Where Trains Go To Die: Bolivia’s Train Cemetery

Outside a small, flat town in southern Bolivia on the edge of the salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) there is a Train Cemetery. Comprised of over 100 cars, the train cemetery in Bolivia is a place where trains go to die…and to be quickly corroded by the salty winds.

Abandoned rusty trains in the Train Cemetery Uyuni Bolivia.

Abandoned rusty train car with graffiti in the Train Cemetery Uyuni Bolivia.

The Cemeterio de Trenes wan’ts always abandoned, of course! Uyuni is an important transportation hub in South America, and the plan was to expand it to a much greater network of trains heading across the continent. As explained well by Wired, British engineers came to Boliva in the late 1800s with the Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Company, who were working on a railroad to carry minerals from La Pa to the Chilean ports (near Antofagasta). However, due to the deline of the mining industry (1940s), the plan never came to fruition. Other factors including “technical difficulties” and tensions among countries were also cited.

Abandoned rusty train car among weeds in the Train Cemetery Uyuni Bolivia.

 

As a result, the trains, which had been imported from Britain in the early 20th century in anticipation of the new railroad, were abandoned and left to deteriorate in the barren landscape. There are 100+ cars in the train cemetery, and it’s a standard part of most Salt Flats tours. Which means arriving at this location wasn’t nearly as difficult (or scary…) as some of my other abandoned pursuits. But it is still a very cool site, nonetheless. The trains are super-rusty and deteriorating exceptionally fast, due to the salty winds coming off the world’s largest salt flat nearby, Salar de Uyuni.

Abandoned train car with graffiti in a field in the Train Cemetery Uyuni Bolivia.

Metal remains abandoned trains in the Train Cemetery Uyuni Bolivia.

It’s possible to wander around the train cemetery as long as you like, and there is no fee to enter the site. There is also no one supervising (outside of the tour guides), so you can climb in and on the trains and tracks as you please. Safety first!

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