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any serious control on the part of the State. This explains
how It is that these companies, having an enormous capital
to redeem, cannot at the present moment lower their rates.

In the Argentine the railway companies are not established
as in~Trance, by right of a concession limited to a certain
numFer of years.! The concession is granted without
conditions, excepting the reserve that it may be redeemed
by the State ; and this reserve maybe applied at anytime

* The Argentine "tonne" weighs 35 lbs. less than the English ton being
1000 kilogrammes, or 2205 lbs. in weight.

t A clause fixing the term of the concession — that is, the date upon which
the line, with all its buildings, etc., will pass into the hands of the Government
without any payment on the part of the latter, was inserted in the case of two
railways only, and for a term of fifty-five years. These two linos are the
railway from Villa Mercedes to La Toma (the old North-Western Argentine),
to-day a section of the Andean National, and that from San Cristobal to
Tncuman, to-day the Southern Section of the Central Northern. Both are
guaranteed by the nation ; but the nation having become the proprietor, the
above clause has of course not taken effect.


whatever, conformably with the expropriation law. The
conditions of redemption are in most cases estaBTTshedon
the basis of the revenues of the last five years, increased
by 20 per cent., so that the clause can scarcely be carried
into effect to the' profit of the State in the case of lines
yielding good profits.

The State and the Provinces have guaranteed dividends in
various wajs. These guarantees were granted very liT)erally
when the Argentine was seeking to create and develop its
railway system, but the Governments have not shown the
*same readiness to honour their signatures in times of crisis.
We shall see in the financial section of this book that the
State has had to contract loans in order to redeem its
obligations, and to liberate itself from engagements^ it had
been enable to keep.*

At present the Government no longer gives guar antee s —
not "even to encourage the construction of lines in regions
which oflfer little attraction from the point of view of traffig.
It prefers to build them itself, in order to increase th e extent
ifnot the value, of the systems it already owns; or has
recourse to companies or private individuals for the construc-
tion of new lines, but without guarantees of any sort.

Having given these details of the railway system, we
have still to consider of what expansion it is still capable.
In comparison to other American States — excepting the
United States, whose colossal progress in this department
permits no comparison with other countries — the Argentine^
is in the first rank in the matter of its railway mileage. With
its 13,250 miles in operation on 1st January 1909, it surpasses
both Mexico (with 8390 miles) and BrazilCwith 10,080}, the
two American States which, being the wealthiest and having
the largest populations, possess very extensive railway systems.
If from the same standpoint we then compare the Argentine
with France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, England, Germany, and
Austria-Hungary, we find that it occupies the fourth rank.
But it goes without saying that these figures do not
mean anything very precise, except in conjunction with

* The French company of the Santa Fe Railways, which had a guarantee
from the Province, which guarantee was never paid,' obtained in exchange, by
arrangement, the complete uwnership of its lines.


those denoting the area and the population of the
Argentine. They are indications rather than exact com-

If we compare the number of miles of railway in operation
to that of the area in square miles of each country, we shall
find that among the nations of South America the first place
is no longer held by the Argentine, but by the little Eastern
Republic of Uruguay, for in the former country the ratio is
only 1"25, while in the second it is 1*67. Mexico ties with
the Argentine, with 1-25. Here is an example of the strange
conclusions to which statistical inquiry sometimes leads us,
since it follows from the preceding figures that Uruguay,
with only 1207 miles of railway, and 71,990 square miles of
territory, holds apparentl}^ from this standpoint, a higher
rank than the Argentine.

The comparison of the mileage of the railways of each
country to the number of its inhabitants is an exacter method.
We find that for every 10,000 inhabitants the Argentine
has 23"59 milesTof railw^y^ while^razil has only 649,
Uruguay rO-96, Uhiir'S;587 Mexico 7 1 2, and Venezuelans

All this is explained in the following table, whence in-
teresting deductions may be drawn. \

The mileage of railway given for the Argentine should ^
be regarded as provisional, for, unlike those European nations
whichT have almost attained their uttermost expansion and
equipment, there is still much to be done in the Argentme
before the whole of its territory can be served. Certainly
t'Ee' principaTIines are already constructed, but others will
assuredly be built, which, apart from their immediate
utility, will ultimately pay, owing to the manner in which
they will increase the value of the soil which they will

The constant expansion of its network of railways is for i)
that master a necessity to the Argentine, as for all new coun-
tnesTihTwhich there are no roads fit for wheeled traffic. Rather
than go to the expense of opening up such roads, which would
be an unproductive investment, the Government prefers to
favour the creation of lines of railroad which may in time
become instruments of production.





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It is true, as we stated in the first edition of this book,
that numerous demands for concessions permittincr new
lines to be built have been presented to and granted by the
National Congress. But it is also true that only a very
small number of these projects have been realised, as many
of these undertakings were unable to find the capital
necessary to flotation in the foreign markets ; this has been
true particularly of the English market.

At the same time, there are among these concessions
a few projects which seem to be capable of immediate
realisation ; these are concessions granted to already existing
companies, for the extension of their systems, which have
the necessary capital at their disposal.

Among new lines in active construction we must cite
that for which the concession was granted to MM. de Bruyn
and Otamendi : a narrow-gauge railway in the Province of
Buenos Ayres. This concession has been taken over by
a French company, and may require a maximum capital of

This undertaking, which is really the extension into the
Province of Buenos Ayres of the network of narrow-gauge
lines, exploited by the French company of the Santa Fe
Railroads, includes several long lines starting from Rosario,
crossing the most productive and thickly-peopled region?
of the West, and terminating at the three great centres of
export: Buenos Ayres, Bahia Blanca, and La Plata.

This undertaking, which has been well thought out by
its promoter and present director, the engineer Girodias,
is based upon two ideas ; one being to build cross lines
connecting the pi-incipal railways of the south and the west
in agricultural districts where these two lines hold an
absolute monopoly ; the other is to extend to Buenos Ayres
the narrow-gauge system of the north and north-west.
This system consists at present of 3444 miles of railways,
having their terminus at Rosario; it is therefore most
desirable that these lines should be prolonged towards the
south, and especially as far as the capital, in order to avoid
troublesome transhipments. This will be a great advantage,
for example, to the sugar-growing districts of Tucuman.

At the present moment, this new narrow-gauge system is


already working from Rosario to Buenos Ayres, the equip-
ment being excellent, and westward as far as Nuevo de
Julio. The first results have confirmed the forecasts as
to the development of traffic in this region.

Another concession for a line on the same basis is that
obtained b}^ Mr Duncan Munroe, for the establishment of a
narrow-gauge railway between Rosario and Buenos Ayres,
to be a prolongation of the " Central Cordoba ", of which he
is the Director. This scheme, thanks to the support given
by the "Central Cordoba and the Cordoba and Rosario," has
been put into execution, and is on the eve of being opened
to the public.

The proposal to unite Rosario and Bahia Blanca — the two
chief Argentine ports — by a line crossing the Province of
Buenos Ayres in its most fertile region, is also on the way
to completion. The construction of this line is being actively
pushed, so that it is hoped that the line may be open for
service in the course of 1910.

This important line is being built by French capital, the
executive being known as the Rosario and Puerto Belgrano
Railways Company.

The National Congress has also granted to existing
companies, which can offer all requisite guarantees, the
authorisation to construct new branch lines, which will
attain a total length of 3870 miles, and will absorb a capital
of £25,000,000. Of this total, 797 miles will be built by the
Western Railways Company, 874 by the Southern Railway
Company, 328 by the Pacific Company, 192 by the Central
Cordoba, 427 by the Rosario and Puerto Belgrano Railway,
190 by the Province of Buenos Ayres Railways, 87 by the
French Company of the Province of Santa Fe Railways, and
476 by the Central Argentine Railway.

Apart from the capital of companies already established
in t'Ee~Argentirie, one may already detect^a'new stre am of
foreign capital destined to build new railways. It Js
announced, indeed, that a new railway sj^stem, 223 mil es in
length, will shortly be built in Entre Rios by German ca pital,
■^^ch has hitherto been shy of this kind of undertaking.

The Province of Buenos Ayres also proposes to construct
and exploit on its own account a narrow-gauge line running


from La Plata in the direction of the fifth meridian. For
this undertaking French capital will also be solicited.
j "Finally, the National Government, not -wishing to remnin
I inactive in the midst of these civilising activities, has just
obtained the approval of Congress for a vast scheme of
populating the southern territories of the Republic ; a scheme
initiated by an ex-Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ramos
Mexia, the basis of which is the construction of over 1200
miles of railway, along which new centres of colonisation
will gradually be formed.

This is the great object of the present Government. It
has taken shape in the form of a law, having as its especial
object the development of the national Territories, and
having regard both to the creation of new railways and the
progress of colonisation ; problems closely connected where
the opening up of a new country is concerned, and value is
given to its soil.

The plan adopted by the Government is first of all to
build the railway, which is the great instrument of civilisa-
tion ; then to profit by the increased value which the land
will immediately take on along its course, by divj^ding and
selling it with a view to colonisation.^ The most immediate
result of this policy is that the soil, which has hitherto been
uncultivated or abandoned, rapidly attains a double or treble
value. The same thing happens when irrigation works are
carried out, as they may be in certain districts, rendering
productive soil that has hitherto been uncultivable for want
' of water. We may cite the Rio Negro among those
Territories in which recent attempts have been made to
realise the value of the soil, and towards which the attention
of capitalists as well as colonists has lately been directed.

To ensure the carrying-out of these schemes, the State
usually has recourse to contractors who accept payment in
Government bonds, with a margin of profit sufficient to pay
them for their enterprise. We may therefore say that the
affair is good for every one, and that it is as much to the
advantage of the State as to the profit of the capitalists who
take up these proposals.

Finally, if we wish to estimate the probable development
. of the Argentine railways, basing our figures not on the


concessions granted, which already amount to a length of
more than 9000 miles, but on the possibilities of obtaining
capital, we may reasonably give 4500 miles as a probable
figure of growth. To this figure we must also add that of
the lines now under construction, either on behalf of the
State or by existing companies, which on the 1st of January
1908 amounted to a total of 4800 miles, of which 973 belonged ;■
to the State railways and 3827 to private companies. |

We may thus legitimately estimate that in the coming :|
years the Argentine railway system will be increased by •
some 6200 miles, making a total of nearly 19,000 miles. \
But to keep to solid fact, we must add that such develop- I
ment depends on continued agricultural prosperity, the rapid :l
increase of ploughed lands, and, above all, on a brisk immi-
gration ; for these conditions are indispensable to all fresh
progress in the Argentine. - ^ ^

In this large increase of railroad construction we may
perceive at the same time the application of a new
programme. The State to-day especially favours the con-
struction of a second network of economical railvra^s,
running between the broad-gauge lines or even crossing
them diagonally — completing them, in fact, and duplicating
them. The aim of this policy is not only to respond to t_h e
development of traffic caused by abundant harvests, but also
to lower freights by the establishment of competition.

As an element of the future railway system of the
Argentine, we may also include the lines of communication
with Chili, across the Cordillera, so soon as they are open
to through traffic. At the present time the Trans- Andean
railway on the Argentine side of the range has reached the
frontier of Chili at Las Cuevas, 10,000 feet above sea-level ;
and on the further side the Chilian Government is hastening
the work of construction on its own Territory, so that it only
remains to complete the two miles of tunnel in order to open
the whole line to traffic* Once in operation, the journey
between Valparaiso or Santiago and Buenos Ayres will
occupy less than forty hours, while at present, by the sea
route, it takes twelve to fifteen days, and involves the
difficulties of navigating the Strait of Magellan.

* This line is now open. — [Teans.]


The line is narrow-gauge, and some 8i miles of it is
worked on the rack and pinion system. The highest point
will be about 1480 feet above sea-level, in a tunnel 1-92
miles in length, of which 105 miles will be in Argentine and
•87 on Chilian territory.

The Southern Railway has also a line which at present
runs as far as Neuquen. The Directors of the company have
ordered the continuation of this line into Chili, going by
way of Antuco, thus establishing a direct route between the
south of Chili and the agricultural districts of the Ai'gentine.

Despite the formidable barrier raised by the range of the
Andes, the Argentine and Chili, two nations having the same
origin, with a common frontier of 3000 miles, are destined,
by means of their railways, to an increasing closeness of
relation. Chili is a country poor in cereals, and in especijil
does not raise sufficient cattle for the needs of her population.
On the other hand, she produces wines which are highly
appreciated in the Argentine. There may thus spring up"
between the two countries an exchange of products, which the
railways will certainly increase, and which will give the
Argentine railroad system the benefit of international traffic.

To complete this sketch of the Argentine railways, and of
the progress they have realised, we must not fail to speak
of the construction of an industrial traffic-way which has
established a remarkable record — not only in South America,
but over the whole world. We refer to the suspended railway,
constructed in the Province of La Rioja under the last Pre-
sidency of General Roca, in order to carry down to the plains
the produce of the famous Famatina and Mexicana mines.

This suspended way, which is over 21 miles in length,
and which cost £76,000, is, in the words of M. Civit, the
Minister of Public Works, who inaugurated it, the longest
traffic-way of this kind in the two worlds.*

♦ As for the probable profits of this line, the Minister makes the following
statement: "In counting on a minimum traffic of 50 tons a day during
nine months in the year — an amount based upon the present yield of the mines —
and deducting 50 per cent, of the gross receipts for working expenses — which is a
maximum — we find that to obtain 6 per cent, interest on the capital employed, it
would be sufiBcient to receive 3-36 paper piastres, or 7-6 francs (6 shillings
•96 pence) per ton of ore, whereas the mining companies with the present
r«souroo9 pay 20 piastres."


" It glides amid the snows and the tempests, crossing abysses
thousands of feet in depth, and ending at a height of 15,000
feet. The highest of its towers is as high as the summit of
Mont Blanc, and the mines, into whose bowels it enters, will
take their place, like those of Rio Tinto and Bilbao, in the
commerce of the world, as the agricultural products of the
Argentine have already done ; thus drawing all eyes to this
privileged country, which is set apart for the most brilliant

If we now consider the part played by the railways in
the general development of the Argentine, we are forced to
recognise that in a country so essentially agricultural, the
railroad is an indispensable auxiliary of production.* The
Argentine Republic is a large country, containing 1,155,000
square miles of territory, and is barely peopled by its
0,000,000 inhabitants ; it will therefore be understood that
instead of following the population, as in Europe, in the
Argentine the railway precedes the population. In~tEe
Argentine the railway is like a magic talisman, for wherever
it goes it entirely transforms the economic and productive
conditions of the country.

We have seen that in the matter of transport agriculture
will shortly enjoy improved conditions; there will be greater
facilities for bringing its products to the ports of embarka-
tion, and placing them in the centres of consumption. But
what are these conditions at present ? What is the precise
relation between the railways and agriculture ? Are they
sufficient for the rapid transport of the harvests? This
inquiry, which is of immediate interest, has been made by
M. Emile Lahitte, Director of the Division of Statistics in
the Ministry of Agriculture, with his usual competence and
practicaljgood sense. We will take certain useful data from
this source, without prejudice to other data which we
have collected, while profiting by the experience of other
personalities equally well informed.

One of the most characteristic peculiarities of agricultural

* Among matters still under cocsideration in the Argentine, we may
mention the concession for the port and railway of Samborombon, -which
■would connect with a system of narrow-gauge railways leaving Samborombon,
which would be a great Atlantic port, and running to the end of the Territory
of Pampa Central, thus facilitating the export of its products


production in the Argentine is the fact that, conversely to
tlie production of the United States, about 80 per cent, of the
liarvest, and perhaps even more, goes to fill foreign markets, /
lo.ivingoul}' 20 per cent, for home consumption ; andnot onlyis
it necessary to export this surplus, but it has to be exported
with as little delay as possible. In the United States the annual
cereal harvest amounts to about 4000 millions of bushels, of
which scarcely 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, are destined for ex-
port. The rest remains in the granaries, and is manipulated,'
during the rest of the year, in response to the needs of a
population of 80 million inhabitants. But in the Argentine,
supposing the harvest of wheat, flax, and maize to amount
i to 400 million bushels, one might count upon the exportation i
' of 320 millions, the 80 millions remaining for home con-

From the commercial point of view, agricultural produc-
tion thiis depends chiefly on the importing market^. This —
is~so far the case that if we look into the monthly figures
of exportation, remembering that threshing begins at the
end of December and continues sometimes into March or
April, we shall find that by June three-quarters of the year's
export has already been shipped. The exportation of wheat in
1907 amounted to 100 million bushels, and by the end of iJune
79 million bushels, or 79 per cent., had already been shipped.
The quantity of maize exported during the same year was
48 million bushels, and in October, that is, five months after
the harvest, 40 millions had already been shipped ; that is,
84 per cent. The statistics of the carriage of cereals by railroad
also clearly prove the pressure and congestion existing in
the months following the harvest.

From this peculiarity it follows that there is always a
struggle latent between the exporters of agricultural produgg '
and" the transport companies. In some cases, as in 1905, this
struggle took the form of "judicial protest; the chief export
houses sued the " Great Southern of Buenos Ayres" for dam-
ages in respect of unjustifiable delay iriThe' transport of cereals.
It must be admitted, however, that the railway companies
are not always the cause of such delays in export ; there
are other factors also which we must take into account and
consider in relation to the national production.


One of the elements which influence the regularity^pf
transport is the amount of cargo-room available at the ,gorts.

Online LibraryAlberto B MartínezThe Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] → online text (page 9 of 33)