It is a high mountain meter gauge railway, with a 440 km length, of which 233.5 pass through Bolivian territory and 206.5 through Chilean territory. FCALP crosses the Andes at 4.265 meters over sea level, and it reaches a maximum slope of 6% between stations Central and Puquios of the Chilean part. Formerly it was a rack railway.

The Arica to La Paz railway (FCALP) is an integral element of the historical relation between Chile and Bolivia, as the result of an excellent agreement between both nations, after the Pacific War ended. La Paz Treaty among both countries was the culmination of that brilliant period. It was signed on October 20 of 1904 and its Third Article established the creation of the railway from Arica to La Paz, an initiative that was considered since the beginning of negotiations.

The construction of the railway meant a big effort since the design of its route. After several proposals, the route designed by Harding was chosen. It went through the Lluta valley, with a development of 469 km. It had seven tunnels; a maximum gradient of 3% in adherence and 6% in railway rack areas; and curves with a minimum radius of 150 mts.

On August 14 of 1905, an open call for its construction was published, based on the route designed by Mr. Harding and other studies. Four companies applied to the call. On January 2 of 1906, the company “Sindicato de Obras Públicas de Chile” (Union of Chile’s Public Works), signed the contract to build the railway. Later on February 2 of 1906, the Chilean Government enacted Law 1813, authorizing a capital loan to finance the international route.

On February 5 of 1906, the engineering works began in the Chilean area. Organized by the constructing company and Chilean authorities, a big party was held that day. However, the inexperience of the company forced to cancel the contract and republish the open call, which this time was assigned to Deutsche Bank, which also failed to overcome the obstacles of the construction. Therefore that contract was also cancelled in agreement between both parties.

After the failure faced through the titanic construction of the railway, Harding’s route was reevaluated. Some modifications were done, which meant time and cost savings in the final construction. The third phase of the works began auspiciously, without problems that could paralyze the advance of the railway over the steep mountains.

In late 1909, the works began in the Bolivian area at more than 4 thousand meters over sea level. There were weeks where thousands of workers would work on the construction. Most of them came from southern Chile attracted by good salaries.

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