Where do I begin?.. Should we take a narrow gauge or a broad 'Indian' one? There are five main gauges in Argentina, you know.
At least two of these gauges - 1000mm and 1676mm (5 ft. 8 in.) once had streamliners running on them. In 1934, Buenos Aires Western Railway received one British-built diesel electric 48-seat railbus, powered by an Armstrong-Saurer 6BXD 122hp engine. The body was built by Park Royal Vehicles Ltd, London and delivered to Scotswood for fitting. It had a cab at each end and accommodated 48 passengers. In 1937, a batch of single & double railcars, powered by Armstrong-Sulzer 6LF19 275hp engines arrived to Central Argentine Railway.
These integrally welded all steel vehicles were built by BRCW Smethwick being equipped with mechanical transmission, two with a Vulcan-Sinclair fluid coupling and Wilson five speed gearbox & two equipped with a five speed SLM oil operated gearbox. The engine, transmission and radiator were mounted on a subframe carried by one of the 12ft wheelbase bogies, the single cars weighed 38tons and were 76.5ft long and seated 75 passengers. The articulated sets weighed 66tons with a top speed of 68mph. (Source)
From 1937 through eraly 1960s, diesel multiple units built by Ganz (Hungary) were used for Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway express service. There were two DMU classes; similar in appearance, they had different dimensions. One, so-called "Ganz Catamarca", served on the Catamarca route, metre gauge.
The other, "Ganz Bariloche", was used on 800km Viedma - San Calos de Bariloche route, 1676mm 'Indian' gauge. Several months ago I wrote that Argentine Ganz DMUs could be inspired by the Chilean Railways Southern Arrows. Now, knowing when the production started, I can say just the opposite - the Arrows were built later. And don't forget that "Ganz Bariloches" were practically identical to the Soviet DP-1/10 diesel trains received from Hungary as war reparations.
(Both photos from the photostream Ferroclub Patagonico Viedma @ Flickr)
Finally, after 1939 railway nationalization, came a domestic-built... not exactly a streamliner but a remarkable diesel electric locomotive: No. 1 Justicialista. She was powered by two 735hp Sulzer diesel engines. Top speed was 90 km/h.
In reality, Justicialista and her sister La Argentina (later renamed Libertad and Roca) were just a start of an ambitious project, not less than 600 locos fitted with more powerful Italian diesels. The project was abandoned after 1955 coup - new government didn't want to invest in "Peron follies".
Three years before Justicialista, the one and only Argentine streamline steam locomotive was built. Here are few excerpts from an article by Martyn Bane taken from his website - along with some photographs from the same source. (Quote)
'Argentina' was not a new build locomotive rather it was a rebuild of a metre gauge locomotive, ex- FC* Central Córdoba class B22 4-6-2 No.2011. That said major components such as the boiler were new. Structural and thermodynamic improvements were incorporated into the rebuilt locomotive along with a striking streamlined external appearance inspired by locomotives built in USA, UK and France. This was the first locomotive project undertaken by the now world famous Argentine locomotive engineer Livio Dante Porta who was just 27 years of age when the locomotive first ran. During his life (1922-2003) Porta was responsible for many substantial improvements in all round performance on many steam locomotives operating all over the world. ‘Argentina’ was nothing short of exceptional, even more so when it is remembered this was Porta's first attempt, and remains one of the most efficient steam railway locomotives of all time.
Inorder to carry out the rebuilding No.2011 was transferred to Ing. Livio Dante Porta & Co. Ltd.’s workshops at Puerto de Rosario (Port of Rosario), Santa Fe province, in 1948. The rebuilding transformed the locomotive into a 4 cylinder compound 4-8-0 locomotive with a twin axle bogie tender. The locomotive was arranged with the 2 high pressure cylinders, 360mm diameter by 660mm stroke, (approximately 14¼” x 26”) between the frames and 2 low pressure cylinders, 580mm diameter by 560mm stroke, (approximately 23” x 22”) outside the frames.
The maximum axle load was 13.5 tons giving an adhesive weight of 54 tons. The total weight in working order, excluding the tender, amounted to just 68 tons. The fully balanced built up crank axle had crank settings of 135°. The driven wheels had a diameter of 1270mm (4’2”). Despite the small diameter of the coupled wheels the design speed was 120km/h (74.5mph.) However track conditions prevented the design speed being reached. The maximum recorded in service being 105km/h (65mph.)
The new boiler was of all welded construction with the exception of the main barrel seam which was riveted. No flanging was required for this totally handmade boiler thus saving considerable sums in the construction. In the firebox five 'T' security circulators where fitted with the lengthy brick arch sitting on top of the four front most circulators. The boiler pressure was 285psi with a sizeable superheater delivering steam at 450°C. Between the high and low pressure cylinders, along the lines of Chapelon’s experimental 2-12-0 160A1, re-superheating was employed ensuring the receiver steam temperature could reach 317°C.
The firebox sat entirely above the frames and was equipped with a fully rocking grate. It was arranged to give a deep firebed and a large proportion of combustion air was admitted over the fire. Low down on each side of the firebox six secondary (over-fire) air holes were fitted with two higher up on each side and eight at various levels on the backhead. Thus ‘Argentina’ became the first locomotive to have a basic Gas Producer Combustion System (GPCS). In the smokebox the exhaust system was a Kylchap which provided a good strong draught. Despite this little fire lifting was noted which can be attributed to the basic GPCS system in use.
Construction costs were lower than for any locomotive of equivalent power despite ‘Argentina’ being experimental. This can largely be attributed to the extensive use of welded mild steel plate in many areas such as the pistons, cylinders, streamlined casing, tender tank extension on top of the original tender and axleboxes. When outshopped 'Argentina' the nameplate 'Argentina' was carried at the front of the locomotive. On the boiler sides the locomotive bore the name 'Presidente Perón'. The locomotive also bore two inscriptions which quoted the words of Perón. These were painted onto the casing in the area adjacent to the cylinders. On the right hand side (right being when stood in the cab facing the smokebox) the inscription was: "Mejor que decir es hacer" - "Better to do than to say". And on the left hand side: "Mejor que prometer es realizar" - "Better to carry out than to promise". 'Argentina' was painted in the colours of the Argentine flag - white and sky blue. Unusually for a steam locomotive the bulk of the machine was painted white with one broad blue band and two narrower ones low down on each side.
Having arrived at La Plata she was subjected to a month of tests and various trials prior to the intended start of a series production. During this period she was based at the Porta's railway workshops at Gambier, a suburb of La Plata. Present for the many record breaking tests was the renowned French locomotive engineer, and friend of Porta, André Chapelon.
Several tests were undertaken with very heavy goods trains. It should be noted that these trains were loose coupled – that is, there were no continuous brakes fitted! A 1219 metric ton (1200 ton) train was hauled with ease at up to 105km/h (65mph) whilst a 2032 metric ton (2000 ton) train was taken at 80km/h (50mph.)
The transformed locomotive was able to produce of 1581 drawbar kW (2100 dbhp), this being far higher than No.2011 was capable of. Another outstanding characteristic was her high power to weight ratio 23.2 kN/metric ton (31 dbhp/ton) thus equalling the best in the world – the Chapelon designed SNCF 4-8-0 240P class. Interestingly the 240Ps, and their predecessors the 240.7xx class, were also rebuilds from a 4-6-2 type, the Paris-Orleans Railway 4500 class. The 4500's were the very first Pacifics built in Europe.
Fuel consumption was greatly reduced, on test it was established as being approximately 50% less than other locomotives of similar power; similarly the water consumption was much lower. When burning coal with a calorific value of 28 MJ/kg the drawbar specific fuel consumption was 0.3 kg/MJ. This amounted to a world record drawbar thermal efficiency of 11.9%. Interestingly this figure was produced at a sub-optimal point. It has been estimated drawbar thermal efficiency would have risen to 13% if it had been measured at a power and speed corresponding to the maximum drawbar thermal efficiency.
Her smaller dimensions, lower weight and greater efficiency than other locomotives of the same horsepower meant she was able undertake very similar duties. It also meant repairs could be carried out in smaller workshops, whilst the axle loading avoided the need to increase the strength of the permanent way.
Only good things are said about the locomotive and its abilities. It is reported that on several occasions Porta had fierce arguments with the railway authorities over the locomotive's ability to haul trains which were considered to be vastly too heavy. This led to Porta finally arranging for the locomotive to be heavily "overloaded" to prove his point, which of course he and 'Argentina' did. On another occasion, with a skeptical footplate inspector on board, he stopped the locomotive on a gradient so steep it was deemed impossible to start from made worse, again, by the locomotive being "overloaded" according to said inspector. 'Argentina' restarted the train with no problems and the inspector was left somewhat "red faced"!
Once testing had finished the locomotive was taken for display in central Buenos Aires on a trailer towed by horses. Porta and wife Ana camped out with the locomotive overnight to deter thieves. The locomotive was exhibited on Roque Saenz Peña avenue between its intersections with Bartolomé Mitre and Florida streets. Interestingly for this exhibition the 'Argentina' plate was removed from the front of the loco and replaced by yet another 'Presidente Perón'.
Peron lost power in 1955 after which the locomotive lost all the 'Presidente Perón' nameplates. At this point the locomotive gained two more 'Argentina' plates and remained with these until withdrawn.
Once testing, exhibiting and related work was completed 'Argentina' was used exclusively for goods trains on the FCGB. This continued until the early 1960s seeing the locomotive mainly operating on the lines to Mira Pampa and Olayarría to the south west of Buenos Aires. When these were closed ‘Argentina’s’ time was about up. Around 1961, having run approximately 70000km the locomotive was taken out of active service and dumped at La Plata depot, where she remained until the mid 1970's.
There is a little confusion over the precise dates but at some point she was taken to Tapiales workshops near Buenos Aires and thence to the workshops at Tafí Viejo in Tucumán Province for safe storage prior to entering a then planned transport museum. Interestingly this move occurred around the time Perón briefly returned to power in Argentina. The locomotive remained there until a cultural initiative in Tucumán city (1312 km north west of Buenos Aires, the full name being San Miguel de Tucumán) turned the FCGB Norte railway station into a Transport Museum in 1996. The museum contained several locomotives and vehicles from the Tafí Viejo line but the real star was Porta's locomotive. For exhibition she was repainted in a leaden grey colour and placed on exhibition with passenger coaches from the Tafí Viejo line alongside the main platform.
In 2000 Porta decided to try and return the locomotive to the Buenos Aires area with a view to returning the locomotive to service. Even today it would be a fine demonstrator of what is possible. Porta was keen to not just ‘restore’ the locomotive but wished to incorporate modifications based on his experience since 1949.
Sadly, soon after this plan was hatched the serious economic crash of 2001 occurred. This effectively ended this very interesting and important project almost before it had had time to start.
Changes have also occurred in Tucumán since the problems of 2001. The museum has closed, the station has found new uses but has not been been demolished as has been reported. In May 2004 'Argentina' was quoted as being at the now closed FCGB Tucumán depot of Mate de Luna a short distance from the site of the museum.
Since 2004, there are no new photos of Porta's masterpiece. Who will cry for this Argentine beauty?..