Following the establishment of a prison in Ushuaia, in late 1909 and early 1910 the railway line called the Southern Fuegian Railway or the End of the World train was established as a narrow gauge steam railway, replacing an old wood track railway drawn by bullocks. The steam engine driven railway was built over a length of 25 km (16 mi) along the Maipu Avenue on the waterfront, followed the eastern slope of Mount Susana and branched through the middle of the Pipo River valley into Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (the Tierra del Fuego National Park). The line was constructed with Decauville tracks of 500 mm (20 inch) gauge and connected the prison camp with the forestry camp (in what is now Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego). The primary purpose of the railway was as a freight line to serve the prison of Ushuaia, and hence was known as the “Prison Train” or the “Convicts Train” and was used specifically to transport prisoners to the camps and transport the logged timber from forests. The prison was closed in 1947 and the railway was finally closed in 1952, following the reduction in forest resources and an earthquake that damaged the tracks.
It was only in 1994, forty years after it had been closed as a Convicts Train, that the train was revived and refurbished with modern amenities, to be used as a heritage train. It is claimed to be the southernmost functioning railway in the world.
The park can now be reached from the outskirts of Ushuaia from the Fin del Mundo station (5 miles (8 km) west of Ushuaia) by the heritage railway line which traverses the park over 4.4 miles (7 kilometers) of track, covering the distance in about one hour. We enjoyed our train ride, winding our way through valleys and verdant forest and alongside rivers and steep hillsides. A highlight was to get out and hike up from Estacion Cascada La Macarena (Station Macarena Waterfall) to the cascading waterfall.
A new 2-6-2T steam locomotive (Camila, brought from England in 1995), another made in Argentina and three diesel locomotives serve on the line.
On our ride through Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) we saw two types of environmental damage. The first, to be expected, was the “Tree Cemetery” which resulted from the prisoners cutting down trees for 50 years. Note the varying heights of the stumps. This resulted from the varying heights of the snow pack upon which the prisoners stood in the winter to then cut down the trees. The other damage, still active, is the damming of the rivers and steams by the abundant beavers whose ancestors were mistakenly brought to the area by early settlers hoping (erroneously) to build a fur trade.