The Trochita – Old Patagonian Express

Roggero, Brun y, Esquel, Chubut, Argentina

Simona Bertolaso



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Food, Tickets, Equipment


As Paul Theroux wrote in his 1979 travelogue The Old Patagonian Express: “I wanted something altogether wilder, the clumsier romance of strangeness.” Few quotes sum up this part of Patagonia better. The final leg of Theroux’s trip was made on the steam train still known locally as La Trochita, or ‘The Little Gauge’, though the name that he christened it has since entered into common usage, even if the service is a much reduced one these days. However, for rail – and travel – enthusiasts it remains a thrilling prospect.

Today, only the odd charter runs the full 402km route between Esquel and Ingeniero Jacobacci. The most viable option now for travellers is the weekly 20km run between Esquel and the native Mapuche settlement of Nahuel Pan (45 mins), as you ride along in old vintage carriages. Less frequent services cover the 165km journey between Esquel and El Maitén (9 hours), usually coinciding with maintenance work on the engines.

But whichever route you take, it’s worth exploring the area. Just south of Esquel is Trevellin, the archetypal ‘green valley’ sought by Welsh settlers in the late 19th century – Welsh is still heard in its tea rooms and chapels today. To the east lie the steppe-like plains of the Chubut, or head north of El Maitén for the Argentine Lake District – a genteel mix of snow-capped peaks and beech forests flanking crystalline waters. Still, little can compete with the romance of chugging the wild foothills of the Andes.

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