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International Railroad Discussion > FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase


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Date: 06/24/19 08:06
FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

It was April 21, Easter Day. Between six railfans we had two cars and were primed for a chase up FCAB's most spectacular section, meaning the line northeast of San Salvador in Calama. The smart guys were in the other car. They topped off their tank. Our car had almost a full tank so we didn't bother (a consensus bad decision between the three of us). After first confirming visually that the eastbound boxcar train was ready to go, our two vehicles split for the chase. Our car found a westbound boxcar train waiting at Cere, so we decided to get our first shot of the trains passing there. Then we were going to follow the tracks northeast (B-149 on the maps would have kept us trackside to Conchi). There is a large checkpoint at Cere and we were informed that the road is private from there and we had to turn around. Plan A broken, we navigated quickly in the car and as we backtracked to Route 21. Had we stayed on it, all would have been good, but thinking we could near the tracks sooner, we found a road alongside the River Loa that appeared it would bring us much closer. We took that road, despite it becoming less and less maintained. Deciding against a bridge that crossed the river and seemed to head the wrong way, we kept going north, only to find the end of the road in a nice older lady's yard. Plan B broken, we drove back down the river to the bridge and crossed it. It was then that our decision not to top off started to scare us. We were nearing 1/2 a tank and still hadn't reached Conchi. At least we were on a paved road. That road had two turnoffs, one to a mine and one to San Pedro. Well, bad things happen in threes and a miscommunication between us (confusion between the mine turnoff and the San Pedro turn) resulted in us continuing up the wrong road. Plan C broken, we were backtracking again, now just trying to get back to the very Route 21 we had abandoned an hour earlier.

Meanwhile, our friends in the other car were intelligently chasing the train up Route 21 and wondering where we were. We finally found them about where the two volcanoes look like double peaks on one mountain (think this is near Polapi). Finally on track, and somehow with the train behind us, we decided, despite now being below 1/2 a tank, we would go the whole way to Ollagüe (there is no gas for sale anywhere between Calama and Ollagüe, plus it was Easter) and potentially all climb into the other car to go get gas if necessary. The next couple hours would result in some of the most spectacular rail photography I have ever experienced as we drove through the high-altitude desert where the ground was covered with lichen, and walking from the car to a shooting spot 100 yards away was quite the accomplishment. What follows are photos of the chase from San Pedro Volcano to San Martin Salt Sea in Carcote. 

Image one is of the westbound boxcar train at San Salvador in Calama.

Image two is of the lead Clyde GL26C-2. I am told these are similar to SD38-2s.

Image three is now farther north of the eastbound train waiting ont he siding at Cere.



 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/24/19 09:33 by erielackawanna.








Date: 06/24/19 08:09
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Image four is of the meet between the two trains at Cere.

Image five is now hours later, after our hellish, mistake-riddled attempts to get ahead of the train. Kind of amazing that with three major navigating errors we still got ahead. Behind the train here are the Volcanos San Pablo and San Pedro.

Image six is just a bit farther northwest as the chase was now on.



 








Date: 06/24/19 08:11
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Image seven is near the Ascotan station, with the volcanoes in the background again.

Image eight is another catch in Ascotan.

Image nine is of the train now approaching Cebollar with Salar Cebollar to the left.


 








Date: 06/24/19 08:13
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Image ten is still nearing Cebollar.

Image eleven is a telemash taken from the Cebollar station.

Image twelve is again at Cebollar station.

 








Date: 06/24/19 08:15
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Image 13 is moments before the line's final crossing of Route 21, between Cellobar and Carcote.

Images 14 through 16 are of the train coming around the bank of Salar San Martin in Carcote.



 








Date: 06/24/19 08:15
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Image sixteen.




Date: 06/24/19 09:10
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: PasadenaSub

Wow, incredible photos Charles!  You hit the jackpot with these, with the scenery reminding me of a cross between Alberta, Canada and the Moon.

Rich



Date: 06/24/19 09:53
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: zfan

Great pics!!  Don't think I've ever seen a more desolate looking place.  



Date: 06/24/19 13:03
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: tomstp

What is the pipe we see on the ground in a few pictures?  I guess the white on the land and subsequent water is a salt water lake??



Date: 06/24/19 14:48
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: dwatry

How many trains operate in a typical day on this RR? 



Date: 06/24/19 17:04
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Two to four per 24 hours on this part of the line. They are drastically busier once you get west of Calama.



Date: 06/24/19 17:05
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

Don't know on the pipe, although I would guess it's water (because there was a water pipe marked as such farther up the ROW).

Yes, that's mostly salt, but I think the top of the mountains are probably snow.



Date: 06/24/19 17:09
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: airbrakegeezer

Tremendous photos! While I was in Antofagasta several times in the '80s and '90s, it was "strictly business", and I spent all my time in the shops in Antofagasta and at the Chuquicamata mine, with no chance to do any railfanning. Always wanted to go back for fanning, but never had a chance.

Thanks again, and keep 'em coming.

Roger Lewis (airbrakegeezer) 



Date: 06/24/19 18:40
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: Milwaukee

Now we know what a train on Mars would look like.   Thanks for sharing these photos with us.  Very stunning territory and material.



Date: 06/25/19 07:18
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: cjvrr

At what speed do these trains travel?



Date: 06/25/19 07:32
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: erielackawanna

It changed from location to location and I never paced, but it was slow overall. 



Date: 06/25/19 13:12
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: DJ-12

Wow, awesome stuff! So now I'm wondering if you made it to civilization before the gas ran out (having almost had this happen at the end of a dirt road north of Searchmont, ON, after a morning chase on the ACR where I forgot to fill the tank before leaving the Soo, I can relate to the anxiety,



Date: 06/25/19 13:52
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: SP8595

Incredible series! You even got the Moon in your first picture:}



Date: 06/25/19 15:32
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: atsf121

Amazing, number 5 is my favorite! Trains are trains, which means I always like them and these units are so interesting. But the landscape is something else!

Posted from iPhone



Date: 06/25/19 20:45
Re: FCAB Calama to Ollagüe Chase
Author: kcmbha

Umm, is this Mars, just asking.
 



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