Museo Nacional Ferroviario Pablo Neruda
The Museo Nacional Ferroviario Pablo Neruda (Av. Barros Arana 0565, tel. 045/227613, www.museoferroviariotemuco.cl), about one kilometer north of the station, is a work in progress that also features an art gallery and will house a cultural center and other facilities. Northbound buses and taxi colectivos on Barros Arana go within two short blocks of the site, saving an unappealing walk through a grubby neighborhood. Hours are 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily except Monday; admission costs US$1.85.
After the railroad’s arrival from Angol in 1893, Temuco soon became a key rail hub, where long-distance trains changed locomotives; its original casa de máquinas (roundhouse) opened in 1920, housed locomotives used on branch lines that ran to Carahue, Cunco, and Cherquenco, and also held repair facilities.
By the 1930s, though, these installations were inadequate and the current roundhouse was completed between 1937 and 1941. Temuco was the last Chilean base for steam locomotives; Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE) maintained it as a repair and reserve center for them until 1983—there were no permanent diesel facilities here until the 1980s—but it closed soon after.
In the aftermath, the Asociación Chilena de Conservación del Patrimonio Ferroviario (ACCPF, Chilean Association for Conservation of Railroad Patrimony) operated a sporadic tourist train to Lonquimay. It ran only about 30 times in 10 years, though, and the removal of rails from the Túnel Los Raíces southeast of Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello opened that route to vehicle traffic.
EFE officials wanted to tear down the roundhouse and sell off its 14 antique steam engines and other rolling stock for scrap, but the persistent ACCPF managed to get all of them declared national monuments. Finally, in February 2004, President Ricardo Lagos dedicated the new museum to Pablo Neruda during the poet’s centennial year (Neruda’s father was a railroad worker, and Neruda himself wrote many poems about rail travel).
In a 19-hectare facility that includes the roundhouse and extensive lawns with additional stock elevated on rails, the museum’s highlights include a luxury presidential railcar in service until 2003, an antique sleeper also in service until 2003, and President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo’s 1928 Packard limousine—custom-designed so that it could use Chile’s rails as well as its then-rudimentary roads.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition