16 to 30 pesos per month. That’s very little housing considering there were over 2,500 employees in the 1920’s. A row house was also built for bachelors. The workers colony (green block on the map above) is located a 10-minute walk from the museum entrance:
Very few of the semi-detached/duplex units have their original diamond-pattern roof sheeting, & most of the open patios have now been fenced in. Still, the houses aren’t in bad shape considering they’ve been around for over a century. They all have large yards in the back… a luxury these days. Sorry about the bad light, but it was after 20:00. Lots to see in one afternoon!