United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce.

Consular reports, Issues 196-199 online

. (page 66 of 82)
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Of the tunnels, the most important are that of the Calvario, which is entered
immediately upon leaving the Caracas station; the Corozal, at the thirtieth
kilometer; and Cufiaote, at the sixty-fifth kilometer. These have a length
of 285 meters (951 feet), 267 meters (876 feet), and 263 meters (863 feet).



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472 RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA.

respectively. It will be understood that these eighty-six tunnels and two
hundred and twelve viaducts are included between the twentieth and the
seventy-fourth kilometers, which will give an idea of the obstacles encoun-
tered in less than one-third of the extension of the line.

It is to be doubted whether any line in South America has been con-
structed with such care and regard to durability and strength. Absolutely
no expense has been spared, and in spite of the difficulties presented by the
mountainous character of part of the road and the abundance of precipices
and chasms, the maximum grade is only 2 per cent and the least radius of
curve 80 meters (262 feet). This is a real triumph in railway engineering
and has attracted the attention of all competent persons who have passed over
the line.

In all details of the work, every recent improvement has been taken
advantage of, and the manner in which natural obstacles were overcome at
one point of the line is worthy of mention.

Over the ravine of Las Mostazas, a stupendous gorge, a cable was
stretched for the transportation of materials. This cable had a length of
1,600 meters, perhaps the longest known until now, and by it material was
sent from the fortieth to the fifty-sixth kilometer, whence a portable railway
took it as far as the seventieth kilometer.

Many instances could be adduced to show the exceptional character of
the work. According to the opinion of many experts, no railway in South
America has been built ia such a thorough and perfect manner. It is true
that from the beginning there was no lack of capital, and when disbursements
were necessary they were immediately forthcoming; but, besides this advan-
tage, the enterprise has been managed since its inception by energetic offi-
cials, who have always taken, and continue to take, pride and interest in its
direction.

The country traversed by this railway, its cities, towns, and plantations,
is well worthy of description. Comparatively few people in other countries
are aware that a district of such promise, and offering so much of interest,
has been opened up by the completion of this line of railway. Formerly, it
was difficult of access and visited by few strangers, but, within the past two
years, it has become better known, and it is safe to prophesy that within
ten years more, and probably much less, there will be a wonderful develop-
ment of this favored region.

The city of Caracas is by no means so well known as it should be, con-
sidering its proximity to our own country and the easy and regular means of
communication which now exist between New York and I-^ Guayra, thanks
to the American Red D Line, which has done so much to bring the two re-
publics in close connection. The capital of Venezuela is a most beautiful
city, recently called by an American writer of note the '* Paris of South Amer-
ica." Its situation is most picturesque and its climate is nearly perfection.
The valley in which it nestles is surrounded by high mountains, one of which,
the famous "Saddle,'* reaches an elevation of nearly 3,000 meters (9,842



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RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA. 473

feet) above sea level. As the city itself is only about 920 meters (3,018 feet)
above the sea, the effect of these towering mountains may be easily imag-
ined. The population of Caracas to-day is between 90,000 and 100,000.
The city is provided with aqueducts, telephones, gas, and the electric-light
tramway systems, and an abundance of hackney coaches after the French
fashion, which, for 30 cents, will take a passenger to any point within the city
limits. It is well built and the streets are generally well paved and clean.
Public squares abound ; each one is prettily laid out with grassplots and
flowers, and these are frequented during the evenings by well-dressed and
well-bred people, whose courtesy impresses a stranger most favorably. Fur-
ther acquaintance with the Venezuelans does not tend to diminish this im-
pression, as courtesy and hospitality are considered prime duties by the
people of this country.

Caracas is connected with the coast by the railway to La Guayra. The
distance in a straight line between the two cities is only about 8 miles, but
the railway has an extension of 21 miles. Another line of railroad, called the
Cential Railway, was projected years ago, and nearly completed, with the
object of connecting the capital with the fertile valleys of the River Tuy,
often called the ** granary of Caracas," from the abundance of its products,
but at present, this- line does not run further than the town of Petare, about
10 miles southeast of Caracas.

Much could be written respecting the beautiful and busy capital of Vene-
zuela, but the purpose of this report is more particularly to describe the line
of country traversed by the great railway from which so much is expected,
and which has already conferred such great benefits upon the conterminous
districts.

No other line as yet connects the capital with the interior of the Republic.
From Caracas to Las Adjuntas the lands are well cultivated, producing sugar
cane, indian corn, vegetables Qf all descriptions, and coffee, of which there
are many estates. After leaving Las Adjuntas, the line ascends to the town
of Los Teques, traversing various coffee plantations, and near Los Teques
itself are gold and copper mines. These are not worked at present, but it
is said that efforts will soon be made to test their productiveness. The town
of Los Teques is worthy of more than a passing notice. It is situated at an
elevation of 1,171 meters (3,842 feet) above sea level, and the climate is
delightful. It is the capital of the district Guaicapuro, within which juris-
diction are included many villages and a very large extent of territory excel-
lently adapted to purposes of agriculture.

With the opening of the railway, Ix)S Teques has become a health resort,
especially for people suffering from pulmonary complaints. Los Teques is
surrounded by coffee plantations, and as the district is essentially agricultural,
corn and other products are also extensively grown. In the last century,
wheat was also raised, but at present its cultivation has entirely disappeared.

At a distance of 3 kilometers west of Los Teques, the line reaches its
greatest elevation (1,227 meters=4,o26 feet), and from that point begins



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474 RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA.

its descent, with a grade of 2 per cent, to Las Tejerias. On this section of
the road the scenery is magnificent, and the obstacles to the construction of the
road introduced by nature can be fully appreciated. Only the most unflinch-
ing perseverance and a determination to succeed, whatever might be the
cost, could have carried the line over those gorges and precipices, which seem
to have been there stationed for the purpose of forbidding further progress.
Neither the famed Oroya Railroad of Peru nor the Transandine Line be-
tween Chile and Buenos Ayres present the material obstacles which have
been surmounted in the construction of the Great Venezuela Railway.

It is a notable fact that this section from Los Teques to Las Tejerias was,
before the opening of the road, practically uncultivated and abandoned, but
within one year after the inauguration of the line, extensive tracts of land
were taken up, plantations were formed, and the forests began to be utilized
to supply the capital with charcoal and timber. The mountain slopes are
well adapted to the cultivation of coffee, and there is every reason to believe
that agriculture, in a comparatively short time, will reach a high stage of
development. At I^as Tejerias the mountain region is left behind. The
town itself is of but little importance, but surrounding it are extensive and
rich coffee and sugar plantations. Beyond Las Tejerias, the road is prac-
tically level, and at the eighty-third kilometer it crosses the River Tuy and
enters the valley which connects the Tuy with the River Aragua. This val-
ley is noted for its fertility, and from the town of El Consejo, at the eighty-
fourth kilometer, to the city of La Victoria, 9 kilometers to the westward,
the road runs through large coffee plantations which cover the valley in its
entire width.

La Victoria is a place of note and was founded in 1593 by Capt. Fran-
cisco Loreto. It is situated on the left bank of the River Aragua and has at
I)resent about 10,000 inhabitants. Its elevation above sea level is 556 meters
(1,824 feet), and it has the reputation of being one of the healthiest towns of
the Republic. The River Aragua, which bounds La Victoria on the west, has
its source near a German colony, which, under the name of Colonia Fovar,
was established in the forests of the mountain chain, near the coast, at an
elevation of 1,800 meters above sea level. This colony was established in
1842, and in spite of the favorable climate and fertility of soil, has not
progressed according to anticipation. This, however, may be explained by
the frequent recurrence of civil war and the lack of proper means of com-
munication, and it is believed that in the future colonization will be attended
by better results.

There is no reason why colonies composed of immigrants from the already
overpopulated countries of the Old World should not be successfully estab-
lished in Venezuela, and it is indeed immigration to which Venezuela must
look for the development of her wonderful natural resources. By encourag-
ing immigration and establishing agricultural colonies in suitable localities,
not on the seacoast nor in the forests of the Orinoco, where the fertility of
the soil by no means compensates for climatic dangers, but in the healthy.



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RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA. 475

breezy highlands and in the valleys, such as those of Aragua, the Govern-
ment of the Republic could do much to insure quick and lasting prosperity
to those regions. The district of which La Victoria may be styled the center
is well worthy of examination in this respect, and as the railway has now
brought these fertile plains into easy and economical communication with
both the capital and the coast, there seems to be absolutely no reason why
large tracts of land of unexampled fertility should still remain idle and
unimproved.

After leaving La Victoria, the line continues westward to the town of
San Mateo, so famous in the history of the war of independence. Near this
town are seen the ruins of the improvised fortress where General Ricante, of
the patriot army, met his death. Assaulted by an overwhelming Spanish
force and seeing that further resistance was useless, he, at an opportune
moment and with his own hand, fired the magazine, annihilating both him-
self and a great number of his country's enemies.

San Mateo is situated at the one hundred, and fourth kilometer from
Caracas, and 5 kilometers (3. i miles) to the westward is the town of Cagua, a
place of importance in itself and also for its topographical situation. Here
the road from Valencia to Caracas joins the great highway to the ** llanos,"
or Venezuelan prairies, and to the River Apure, which empties into the
Orinoco. An immense trade in cattle is carried on between the llanos and
the capital, besides the great number which are sent to Valencia and other
places. Cagua may be styled the distributing point of these herds, east and
west, and since the opening of the railway, the painful journey of days from
here to Caracas, costly in the extreme and productive of suffering to man and
beast, has been reduced to an easy trip of a few hours. Besides the ship-
ments of cattle, Cagua dispatches an immense quantity of produce arriving
from all sections of the surrounding country, and also receives from Caracas
and Valencia large quantities of merchandise and imported goods for dis-
tribution to the interior. This has given to Cagua a certain importance,
which, however, could be greatly increased were the large tracts of land,
now lying idle, cultivated and properly cared for.

There is in this vicinity a great extent of territory awaiting the progress-
ive agriculturist, and a judicious system of immigration would in a few
years quadruple its productions. Another reason for the importance of
Cagua is its vicinity to Villa de Cura, the capital of the State of Miranda,
where are situated the government offices of this most important political
entity. A distance of 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) separates Villa de Cura
from Cagua.

Besides the casual importance given it by its political status, the former
city is a busy, thriving place. It is much to be regretted that it is not in
direct steam communication with the capital of the Republic, and also with the
city of Valencia. A branch railway to Cagua would accomplish this desira-
ble result, and as the project is already under consideration, it is more than
probable that within a comparatively short time the gap between Villa
de Cura and Cagua will be bridged, benefiting merchants, cattle breeders.



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476 RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA.

agriculturists, travelers, and, in fact, all whose interests are in any way
involved with this most flourishing section of Venezuela,

Returning to Cagua and following the line to the westward for 4 kilo-
meters (2.5 miles), the next station is Turmero. The village was founded in
1603 on the banks of the river of the same name. At the beginning of the
present century it was the wealthiest and most flourishing of all the towns of
the valley of Aragua. Here, however, civil war has left its sad traces, and
to such a degree that the families of wealth and standing and the proprietors
of extensive estates were at one period forced to leave their beautiful homes
and take up their residence in Caracas. Turmero, nevertheless, may yet be
considered a most important agricultural center, as the entire district is in
a high state of cultivation, excepting a few pasture lands of no great imp>or-
tance.

After leaving Turmero, and at the one hundred and sixteenth kilometer
(seventy-second mile) the little station of Gonzalito is reached, and opposite
this is the magnificent estate of Providencia, belonging to the President of
the Republic, General Joaquin Crespo. The important and flourishing
town of Maracay is situated 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) further on.

The extent of level territory has until now been dedicated almost exclu-
sively to breeding cattle, but as water for irrigation is abundant and the soil
is exceedingly fertile, there are few localities better adapted to agriculture,
and thousands of colonists might find pleasant homes and rich returns from
their labor upon the grounds where, at present, scarcely a dozen cattle keep-
ers are employed.

Maracay itself is one of the most important points along the river.
Situated at the one hundred and twenty-sixth kilometer (seventy-eighth
mile) and at an elevation of 440 meters (1,443 ^^^^) above the sea, it has a
pleasant climate and is free from disease. The town is handsomely built and
laid out, and the abundance of trees and the pretty, well-kept flower gardens
and orchards surrounding the houses give it a most pleasing appearance.

A special feature is the great number of cocoa palms, which add much to
the picturesqueness of the place. Water is carried by miniature canals,
crossing and recrossing in all directions and supplying the most humble
cottage.

From Maracay, the line continues, principally through pasture lands, until,
at the one hundred and thirty-second kilometer (eighty-second mile), the beau-
tiful and imposing Lake of Valencia (or Tacarigua) comes into view. To do
justice to this remarkable and picturesque sheet of fresh water would necessi-
tate a special report, but a brief description will not be out of place. Its extent
is 440 square kilometers (170 square miles) and its height above the level of
the sea, 415 meters (1,535 feet). Twenty-six islands, some of which are cov-
ered with the most luxuriant vegetation, are scattered over its surface. The
length of the lake is about 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) and its greatest breadth
20 kilometers (12. 42 miles). Its southern shore is covered with plantations of
coff*ee, sugar, and cacao, with fields of minor products, such as corn, beans,
plantains, bananas, and all kinds of fruits. As the roads along the lake coast



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RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA. 477

are impassable during the rainy season, the establishment of steam naviga-
tion on the lake itself is a necessity. The primary cost of such an enterprise
would not be excessive, and the profits would be great and immediate. At the
one hundred and forty-third kilometer (eighty-seventh mile) and on the north
coast of the lake about midway its length is the station of Mariara, so called
from the celebrated estate of the same name. This comprises both sugar and
coffee plantations and is one of the largest properties of the country, having
an area of more than 50 square kilometers (19.3 square miles) and extending
from the highlands of the coast range down to the shores of the lake itself.
On account of the scarcity of laborers, this fine estate is unfortunately not
cultivated as it should be, notwithstanding the great fertility of its soil, and
a great part is dedicated to cattle raising, while other sections lie idle
and unimproved. There, as in many other places, immigration of a good
class would at once solve the problem, and properties which to-day are of
but little value would, with a sure and sufficient labor supply, soon give rich
returns to their owners and a good livelihood to all connected with them,
and would, moreover, add to the national wealth.

From Mariara to the town of Guacara, a distance of about 19 kilometers
(12 miles), the road passes through a most fertile country, where agriculture
could be carried on with unsurpassed results, but as in all parts of this most-
favored district, where nature has been lavish in her gifts, the scarcity of
sturdy arms has until now prevented the development of this section on a
scale commensurate with its possibilities.

Guacara is the last town of importance along the line before arriving at
Valencia. It is situated on the river of the same name at a distance of only
4 kilometers (2)4 miles) from the lake. This river rises in the peaks of
Caobal at an elevation of nearly 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) above the level
of the sea and empties into Lake Valencia. The spacious valley is fully cul-
tivated, sugar cane and coffee being the staple products. All the lands
surrounding the lake are fertile in the extreme, owing to the now well-estab-
lished fact that at one time the greater part of the neighboring country was
submerged, the lake then covering a very much greater area than at present.
As this area became more and more contracted, the receding waters left the
land covered with layers of organic matter, which has added to the fertility
of the soil to such a degree that, even after the lapse of so many generations,
it is still a matter of remark. Were agriculture carried on in this district
after the improved methods and with an abundance of labor, few parts of
the country would give such rich returns, especially as the lake could be
utilized for irrigation, thus making the planter independent of the rainfall.
In this country, the question of irrigation is a most important one and
should be carefully studied, inasmuch as one of the greatest obstacles to the
success of the agriculturist is an untimely drought, which often comes to
injure or destroy his crops just when he is sanguine of good results.

After leaving Guacara, the little village of Los Guayos is passed, and the
line finally terminates at the city of Valencia, a place of great importance,
commercial, industrial, and ix)litical. Valencia has at present about 40,000



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478 RAILROADS IN VENEZUELA.

inhabitants, and besides being the capital of the State of Carabobo, is the
metropolis for a large extent of territory. Valencia is especially favored as
to means of communication, as, besides the Great Venezuela Railway, which
connects it with Caracas, another line is in operation to Puerto Cabello,
which is the receiving and shipping port for the vast tract of country of which
Valencia is the business center.

From the foregoing description, it will not be difficult to appreciate the
importance of this great railway line, which, starting from the capital of
the Republic, traverses a most fertile and productive region and, joining at
Valencia with the Puerto Cabello line, gives access to the coast at one of the
most important seaports.

Although the road has already been of great service to the country, it
will no doubt ultimately prove of incalculable benefit in encouraging the
colonization of the regions through which it passes or which are in compar-
ative proximity to it. The great need of Venezuela is increased population.
A scant 2,000,000 of people are scattered over an area which could easily
support 30,000,000, and the due development of the country's unsurpassed
natural resources is not possible under these conditions.

The need of immigration is well appreciated, and for many years suc-
ceeding governments of the Republic have interested themselves in this great
project. Contracts have been made at various times for the introduction of
immigrants, liberal concessions have been granted, and laws have been
framed especially to meet the requirements of the case; but the great ob-
stacle to the success of these enterprises has been and is the lack of proper
means of communication. This will be readily understood without explana-
tion, and for this reason, the Great Venezuela Railway must be productive
of great good not only locally, but to the country at large.

For purposes of colonization and immigration, no part of Venezuela is
better adapted than the extensive territories which are brought in touch
with the capital and coast by the opening of this line, and should judicious
measures be now taken to attract to those regions a sufficiency of immigrants
for the proper utilization of the fertile tracts, which only await the hand of
the agriculturist to give the richest returns, the success of the project could
scarcely be doubtful.

It must be noted, moreover, that in the territory under consideration
there are no climatic drawbacks, as in various other sections. Neither ex-
cessive heat nor cold is exj^erienced, nor would the immigrant be exposed to
dangerous disease. It is now well understood, and, indeed, the lesson has
been learned by previous experience, that the colonization and development
of scantily populated districts, however fertile they may be, is impossible
until convenient means of communication and transport are provided. The
Great Venezuela Railway now satisfies, in this respect, the necessities of a
vast and inviting region, and it is sincerely to be hoped that the advantages
thus offered by it may soon be fully utilized.

E. H. PLUMACHER,

M AK AC AiBO, /anuci/y 2&, 18(^7. Consul,



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LAUNCH SERVICE AT MARACAIBO. 479



LAUNCH SERVICE AT MARACAIBO.

I have the honor to forward copy of a decree from the Government of
Venezuela, with English translation, in regard to a steel launch service granted
to the American Red D Line Steamship Company of New York. This will
enable the company to take larger shipments outside of the Tablazo bar,
and it may be that arrangements could be made with the Government of
Venezuela by which the same company might be employed to do the towage
of sailing vessels over the outer bar during the time that the regular tugboat
is away on Government commission. Unfortunately, this absence of the
only privileged tugboat is too frequent, and sailing vessels have to lie for
weeks and months at San Carlos awaiting the return of the tug to be towed
out to sea.

E. H. PLUMACHER,

Maracaibo, October 12^ i8q6. Consul,



[Translation.]

Messrs. H. L. Boulton & Co., representatives of Boulton, Bliss & Dallett, owners of the
steamers of the Red D Line Company, have solicited from the Government permission to
establish in Maracaibo a steel launch service, which they shall construct with the object of
facilitating the outgoing of the steamers Curasao and Maracaibo^ or any others which might



Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 196-199 → online text (page 66 of 82)